Background on the New Ex-Anglican Ordinariate

This is a companion piece to my article today at Austin Catholic New Media. Read more about what the erection of the Ordinariate tells us about Pope Benedict XVI and how it impacts you and your ministry at ACNM.

On January 1st, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith erected the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter for former Anglicans/Episcopalians within the United States and Pope Benedict XVI appointed Fr. Jeffrey Steenson, a former Anglican and now Catholic priest, as the first ordinary.

This is the second “Anglo-Catholic” personal ordinariate established after last January’s erection of Our Lady of Walshingham for former Anglicans in England and Wales. These jurisdictions, in theory, were authorized through the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum coetibus of November 9th, 2009 (three years after first suggested being in the works) by Pope Benedict XVI and the creation of these jurisdictions was authorized by him.

The history of provisions to help Anglicans join the Catholic Church spans a bit further.

For many, many years now, some Episcopalians within the U.S., as well as Anglicans throughout the world, have been asking for this. While every person’s and each congregation’s discernment is unique, basically, these folks want to follow Christ and His Church. They had discerned themselves to be doing this through their Episcopal experience, but have realized now that the Catholic Church contains the fullness of truth. For some, it has been reading and praying over ancient Christian writings. For others, yes, recent decisions within the Episcopal world have made them re-evaluate if being Episcopalian was the best way to seek God.

The downside was if you’re a Anglican clergyman who had dedicated your life to the service of the Christian community and had a close-to-Catholic ministerial perspective, but married, you had to sacrifice your vocation. If you felt close to God through the close-to-Catholic liturgical expression of your previous church, you lost it. If your entire congregation felt the call to become Catholic, you wouldn’t be able to stay together in the same way.

While there had been some individual cases of priests from Anglican or Lutheran traditions being permitted to become Catholic, be ordained priests while married, there was not an established system.

These requests came with a particular urgency during the 1970s due to some changes in thought within the Episcopal community (e.g. broader acceptance of divorce, not condemning abortion, etc).

So, within the United States, Pope John Paul II issued the “Pastoral Provision”, allowing Anglican clergy to convert to Catholicism and, after petition and suitable formation, be ordained to the Catholic clergy (while remaining married). Likewise, a new “usage” of the Roman Rite was issued marrying aspect of the Anglican Book of Common Prayer with the Catholic Roman Rite so that former Anglicans could retain some part of the liturgical patrimony. A few “Pastoral Provision” parishes were erected within local dioceses for these new members of the Catholic Church. This was, and remains, only within the United States.

Decree of Erection for St. Mary the Virgin
The degree of erection establishing St. Mary the Virgin Anglican Use Parish. Click for a closer look.

One interesting tidbit: Most of the initial work to request such a provision and to make it agreeable to everyone was started in the Los Angeles area, but the Provision was never widely applied there, in terms of Anglican Use parishes and the more communal aspects of this Anglo-Catholic experiment. Texas has become the American capital of these efforts. The first parish established for an Anglican Use community is in San Antonio. St. Mary the Virgin in Arlington, TX had been the Episcopal Parish of St. Bartholomew since 1961 until in the early 1990s, the congregation voted to withdraw from Episcopal Church and seek admittance into the Catholic Church. Most notable is that it was the first (and I think only, as of now) Episcopal parish to completely swim the Tiber–pastor, congregation and building. Incredibly (and as a huge testament to the Episcopal bishop), the parish retained all the property, which typically is owned by the larger Episcopal Church. Their degree of erection is on the right.

And as of a few days ago, the Principal Church (e.g. “Cathedral”) and the contact address of the new Ordinariate is Our Lady of Walsingham in Houston, even though technically, it isn’t part of the Ordinariate yet.

Interestingly, the Book of Divine Worship, the Anglican Use of the Roman Rite as part of the Pastoral Provision, is only authorized for usage in the United States. I bought a copy of the Book of Divine Worship when the current edition was released in 2003 and, although I can’t find a physical copy for sale new online, the full book is online in PDF. The liturgy in ordinariates elsewhere will be the same liturgy that we have each Sunday. There may be a new worldwide “Anglican Use” in the works. Even within the United States, unless the ordinary decrees otherwise, parishes within the Ordinariate are not required to use the Book of Divine Worship and may use the same Roman Missal other Catholic parishes are using.

The Pastoral Provision will continue as it is different from the Ordinariate. The Ordinariate has its own Ordinary (e.g. bishop), it will have parishes, authorized to have a seminary and will function, all in all, as a separate entity within the Church. The Pastoral Provision, however, still applies for Anglican and former Anglican priests who seek entrance into the Church and ordination as diocesan priests within a local diocese and sponsored by the local bishop. For example, if Fr. Anglican wishes to become Catholic and serve the larger Catholic community–not just former Anglicans–he can petition Bishop Vasquez of Austin and be accepted as a member of the regular clergy in Austin. This is the same as it has been since 1980, only some communities and parishes have been established around the provision (under the authority of the local bishop, who could also decide to dissolve the community and have it absorbed by the larger Catholic fold). Now, Fr. Anglican simply has a second option to be a part of this Anglo-Catholic existence. Parishes within the Ordinariate would, in theory, be more stable as they have a support structure that is designed to serve them.

Austin had an Anglican Use parish, St. Margaret of Scotland for some time. I believe it was based in South Austin, possibly meeting at San Jose. I wasn’t in Austin at the time and a rather quick attempt to find more information didn’t provide anything trustworthy. For whatever reason, it was suppressed (e.g. closed) by the bishop. If the matter related to the inability to find a priest willing/able to take over at the parish, the Ordinariate  should help as there will be a national pool of priests very familiar with the unique pastoral needs of such a parish.

As the Ordinariate continues to develop, existing communities are transferred into it and new congregations are established, more will develop about how it functions in practice.

Anything I miss?





2 responses to “Background on the New Ex-Anglican Ordinariate

  1. […] for devotees of the Johannine liturgy, much like there are personal parishes established for the Anglican Use of the Roman Missal, or for the appointment of a “rector or chaplain” dedicated to the service of those who […]

  2. […] Follow-up from January 2012: Background on Ex-Anglican Ordinariate […]

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