Catholic Church Using Anglican Converts To Serve Parishes

In the Huffington Post (with a video report there too).

Facing a priest shortage, the Catholic Church in the United States has started turning to former Anglican leaders to fill empty parishes.

The number of Roman Catholic priests in the U.S. has dropped by about 20,000 since 1975, while the number of Catholics has increased by 17 million, CBS reports.

The shortage was stretching thin the abilities of Catholic priests, and the Catholic Church was “supersizing” as it tried to accommodate more Catholics at a dwindling number of parishes, according to a 2011 study by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate for the Emerging Models of Pastoral Leadership project.

Allowing converted Anglican priests to join the church was seen as a way to solve this shortage problem.

In an announcement that helped make this solution effective, former Pope Benedict XVI issued an edict in 2009 that created a “new structure to welcome some disenchanted Anglicans into the Roman Catholic fold,” Time notes.

At a Vatican news conference in October of that year, Cardinal William J. Levada, the prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, said Anglicans who wished to convert would now be able “to enter full communion with the Catholic Church while preserving elements of the distinctive Anglican spiritual and liturgical patrimony,” The New York Times reports.

This new structure paved the way for former Anglican priests like Mark Lewis to join the Roman Catholic Church.

Lewis, who is married with two children, told CBS News that “It was like God was opening up the door for us to truly become members of the church.”

However, in a 2012 article discussing married Catholic priests in the U.S., the New York Times noted that “the married priest problem” may raise interesting questions for the faithful. (Married priests were banned by the First Lateran Council in 1123, but married converts have been allowed since 1980.)

The Times wrote:

First, are they doing as good a job as other priests? If the church has decided that celibacy confers certain gifts on priests, does it follow that married priests are worse at serving their congregations? Second, wouldn’t celibate priests be a little resentful of colleagues who get to serve the church and have sex too? And third, if the married priests are doing a good job and not provoking envy, why keep the celibacy rule for priests in general?

Still, many of the Anglicans priests — and in some cases whole congregations — who have chosen to convert to Catholicism report the transition has been relatively smooth.

Lewis, who leads St. Luke’s now-Catholic parish in Bladensburg, Md., told PBS that ultimately, converting to Catholicism filled a hole they perceived in the Episcopal Church’s theology.

“We left the Episcopal Church not because we were running away from the issues of the Episcopal Church,” Lewis said. “We left the Episcopal Church because we were running to the Catholic Church … The theology of Rome, the authority of Rome, the unity in the Holy See and in the bishops: that was appealing to us.”

 

 

16 thoughts on “Catholic Church Using Anglican Converts To Serve Parishes

  1. Thank you Father Smuts for noticing that, it is so unfortunate that other TAC clergy were not aware of this information before crossing to Roman Catholic Church.

  2. Many of these priests had no congregation with them when then became Catholic priests or have such small communities that they can’t survive on what they get financially. Actually the Catholic Church has opened their doors to accomodate these priests by finding other positions for them.

    I know some who are grateful that the Church is helping them and knew before they converted that they would need to find a source of income.

    It is always negative when coming from Anglicans and the media towards the Church. Anglicans need to get a life of their own and stop trying to destroy those former Anglicans who have chosen another path.

    I am sure that TAC would love it if Catholic priests would jump ship and join them, just as TEC does. The problem is the Catholic Church gets the best former Angicans and Anglicans get the worst former Catholics, i.e. Curtie, for instance.

    The only gossip and unchrist like behaviors I have seen on the web are from Anglicans towards Catholics and converts, especially from the Continuing groups, like TAC.

  3. Generally, the material is gross exaggeration, to say the least. There are only 30 Ordinariate priests in the US plus Canada, at least half with sound congregations and even more with communities forming. And there is only a handful who are used as ‘diocesan substitutes’ right now. Incidentally, Fr. Mark Lewis is even not one of them!
    So jumping to such broad conclusions and suggesting a Catholic Church’ cunning strategy based on five or so ex-Anglican priests (vs. a total of 30,000 priests in the US!) is preposterous.

  4. We here in Michigan know of two former Episcopal priests functioning as priests in Roman Catholic parishes. Their entry into Catholic priesthood was eased by the resident bishop and the priest shortage here, and those parishes seem to have accepted, mostly, their families also.

  5. I’m sure every case is unique. The former Anglican priest in central Iowa who joined the Ordinariate was unsuccessful in getting his then local Anglican church to follow him. For first 6 months he did clincal pastoral counseling for the RC diocese. Now he is filling in for a RC priest on sabbatical. Guess only time will tell what happens.

  6. From my understanding the priest in Iowa was asked to come to that parish with the knowledge that they wanted to enter the ordinariate. He moved his whole family there on this condition and then the congregation decided not to become Catholic.

    Of course it is the right of everyone to change their minds, however, one does not encourage a priest or anyonoe to make such a drastic move and then change their minds. They should have been positive before he was asked. I don’t know the circumstances,,however, I believe they had lost their former priest and maybe were just in need of someone to replace him.

    I have to give great credit to the Catholic diocese for helping him out, I don’t believe that any of the continuing groups would have come to his rescue. One can say what they want about the Church, however, the Church did not approach Anglicans in the first place, they approached the Church.

    Hopefully Anglicans will find peace within their own communities and leave those who have chosen the Catholic Church alone. The hostility that has been shown by so many Anglicans towards those who are in the Ordinariate and the Ordinariate itself shows that they are not content in their own choices to stay outside of the Catholic Church, if they were, they would go on with their lives and stop the harrassment towards Anglicans who leave and become Catholic. It would be best for them to look after their own souls than to make judgements of other’s souls.

    • A former Rector of that very parish confirmed to me that in calling Fr. Chori to be its Rector the intention was that he would lead that parish into the Ordinariate. Later on, the majority of the members of the parish (who number no more than 30) decided for various reasons, among them the Catholic Church’s non-recognition of Anglican marital annulments and its stance on the incompatibility of Freemasonic membership with membership of the Catholic Church, as well as that of the ownership of church property, not to proceed with entering the Church. Benedict is, thus, entirely right to say:

      “One can say what they want about the Church, however, the Church did not approach Anglicans in the first place, they approached the Church.”

    • Not sure if there is much of a distinction here, or one that makes much of a difference. Is interesting that the Anglican priest, who was there for well over a year engaged in RC-related catechesis, converted to RCC months before the Anglican parish had its binding vpte regarding the Ordinariate. I remember listening on the radio, on the local RC AM station, to the local RC bishop tallking with the then still Anglican priest about he and his parish becoming RC. Msgr. Steenson came out and gave a presentation a couple of weeks before the vote was tallied. So they were actively engaged in the process of attempting to convert the parish. Was that a bit like putting carts in front of horses? Counting chickens before they are hatched?

      • Well, you should really ask Abp. Falk about all this. Suffice it to say that he was fully supportive of “attempting to convert the parish” (and was intending to convert himself, and had rec’d both a nulla osta with a view to his “Roman” [re]ordination and a rescript from Rome dispensing him from the celibacy requirement) until he discerned at the last moment that he could not in good conscience proceed with the matter.

      • William, I have. I remember talking with the Archbishop back in the 1980s and 1990s about RC overtures toward Continuing Anglicans and vice versa. I remember talking with him in 2010 specifically about the Ordinariates. Being EO (Western Rite), I found the Ordinariates fascinating. I listened intently to his 2012 discussion on the day they counted the votes. (I also enjoyed his recent 5-part Lenten adult study presentation on miracles. He is quite edifying in his teaching and preaching.)

  7. The fault lies in the congregation enticing the priest to become their Pastor with the understanding that they were agreed upon joining the Ordinariate.

    Of course I find that so many Anglicans want to become Catholics, but they really mean cafeteria Catholics. It appears that if one must sacrifice any of the freedoms they have as Anglicans, i.e. believing in abortion, birth control, problems with a marriage being valid, more or less just wanting to continue with an Anglican Use lilturgy, with no authority, just as they have been allowed as Anglicans, they back away from becoming Catholic as the Church stands firms on the faith of the last 2000 years.

    It appears, of course I might be wrong, but the main reason that some Anglicans wanted to be Catholic, is because their are no women priests, bishops etc. This is the wrong reason for anyone to decide to become Catholic.

    My sympathy goes out to the priest and his family. The Catholic Church through Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict opened the doors for Anglicans at their request and the Church has been very generous in allowing them to keep much of their Patrimony and finding pastoral work for those priests who come in alone, or in this case as when the congregation changed their minds without any consideration for the priest and his family.

    I know of no one who has joined the Ordinariate who finds fault with Anglicans who want to stay in TEC or one of the many continuing groups, wish the same could be said for these same Anglicans towards the ones who have chosen to join the Church and keep trying to place blame on Rome for stealing away some of their flock. One could say the same about the continuing groups stealing away members from TEC or joining a different continung group that is more to their liking.

    • Benedict, Saying both “fault” and “enticing” seems rather unfair. Life is filled with uncertainty and risks. They were all adults. You might check out that priest’s status at the time of their discussions. Was he then the paid pastor of any local Anglican church? (From what I do know first hand, the parish appeared to have treated him decently after he joined the RCC and stopped performing liturgical services for them, both of which took place well before their final vote on the Ordinariate.)

    • Hi Benedict.

      I don’t claim to know more about the situation than you do (actually, you probably know more about it than I do) but I think we can/should assume that the parishioners were sincere when they said they were planning on becoming Roman.

  8. Although I am reluctant to jump in here, falsehood should be spoken against. Michael Frost probably means well, but he does not understand what he is speaking about. He may think it otherwise, but he does not have all the information pertinent to the situation (much of what he says above is completely inaccurate). It would be better not to speak of these things, since they degenerate into gossip too easily. My famiy and I chose to join the Ordinariate; St. Aidan’s parish chose not to do so. Let us leave motives between the individuals and God.

  9. This interview with Mark Lewis is remarkably out of date, why is it only being published on this site now? Also, the New York Times article, was fairly stongly refuted at the time as it came with a Byline that it tried to make the story fit.
    Also, the report is tosh, the priests formally ‘helping out’ Dioceses are Fr John Wright in Calgary, the above Fr Seraiah, Fr Reamsnyder (in the Diocese of Lansing), Fr Gonzales y Perez (Chaplaincy work in Brooklyn?, which he has been involved in for many years), Fr Joshua Whitfield (Communities of Prayer, Dallas), and Fr Brian Ray (Archdiocese of Military Services; he has been a senior chaplain in the Armed Forces for many years).
    Fr Peter Switzer has no local Ordinariare community in Port Alburni, British Columbia, so assists in Holy Family Notre Dame Catholic Church, Port Alberni, British Columbia.
    Whilst priests of the Ordinariate are willing to be supportive, that doesn’t make them any less parts of their local Ordinariate communities.
    By the by, I believe that the number of Priests of the Ordinariate (including the Ordinary and Fr Hurd), stands at 40, along with 2 Deacons at the Principal Church.

  10. The writing in the Huffington Post article leaves something to be desired. “Allowing converted Anglican priests to join the church was seen as a way to solve this shortage problem.” Anglican priests (and bishops) were never disallowed from joining the (Roman) church … JPII’s Pastoral Provision just sweetened the deal a little by allowing some to be married RC priests.

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