The Pastoral Provision Still in Operation
June 24, 2012 3 Comments
I’ve often heard it mistakenly said that the Ordinariate will somehow surpass the Pastoral Provision (of 1980). This is not so. They are two different routes. Whereas the former is aimed primarily at ‘groups’, the latter was established chiefly to meet the requests of individual Episcopal (Anglican) clergy who sought to enter into full Communion with the Catholic Church. Where laity chose to follow such a priest, a local ‘Anglican-use’ community could be established; but more often than not, a priest would simply be incardinated into a local Catholic diocese. In the USA, since 1983, more than 100 men have been ordained for priestly ministry in Catholic dioceses, while only three (that I know of) personal parishes have been established.
The Pastoral Provision, under Bishop Kevin W. Vann, actually has a rather nicely revamped website whch you can look at over here. It well makes the point:
Even with the establishment of the Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter, the Pastoral Provision remains available for individuals and married former Episcopalian priests to become Catholic priests in a diocese.
I was reminded of the above when I read ‘Maine’s newest Catholic priest is the son of an Episcopal priest’ over on The Deacon’s Bench earlier:
He’s also married with children, and took a remarkable path into the Church and the priesthood.
When David Affleck was ordained earlier this month as Maine’s newest Roman Catholic priest, his wife, Katherine, sat in the pews at Portland’s Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.
A Catholic priest who’s married? With children? That can’t be right.
Except it is.
Affleck, 62, of York, is a former Episcopal priest who took advantage of a 1980 papal provision that allows him and others like him to become priests in the Catholic Church.
Only a handful of such ordinations take place in the U.S. each year. In Maine, it’s happened just three times in 32 years, and Affleck is the only current convert. One died, and the other has left the church.
“It is indeed rare for a pastoral provision to be sought and granted,” Bishop Richard Malone said in a statement. “The Church takes a great deal of time and energy to know that the man in question is truly being called to the priesthood and completely understands the responsibilities and ministry within the Catholic Church.”
The trend, however small, is less a reflection of relaxed requirements of the Catholic Church and more a sign that fewer men are joining the priesthood, said Monsignor Michael Henchal, a Catholic priest in Maine for nearly 40 years. Aside from Affleck, only one other priest has been ordained this year. There are now more retired priests in Maine (86) than active priests (69). Affleck is needed.
That’s not to diminish his resume. He has a master’s degree, a doctorate and more than 15 years of priesthood under his collar. When parishioners of St. Raphael in Kittery, St. Christopher in York or Our Lady of Peace in Berwick see Affleck at the front of their church, reading Scripture and offering Communion, they see a man of distinction and conviction.
Some may not even realize he hasn’t taken the vow of celibacy that traditional Catholic priests must take.
“People have been very welcoming, they have been accepting,” he said during an interview last week at his modest parish office in Kittery. “If there are people who are bothered by this, they haven’t said so.”
Mitch Picard of York is a parishioner at St. Christopher and the current chairman of the parish council. He said he hasn’t heard from any parishioners who have objected to Affleck’s ordination or his background.
“It almost went unnoticed because he was a deacon for a year,” Picard said. “Now, he just has a different role at the altar.”
Affleck’s journey from the Episcopal Church to the Catholic Church is nuanced, but he speaks of it thoughtfully.
Read on to find what happened.
The Pastoral Provision route is both longer and harder, or so it would seem. The sponsorship of a local Catholic diocesan Bishop (rather than approaching the Ordinary) must be sought. Evaluation and formation is rigorous and stringent, culminating in written and oral examinations. The informative Pastoral Provision Manual entitled: ‘Into Full Communion’, which can be downloaded (pdf.) here, has further details.
Fr Christopher Phillips, who is (most) knowledgeable and has firsthand experience with the issues at play here, has written on this subject before:
… Speculation about the continuation of the Pastoral Provision office under the able leadership of Bishop Vann, running parallel to the Ordinariate under the leadership (also able, we hope) of an Ordinary, has led to guessing as to the reason why this will be. Some commenters on this blog have concluded, after hearing Cardinal Wuerl, that the Ordinariate will be only for those clergy who enter with a group of laity; whereas the Pastoral Provision will be for those solitary clergy who come with no community. Respectfully, I would assert that is not the case. The divide is not to be determined by whether there is a parish or community entering with a cleric.
Anglicanorum coetibus makes it clear that Anglican patrimony is the definitive reason for an Ordinariate to come into being. Pope Benedict XVI stated that there is a three-fold objective when it comes to this patrimony: that it is to be preserved, that it is to be nurtured, and that it is to be shared with the wider Church. This is what should determine the path for an incoming Anglican clergyman. If a man is dedicated to the ideals outlined in the Apostolic Constitution, the Ordinariate is the place for him; if he is not especially interested in our Anglican patrimony, proceeding through the Pastoral Provision into diocesan ministry would be more appropriate.
One path is not better than the other. They simply are different, and are intended to accommodate people’s different spiritual journeys. The same is true for the laity – there are some who find that their best spiritual home is in the local diocesan parish, while others find strength and sustenance in a spirituality which reflects our patrimony.
Even at the beginning of the Pastoral Provision, these two paths were evident. A majority of the Pastoral Provision priests have carried on fruitful ministries in diocesan parishes and chaplaincies, with no reference whatsoever to the Anglican Use. Others of us felt called by God to establish parishes and communities in which we could do what the Ordinariates are now coming into existence to do.
Just because a priest has an Anglican background, doesn’t mean his place is necessarily in the Ordinariate – in fact, I remember a former Episcopal priest who had entered into full communion with the Church just before I did, who said (referring to the fact that we were bringing a separate liturgy with us), “They should give up those things, and become real Catholics.” I hope that attitude is a thing of the past, but it indicates that the Ordinariate wouldn’t be the best place for that particular priest.
The Holy Father is giving us an opportunity to use our liturgy, our devotional life, and our particularly Anglican approach to the Faith, as a tool for evangelism and a means of helping to bring about Christian unity. To fulfill that mandate, the Ordinariate needs clerical leadership which is committed to the vision outlined in Anglicanorum coetibus. It takes more than simply coming from an Anglican background. It requires a commitment to the raison d’être of the Ordinariate.
While the Pastoral Provision for former Episcopalians is limited to the United States, there are former Anglican clergy who have become married Catholic priests in other countries too.