Defrocked Episcopal priest hopes to join Catholic Church

You almost never hear of Catholic priests being suspended for being too conservative — but that seems to happened with this Episcopalian from suburban Philadelphia.

Details:

A defrocked Episcopal priest must step down as rector of his Rosemont parish and vacate the premises after 21 years there, a Montgomery County Court judge has ruled.

The Rev. David Moyer, 60, said Wednesday that he was saddened by Judge Stanley Ott’s decision but would abide by his order to leave the Church of the Good Shepherd. He said he hopes to become a Roman Catholic priest.

An outspoken critic of liberal trends in the Episcopal Church, Moyer was defrocked in 2002 by the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania after he agreed to become a bishop in a small, conservative Anglican denomination.

Bishop Charles E. Bennison, head of the 55,000-member local diocese, ruled that Moyer had “broken communion” with the diocese and the Episcopal Church by that decision.

Moyer had for years denounced Bennison’s acceptance of same-sex marriage and gay clergy, and barred the bishop from preaching or conducting confirmations at his parish. Moyer also rejects the ordination of women.

With the support of his vestry, or church board, Moyer refused to step down as rector after his deposition and continued to preach, say Mass, administer the affairs of the parish, and reside in its rectory with his wife, Rita.

In 2008, he unsuccessfully sued Bennison in Philadelphia Common Pleas Court over firing him under what he alleged were false pretenses.

In February 2009, the diocese filed a motion in Montgomery County Court asking it to remove Moyer and the members of the vestry who refused to recognize the authority of the Episcopal Church as rightful owner of the property.

Ott, a judge of Orphans’ Court, ruled Aug. 25 that under the laws of the church, parishes are the property of their dioceses and the national church.

Moyer said Wednesday that he was relieved to have the matter ended, but would ask the diocese to allow him and his wife to reside in the rectory until they can find a new home. The diocese did not respond to requests for comment.

Moyer said he hoped to remain in the Philadelphia area should he become a Catholic priest.

He is seeking to become part of a new, semiautonomous structure within the Catholic Church that permits disaffected Anglicans to become Catholics while retaining some of their Anglican prayers and liturgies.

Anglican clergy, including married priests, must petition Rome if they wish to serve as Catholic clergy.

Comments

  1. A disgruntled, defrocked Episcopal priest gets peoples attention for his potential as a Roman Catholic priest???
    I hope there is a long, long discernment period (like years) and a formation period similar to our seminarians (again years). Being an angry defrocked priest is not a good character indicator. I’m sure he once took vows of obedience that he abandoned. He is similar to Fr. Cutie who is seeking a church that is about “him” and not service to the Lord.

  2. This just in: Rev. Moyer of the Episcopalians has been traded for the Catholics’ Rev. Ray Bourgeois and another dissenting priest to be named later. And stay tuned for the upcoming Anglicanorum Coetibus Draft, to be covered live on ESPN.

  3. While sympathizing with the Reverend, I agree with Ike that becoming a Catholic priest under these circumstances does take a lot of discernment on both parts. I don’t think the Reverend would be admitted even to a deacon formation program under those circumstances. He probably needed to step down before creating a legal mess. Now it will require time to let things cool down and really exercise some self evaluation of his motives. He could start by being accepted as a lay Catholic first and the move from there. Yet It must be tough to have a profession and not be able to exercise it because of these circumstances.

  4. ron chandonia says:

    Being an angry defrocked priest is not a good character indicator.

    Really? Given the direction the Episcopal Church has taken in recent years, I would think very little of a minister from that denomination who had simply gone alone for the ride. For years, TEC has been in a precipitous decline, as evidenced by its own records of attendance at its services:

    http://www.virtueonline.org/portal/modules/news/article.php?storyid=14783

    I suspect many career clergy who glance out at tiny congregations of aging parishioners just shrug it off. After all, they are still getting paid, perhaps from the largesse of their once-wealthy denomination. But a clergyman who truly believed in his mission to proclaim the gospel message would surely be alarmed–and, I think, angry–if he believed the wrongheaded–even unbiblical and immoral–policy decisions of his superiors were largely to blame. To me, that seems a sign of very good character, and I hope Archbishop Chaput agrees.

  5. Young Canadian RC Male says:

    I hope we get him! If the Church knows what’s good for it, and realized how bad things have gotten since the 60′s, it knows that to have even some vestige of recussitating the faithful, it needs good orthodox priests willing to teach the True Faith of our Lord, without compromize. Every traditionally minded priest counts, be it standard method, or converts from the Anglicans and Episcopelians under the new ordinates!!!

  6. Rev David Moyer, the Episcopalian Priest who, ‘With the support of his vestry, or church board… refused to step down as rector after his deposition and continued to preach, say Mass, administer the affairs of the parish, and reside in its rectory’, acted or was/is at the same time a Consecrated Bishop in the Traditional Anglican Communion? A messy and confusing state for any clergyman to be in!

  7. Agree with Ike. All of a sudden you want to become a Catholic? It could be genuine, no doubt, but it’s awfully coincidental. In order to try make things better in 2002, he had himself made a bishop in some other Anglican body. Are all the Anglican doors now closed, that he now is open to Catholicism? Yes, our Lord can use these things, but I think much time will be needed to allow the genuineness of the call to be ascertained.

    That is also the lesson from the Fr Kimel situation too. Slow down, take your time, figure things out, listen to Jesus. Etc.

  8. Richard Johnson says:

    While I certainly hope that Rev. Moyer finds a way to carry out his calling with integrity, I agree with Rudy and Ike that there should be a time of discernment and “cooling off” before he is accepted as a Catholic priest. It is one thing to stand on principle and core beliefs. It is another to act from anger. Rather than accept ordination from another sect while continuing to minister to his congregation, I would think it would have been better for him to make a clear break with the Episcopal church before becoming yoked to another denomination.

    Were I supervising his admission into the Catholic church I would want to take time time to discuss with him the full nature of his actions, and how he looks to resolve any future conflicts with church leadership. Is this situation unique or the acts of someone who is habitually schismatic?

  9. @ron chandonia:

    This man’s situation won’t be up to Archbishop Chaput (of Philadelphia). There are delegates who handle these situations for the whole USA. If this man wishes to be part of a new Ordinariate set up for Anglicans who wish to be Catholic but keep Anglican usages then he’ll have to deal with Cardinal Wuerl of Washington, DC. If he wishes simply to become a Catholic priest under the local Catholic bishop he has to deal with Archbishop Myers of Newark.

    IF he is accepted into the Church then he comes under a local Ordinary.

  10. “continued to preach, say Mass”
    I thought only Catholic priests said Mass.
    I know Anglicans mimic the Mass but that doesn’t make it so.
    Or am I missing something?

  11. Ike and Rob are bang-on. Is he becoming Catholic because he has come to a realization that all of the Church’s doctrines are true? Or is it just because it’s the best option available now that things fell through with Anglicanism? If he really believed that the Catholic Church was the Church of Christ, he would have converted before getting ousted, no?

    And it seems like just as many disenfranchised Anglican priests will join the Church for less than proper reasons, so will certain Catholics, such as Ron Chandonia and Young Canadian RC Male, desire to accept such priests even if they embrace Catholicism by default.

  12. Those who think that Rev. Moyer has “all of a sudden” decided to become Catholic are missing part of the story. As a bishop of the Traditional Anglican Church, Rev. Moyer was one of the signatories to a petition that the entire epsicopal college of the TAC submitted to Rome seeking union back in 2007.

    He has been a supporter of Anglicanorum coetibus from the start. That Apostolic Constitution provides for the erection of ordinariates to receive communities of Anglicans (those in communion with Canterbury such as the Episcopal Church, and those in the “Continuing Anglican” movement, such as the TAC). To date, only England has had an ordinariate erected. The USA is widely expected to see one erected this Fall.

    Those who comment on Rev. Moyer’s motives without even knowing the man should beware. I have met him and his wife Rita and they are gracious followers of the Lord who are trying to be faithful to the Gospel in a very difficult situation.

  13. Well, not so surprising as this is the very same parish where Fr. George Rutler was pastor (as an Anglican) when he (a “conservative”) decided to convert to Catholicism. What a blessing he is to our Church!

  14. I agree with those who have said that there needs to be a lot of discernment here, and no sudden decisions.
    It would be a big problem in the Roman Catholic world if one of our priests decided to be a bishop in a group which was not in communion with us, say for instance the Old Catholic Church.
    There are a lot of reasons why people don’t get along with their bosses, and it is perhaps a bit disingenuous for him to claim that it was all because he was just too orthodox and traditional. And do we want to recruit priests who think they are channeling Jeremiah and can’t get along with anybody? Not saying he is necessarily like this, but there is that possibility.
    Also raises the question of why we seem so ready to recruit married ministers dissatisfied with their own denomonation when we have married Catholic men who would like to be priests but who have played by the rules and not gone off on their own.

  15. Fair enough, Steve.

    But as Rumble and Carty of Radio Replies said years ago regarding Anglicans who wanted union with Rome – if you’re convinced the Catholic Church is what She claims to be, why not convert? Why remain in Anglicanism at all?

  16. Hmm, if the Rev.Moyer decides to ask to be ordained as a Catholic priest, I certainly hope there is a very long period of discernment.

    Michael: There are actually quite a few Anglican clergy who have valid orders and thus celebrate valid sacraments. This is because from the mid 1920s through most of the 1990s, the Old Catholic Church (Utrecht) was in communion with the ECUSA, the Anglican Church of Canada, the Church of England and the SEC. It was common for an Old Catholic Bishop (in the States he would be from the PNCC) to take part in the ordination of an Anglican bishop – who would then have valid orders and be able to validly ordain priests. The practice of Old Catholic bishops taking part in Anglican episcopal ordinations still occurs in Europe but ended in the States when the PNCC withdrew from the Utrecht Union. Thus, the situation regarding the validity of Anglican order is far from simple.

  17. Why remain in Anglicanism at all?

    For the liturgical form. Maybe it’s just what I’m used to, but I (for one) find the Anglican liturgy more inspiring than the Catholic ones I’ve attended. Significantly so.

    As I understand it, the Ordinariate’s existence implies that Catholicism is broad enough to encompass a variety of liturgical forms, Anglican being one of them.

  18. Granted, the Anglican liturgy should be retained.

    However, if an Anglican truly believes the Catholic Church is what She claims to be, how can he refuse to convert just because he wants to continue to worship at the Anglican liturgy?

    If the truth leads you to the Roman Liturgy, then you must go to the Roman liturgy. To do otherwise belies a wholehearted conviction of the truth of the Catholic faith.

  19. Regarding my third paragraph in the previous post – hypothetically, if the Vatican did not allow the Anglican liturgy …

  20. This article is terribly written and researched. First, he was never canoncially defrocked. The Archbishop of the Canterbury stated that. Second, Bp. Moyer never had an “all the sudden” inspiration to become a Catholic priest. It’s been a long period of discernment. He is in charge of the Patrimony of the Primate of the ACA and is shepherding those of us who are awaiting the establishment of the Ordinariate in America. He has been in constant contact with Cardinal Wuerl and Acrchbishop Broglio (for those of us who are military chaplains) about the formation of the Ordinariate and the transistion that the priests and parishes will experience. His Excellency has been dedicated to this cause for years even though it has caused turmoil not only within the ACA but also his own parish.

    Rome is in the process of discerning each individual priest who has submitted his dossier this past May. Rumor has it that the process of vetting dossiers is complete the next step is notifications, interviews, education, as well as other steps. So for those of you who are concerned with discernment, there is still a lot of work to do. Trust the Church. Trust the Holy Father.

    It pains me that I’ll never set foot in Good Shepherd again. It is a parish with splendid history. Many of her former rectors and curates later became Catholic priests. It was the parish I where I was ordained a priest. It was the parish that so graciously hosted us military chaplains.

  21. There is great beauty in the Anglican service, and lovely music and great grandeur. But it is not the mass, and it is not Catholic no matter how much splinter Anglican groups wish it to be. I came to Rome from an incredibly beautiful, orthodox, uber-high chuch Anglican parish 5 years ago. I do not miss the liturgy at all, because I came to the Catholic faith not for the music or the words but to be in the Church Christ founded and to receive Him in the blessed sacrament and to serve Him as best I can. Many of my friends remain Episocpalians because the love the form of the worship and “their” church (meaning the local parish) doesn’t believe all that stuff the ECUSA is endorsing, and they too feel they are trying to do their best under difficult circumstances. I wonder, though, if music and liturgy have taken pride of place, and they are like the rich young man who went away sad when Jesus told him to sell everything and follow him….for he had many possessions. If one hears the call to Christ’s church and refuses to leave because of music or liturgy or anything else, it is sad indeed.

  22. Readers of Peter Anson’s WANDERING BISHOPS will know that (at least until that book was published in the late 1950s) it was not a defrocking offence for clergymen in the Church of England to hold and exercise episcopal orders derived from elsewhere. I don’t know if the American Episcopal Church took the same view.

  23. The question was posed:

    “if you’re convinced the Catholic Church is what She claims to be, why not convert? Why remain in Anglicanism at all?”

    It needs to be kept in mind that throughout the 1960s and into the 1970s there was great hope that the Anglican Church would be reunited with the Catholic Church. It was not an empty gesture when Pope Paul VI gave his ring to Archbishop of Canterbury Michael Ramsey. That that reunion is not in fact imminent came to people at different times.

    Many Episcopal/Anglican priests become convinced of the claims of the Catholic Church, but they also have in mind the flock they have been shepherding. Many attempt to bring the flock they have been shepherding to the same realization about the Catholic Church that they have come to. Only when they’ve done all they can do they come, often leading others.

    (The validity of their orders has nothing to do with the validity of their pastoral instincts and responsibilities. After all, ordination is not a requirement to be a shepherd…abbots and abbesses are just as responsible for their monastics as any parish priest, even though not in orders.)

  24. Episcopalian…Mass?

  25. Deacon Greg Kandra says:

    Re: Episcopalian mass.

    Evidently, that is a term they use, according to this handy link.

    Dcn. G.

  26. Deacon John M. Bresnahan says:

    A careful reading of the story indicates that this Episcopal priest has been moving toward the Catholic Church for many years. Also, apparently the vestry of his parish has been on his side.
    One should hope that clergy and parishoners attracted by the Catholic Church’s firm defense of Christian morality and doctrine will receive a warm welcome to our Church–not some of the carping from a few in comments here.

  27. I think that if you can not support the rules of the Church you should move to where you are more confortable, be it Episcopalian or Catholic.

    I have been reading about 300 Catholice Priests in Austria that disagree with the rules of Rome and they should move on also. Maybe even become Episcopalians.

  28. I agree with Father Joe that this article was very poor which is not surprising. The Catholic Church should be able to deal with this situation effectively and whatever they decide should work out fine. It sounds as if he is more in line with actual true church teaching than many current priests and some bishops.

  29. Excuse me, but what kind of organization defrocks a priest for being HOLY? Perhaps and UNHOLY organization? This is not rocket science here. It is actually good that he’s being defrocked. Factions serve the purpose of showing who God favors. God is saving this man from an unholy organization.

  30. Deacon Norb says:

    Re: hibernicus #22

    “Readers of Peter Anson’s WANDERING BISHOPS will know that (at least until that book was published in the late 1950s) it was not a defrocking offence for clergymen in the Church of England to hold and exercise episcopal orders derived from elsewhere.”

    I was not aware of the book but I was aware of the consequences of the issue it exposed. Roman Catholicism still pushes the idea of “apostolic succession” whereby all bishops are consecrated by already existing bishops in the order of “apostolic succession.” In fact, if you really ask, every RC bishop can produce his own episcopal “geneaology.”

    The fascinating thing however, is that a LOT of non-Roman Catholic clergy are accepting episcopal consecration at the hands of men who can prove that they also have that genealogy but are not recognized as Roman Catholic. Those who are thus newly “consecrated,” then, organize their own churches and identify themselves as “Bishop so-and-so.” This become particularly important if independent congregations scattered about want to bring themselves under the guidance of one specific pastoral leader.

    AND — for a long while — there was a surprising amount of inter-mixing: Polish National Catholic Bishops (who have that genealogy via the Utrecht schism) were assisting in the ordination of Episcopal bishops and vice versa.

  31. the vatican may not want a troublemaker

  32. Steve C,
    You wrote: “Those who comment on Rev. Moyer’s motives without even knowing the man should beware. I have met him and his wife Rita and they are gracious followers of the Lord who are trying to be faithful to the Gospel in a very difficult situation.”

    There are many men in the catholic church who would make wonderful priests and bishops. The problem is they are married. I sometimes struggle with my life and wonder if I a married man was not called to be a priest, BUT, I am married.
    Why does the church want this man and not many of us, who chose to be life long catholics and we can not follow a vacation to the priesthood?

    Rita is likely to be a wonderful and gracious wife of a priest. I also believe my wife would be a wonderful and gracious wife of a priest. It is most important to note, my wife and I remain members of our church and follow the beliefs (and rules) of our church. I am not a priest because I am married and my wife is not a gracious and wonderful wife of a priest because of our church’s disciplines and our choice to follow these disciplines.

    I trust the bishops will make the correct decision and if it is allowing him to serve as a catholic priest, the bishops will not fast track him as the bishops did in England. There were ordinations in months from men of the Anglican Church. A true calling to the Roman Catholic priesthood will be there, and this man should be carefully formed over several years. I am sure Deacon Greg as a married man took 3-4 years to be formed as deacon. I think the Anglican priest should minimally have a similar formation in the Roman Cathoilc Church.

  33. oops… follow a VOCATION…paragraph 2

  34. Yes, Michael, you are missing something.

  35. This all sounds like ‘my dad is better than your dad’, kind of childish rants. If God is present in another Church, who are we to say that God isn’t? I believe that the Papal Bull was more political as it was a more recent split than with the Eastern Churches and Rome wanted them back. By the way, if a Catholic Priest becomes Orthodox, in some jurisdictions, he will have to be re-ordained, for that matter if a Catholic becomes Orthodox, in many cases, they are re-baptised as they only baptism by immersion which in fact means that they don’t even consider us Christian. If Anglicans say they are having Mass and there’s evidence that they’re right, let’s move on, it doesn’t bother me, but I’m not a control freak. I’ve known many terrific Episcopalian Priests and admire a Great Anglican Bishop(Desmond Tutu). If he’s not holy or valid, I’ll believe it only if God tells me.

    Next, if someone changes from Anglicanism to Roman Catholicism or vise versa, that is not a conversion, it’s a change of Church allegiance. A Catholic can convert to Hinduism or the other way, but Christians are Christians and yes, Anglicans are Christians. If someone changes from being a republican to being a democrat, they are changing allegiance, but not nationalities. These kinds of battles spark and fester hate and misunderstanding. If you don’t believe that Episcopalians are ‘real’ as you don’t believe that they are in line with Apostolic Succession, then don’t go, you can feel superior, if that’s what it’s about. I think God is bigger. I also believe that it is important to be respectful of someone else’s belief as I would want them to be of mine. If an Anglican/Episcopalian says that they believe in the Eucharist and they are being fed through it, OK, point closed. That doesn’t bother me at all, where as an Orthodox says that I wasn’t baptized because it wasn’t by triple immersion would bug the hell out of me ; )

  36. Carolyn LaCombe says:

    we don’t mimic the Mass you idiot…we have the same Apostolic Sucession that you do….get your history straight and while you do that check back into your history archive and see that in the 1500′s Roman Priests were also married…I don’t think the Catholic Church should be throwing stones at this particular time in history…your Priests are a dying breed…why do you think they want to let the Anglicans back in…..duh!

  37. Fr. Anthony C. Dinoto says:

    A typical example of how Roman Catholic lay people have been brainwashed to believe that they hold the “patent” on practicing the Catholic faith. Take a look through our Book of Common Prayer and move to the Catechism at the back of the book. It clearly states that among the names used to refer to the Holy Eucharist is “Mass” Episcopalians/Anglicans are taught to believe that with the words of Consecration, the elements of bread and wine become the Real Presence of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. And yes our ordained clergy are referred to as “Father” or “Mother” or “Pastor” depending on the clergy’s personal preference. I believe those titles are preferable to “PEDOPHILE.”

  38. When I first became an Episcopalian (Anglo Catholic), I did so because the mass was so full of awe and reverence. Kneeling at the high altar rail when taking Eucharist, listening to gorgeous antiphonal music, reading the Book of Common Prayer were all details that brought me closer tp Jesus, my Lord and Savior. Contrast that with the Catholic church around the corner whose idea of music was “peaceful Easy Feeling – I wanna sleep with you in the desert tonight” lyrics, etc., whose bully deacons stood at the back door, whose tube top wearing, bubble gum chewing girls would stand in line for Communion. The Episcopal church stood for lovely worship in those days. Things are not the same in either church now. This pastor, no doubt, didn’t want to leave his ailing church. The Roman Catholic church should be delighted to have these men who have come through great distress to arrive at Rome. We should welcome them and know they have a lot of wisdom to offer.

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