The Casual Bishop Michael Putney of Townsville


Someone doesn’t realise how  the Internet spreads the word.

Extracts from article on Page one of the Catholic Leader in late October, 2009:

Pope Benedict’s announcement of a new structure to enable groups of Anglicans to enter into full communion with the Catholic Church should not be seen as “any sort of step on the road to unity between the two Churches.”

Australian Catholic Bishops’ Conference inter religious relations commission chair Bishop Michael Putney (Bishop of Townsville) said this was because the decision “involves a small group of people who’ve been alienated from the Anglican Church for some time.

“This is certainly not some sort of a plot to draw Anglicans into the Catholic Church”, Bishop Putney said. “It’s a small pastoral response to the needs of a group of people who want to change Churches. The decision doesn’t affect the much larger picture of ecumenism.

“Ecumenism is not concerned about getting Anglicans to become Catholics, but reaching agreement on matters about which Churches differ.

“Some Anglican commentators do not believe that large numbers of Anglicans will wish to avail themselves of Rome’s invitation for a variety of reasons,” Archbishop Bathersby (Archbishop of Brisbane Ed.) said.

Bishop Putney was unsure whether the movement of Anglicans in Australia to the Catholic Church would be especially significant.

He is wearing the Stole first worn and owned by Pope LEO XIII.
The TAC (Traditional Anglican Church Ed.) is much stronger in England than in Australia “, he said.”It is certainly not clear that people will take steps to change Churches when the opportunity arises. And whether there are sufficient Anglicans in Australia who would seek to be members of a “Personal Ordinariate” remains to be seen.


The effort by Bishop Michael Putney (Townsville) and Archbishop John Bathersby (Brisbane) to play down the significance of the Holy See’s arrangements to assist Anglicans wishing to come home to the Catholic Church in groups is queer. How is it that every other commentator, Catholic or Protestant, says that they are very significant, even historic. Some of the latter are wildly pro and a few are bitterly con and some are uncertain whether it is good or sinister. But only the Bishop of Townsville – the great ecumenist - and Archbishop Bathersby of the IARRCUM dialogue think it is of little importance. Many people in the North believe Bishop Putney expects to succeed Archbishop Bathersby in 2011. Should this happen, it would be business as usual – a disaster.

An interesting aspect of the whole matter is the question of ordination. The encyclical “APOSTOLICAE CURAE” of Pope Leo XIII dated 18th September, 1896 vigorously affirmed the constant teaching of the Church that Anglican Orders are “Absolutely Null and Utterly Void”. This caused some Anglican clerics, including Bishops, to go to the few validly ordained Bishops of the schismatic “Old Catholic Church”. This was founded by a group of dissidents in the wake of Vatican Council 1and attached itself to the “Old Catholic See of Utrecht” in Holland. Utrecht’s schismatics have a long and complicated history – too long to recount here. They have however, had valid orders. So numbers of Anglican clerics headed off to Utrecht over the years to have themselves validly ordained, for what consideration we cannot know. What view of the integrity of their church could they have held? Did they not see that even when validly ordained, they were co-operating in what their own actions showed to be at least an empty charade?

Now, when some of the descendants by ordination of the Bishops among them have become Catholics and have suggested that they are validly ordained, a problem presented itself. The very circumstances of the alleged valid Episcopal ordination upon which the recent convert relied, were, of their nature difficult to ascertain. Further the questions of form and intention were necessarily uncertain. The ordination of a Catholic Priest must be a certain fact. So two options presented themselves – to simply ordain the ordinand disregarding prior claims or, to ordain him conditionally – the concept being along the lines “If you are not already validly ordained, I……”In the past where validity had been claimed, the practice has been to ask the ordinand to present his ordination pedigree. But, to date we can only find two cases of conditional ordination. They were Father John Jay Hughes and Monsignor Graham Leonard. Both had studied in Germany and were conditionally ordained by the Cardinal Archbishop of Muenster in 1968 and 1994 respectively. It seems clear that in 99.9% of cases ordination of convert clerics is performed without conditions, and this is what Anglicans coming home under the under the Personal Ordinariates should expect.

A final comment: one can always rely on the remarkable Father George Rutler – a convert Episcopalian and longtime Parish Priest of the church of Our Saviour in New York, for crisp, penetrating observation on Anglicanorum Coetibus: “It basically interprets Anglicanism as a spiritual patrimony based on ethnic tradition rather than substantial doctrine…” There is the heart of the problems of the Anglican structure. Conceived in lies, theft and murder by Henry VIII and Elizabeth I, it lacks any foundation in Truth. So, when the winds of evil have begun to blow – Contraception, Abortion, Homosexuality or false practices such as female ordination, the structure, lacking a sound foundation, has quickly begun to fragment and collapse.

We should regularly pray for those Anglicans who aspire to come home to Christ’s Church.


Copyright. These articles first appeared in the October, 2009 issue of FOUNDATION. Tony Dixon


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