Ordinariate Market Research

He’s written another one What Is The Market For Anglicanorum coetibus? Before I set up as a translator at the beginning of this century, I did a brief course of business studies: the idea we want to sell, what we can do and are qualified to do, the market share, and then all the accounting and financial aspects as relevant in the French taxation system. It is the issue for anyone who sets up a business, like wanting to establish a grocery shop in the same street as a supermarket. It can be done, but you have to have convincing selling points for your more expensive products: the human aspect, high quality, products like in the old days, that sort of thing. But, supermarkets are also trying to seduce their customers with the same sales patter. The boundaries of competition move all the time, and so the businessman has to adapt to the market. Perhaps I am not made for selling groceries… Personally, I have exploited a by-product of my life experience, my ability to speak, understand, read and write French and English. I stumbled into the world of industrial and technical translation, and now know quite a lot about how companies develop, manufacture and market their products. I can also understand my garage mechanic when he explains something about my van, like my recently broken gearbox! Nowadays, we have very good resources on the internet for technical terms. The linguistic style of technical work is neutral and there is little to criticise (and run the risk of the work not being accepted by the client). I do much less well with the world of advertising and marketing – a world I actually despise and detest. We have to adapt to get our narrow slice and eke out a living.

Comparing what Churches have to offer their customers is one analogy by which we can see things. It is uppermost in Mr Bruce’s mind. The Ordinariates have a very narrow market share. Is that enough to justify their existence? Mr Bruce would probably apply a whole business plan and wind up the lame ducks, making sure that resources are used to serve the maximum number of paying customers. It would seem to make sense. He is also an American, and mega churches are obviously the way, the corporate Church and the same kind of culture in large industries or service providers. I have had my own occasions to criticise this kind of parallel between religion and business. The elephant in the room is that the purpose of the Church is not making money, even though the corporate structures have to be financed. The final purpose is not that of a business.

In “business” terms, my own life as a priest is a failure. I have not found a way to create a “market” in this country, nor have I found one. The priesthood is above success or failure at this level, because it finds its expression in any number of contexts outside parish ministry.

Anglicanorum coetibus came about in a way that I followed from the October 2007 meeting of TAC bishops in Portsmouth. There were three movements, Archbishop Hepworth, the Americans who had obtained the Pastoral Provision from Cardinal Law of Boston, and the English bishops following in the wake of the former Bishop of London, Graham Leonard. It is my belief that Benedict XVI and his advisers issued something neutral that would form a basis for future adaptation. Thus, Archbishop Hepworth thought it was a response from his request to the Holy See in late 2007, but it was a coincidence. Events from late 2009 until the final settling in about 2012 show a comprehensible picture. The TAC had nothing to do with it. Anglicanorum coetibus opened the way for the English “Anglo-Papalists”, and for the Americans it would be a firmer canonical basis for the Pastoral Provision and a handful of Episcopalian clergy in a parallel movement with that of the English Anglo-Papalists. As Rome became aware of the TAC, it was decided that individuals could apply to join the new existing ordinariates, but in no way would serve as a clearing house for the canonically irregular (divorce and remarriage, use of the Roman Catholic priesthood in “schismatic” communities, etc.). The Canadians were tacked onto the American Ordinariate and Australia was set up as an afterthought.

Thus, the basis was a little wider than English Anglo-Papalism, but narrower than what we in the TAC hoped for at the time. It is clear that no provision was ever envisaged for low-church groups. How are the various Ordinariates doing? I can’t answer that question, but information is available on the internet and the media they publish. The English Ordinariate has a website and a magazine and is up-front with what it does. The Americans seem a little less organised with their news, and Australia has very little to relate to the rest of us. I’m not providing the links. They can be found by searching or though other sites.

Should it all be shut down because they don’t get the same numbers in their parishes as the average RC parish in Los Angeles? What defined viability? Money and business considerations? Is that what the Church is about. Mr Bruce ends with a notion that the movement was only ever clerical and never had much lay following, at least not the large-scale clientèle like places of popular pilgrimages.

It is a sad indictment if the Church has to follow market trends, and dangerous if the logic is followed. Most ordinary folk I know, practising or non-practising Christians, would seem to want modernisation. Yet numbers are dribbling away in both Anglicanism and Roman Catholicism in their most mainstream expressions. Are the pilgrimage places like Lourdes and Fatima doing as well today as in the past? They may well be, suggesting that what people really want is a solution to their personal health and other problems. A wholesale reversion to paganism might be the answer. I don’t want to extrapolate too much.

I have just tried typing “What kind of religion do people want” in Google, and this is what we will find. The fundamental human need is belief in God to provide emotional security and an answer to the mystery of death. Atheists attack belief at this level. Many superstitious people are attracted to a form of faith and religion. We all seek meaning of life and death. We seek justice for the downtrodden and punishment for evil doers, and a belief that everything will come right in the end. A lot of religious behaviour involves our animal instinct of following a dominant male and a large group is more affirming than a small one. Churches are counted on to bring people together into communities and encourage them to stop fighting and killing each other. Many people at the “bottom end” of spiritual development are inclined to seek out a “mega-church” where they can be carried on the wave of a crowd. Should the Church cater for only this level?

Has it been any different in the past when “traditional” liturgy was the norm? Perhaps not except for a certain number of individuals attracted to monasticism or cathedral liturgy.

There should be room in churches for a diversity of temperaments and levels of spiritual growth from Billy Graham rallies to the Trappists and Carthusians – and everything in between. The men of the establishment talk a lot about inculturation and use popular entertainment models for those whose cultural references are TV shows, shopping centres and football. Many people are “exculturated” because sensitivity to art and beauty is marginal and not very cost-effective. Many people find church an experience that fails to address them, and which talks past them.

Why does it matter if the Ordinariate only has a small market?

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5 Responses to Ordinariate Market Research

  1. My chapel has 80 or so parishioners in the smack-dab middle of mega-church land. Our only “market” concern is attempting to grow beyond the ethnic roots and attracting people based on our Christian identity.

  2. Joseph Golightly says:

    Can you remember how many people Our Lord started with?

    • You will notice that I do not go along with Mr Bruce’s position and that small communities are not only justifiable (there were 12 Apostles and a handful of disciples) but a good thing. I therefore wrote in favour of the Ordinariates as well as other small groups (like my own).

      • ed pacht says:

        It is uncontestedly a good thing if there be a few large churches with the resources to produce art, music, and pageantry. It would seem that the Incarnation demands a full expression of human capabilities in the worship of God. However, it has long been my conviction that “few” needs to be the operative word, and that for the expression of true Christianity small is better. The Gospel appears to assume its embodiment in small face-to-face communities, and seems to me to be decidedly unfriendly toward huge anonymous gatherings.

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