2012: the year of the Anglicans?

Before the confetti is swept up and the champagne glasses put away, the new year will be bringing something else new: the ordinariate, enabling Anglican parishes in the U.S. to become Catholic.   Details:

The Vatican is set to launch a structure Monday that will allow Anglican parishes in the United States — and their married priests — to join the Catholic Church in a small but symbolically potent effort to reunite Protestants and Catholics, who split almost 500 years ago.

More than 1,300 Anglicans, including 100 Anglican priests, have applied to be part of the new body, essentially a diocese. Among them are members of St. Luke’s in Bladensburg, which this summer became the first group in the country to convert to Catholicism.

St. Luke’s and Baltimore’s Mount Calvary, which also applied to join, were part of the Episcopal Church, the official wing of American Anglicanism. But most of those joining the new structure are Anglicans who aren’t part of the Episcopal Church.

It’s unclear how many priests and their followers will ultimately convert to Catholicism. Compared with the tens of millions of Americans who identify as Catholic or Protestant, the movement is small. But it is the most tangible progress in decades for Catholic leaders, who see Catholics and Protestants as estranged siblings who should be reconciled.

“It’s the largest reunification effort in 500 years,” said Susan Gibbs, a spokeswoman for the new body, called an ordinariate.

The possibility of dozens of married Catholic priests could provide fodder for Catholics who want the Vatican to open up on the issue of priestly celibacy. There are about 40,000 Catholic priests in the United States.

Gibbs declined to say which priests and parishes have expressed interest. But congregants at St. Luke’s, and others who call themselves Anglo-Catholics, tend to be theological and social conservatives who say they like the clear, single authority of a pope. However, they also want to hold onto aspects of Anglicanism, including retaining more authority in governing and certain music and rituals, such as kneeling for Communion.

More details will be made public Monday, but Gibbs said most of the Anglicans who expressed interest were not leaving the Episcopal Church. Most are members of offshoot Anglican groups, many of which have grown since the Episcopal Church ordained an openly gay bishop about a decade ago.

Tens of thousands have left the Episcopal Church since then for breakaway groups.

But people in both movements — Anglo-Catholics and Episcopal breakaway groups — tend to voice similar concerns about the liberal direction of the Episcopal Church. They mention the ordination and marrying of gays and lesbians; the ordination of women; and leaders who view the Bible as metaphor, not fact.

Read the rest.

Photo: Archbishop of Westminster Vincent Nichols  follows former Anglican bishops John Broadhurst, Andrew Burnham and Keith Newton after their ordination as Roman Catholic priests at Westminster Cathedral in central London, January 15, 2011.  Photo by Andrew Winning/Reuters.


  1. Peregrinus says:

    1.) I doubt this will ultimately bring the churches closer together. It seems a lot like the establishment of the Eastern Catholic Churches. If that is so, wouldn’t this ordinariate, like the Eastern Catholic Churches, create resentment in their former Churches?

    2.) It feels wrong to me, like picking off bits and pieces from the edges, rather than dealing with the main issues and people involved head-on.

    3.) I also don’t like the way the phrase “leaders who view the Bible as fact” sounds… If this means an influx of folks who reject modern biblical scholarship, I’m not thrilled.

  2. Congratulation to Fr. Steenson on being named the first Ordinary. I’d offer a couple of suggestions:
    1) Name your own spokesperson rather than allow Cardinal Wuerl’s spokesperson to continue to make further statements on the Ordinariate.
    2) Make welcome into the Ordinariate those that preceded you in your decision the leave the Episcopal Church for the Catholic Church and wish to join the Ordinariate in order to preserve Anglican Patrimony. Indicate your willingness to incardinate priests that were ordained under the Pastoral Provision (like you were) and will lobby their current bishop to excardinate them if that is the priest’s wish. Announce that you would like to accept the current Anglican Use parishes into the Ordinariate and ask that their current bishops not hinder the process.

  3. Peregrinus: The Anglican “Church” is unable to hold itself together. It has no authority to hold itself together. Portions have moved themselves away from what the Catholic Church teaches, and no one is able to prevent it. Therefore people have been leaving it. Those that were looking to leave are the ones that petitioned the Holy See to create a structure for them so that they can preserve some of their own heritage when joining the Catholic Church, and the Personal Ordinariates was the pope’s response to them. It is not the Catholic Church picking off bit and pieces, but welcoming them when they themselves decided that the Anglican “Church” is falling apart. There is no way that the Catholic Church can dialog with anyone in the Anglican community on such issues as women’s ordination when they have no one that can speak with authority for them and have not even been able to resolve their own dialog.

  4. “They mention the ordination and marrying of gays and lesbians; the ordination of women; and leaders who view the Bible as metaphor, not fact.”

    The Bible IS fact, and NOT metaphor.

    In some of its language it may employ metaphor to address fact in a more universal manner, especially where moral norms are concerned. The Anglican Church approaches moral prescripts about human sexual expression and writes them off as either metaphorical, or culturally bound rubrics. They, among plenty of rebels within the Catholic Church, have seized upon modern scripture scholarship and polluted it, twisting it to accomplish their end of marginalizing central moral precepts.

  5. If I understand correctly, these new Catholics will retain much of their liturgy. It seems this has the potential to create even more confusion and division about the liturgy.

  6. I would cheer this development more heartily if I could see evidence of a desire to return TO communion with Rome, and not a desire to run away FROM developments within the Anglican communion. If those who become part of the ordinariate truly have been, as Fr Steenson says he has, drawn to Catholicism their whole lives, why wait so long? And why not, now, fully embrace Roman Catholicism, the rite to which the ordinariate properly belongs, instead of clinging to Anglican patrimony? If clerical celibacy is the mandate of Rome, why not accept it? Why not abandon the lovely cadences of the BCP and wrap your tongues haltingly around Latinate syntax, as the rest of us English-speaking Catholics are doing for the sake of unity? The argument that various rites preserve varying traditions does not hold here.

    My prayer is that this day will mark the beginning of a candid and forthright conversation about these questions. Otherwise, it is not only the cynical among us who will read this as ecclesial opportunism. Many of those asking to join the ordinariate claim they are dissatisfied with a church that bends to current events, but what is the establishment of the ordinariate if not just such a bend? Had the Church of England not begun to ordain women, had the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada not ordained openly gay ministers and blessed same-sex unions, would the invitation have been made? And if it had, would those who returned have been allowed to remain AIABN (Anglican in all but name)? Did Jesus call the Apostles to be phishers of men?

    I understand this will generate some blowback, but I ask these questions honestly and respectfully, as a cradle Catholic who left for a time, was received into the Episcopal Church, and last year returned to the Church–not because I was running away from actions taken by the Episcopal Church or the Anglican Communion, but because I know where home is. And I came back knowing that I would have to struggle the rest of my life with the questions that took me away in the first place, and leave behind parts of my adopted “Anglican patrimony” that were very precious.

  7. Deacon Greg Kandra says:


    Last I heard, Susan Gibbs left her employment at the Archdiocese of Washington last year, and now works independently. Unless things have changed since I spoke with her three months ago at a meeting at the USCCB, she’s no longer Cardinal Wuerl’s spokesperson.

    Dcn. G.

  8. As to your first suggestion, relax, the Ordinariate has been official for less than one day. All in good time. As to your second suggestion, the reception of Pastoral Provision clergy and Anglican Use congregations into the U.S. Ordinariate is already part of the plans (referenced indirectly at the end of the Ordinariate’s F.A.Q. http://www.usordinariate.org/faq.html.) I worship at an Anglican Use parish which has already announced its plans to apply to transfer to the Ordinariate.

  9. Is not the Archdiocese a client of her public relations firm, and is it not Cardinal Wuerl that determined that she is the spokesperson? Would she even qualify to be a member of the Personal Ordinariate by having come from an Anglican background? Since it seems the Ordinary will have his offices in Houston, it seems only proper that the spokesperson (if Fr. Steenson is not going to be it himself), should be someone directly working with Steenson in Houston rather than someone working with Cardinal Wuerl in Washington DC. Having seen the article in the Washington Post, it seems she is answering questions that should be deferred to the Ordinary himself.

  10. “The Ordinariate has been official for less that one day”, though I suppose that if you are at Our Lady of Walsingham you already know that you will be a part of it. No doubt Cardinal Dinardo knew that when he asked the question of whether or not Anglican Use parishes would automatically become part of the Ordinariate and drew the reply that it would not be automatic and that their bishop would have to give his consent if that is what they want to do. It’s some secret that the other Anglican Use communities had already expressed interest in joining the Ordinariate? Our Lady of the Atonement hosted the “Becoming One” conference long ago, St. Mary the Virgin held the Anglican Use Society meeting where all of the talk was about the Ordinariate and it included Msgr. Newton as a featured speaker. Fr. Steenson is in the dark about the fact that the other Anglican Use parishes have expressed their desire to become part of the Ordinariate? Is he merely waiting to invite them because their bishop don’t want to give permission to let them go? Unless you’re at Our Lady of Walsingham, the fact that your parish has announced plans to transfer does not mean a thing until your bishop and Fr. Steenson agree to it. Should be a simple thing for Fr. Steenson to make the announcement that it would be his desire for that to happen, and that he would encourage your bishop to allow the transfer. I’m not sure why any bishop would want to appear to be an obstacle to the Personal Ordinariate, though many certainly were to the Pastoral Provision.

  11. The answer to some of your questions (particularly related to Liturgy) would seem to be that it is what Pope Benedict desires. He does not seem to be altogether happy with the state of the Liturgy at the average Catholic parish, and feels that some of the aspects of the Anglican influenced Liturgy may have a positive influence of the Church at large. Surprisingly some of the bishops seem to have a concern that some of their current members might wander into an Ordinariate parish and like what they see and want to stay. Perhaps they would not face that problem if they had their priests celebrate their own Liturgy in a more solemn manner.

  12. “Had the Church of England not begun to ordain women, had the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada not ordained openly gay ministers and blessed same-sex unions, would the invitation have been made?” That does seem to be what the goal was, to bring the entire Anglican Church back into union with Rome while allowing them to retain much of their own patrimony. That is what early ecumenical efforts were all about, and things looked very hopeful back in the times of Pope Paul VI and the then Archbishop of Canterbury Michael Ramsey. It was the ordination of women, despite warnings from the Vatican, that derailed that process. Many remained hopeful that full Communion could be achieved (without the Anglicans merely becoming melted into the Church) but instead they have become less likely. Many Anglicans that held onto that hope stayed in order to continue work on that goal, expecting it might happen at any time. Pope John Paul II offered the Pastoral Provision to allow for the establishment of Personal Parishes with the Anglican Use Liturgy in the United States, but years later there are very few such parishes as many bishops refused to allow them in their diocese. If it had not been for the resistance of many of the bishops to the Pastoral Provision, there may not have been the need for Anglicanorum Coetibus. Suddenly bishops that had quotas on the number of priests they would accept through the Pastoral Provision are all for it remaining in existence if it can be kept separate from the Personal Ordinariate (though England which received the first Personal Ordinariate has no such thing as Pastoral Provision office).

  13. pagansister says:

    Whatever floats folks boats. Can’t imagine that everyone on either side is gong to be totally happy. If all was happy in the first place, there would have been no split from the RCC in the first place zillions of years ago, IMO.

  14. “Perhaps they would not face that problem if they had their priests celebrate their own Liturgy in a more solemn manner.”

    People on blogs argue forever about this. I have not seen anything inappropriate. As I said above, this offers the potential for more comfusion and division.

  15. Peregrinus says:

    But they are not suggesting the Flood and Noah actually existed?

  16. Daniel, I don’t understand where your response and its questions are coming from. I’m not at Walsingham but the AU parish I attend definitely hasn’t treated its desire to join the new Ordinariate as a secret. I don’t know who has claimed Father Steenson doesn’t know which AU parishes wish to join the Ordinariate. However, from a protocol standpoint, I can’t imagine he would try to jump the gun by inviting parishes that haven’t already sought permission from their current ordinaries.

  17. You’re saying they did not?

  18. I take it that allowing any other Liturgy such as the Maronite, Byzantine and the Extraordinary form also confuses you?

  19. Peregrinus says:

    The person who is posting under the name PEREGRINUS here is not me — Peregrinus of Toronto.

    I am completely commited to the Holy Father’s initiative in Anglicanorum Coetibus.

    Peregrinus, Toronto

  20. As someone who was raised Baptist, baptized Episcopal, and who has been worshipping in a local Catholic parish for the last eight years, all I can say is that while my local Latin Rite parish may offer the Catholic faith and communion with Peter, it is not and can never be home to me. The music, language, and small-t traditions that were taught to me and aid me in devotion are absent from my local Latin parish. It’s difficult to explain, but consider this analogy: if the Pope had suppressed the Latin Rite and told everyone to adopt the Divine Liturgy of St. Chrysostom, Western Catholics would still be Catholic, but one would never be entirely free of the sense of being an alien in his own parish.

  21. The question and answer exchange between Cardinals Dinardo and Wuerl were televised live at the November USCCB meeting. Fr. Phillips had met with Archbishop Gomez two years ago immediately after Anglicanorum Coetibus was announced and there seemed agreement, but Gomez is now gone and Garcia-Sillar in his place. Bishop Vann, from my recollection, attended an informational meeting that Fr. Phillips had sponsored at his parish shortly after that. It certainly seemed pretty open that all of the AU communities intended to join the Ordinariate, though I don’t know what the response of the various bishops had been. Then in November, DiNardo asks his question of Wuerl whether the AU parishes would automatically go in and the reply was no, they are part of their diocese and their bishop would have to let them go. Fr. Steenson was sitting on the podium behind Cardinal Wuerl. When I saw him a few weeks ago and asked about that question he indicated that it was a planted question and so DiNardo was not asking it about OL of Walsingham. What would be the point of a planted question that effected only a few other communities in front of a televised audience including all of the bishops? Even if they knew that one single bishop was resistant, why make that a public issue?

  22. Seeing as how all of the AU communities seem to have immediately gotten behind Anglicanorum Coetibus from the point it was announced, it is difficult to imagine that two years later there would be one that hadn’t made their desire known to their bishop. If Cardinal Wuerl is acting in the best interest of the Personal Ordinariate, I would think that he would have encouraged the few bishops involved to allow the transfer. There would be no reason to question an “automatic” transfer, as permissions should already have been granted. Whispers in the Loggia logically states the advantage in the U.S. of having the AU parishes as the base. So why would there be any problem with Fr. Steenson saying at his press conference today that he welcomes the existing AU communities to the Ordinariate unless between the few ordinaries involved someone does not want it to happen?

  23. I must be confused because I thought they already were Catholic.

  24. The only confusion is that the Book of Divine Worship is long and complicated. The Anglican use Mass is very much like NO. They celebrate Ad Orientum, receive at the altar rail and kneel a lot more than the NO. Wish there was one near here.
    The language is much more reverent and traditional as well. And they kneel for the Agnus Dei and the final blessing.


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