I have been interested in the sometimes raised question about people returning to the Roman Catholic Church through the Personal Ordinariates. In the case of parishioners, they are mostly described as being 'reconciled' whilst other members of their parish/community who have joined are described as being 'received' . There are any number of people who left the Catholic Church and became Anglican/Espicopalian either due to 'marrying out', unhappiness with Church doctrine, divorce and remarriage, etc. In some cases, it is more that people left with their parents and did not make any conscious decision to change between one church and an other. Interestingly, Katherine Jefferts-Schori, the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopalian Church (TEC)in the USA, is one of the latter.
What I have found interesting is where this is the case for those who were formerly Anglican/Episcopalian priests and have now been ordained into the Catholic Church via the Ordinariate structure. The 'norm' has been that if a person leaves the Roman Catholic Church, joins another denomination and is then ordained within it, a return to the Catholic Church would be as a layman; this is certainly true in the case of those who were ordained within the Roman Catholic Church and then left to become ministers of another church.
The exceptions to this rule would be if a person was baptised within the Catholic Church but then not really raised within it who found their own path of faith within, say, the Church of England. They may fairly easily then be admitted as ordinands within the RC Church. On the whole, this seems to now extend to those who leave the RC Church as teenagers and then return, via the Ordinariate.
Among this group, one would number Monsignor John Broadhurst, former Bishop of Fulham (C of E), now an Assistant to the Ordinary in the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham. A founding Chairman of the mainly Anglo-Catholic Forward in Faith (FiF) group, Msgr Broadhurst began life as a Roman Catholic but then was raised as an Anglican whilst still quite young.
Another is Fr Andrew Starkie who leads the Manchester Ordinariate Group (OLW), who appears to have been raised and educated as a Roman Catholic but drifted away in early adulthood, became an C of E priest and is now back in the RC Church as an Ordinariate priest. In his case, from what one gathers, the rest of his family remained Roman Catholics. This suggests that leaving as as adult is not necessarily a bar to Ordination as a Roman Catholic priest as long as it was in early adulthood.
Also in England, we have Fr Ivan Aquilina, baptised a Catholic in Malta, but who appears to have been mainly raised as an Anglican by his mother. Again, now a priest of the OLW.
On the whole, this seems fairly clear, but there is a question when it comes to one or two other cases in the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St Peter (COSP) in the USA and Canada.
Recently, two former Anglican/Episcopalian priests were ordained for the Archdiocese for Military Services as members of COSP. One, Fr Richard Rojas, talks about how being ordained as a Catholic priest was a return to serve in "my Mother Church." I do not know at what age he left the Catholic Church but he appears to be one of several priests of COSP who had started life as Roman Catholics and, either through the decision of parents, later disillusionment or some such, were ordained into TEC or another Anglican jurisdiction. The other of the Military Chaplains ordained recently delights in the name of Fr Joseph Francis Viera which suggests some kind of RC background, but that might be a red herring.
The priests of COSP whom I know to have been, at some stage, members of the Roman Catholic Church, are Fr Patrick Allen, Fr Belen Gonzalez y Perez, Fr Chori Jonathin Seraiah, Fr Richard Rojas and Fr Edward Meeks. Obviously not an exhaustive list, but they have interesting stories.
Fr Allen's family left the Catholic Church to attend a Presbytarian Church when he was a 12 year old boy. Attracted by the Anglo-Catholic tradition, he became an Epicopalian priest in 2001, eventually rejoining the Catholic Church and being ordained as a COSP priest on July 7th, 2013.
Fr Belen Gonzalez y Perez became attracted to Pentecostal-style worship in his teens, was ordained as a Lutheran Pastor in 2002, going on to be licensed in TEC in 2008 and then ordained for COSP on 20th, November 2012.
Fr Seraiah has been baptised in the Catholic Church but his parents had left when he was a small child and he has seen the rest of his life as a journey back to the RC Church.
For me, the most fascinating story is that of Fr Edward Meeks who was a former Seminarian, leaving quite sometime before he would have been considered for ordination. Along with his wife and two children, he was active in the local Catholic parish and, through the Church agencies, adopted a child. At the same time, he and his wife were greatly involved in Charismatic Renewal and, for one reason or another, joined the Assemblies of God. Eventually ordained within the Charismatic Episcopal Church, he founded Christ the King parish, Towson, Maryland, in 1996. The whole story can be found in this account by his wife, Jan, entitled "You can go home again":
http://www.ctktowson.org/prayer-resources?category=Coming Home to the Church
I would never have imagined that Fr Meeks would be ordained, a fear shared by the Meeks, but he was and remains the pastor of Christ the King parish.
We could all probably relate accounts of former Catholics not receiving permission to be ordained through the Ordinariate process, including some remarkable cases of personal sacrifice, and will no doubt have some mixed feelings about the whole situation. Some may see a circumvention of the rules on celibacy, others might see a threat to the tradition of celibacy in the Catholic Church posed by married priests within the Church. I have shared some of the concerns about this and, as a celibate man striving to live by the direction of the church, I value the example of celibate priests and religious. What I cannot ignore is the remarkable example of grace that is being shown to those who are returning to the Church of their childhood, often bringing many others with them.
It may be that these examples will lead to a change in the Church's rule on the ordination of married men to the wider priesthood, some will welcome that, others may not. What is crucial is that the Church explains the reasoning behind the decisions as many people feel that the Church has lost many priests over the years due to the requirement of celibacy and then, as a priest recently said to me, "How is it that someone who went to the same school as me, received the same sacraments as I did and then left the Church, can now return as part of the provisions for Anglicans, even though he was not formed within that church?" He did not ask the question due to malice, just out of sense of what he saw as unfairness.
I am a great supporter of the Ordinariate process and believe it is a great blessing for the Church. I also delight in the return of those who, for whatever reason, left the Church, including those now priests. I do not try to divine the intentions of the Holy Spirit, just accepting them as God's will. I do offer a prayer that, just as the door has been opened generously for these priests, it might continue to do so in other cases of those who are in the Ordinariates, not least for Fr William Patrick Hannigan in Australia.