BALTIMORE — Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington announced Nov. 15 at the U.S. bishops’ meeting in Baltimore that the Anglican-use ordinariate for former Anglicans coming into the Catholic Church will be established in the United States on Jan. 1, 2012
The announcement comes almost two years after Pope Benedict XV’s apostolic constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus authorizing the creation of ordinariates, which are similar to dioceses, for former Anglicans. It allows groups of Anglicans to come into the Catholic Church while retaining elements of the Anglican heritage and liturgical tradition.
Episcopalians in the U.S. are part of the worldwide Anglican Communion centered on the archbishop of Canterbury; breakaway groups from the Episcopal Church consider themselves still Anglican but no longer Episcopalians.
The personal ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham for former Anglicans in England, Scotland and Wales was established in January of this year.
The U.S. ordinariate, which has not yet been named, will be the second one erected in the world.
Cardinal Wuerl, who has been overseeing groups of Anglicans coming into the Church, said that an ordinary will also be named on Jan. 1. An ordinary’s role is similar to that of a bishop, but the leader of the ordinariate will only be designated as a bishop if an unmarried priest is tapped for the position.
Meanwhile, Bishop Kevin Vann of Fort Worth, Texas, has been tapped to succeed Archbishop John Myers of Newark, N.J., as ecclesiastical delegate for the Pastoral Provision. The Pastoral Provision, which allowed married former Anglican priests to become diocesan priests in the Catholic Church, was created in 1980 by Pope John Paul II.
During the public discussion following Cardinal Wuerl’s announcement at yesterday’s USCCB meeting, Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston proposed that the new ordinary be chosen from the ranks of priests who have entered the Church through the provision.
Cardinal Wuerl, who was charged with implementing Anglicanorum Coetibus in the United States, was joined by Father Jeffrey Steenson, a former bishop in the Episcopal Church in the United States who is now a Catholic priest and theology professor, and Father Scott Hurd, another former Episcopal priest who has helped the cardinal prepare the way for the ordinariate and also serves as executive director of the Office of the Permanent Diaconate for the Archdiocese of Washington.
“My phone has not stopped ringing with people who are thrilled [about the announcement],” said Father Christopher Phillips, a former Episcopal priest who is pastor of Our Lady of the Atonement, an Anglican-use parish in San Antonio, Texas. Father Phillips came into the Catholic Church 30 years ago under the provision.
“Many of us in the community of former Anglicans have been waiting and asking, ‘When will it happen?’” he said. “Now we have a date that the Holy Father has approved. It makes it official. If I were to die today, I’d die happy, because I got to see this happen.
“For me, and for many of us who came into the Church years ago, this is the final maturity. When we came into the Church, I said, ‘We don’t know what will happen to us, but we are building for a new generation.’ Now that generation is here. In 500 years, we’ll be reading about this in the history books.”
67 New Priests?
Parishes that come into the Catholic Church and retain Anglican traditions are known as “Anglican-use” parishes. They will commonly use The Book of Divine Worship — which retains much of the cherished language of the Anglican tradition but has been approved by the Vatican — but can also use the new Roman Missal.
Since Cardinal Wuerl told the USCCB last spring that there was sufficient interest to continue with the process of establishing a U.S. ordinariate, two formerly Anglican communities — St. Luke’s Church in Bladensburg, Md., and a Fort Worth, Texas, group that goes by the name St. Peter the Rock — have been formally received into the Church and will become part of the ordinariate.
Several other groups have expressed an intention of coming into the Church, and still other groups are said to have been in a holding pattern waiting for the news that came from the cardinal yesterday.
Father Ernie Davis, another former Episcopal priest, said yesterday that Cardinal Wuerl’s announcement meant that “the dream will not be postponed,” while Randy Sly, a former prelate in the Charismatic Episcopal Church who is now a well-known Catholic speaker and writer,
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Catholic Online that the announcement gave him “goose bumps.”
Cardinal Wuerl said that 67 former Anglican priests in the U.S. who hope to become Catholic priests have submitted dossiers to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith since June. At this point, 35 have received the nulla osta which allows them to proceed.
Men who receive the nulla osta can then begin a process that includes criminal background checks and a psychological evaluation. A program for former Episcopal priests has been set up at St. Mary’s Seminary in Houston.
Calling the ordinariate “a true expression of the Catholic Church because of your support of those seeking to enter,” Cardinal Wuerl told the bishops, “Your involvement is one of the guarantees of success for clergy and the members.”
The cardinal asked the bishops to be willing to volunteer to ordain priests for the ordinariate and to make available whatever resources they can provide to help. (Their willingness to participate in ordaining formerly Anglican priests will be even more important if the ordinary is a married man who does not have the status of a bishop.)
Bishop Vann will continue to administer the admission of married former Episcopal priests who wish to become diocesan priests, and he is expected to work closely with the Anglican-use ordinary.
Anglican-use parishes that are already part of the Church can apply to become part of the ordinariate instead of their current dioceses.
Register correspondent Charlotte Hays writes from Washington.