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Up to 100 priests to join US ordinariate, says cardinal

By on Friday, 17 June 2011

Cardinal Wuerl addresses the US bishops (CNS photo/Stephen Brashear)

Cardinal Wuerl addresses the US bishops (CNS photo/Stephen Brashear)

As many as 100 US Anglican priests and 2,000 lay people could be the first members of a US Personal Ordinariate for former Anglicans who want to enter into full communion with the Catholic Church, Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington has said.

Cardinal Wuerl was appointed by the Vatican last September to guide the incorporation of Anglican groups into the Catholic Church in the United States under Anglicanorum coetibus, an apostolic constitution issued by Pope Benedict XVI in November 2009.

At a news conference, Cardinal Wuerl said he “wouldn’t be surprised” if the Vatican were to establish the US ordinariate by the end of the year. “I think it will be sooner rather than later,” he said. He was speaking after he had addressed the US bishops on the subject.

Two Anglican congregations in Maryland, on the country’s east coast – St Luke’s in Bladensburg, near Washington DC, and Mount Calvary in Baltimore – have announced their intention to join the new ordinariate once it is established.

Addressing the bishops at the close of the first day of their spring general assembly near Seattle, the cardinal said St Mary’s seminary in Houston has developed and the Vatican has approved an intensive nine-month programme of priestly formation for Anglican clergy who wish to become Catholic priests.

Fr Jeffrey Steenson, the former Episcopal bishop of the Rio Grande who became a Catholic in 2007 and now teaches at St Mary’s Seminary, was instrumental in developing the programme, which focuses on “the areas of historic theological divergence” between the Catholic and Anglican churches, Cardinal Wuerl said.

The only ordinariate created thus far under Anglicanorum coetibus is Britain’s Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, which includes 60 former Anglican clergy and about 1,000 lay people.

Ordinariates are also under consideration in Australia and Canada.

Cardinal Wuerl said he had received “a significant number of letters, emails and calls” from interested Anglicans after his appointment last September.

The cardinal leads a task force that also includes Bishop Robert McManus of Worcester, Massachusetts, and Bishop Kevin Vann of Fort Worth, Texas. Fr Scott Hurd, a priest of the Archdiocese of Washington who had been an Episcopal priest, serves as liaison to the US Conference of Catholic Bishops for implementation of Anglicanorum coetibus.

Cardinal Wuerl said the task force reported earlier this year to both the Vatican and the US bishops that the establishment of a US ordinariate “would in fact be workable”.

The current task involves preparation of dossiers to be sent to the Vatican on each of the Anglican priests who is seeking admission to the priestly formation process, he said.

“This information will include the results of criminal background checks, a psychological evaluation, a letter of resignation from their Anglican entity” and letters from Cardinal Wuerl or the head of the ordinariate once it is established, the Catholic bishop in the diocese in which the candidate resides and, if possible, his former Anglican authority, the cardinal said.

Once that information has been submitted to the Vatican, the candidate “will cease celebrating the Anglican Eucharist” and begin leading his congregation in the catechetical preparation for them to become Catholics, he said.

Cardinal Wuerl suggested that the US bishops could assist in the process by providing worship space to small communities in their dioceses that are seeking to become Catholic; assigning a priest to serve as liaison to such groups; making available the resources of diocesan marriage tribunals to assist Anglicans, clergy and lay, whose marriages need to be regularised; and offering the services of a local director of religious education or other educator to assist in the catechetical preparation of those seeking to become Catholics.

The questions directed at Cardinal Wuerl by his fellow bishops indicated a certain level of anxiety about how the ordinariate will operate in relation to their dioceses and how they might respond to members of other denominations who are attracted to the ordinariate idea.

Although the ordinariates are designed to be fully Catholic while retaining elements of the Anglican heritage, Cardinal Wuerl acknowledged that it is not entirely clear what those elements are and how they will be maintained.

The cardinal also stressed that the reception of formerly Anglican congregations into the Catholic Church through the provisions of Anglicanorum coetibus is distinct from the Pastoral Provision established by John Paul II through which married Anglican clergy could join the Catholic Church as individuals.

  • Anonymous

    So exciting!

  • Nbattaglia

    I’m just trying to imagine congregations that are so uniform in their thinking (and feeling) that they could all change denominations together. I guess some of their number must have decided to stay behind and join other Anglican congregations. I can just imagine what life in that congregation must have been like for those who stayed behind.

  • Gary

    The numbers Cardinal Wuerl mentions, does not include the 3 parishes in Texas,
    St. Mary the Virgin, Arlington Tx
    Our Lady of Walsingham, Houston, Tx
    Our Lady of the Atonement, San Antonio, Tx.
    that have indicated they want to be part of the Ordinariate, approximately 4000 souls.

  • AgingPapist

    Most Anglicans, out of 2.5 million in America, are going to wait to see what the Ordinariate looks like, especially the liturgy which Rome approves.  The vast majority of Anglicans will never accept the bishop of Rome as their head no matter what the Ordinariate looks like.

    The Ordinariate is largely an Anglo Catholic affair and it is by no means certain just how many of them are more than simply Anglo Catholic in terms of liturgy and ritual.  I’ve always suspected most Anglicans, even from the extreme high church, are secret Unitarians who just happen to like the popish smells and bells.

  • Aunt Raven

    Well, yes, but these clergy and congregations are not new converts –these are all mature and dynamic parishes, about 25 years old,  of the “Anglican Use” authorized by Pope John Paul II.  They and some younger and just-starting parishes elsewhere in the USA were the prototypes for the UK Ordinariate established by “Anglicanorum coetibus” and they will all be subsumed into it when the Ordinariate is established in the USA.

  • Aunt Raven

    Well, that’s the mystery of the Holy Spirit inspiring a group to be of one heart and mind–. It cannot be imagined unless you have been present to see how this can be. . . it is quite marvelous and beautiful.  

  • Aunt Raven

    It is to be expected that there will be “early adopters” and that many more will “swim the Tiber” after they see how the first group fare.  All are extremely orthodox, no closet Unitarians ! 

    The liturgy is already approved in the Book of Divine Worship (BDW) which I believe you can find on-line, and which is celebrated in the aforementioned American parishes.  The BDW is the Catholic version of the BCP, and has had the unexpected effect of bringing back many lapsed Catholics to the faith.  By the way those preferring this liturgy  implies no disrespect of the Novus Ordo — it just seems pastorally to meet the spiritual needs of many people.  The mature parishes are all producing young vocations to the priesthood and religious life, 

    Cardinal Archbishop DiNardo of Houston, Texas, understands the liturgical and pastoral significance of the Ordinariate and is making generous, enthusiastic provision at St Mary’s Seminary for the transition programme for the new ordinands.  Fr Jeffery Steenson is an administrator and outstanding scholar of great humility and holiness;  under the aegis of Cardinals Wurl and DiNardo the  incoming Anglican/ Episcopal clergy will be well cared for in an ideal environment.   

  • Dcruz

    This will certaily make the latin rite priest envious of them becasue they will be married clergy in the R.C. Church and enjoying a family life while latin rite peiests are forbidden from marrying. Food for thought.

  • Joseallen

    The Bishops Conference was quite good.Cardinal Wuerl, was sadly unprepared by his staff and made several errors about Anglicanism, History of ecumenism and The Pastoral Povision. He was tactful when treading on some understandable sensibilities of the bishops there and that made sure that the Ordinariate got a kindly hearing.

  • Brian Eyre

    Correction: Latin Rite priests can marry. Once they receive a dispensation from celibacy they can marry and they still remain priests.
    I was ordained a Latin Rite priest in 1966. In 1983 I asked for and received a dispensation from celibacy and married. I have been able to reconcile having a family, a job and finding time for pastoral work.In my experience the sacrament of Orders which I received is not opposed to the sacrament of Matrimony which I also received, actually one complements the other. I can say too that my wife has been a tremendous support to me in my pastoral work which I do mostly in shanty towns with the poor.
    These former Anglican priests will be received into full communion with the catholic church. I am happy for them and for their wives and childlren, no doubt they will have a fruitful ministry now as catholic married priests.
    However there is a contradiction here. If they are accepted into full communion why can’t people like myself be also accepted? I know many married catholic priests who like myself are doing pastoral work but in a private and personal manner. We are no longer accepted as members of the clergy and yet we are still priests. Here in Brazil the majority of communities are deprived of the Eucharist because there are not enough celibate priests to serve these communites. Is a man-made law about celibacy more important than the right of a community to have the Eucharist celebrated on a regular bases?

    Brian  Eyre  (Recife, Brazil)

  • RJ

    “enjoying”…or not enjoying.

  • Richard

    Lets hope rome manages to emulate the huge massive success they did here!

  • Anonymous

     i’d love to smash your face in.