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US ordinariate to be created on January 1, says cardinal

By on Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Cardinal Wuerl, Vatican delegate for the US ordinariate (Photo: CNS)

Cardinal Wuerl, Vatican delegate for the US ordinariate (Photo: CNS)

A new ordinariate will be created on January 1 to bring Anglicans into the US Catholic Church, Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington has announced at an annual meeting of the country’s bishops’ conference.

Cardinal Wuerl also said 67 Anglican priests had submitted their dossiers seeking ordination in the Catholic Church, and 35 of those had received initial approval from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

They can now move to the second stage of approval, which includes a criminal background check, psychological evaluation and recommendations from the Catholic bishop where he lives and from his Anglican ecclesiastical authority, he said.

Cardinal Wuerl told reporters that Anglican parishes with a total of about 2,000 members have so far asked to become part of the Catholic Church through the process established in 2009 when Pope Benedict XVI issued an apostolic constitution, Anglicanorum coetibus. Cardinal Wuerl was named by the Vatican to head an ad hoc committee for the constitution’s implementation.

The constitution authorises the creation of an ordinariate to bring in Anglicans, or Episcopalians as they are known in the US, who seek to leave their tradition and join the Catholic Church but retain certain elements of the Anglican liturgy and traditions.

The process was established to accommodate whole congregations who choose to join the Catholic Church after they have become disaffected with the Anglican church over recent changes, such as the ordination of women, the ordination of openly gay priests and blessing of same-sex marriages and partnerships.

Cardinal Wuerl’s announcement in the final hour of the public portion of the annual meeting in Baltimore brought immediate logistical questions, such as the relationship between the ordinariate – which will cover the entire US – and the dioceses in which the former Anglican priests will live.

The physical location of its offices will be determined after the ordinariate is erected. Cardinal Wuerl said he assumed that an ordinary will be named at that time.

“I remain convinced that this ordinariate will be a true expression of the Catholic Church because of your engagement in the steps leading up to the acceptance of the candidates for ordinate and for your involvement in the catechetical formation of the members of the congregation seeking membership in the ordinariate,” he said. “Your involvement is one of the guarantees of the well-being of the ordinariate as it is established and begins to receive both clergy and congregations.”

The US ordinariate will be the second one created under Anglicanorum coetibus. The Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham was established for England and Wales in January of this year. It is led by Mgr Keith Newton, a former Anglican bishop who is married and was ordained a Catholic priest. It includes about 1,000 individuals in 42 communities. Its priests include five former Anglican bishops.

The Catholic Church does not allow married priests – whether those in Eastern rites that allow priests to be married, or former clergy from other churches who have become Catholic – to become bishops.

Therefore, the new ordinariate may be led by a priest, who will have a role similar to a bishop, according to the background material. An ordinary who is not a bishop will not be allowed to ordain priests, however. So, Cardinal Wuerl explained, ordinations for the ordinariate may need to be done by “one of us” until the ordinariate has its own bishop.

Cardinal Wuerl did not say where the Anglican communities seeking to become Catholic are located. Two such parishes have already completed the transition, one in Fort Worth, Texas, and the other in Bladensburg, Maryland, which were accepted in ceremonies in September and October. They will become a part of the new ordinariate when it is established, though for now they come under the jurisdiction of the Diocese of Fort Worth and the Archdiocese of Washington.

A Vatican-approved pastoral provision has since 1980 provided a way for individual Protestant clergymen to be ordained for US Catholic dioceses. It also allows Anglican parishes to become Catholic parishes. Three have done so and are referred to as “Anglican use” communities.

Anglicanorum coetibus applies to the entire world and allows Anglican communities to be received into the Catholic Church through new ordinariates instead of through existing dioceses.

In addition to the approvals by the Vatican, the background checks and psychological evaluations, the candidates for ordination as Catholic priests also will go through a programme of priestly formation approved by the Vatican, Cardinal Wuerl said. The programme is based at St Mary’s Seminary in Houston, either on-campus or through the university’s distance-learning programme, he said, and should take six to nine months to complete.

Congregations that wish to become a part of the ordinariate will go through a catechesis programme based on the United States Catholic Catechism for Adults.

A great many details remain to be decided about how the ordinariate will function, he added. Parishes in the ordinariate will have the option of using either The Book of Divine Worship, a Vatican-approved liturgical text based upon Anglican liturgies, or the Roman Missal used in other Catholic churches.

Questions raised by bishops after from the floor Cardinal Wuerl’s presentation touched on issues such as whether the newly ordained priests of the Anglican ordinariate might be available to help out in other parishes and vice versa, such as for priests on vacation; and whether parishioners of Catholic churches would be free to participate in the Anglican parishes.

The answer to both questions was yes. Priests working across ordinariate lines, so to speak, would need permission from the bishop or ordinary, as currently is required when priests work in other dioceses, Cardinal Wuerl said.

Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston suggested that dioceses with priests who are entering into full communion with the Church might, for example, offer to have the new priests participate in the diocesan health insurance programme until the new ordinariate is able to offer such benefits.

  • Anonymous

    There are 6,794 Episcopalian parishes in the United States. Making the generous assumption that each of the Anglican clergymen who join the Ordinariate is going to bring an entire congregation with him, and that the average size of these congregations is the same as the average of the whole church, that would mean that the Ordinariate has attracted 1% of the Episcopalian community.

    If those assumptions are correct then the American supporters of the Ordinariate will be congratulating themselves at being a ten times bigger proportion of their church than the 0.1% achieved by the Ordinariate in England.

  • Anonymous

    From small acorns and all that. Is it not better that some souls are saved rather than remaining in heresy, however many?

    It is likely that more will follow once Anglicanism continues down its self-destructive path and once the requisite ordinariate structures have been set up.

  • Poppy Tupper

    Some would say that the Catholic church is doing a pretty good essay in self-destruction itself. Don’t forget that more Irish Catholics have reverted to Anglicanism than Anglicans have been drawn into the English Ordinariate.

  • Conchúr

    1. You cannot revert to what you have never been.
    2. Irish Catholics rarely if ever become Anglicans, for historical/cultural reasons if nothing else. Unbelief of varying degrees is the destination of most who leave.
    3. Growth in Irish Anglicanism is not native, it has been the result of net immigration over the past decade.

    But then again your passive aggressive sniping has rarely concerned itself with facts or context, has it Poppy?

  • Poppy Tupper

    Reverting is what happens when families who have previously been Anglican, but because of overbearing ‘mixed marriage’ regulations have joined your church, decide to ‘come home’ to the national church. As to your second point, why is it that so many prominent Anglican clergy in Ireland are former Roman Catholic priests?
    And why has immigration had such a positive effect on the Anglican Church but not on the Catholic Church which continues to shrink?

  • Aging Papist

    Wrong Conchur.  Irish Catholics both in Ireland and here in the U.S. have been converting to Anglicanism (many to Lutheranism as well)  since the end of Vatican II,. This is not just since the pederastic priests decided to keep their trousers up and their cassocks down, and the discovery by the Irish people they’ve been lied to for centuries.

    You can go into countless Anglican parishes and find as many as 2/3 of the membership made up of former Catholics.  It isn’t unusual at all to find Anglican priests who were formally Catholic priests. The figures are similar for Orthodox churches too.

    The Roman Church needs to get real, face reality, and stop pretending as if all conversions to the C of Ireland and other protestant churches comes from Muslims and Buddhists. Figures show otherwise.

  • Conchúr

    Since you aren’t Irish and I actually am please don’t try to con me with relation to what the situation is like on the ground in Ireland. Also extrapolating the Irish American experience to Ireland is as pointless and stupid as doing so for Missouri Synod Lutherans and Germany.

    Plenty of Anglican clergy are former RC priests for the same reason that many PNCC clergy are former RC priests – they wanted to marry but weren’t prepared to give up the clerical state. This is nothing new; Fulton Sheen once remarked that when ever a priest came to him stating he was having a “crisis of faith”, his response was “What’s her name?”.

  • Cristoferlee

    I sense some discontent and sarcasm to Rome by some readers here. Appears that whatever the Catholic Church does at the service of Christian charity and unity, it will never be appreciated by these folks. Come on, give respect where respect is due. Else, shut your mouth and restrict the criticism to yourself!

    If these readers are Catholics, you may be better off rencouncing the faith and joining a non-Catholic Church.

    If these reades are non-Catholics, well…that’s understandable else they will never be labeled Protestants for nothing. At the very least, speak to an Anglican who wish to become a Catholic.

  • Gfdsmith

    I just cannot understand why any Anglican would wish to remain in the Anglican Ecclesial Community.  Any pretence to be part of the Catholic Church is palpably absurd given the idiosyncratic doctrine held by each member of the AEC.

  • Carlton

    Conchur,  You’re wrong on all points. Your assumptions about priests and their motives are absurd, as usual, and anyone still taking his Catholic direction from witty little tales told by archbishop Sheen has not matured as a Catholic.  You should stop spreading rubbish about things of which you know absolutely nothing.

  • Carlton

    Any pretence to be part of the Catholic Church is palpably absurd given
    the idiosyncratic doctrine held by each member of the AEC.
    No more idiosyncratic than Catholics pretending to be “orthodox”, but who are really  SSPX, Sedevacantist , Jansenist , and Ultramontanist heretics on the right.  With neo-Calvinists and evangelicals on the left also calling themselves “Catholic”.   At least the Anglicans are more intellectually honest and forthcoming about their internal divisions. They admit to their theological diversity, love doctrinal anarchy,  and glory in it. Their liturgy is better, their music is better, the quality of their sermons is better. They ALWAYS receive the eucharist in both forms. The laity, clergy, and bishops have a say.  A far better system of governance than anything in the Catholic Church we have today and haven’t seen since the 4th century.

    Rome and their neoconservative apologists pretend everything  beneath the surface is smooth and going well under the guidance of the manufactured, on-the-spot ” infallible magisterium”.  Actually,  a small office in the bowels of the Vatican where cardinals Pell, Burke, Sodano, and Bertone meet with their Leader regularly.   This laughable image of unity within the faith has been consistently foisted upon the world by Catholic officialdom. This grand theater is the greatest example of fiction  in all Christendom.

  • Carlton

    Cristoferlee, If it’s getting a little too hot for you in this “Protestant” kitchen, why don’t you leave?

  • Aunt Raven

    The Ordinariate of the Chair of St Peter has been announced in the United States, and the former Episcopal Bishop of the Rio Grande,  Fr Jeffery Steenson, has been named Ordinary. This announcement was greeted with joy by all who know Fr Steenson–universally agreed to be a holy and humble man, a learned scholar, gifted administrator and pastor.   

    The beautiful new (Anglican Use) shrine church of Our Lady of Walsingham, Houston Texas was, on the same day,  named as principal church of the American Ordinariate.  By this generous provision, Daniel Cardinal Di Nardo of Houston proves by action as well as words that he as well as the Holy Father consider the Ordinariate as a great gift of the Holy Spirit  to the life of the Church. The Cardinal  has also made provision for Fr Steenson to oversee the study programme at the Houston’s St Mary’s Seminary (theology school of the University of St Thomas) for incoming formerly Anglican priests.   What a welcome contrast to the plight of the UK Ordinariate, now a year old: the Catholic Primate ++ Vincent Nichols recently made a public statement that giving even one space for the use of the Ordinariate to call their own is “not a priority.”