Question by Hippolyt:
My Lord, I recently read about a number of Anglican Bishops (11 of them) defecting, as it were, to the Catholic Church. Some are married, I believe. How does their integration into the Catholic Church work? Do they come in as bishops? Can they be assigned to head Catholic dioceses, even if they are already married? If so, do they have to be re-ordained as priests and then bishops? Thanks for considering my questions.
Answer by Bishop Joseph Osei-Bonsu:
In order to answer these questions, I first need to say something about what is termed “an Ordinariate” which is the means through which groups of Anglicans can become Catholics. In response to repeated and persistent inquiries from Anglican groups worldwide who were seeking to become Catholics, Pope Benedict XVI on 4 November 2009, in a document called Anglicanorum Coetibus, created the “Ordinariate” for Anglicans (and Methodists). The Ordinariate provides a way for Anglicans to enter the Catholic Church in a corporate manner, that is, as a group or community, not simply as individuals, while also retaining some of their Anglican heritage and traditions.
The Ordinariate is a geographic region similar to a diocese but typically national in scope. The Ordinariate communities are not part of the local diocese. However, Ordinariate communities and clergy are encouraged to have close relationships with the dioceses in which they are located, and many of the priests receive faculties to assist in diocesan parishes. The Ordinariate is not a separate Rite within the Catholic Church. Ordinariate communities celebrate a liturgy based on the traditional Anglican liturgy, though they may also use the Roman Missal. Parishes in the Ordinariate typically use the Book of Divine Worship, a liturgical text that incorporates Anglican prayers and material. The Roman Missal also is authorized for use.
The Ordinariate is to be led by an “ordinary”, who has a role similar to a bishop, but who may be either a bishop or a priest. The ordinary exercises his responsibilities in collaboration with local diocesan bishops. The ordinary of an Ordinariate is canonically equivalent to a diocesan bishop, and thus wears the same ecclesiastical attire and uses the same pontifical insignia (mitre, crozier, pectoral cross, and episcopal ring) as a diocesan bishop, even if he is not a bishop! The ordinary is also, ex officio, a full member of the episcopal conference(s) of the territory of the Ordinariate. There are three Ordinariates in the world: Our Lady of Walsingham in the United Kingdom; Chair of St. Peter in the United States and Canada; and Our Lady of the Southern Cross in Australia.
In order to understand what an Ordinariate is, it may be good to use the analogy of a diocese. According to canon 369, a diocese is a portion of the people of God, entrusted to a bishop. Normally, this portion of the people of God is defined territorially (c. 372.1). Every Catholic who lives permanently within the established territorial boundaries of that diocese ordinarily is a member of that diocese. In other words, a Catholic’s diocese is determined simply by where one resides permanently.
An “Ordinariate” comprises a portion of the people of God, as a diocese does – but it is not purely territorial. Catholics become members of an Ordinariate not based simply on where they live, but for some other reason. The most common examples of Ordinariates are those which Rome has established for Catholic soldiers.
A military Ordinariate is designed to care for the spiritual needs of the Catholic members of a particular country’s military forces, wherever they may happen to be. If we may use the United States as an example, we know that American soldiers are stationed at many military bases, both within the United States and in foreign countries. These bases happen to be located within the territory of different dioceses.
But every time that soldiers are transferred to another U.S. base, or sent overseas, they are of course no longer residing within the diocese where they used to be. The frequent moving could wreak spiritual as well as canonical havoc on soldiers planning to get married, or on soldiers’ young children preparing to receive the sacraments for the first time.
Therefore, instead of transferring the responsibility for their spiritual care to a different bishop every time that they are moved, the Church has instead arranged that they are always under the care of the Ordinariate established for members of the U.S. military.
This means that an American Catholic soldier is, by virtue of his status as a member of the U.S. Armed Forces, a member of the military Ordinariate for the U.S. If, for example, he is moved from Texas to Virginia and then on to Iraq, he is in fact living in a different diocese after every move, but the Archbishop who heads the military Ordinariate is always responsible for his spiritual wellbeing.
In order for Anglicans – lay or clergy – to be received into the Catholic Church by means of the Ordinariate, they must signal their desire to do so in writing. However, there is no need for these people to be re-baptized: the Catholic Church already recognizes Anglican baptisms as valid, as it does for any Christian denomination that uses water, invokes the Trinity and performs the sacrament for the same reasons as the Catholic Church during baptism.
In order to be fully initiated, those Anglicans who wish to join the Catholic Church are required to study the Church’s teaching and receive the sacrament of Confirmation. Some may choose to take the same R.C.I.A. course as other people who may be converting from an entirely different religion, but because so much of Anglican doctrine overlaps with Catholic teaching, they can opt to take a shorter course.
When Anglican clergy become Catholics, they are not automatically eligible for the priesthood or the episcopacy. The Catholic Church does not recognize Anglican ordinations as valid. In the Catholic view, an Anglican wishing to become a Catholic priest must be ordained under Catholic auspices. Anglican [holy] orders are valid within Anglicanism but not within Catholicism.
Anglican clergy seeking to be ordained as Catholic priests must first complete an extensive process that includes background checks, an endorsement by the local Ordinary, approval by the head of the Ordinariate and by the Vatican, completion of an approved Ordinariate formation programme and an examination. Usually, such clergy attend a seminary part-time over the course of two years. Once they have gone through this initial process, they are finally ordained by a bishop.
For the clergy of the Ordinariate, celibacy is the norm. But what about Anglican priests who are married? In what may come as a surprise to many Catholics, already-married Anglican priests who join the Catholic Church can be ordained as Catholic priests using the process described above.
However, the Catholic Church has taken great pains to stress that this is an exception, not the rule: ex-Anglican clergy who are married must be approved for ordination on a case-by-case basis by the Vatican and, indeed, there have been many instances of this. It is also required that a priest’s wife agrees to go along with the process leading to the husband’s ordination. If a former Anglican priest is not already married by the time he becomes a Catholic, he is not permitted to marry afterwards – just like any other Catholic priest. If widowed, such Anglican clergy may not remarry.
Higher up the hierarchical ladder, ex-Anglican bishops (like the 11 mentioned in the question) do not automatically become bishops in the Roman Church. Such persons are initially considered laypersons. They could seek to be ordained as Roman Catholic priests.
Just as with any other Catholic priest, to become a bishop requires that one be approved by the pope and consecrated by at least one other Catholic bishop. Such a person needs to be unmarried or celibate to become a bishop.
It needs to be added that Anglican priests and bishops who are received into the Catholic Church by means of the Ordinariate usually work within the Ordinariate. They are not made bishops and archbishops for the regular Catholic dioceses and archdioceses.
|For further explanations or enquiries, you may contact the author, Most Rev. Joseph Osei-Bonsu, Catholic Bishop of Konongo-Mampong, on this number: 0244488904, or on WhatsApp (with the same number).|