The Communion of Saints

The Communion of Saints
I hope there's room for me.

Welcome all - especially Mancunians.

Hello anybody lost in the blogosphere. Welcome to the ruminations of a politically left of centre, Man United supporting, blues loving, history-fixated, Catholic wanderer. Be warned, I am a bit of a curmudgeon.

Monday, 9 September 2013

Ordinariate priests who began life as Roman Catholics.

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": 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.


  1. Things are different again where Orthodoxy is concerned. An illustrative example is that of the late great Archimandrite Serge Keleher. From a NY Irish Catholic family, he converted to Orthodoxy in 1961 through the Moscow Patriarchate's exarchate in the USA (later to become the OCA). He was ordained in 1967 and was received in orders back into the Catholic Church in 1973 by the Melkite Archbishop of Haifa, Joseph (Raya). While formally a member of the tiny Russian Catholic Church upon reconciliation he spent most of his presbyterate on loan to the UGCC, latterly in Dublin running the Ukrainian parish there (though in reality it was poly-ethnic, something reflected in the range of languages in which Fr Serge celebrated the Divine Liturgy. As an aside he produced the first translation of the Divine Liturgy of St John Chrysostom into Gaelic).

    Interestingly his Orthodox bishop didn't depose after he returned to the Catholic Church and he technically remained an Orthodox priest in good standing until his dying day. I often wonder if this had something to do with his vast personal knowledge of Orthodoxy, it's major figures and it's internal politics; by that I mean he seemed to know where all the bodies where buried, so to speak. As such he was a wonderful source of information on things that the Orthodox Church would rather weren't publicised; Lev Gillet remained a crypto-Catholic, Metropolitan Nikodim of St. Petersburg & Novgorod actually was a Catholic (which contextualises JPI administering the last rites to him in Rome), some ROC priests have been using Catholic antimensions in Russian for decades, and many other things.

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  5. My story is almost identical to that of Fr Meeks, and I have met a few others around the world with similar, if not identical stories. I hope what I write does not sound like sour grapes, that is not my intention. I just want to ask why?

    On my return, I was charged with apostasy from the faith, and duly judged to be excommunicated. I had / have to comply with certain conditions to remain within the fold as indicated in the bull that I read in the presence of my parish priest rescinding the excommunication. All good so far I hear you say!

    These are some of the conditions and their consequences.

    No ministry: therefore no stipend. It took over a year, and almost losing my home (very stressful) before I found work. The advice I received during the process of reconciliation was: this is a non-theological problem, you should pray! Amen I said.

    I should remain anonymous: I can have no further contact, or offer an explanation to my former parishioners. I cannot remain friends or in contact with my former colleagues or bishop (most of whom where ordained in the Ordinariate). Amen I said. I feel very sad and rude by simply ignoring people who have cared and nurtured me for so long.

    My orders were recognised as valid: but, I must not tell anyone that I was/am ordained. I have not been laicised or removed from the clerical state, just forbidden to exercise any aspect of priesthood. There are two exceptions to this condition, I must inform any future Catholic employer or the parish priest of any new parish I move into of my excommunication and rescinding: but I should not tell them why I was excommunicated.

    I cannot be ordained in the Ordinariate because no former apostate can receive Holy Orders or exercise ordained ministry. Amen I said.

    There are some, I know for sure, who will read this and say nonsense. This is not true. My family will tell you differently.

    All I want to ask is why are we treated so differently and Canon Law not applied equitably across the board.

  6. As to this, I have no adequate response. It begs thae question as to how the criteria ia applied - I would guess the response would be that Fr Meeks was never ordained in the Catholic Church prior to his leaving, and consequently returning, the Church. You, and others, may not find that particularly helpful.
    I do not know the full details of your particular situation, but always feel that the Church makes a mistake when it fails to utilise the gifts former clergy (who left the priesthood on good terms) and I would be tempted to say that of your case too.
    To be refused permission to reach out to your former church family seems remarkably harsh, especially as much of it is now within the Ordinariate.
    It may be of little comfort, but I find your incredible humility and faith in saying the Amen to your rehabilitation with the Church to be a powerful witness and a boost to my own fragile discipleship.
    Some might think your post is soemwhat lacking in humility - I don't as I believe that leeting people know the consequences many faced when they returned to the Church is illustrative of the path many have taken and the sacrifices made, and we should be able to answer the questions that you have put before us.
    God bless you and your family.

  7. Is this really the way Jesus Christ would have his Catholic Church to act. Oh so much love and compassion!!!!!!!!!

  8. How very interesting

    1. NOW that the Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter has an Ordinary who is a cradle Catholic, maybe, just maybe, cradle Catholics, will now be Ordained as Catholics priests within an Ordinariate in England and Australia. This will then have them catch up with the American Ordinariate. Please God it will happen very, very soon.

  9. IN THIS YEAR OF MERCY, I was just wondering if the powers that be, together with the C D F will take up the recent call by Pope Francis to show Some MERCY on those good priests who now desire to be Ordained into as Priests into the Catholic Church, within the Ordinariate, even though they were CRADLE CATHOLICS. Please DO NOT PATRONIZE ME by saying it can NOT be done. I know it can be done and HAS BEEN DONE. Just show some mercy on us as Pope FRANCIS has instructed, and let the Holy Spirits work be completed to allow Cradle Catholics Priests be Ordained within the respective Ordinariates. I am sure the benefits to the church will be great.

    1. COULD YOU PLEASE Inform me of how a Fr. Bernard Brien, a French priest could become a Catholic Priest, in view of all the postings on this matter in this forum, Catholic Left Blog. It appears to be a very, very interesting question for examination at this time. Thank You.