A Thoughtful Look at Married Episcopalian Priests Becoming Catholic Priests

This is a most interesting and thoughtful article looking at what happens when married Episcopalian priests become Catholic priests with their wives and families.  The article by Katharine Saunders takes a look at the effects not only on the parishes that receive these priests and families but the difference in the roles of say an Episcopal priest's wife in a parish and how that differs in a Catholic setting.  (H/T Fr. Smuts)

And there is a nice profile of the Father Charles Hough III and his son Father Charles Hough IV in this piece, so here's an excerpt of the top of the article, but I hope you read the whole thing.   And when you are done, I have some questions for you below the excerpt.

Chuck Hough III was thrilled when his son decided to enter the family business. His concerns were like those of any other parent: He wanted his son to make the decision independently, without pressure from family members or friends. Hough’s business, though, is unlike any other in the country. He and his son, Chuck Hough IV, were recently ordained Catholic priests. Both are serving in Texas. The Houghs will join the 75 or so married former Episcopal priests currently ministering in U.S. Catholic parishes.

The married Catholic priests are being welcomed through a special arrangement called the “Pastoral Provision,” approved in 1980 by Pope John Paul II. Their reasons for converting are diverse.

“I didn’t become Catholic to be a Catholic priest,” says the younger Hough, 31, the newly appointed pastor of Our Lady of Walsingham Catholic Church in Houston. “I became a Catholic for the salvation of my soul and the souls of my children and my wife. It’s a grace from God that they are allowing me to petition to become a priest. It was something that was on my heart, and I would faithfully be a Catholic layman for the rest of my life.”

While preparing for his diaconate ordination, Hough served as an assistant director of religious education at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Keller, Texas. Hough and his wife, Lindsay, lived in the parish rectory with their two children, Charlie, 4, and Wills, 1. He taught religious education and coached his son’s soccer team, the Thunderdragons.

The younger Hough renounced his Episcopal orders in June 2011 and, along with his wife, joined the Catholic Church in November. The couple is among a growing faction of Episcopalians who have left the Anglican church, many because of objections to the ordination of women and gay priests as well as changes in the liturgy.

Hough and his dad received their “rescript” from the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome earlier this year. That means they have met all of the spiritual, intellectual, and pastoral requirements for becoming Catholic priests. Together they were ordained deacons in May, with their ordinations to the priesthood following in June. The preparation process involved weeks of study, oral and written exams, and psychological testing.

The elder Hough, 58, served as an Episcopal priest for 31 years until March 2011, when he resigned as the Canon to the Ordinary, a position similar to the vicar general in a Roman Catholic diocese. He was received into the Catholic Church last September.

Crossing the Tiber

Father and son had been working for several years with a group of Episcopal priests in Forth Worth to join the Catholic Church en masse. They even made a presentation to the local Catholic bishop, Kevin Vann, five years ago about unifying the Episcopal and Roman Catholic dioceses.

“We thought the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth was the diocese to do this,” says the senior Hough. In the end, he said, several priests got cold feet.

“We were then forced by conscience to resign our livings and take this leap of faith,” he says.

The younger Hough said he wasn’t running away from anything when he made the decision to leave the Episcopal Church. “I was coming toward truth. I can sum up my decision by saying there was a lack of authority [in the Episcopal Church]. We looked, we sounded, and we acted like Catholics, but we weren’t Catholics,” he says.

Okay.  I promised you questions:

How important is the married priesthood in the Anglican patrimony, the idea of the family at the heart of a parish?

If the married priesthood is important, how do the Ordinariates also cultivate vocations to clerical celibacy?

How have the roles of priest's wives changed over the years?  As the article mentions, it does not actually cost more to support a married priest, and often the wife is also bringing in an income.  That is certainly true of many of the circumstances I know about; the wife often has a professional income — but it means less time for her to prepare teas and socials!

Your thoughts?

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.

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