The ordination of Anglican priests in the Catholic Church is nothing new. In 1982, John Paul II had approved provisions whereby married Anglican clerics who wanted to become Catholic priests could perform their ministerial service.
Benedict XVI has decided to provide a framework for such a situation, this according to a Note of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith about personal Ordinariates for Anglicans entering the Catholic Church.
Personal Ordinariates “will allow former Anglicans to enter full communion with the Catholic Church while preserving elements of the distinctive Anglican spiritual and liturgical patrimony. Under the terms of the Apostolic Constitution, pastoral oversight and guidance will be provided for groups of former Anglicans through a Personal Ordinariate, whose Ordinary will usually be appointed from among former Anglican clergy.”
The Apostolic Constitution “provides a reasonable and even necessary response to a world-wide phenomenon, by offering a single canonical model for the universal Church which is adaptable to various local situations and equitable to former Anglicans in its universal application. It provides for the ordination as Catholic priests of married former Anglican clergy. Historical and ecumenical reasons preclude the ordination of married men as bishops in both the Catholic and Orthodox Churches. The Constitution therefore stipulates that the Ordinary can be either a priest or an unmarried bishop.”
Ultimately, the papal document “seeks to balance on the one hand the concern to preserve the worthy Anglican liturgical and spiritual patrimony and, on the other hand, the concern that these groups and their clergy will be integrated into the Catholic Church.”
This, according to the Note, is due to events that occurred since the Second Vatican Council, most notably the decision by some Anglican communions to ordain women and “openly homosexual clergy” and bless “homosexual partnerships.”
Following such experiences, in addition to decisions by individuals, “Sometimes there have been groups of Anglicans who have entered while preserving some ‘corporate’ structure. Examples of this include, the Anglican diocese of Amritsar in India, and some individual parishes in the United States which maintained an Anglican identity when entering the Catholic Church under a ‘pastoral provision’ adopted by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and approved by Pope John Paul II in 1982.”
“We have been trying to meet the requests for full communion that have come to us from Anglicans in different parts of the world in recent years in a uniform and equitable way,” said Card William Levada, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
“They have declared that they share the common Catholic faith as it is expressed in the Catechism of the Catholic Church and accept the Petrine ministry as something Christ willed for the Church. For them, the time has come to express this implicit unity in the visible form of full communion,” he added.
The provision of this new structure, the Note of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith said by way of conclusion, “is consistent with the commitment to ecumenical dialogue, which continues to be a priority for the Catholic Church, particularly through the efforts of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity.”