This is a question drawn from Chapter 1 of the booklet "Understanding the Ordinariate"and written by Fr. Edward Tomlinson. The contents of the chapter appear below. If you would like a quick answer to the question posed, please scroll to end of this posting.
1.1 What is an Ordinariate?
An Ordinariate is much like a diocese within the Catholic Church, except that it is defined primarily by membership not geography. For this reason its territory overlaps that of established dioceses and can cover entire nations. Governed by a bishop (or designated priest) called an "Ordinary”, membership of the Personal Ordinariates is made up of former Anglicans, their family members and eligible new converts who wish to belong to the Ordinariate.
1.2 So is it like the Eastern Rite churches?
No. The Ordinariate is not a separated Church in communion with the Pope but a part of the Latin Rite, effectively working as a non-geographical diocese within it. For this reason Ordinariate priests are ordained by bishops of the Latin Rite and many also work in diocesan settings. Ordinariate clergy are priests like any other—save for the fact that, like members of religious communities, they answer to their own superiors.
1.3 Who or what is the Ordinary?
An Ordinary is a priest or bishop appointed by the Pope to govern, teach and sanctify the faithful who come under his care; that is, the members of the Ordinariate.
1.4 Why is the Ordinariate "Personal"?
The term "Personal'' relates to the fact that the Ordinary has pastoral care only for specific persons, the members of the Ordinariate. He does not have jurisdiction over other Catholics unless they have formally associated themselves with the Ordinariate.
1.5 Why did the Pope set up this new structure?
In the opening paragraph of Anglicanorum Coetibus (the official document which launched the Ordinariate) the Holy Father says: "In recent times the Holy Spirit has moved groups of Anglicans to petition repeatedly and insistently to be received into full Catholic communion individually as well as corporately". Essentially then the Pope set up the new structures because he was asked to do so and because he could see value in retaining an Anglican patrimony to exist in unity with the Catholic Church and not outside of it.
1.6 What does entering "full communion" mean?
It means becoming a full member of the undivided Catholic Church. This means you are "in communion with” the Successors of Saint Peter and the Apostles, the Pope and Bishops. It means you are healing the rupture of the Reformation when the State and various Christians broke with Rome to take control of the Church for themselves.
1.7 What does "corporate" unity denote?
The Ordinariate is centred on corporate unity. This means individuals can be reconciled with Rome as part of a wider group seeking a new life in the Catholic Church. Every effort is made to hold such groups together to ensure continuity is not lost and liturgical gifts and charisms are not lost.
1.8 How can we trust that Ordinariates are Catholic?
Those entering the Ordinariates retain aspects of their Anglican patrimony but must sign up to the Catechism of the Catholic Church—the authoritative and official teaching document issued by the Vatican. They embrace every facet of Church teaching and are therefore robustly Catholic.