A Matter of Consistency

Last year, five Anglican Catholic Church of Canada priests received letters from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith that they would be ineligible for holy orders in the Catholic Church because they had left the Catholic Church as adults.  They were "in delict of schism."

So, I found this information in a story about Fr. Edward Meeks who was ordained a Catholic priest for the Ordinariate this weekend interesting:

In January, Meeks was given the green light to head to St. Mary’s Seminary in Houston for a weekend retreat then came home for 13 weeks of training “to kind of round out our catholic theology to address those issues of Catholic formation that might be lacking,” he said.

Meeks was raised Catholic, but left the church in the 1970s, a period he called “a time of great conflict and turmoil in the church.” About a third of his congregation, he said, was also raised Catholic.

“I wrongly concluded that the church was starting to lose its way. I realize now that’s impossible,” he said. “The holy spirit is always in the church.”

This is wonderful news and I congratulate Fr. Meeks and his congregation.

But why did the five ACCC priests get turned down with a "Do not pass Go!"?

Where is the consistency?   I do not think this is fair.  At all.

I hope there will be some mode of appeal for Anglican priests who may have left the Catholic Church as adults because, well, maybe their bishop was embracing Liberation Theology or some other post-Vatican II fad that might have made souls hungry for Jesus wonder if He was still in the building since no one seemed to genuflect or treat the Blessed Sacrament with reverence any more.

Who will be an advocate for the "rejects"?

Author: Deborah Gyapong

Deborah Gyapong is a member of the Sodality of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary (www.annunciationofthebvm.org) in Ottawa, a former parish of the Anglican Catholic Church of Canada (Traditional Anglican Communion) whose members were received individually and corporately into the Roman Catholic Church on April 15, 2012 by Ottawa Archbishop Terrence Prendergast at St. Patrick’s Basilica. Under the provisions of the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum coetibus, the community will celebrate an approved Anglican Use liturgy and hopes to soon join with other sodalities across Canada to form the Canadian Deanery of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter under Msgr. Jeffrey Steenson, Ordinary. As we wait for our priest(s) to be ordained as Catholic priests, God willing, Archbishop Prendergast will provide priests to celebrate our Sunday Eucharist according to the Anglican Use. Deborah is a journalist who covers religion and politics in Canada’s national capital, writing primarily for Roman Catholic newspapers since 2004. Her novel The Defilers, published in 2006, was not a best seller, alas. She spent 17 years at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in news and current affairs, including 12 years as a television producer.

22 thoughts on “A Matter of Consistency”

  1. I think those rejected all left the Church as clergy, or seminarians, or at least adult men?

    Because those who were baptized Catholics and yet accepted as ordinariate Priests are those who left the Church as children, or teenagers (such as Mgr. Broadhurst). If I counted well, Fr. Meeks was between 15 and 20 years old when he left the Church.

    If I know something about the Catholic Church is that "one size fits all" when it comes to Law (I have experimented it), and that people in the same situation are processed in the same way (a very old Roman principle of Law that is also paramount in my continental European country)

    + PAX et BONUM

  2. One can always return to the Church but being a priest is a priviledge to which one is called and part of that call is discerned through the decisions of the hierarchy. Also, priesthood is not a right focused on the individual. Its sole purpose is to be of service to the people of God at the discretion of the Church. I have stated this before, but there are men who never left the Church who could only choose marriage or the priesthood and they understand that. They used that discipline to see their vocational path and struggle to serve in the little corner where they are planted. I also know men who came in with no hope of becoming a priest and had to put their family through much hardship for the Truth. Leaving Peter because of Judas may help us to understand motivation but it does not relieve one of the responsibility to leave or stay. I apologize if I sound harsh – that is in no way my intent – but read the Gospel passage of the rich young man. To be in union with Christ and His Church, one must strive to make that union unconditional and that often requires personal suffering; something Our Lord was never afraid to ask of us.

    1. Of course you are right but it takes a well-formed faith to see this. Whose fault is it if a young man or woman thinks they have to leave the church when their shepherds seem to be preaching another gospel but they do not even have enough faith formation to know that, only that they are hungry for God and thanks to His graciousness they find Him outside the Catholic Church. Maybe now might be the rich young ruler moment, but not when they were ignorant of the faith.

      1. Deborah,

        Good point. Believe me, those of us here our whole lives have also put up with a lot but it is the realization that where there is Peter, there also is the Church. My larger point, perhaps not very well-stated, is that at the moment one is ready to return or come into the Church, one should drop all conditions. I know many who did who were not outwardly spectacular people. For some, it means giving up much including previous ministries, professional status and, oft-times, friends. A small price to pay for following Christ in His Household. Personally, if one wants to enter that Household, I do not think one should come back with a list of demands or expectation of rights. He happily asks us to give them all up because He knows that will open the door to Him and the rewards will dwarf the crosses.


  3. For those of you new to the Faith, who enjoy challenging but rewarding reading, I recommend von Hildebrand's "Transformation in Christ" (that is, of course, if you have not yet read it). In my opinion, it is a modern spiritual classic on how a Catholic should strive to live. It is a guide along the path to becoming a saint – the top priority of the Church and the Catholic and something that never comes without having to be deprived of many personal preferences or things for which we thought we were entitled.

  4. Question: hope I dont offend anybody. Are the newly ordained Anglican Catholic Priests being allowed to celebrate the Anglican Use Liturgy as part of their Anglican Patrimony or are they being forced to celebrate the Novus Ordo Liturgy as it is celebrated today facing the people? Just curious. GB

    1. When the newly ordained priests serve their own "anglican-use" congregations in Ordinariates. They will by default have preference for the anglican-use mass of whatever variety is allowed to them.

      When they serve in a regular diocesan parish, most if not all will be forced to accept the typical novus ordo status quo, for better or for worse and "not rock the boat", that is what I am told..

      It was good that the UK ordinariate chose to regulate the requirement that mass be "ad orientem". "Fr." Edward Meeks for example regularly has celebrated mass "ad populum" for as long as anyone remembers.

      It is imperative to enact a rule which requires "ad orientem" celebration for the US Ordinariate as well.

      1. Why should Fr. Meeks be forced to celebrate ad orientem if his congregation is, as you say, accustomed to celebrate facing the people? I see no imperative for such a requirement. Indeeed, it seems unnecessarily authoritarian to me. And, I say that as someone who strongly prefers ad orientem masses.

        Next, we will be hearing complaints that — GASP! — some of the people in the congregation in Towson raise their arms in prayer like charismatics and that such things are a "scaaaaaaaandal to the faithful." That sort of thing is definitely not my cup of tea, but I fail to see what purpose it serves being intolerant of such things.

        1. Ordinariate Priests are Catholic Priests of the Latin Rite. Therefore they may use any rite which any other priest of the Latin Rite may use and in addition in the UK they are permitted to use one of the riltes contained in the Book of Divine Worship. There is a distinction between the private celebration of Mass and its public celebration. In a parish church, it is the parish priest – often in consultion with the bishop or area dean – who will decide what particular form is celebrated at what time.

          One Church I know has this timetable:

          8:00am Low Mass (Extraordinary Form)
          9:30am Parish Mass (Sung English)
          11:00am Solemn Mass (Sung Latin)

          Another may have a a Mass in a particular language or for a particular group such as an Ordinariate Group, or a Family Mass with a children's liturgy.

          The public masses in a church are scheduled to meet the needs of the faithful as a whole.

          1. In my diocese and in many dioceses it is the bishop who decides whether a pastor celebrates Mass ad orientem or ad versus populum. Our clergy celebrate facing the people and there's no reason to think that will be changing anytime soon.

  5. I don't know the circumstances of the ACCC clerics but one reason for their ineligibility is that they were former Catholic priests or seminarians who left the Church for some reason or another and they were already adults at the time

    Rome looks into each and every case and each case is unique. But applying the Canons on each case, the Church has a general rule and process. While this is a norm, of course there is room for evaluating "exceptional circumstances". It might be that these circumstances were not present in their dossiers.

  6. According to press accounts, Fr. Meeks was a seminarian studying for the Roman Catholic priesthood at St. Mary's Seminary, Baltimore, MD, when he left the Church. So, this makes his ordination even more curious.

  7. I'm pretty sure that this may apply to some of the priests being ordained besides Fr. Meeks, at least as far as having been previously baptized Catholics. At what point they left the Catholic Church would seem a circumstance for consideration, though here are some of the pertinent passages from the Complementary Norms:

    "Article 5 §1. The lay faithful originally of the Anglican tradition who wish to belong to the Ordinariate, after having made their Profession of Faith and received the Sacraments of Initiation, with due regard for Canon 845, are to be entered in the apposite register of the Ordinariate. Those baptized previously as Catholics outside the Ordinariate are not ordinarily eligible for membership, unless they are members of a family belonging to the Ordinariate."

    If that passage were strictly interpreted, it would seem that a Cradle Catholic would not be eligible for membership even if they had left and were coming back, much less a priest. Though I for one have no problem with laity that return to the Church due to the efforts of the Ordinariate being allowed to become members. But priests? Is this a signal to Catholic men that if they want to be married priests, they should leave the Church and then come back in after spending some years in an Anglican setting, being ordained there first?

    The paragraph more specifically about priest candidates is:
    "Article 6 §2. Those who have been previously ordained in the Catholic Church and subsequently have become Anglicans, may not exercise sacred ministry in the Ordinariate. Anglican clergy who are in irregular marriage situations may not be accepted for Holy Orders in the Ordinariate."

    That suggests that only those that were actually previously ordained in the Catholic Church would not be eligible as clergy for the Ordinariate. A bit odd that the requirement for clergy does not specifically rule it out, and yet it could be more difficult for a member of the laity to be approved for membership.

  8. Well I feel sorry for these men and think it is time that the Church changed some of its canon laws which are only man-made and looked at the heart of each man who is applying. I have no agenda for this myself as I am a former Anglican who has been Catholic via Orthodox Judaism for 25 years and I am celibate. Canon law and Canon lawyers very much remind me of the Scribes that Jesus was so scathing of with their rigorous application of man-made laws, customs and traditions. The Canon Law I love is the one that says all the other canon laws are subject to the Supreme law of the Church which is the good of the salvation of souls.

  9. Daniel T, in your discussion about former Catholics being members, the restriction you noted on such gave the exception if they are members of families in the ordinariate. Thus, if someone's wife and children were so members, so he could also on that basis. The restriction on holy orders only covered former RC clergy with no exception. So I do not see why someone who had been RC, left got married and ordained, couldn't now be a member as his wife and children are eligible, making him so, and not being a former RC cleric, the restriction on holy orders does not apply and thus be ordained.

  10. Even with the exception, it says ordinarily, a former RC cannot be a member unless a member of a family belonging. So even outside the exception of say the ex-RC having an Anglican wife and children whose membership makes him eligible, there are other extraordinary circumstances foreseen to allow membership. The holy orders restriction has no exceptions and is much narrower: only exRC clergy.

  11. I am interested in this – I suppose the question is whether Fr Meeks was in the junior seminary section of St Mary's when such a section existed (if indeed it had one) and if he was actually a teenager when he left? This seems to be the criteria.
    As for those in Canada, I don't know the circumstances but assume they are different to Fr Meeks.
    Anyway – to Fr Meeks: Ad Multos Annos!

  12. The Church has to start from the position that ordination is a sacrament which cannot be undone. "Once a priest, always a priest". A priest may request laicisation. That means that he is dispensed from his prieslty vows and may live as a lay Catholic – and marry. It's not a fast process but it is not unusual. Any priest who simply leaves may be laicised after a certain number of years at the instance of his bishop or other superior. So clergy come who were formerly priests fall into two categories, (i) those who have been properly laicised and are still Catholics in good standing and (ii) those who have defied the rules and who may have incurred automatic penalties (ie excommunication). In case (ii) the first stage is to be reconciled with the Church and come back into communion as a Catholic – which means living as a layman. That gets the individual back into the equivalent position of category (i).

    It is possible for priests living as laymen and in communion to apply for reversal of the laicisation process. It can be achieved but the privilege is not granted lighltly. The process is slow, because both the priest and the Church have to discern afresh whether the individual is suited to the exercise of priestly ministry. For those interested, there are documents on the CDF website. These set out the norms for the guidance for bishops. They emphasise the exceptional nature of the jurisdiction and that the decision is ultimately made by the Holy Father personally.

    1. " It can be achieved but the privilege is not granted lightly."

      That is what I would expect should be the case as well as far as the Ordinariates ordaining men that had at some point left the Catholic Church and have married. If it looks too easy to accomplish, the Church could have a good number of men leaving the Church while hoping to return later to become a married priest. That's not to say that it is not possible, it just should not happen too easily.

      1. I note that one of the ACCC clergy to whom Mrs Gyapong refers has announced on his website that he has returned to the Catholic church and is no longer pursuing any connection with the Ordinariate. His website, promoting what was eventually called the Apostolate of Blessed John Henry Newman (previously Holy Cross parish), was an early and enthusiastic proponent of AC. Apparently he was eventually prepared to accept the implications of his beliefs, including accepting the judgement of those he believes have authority.

  13. I am one of those priests like FR. ED MEEKS, my vocation to the priesthood was stolen from me when I was a young man (its a long story) I am now hoping and praying that I will be able to follow my calling from the HOLY SPIRIT and become a priest within the ordinariate. Your prayers on my behalf for entry into the sacred priesthood within the ORDINARIATE would be most welcome and appreciated. IN CHRIST JESUS, Fr. Bill H.

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