Pope Modifies Norms for Catholics Seeking to Join an Anglican Ordinariate

Baptized Catholics who have not received confirmation and first Communion are now allowed to join the ordinariates.

(photo: CNA/Lauren Cater)

VATICAN CITY — Baptized Catholics can now join Anglican ordinariates, according to a modification to the norms made by Pope Francis.

“This confirms the place of the personal ordinariates within the mission of the wider Catholic Church, not simply as a jurisdiction for those from the Anglican tradition, but as a contributor to the urgent work of the New Evangelization,” the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham announced July 9.

A term coined by Blessed Pope John Paul II, the New Evangelization is the common term for bringing the Gospel to formerly Christian nations, and it can be seen in the new outreach to people who were baptized as Catholics but who never completed the process of Christian initiation.

Benedict XVI allowed for the groups to be set up with his 2009 apostolic constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus, which provided for Anglican communities wishing to enter into the Catholic Church.

His “complementary norms” governing the groups said that “those baptized previously as Catholics outside the ordinariate are not ordinarily eligible for membership, unless they are members of a family belonging to the ordinariate.”

On May 31, Pope Francis modified the complementary norms, adding a section that says that “a person who has been baptized in the Catholic Church but who has not completed the sacraments of initiation, and subsequently returns to the faith and practice of the Church as a result of the evangelizing mission of the ordinariate, may be admitted to membership in the ordinariate and receive the sacrament of confirmation or the sacrament of the Eucharist or both.”

It was emphasized that Catholics must meet the objective criterion — lacking at least one of the sacraments of initiation — to join the groups for former Anglicans, and they may not join “for purely subjective motives or personal preference,” according to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

In addition to the U.K.-based Our Lady of Walsingham ordinariate, there are also ordinariates in North America and Australia (Ordinariate of Our Lady of the Southern Cross).

“I certainly welcome this development, which further establishes our place in the work of the New Evangelization,” said Msgr. Jeffrey Steenson, ordinary of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter in Houston.

“Particularly in North America, with large percentages of ‘unchurched’ peoples, it is inevitable that we will encounter those who have no formal ecclesial relationships but who are seekers of truth,” he added in his statement.

“The Great Commission thus becomes more and more the heart of our work."