Pastoral Provision

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The "pastoral provision" or "statute"[1] for United States Episcopalians entering the Catholic Church authorizes some departures from the normal practice of the Latin Church.

The provisions allows diocesan bishops to establish so-called personal parishes for the former Episcopalians and to use a liturgy known as the Anglican Use that keeps some elements of the Anglican liturgy. Many of these parishes are led by former Episcopalian clergy who have been ordained as priests in the Catholic Church.

Under the provision a case-by-case exception, or dispensation. from the rule requiring Latin Rite Catholic priests to be unmarried and celibate can be granted.[2] This is not new. Since at least the early 1950s, former Anglican, Lutheran and other clergy who join the Catholic Church have been granted such exceptions and is a practice mentioned in Pope Paul VI's encyclical Sacerdotalis caelibatus of 1967.[3] There are seven parishes of this kind, located in four states: Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Missouri, and Texas.[4]


In the article that he has entitled The Pastoral Provision for Roman Catholics in the U.S.A. an account of the origins of this provision,[5] The Reverend Jack D. Barker traces the origins of the demand for such an arrangement to the Oxford Movement in nineteenth-century England and more immediately to developments in the Episcopal Church in the United States of America in the 1970s, when the church changed its canons regarding divorce, refused to take a strong public stand against abortion, ordained women to the diaconate and added a Rite II in contemporary language to the Book of Common Prayer. Some whole parishes began to leave the church.[6]

In 1977, some of those who desired union with the Catholic Church contacted individual Catholic bishops, the Apostolic Delegate Archbishop Jean Jadot and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome, to inquire about the possibility for married Anglican priests to be received into the Catholic Church and function as Catholic priests.[6][7]

In 1979, after the United States National Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith had reacted favourably to the proposals that had been put before them, a formal request for union was presented in Rome on 3 November for acceptance into the Roman Catholic Church, for steps to be taken to eliminate any defects that might be found in their priestly orders, and that they be granted the oversight, direction, and governance of a Catholic bishop. They offered the allegiance of their whole hearts and minds and souls, and also "with that allegiance the Anglican patrimony that has been ours in so far as it is compatible with, acceptable to and an enhancement of Catholic teaching and worship".[6][7]

The decision of the Holy See was officially communicated in a letter of 22 July 1980 from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to the President of the United States episcopal conference, who published it on 20 August 1980.[6]


Though admittance of the Episcopalians in question to the Catholic Church was considered as reconciliarion of individuals, a pastoral provision or statute gave them a common group identity.[8]

That identity involved the possibility, after a period of being subject to the local Latin Rite bishop, of being granted some distinct type of structure; the use, with the group, but not outside it, of a form of liturgy that retained certain elements of the Anglican liturgy; married Episcopalian priests may be ordained as Catholic priests, but not as bishops.[9]

An Ecclesiastical Delegate, a Catholic and preferably a bishop, was to appointed to oversee the implementation of the decision and to deal with the Congregation.[10]


In March 1981, Bishop Bernard Francis Law was appointed Ecclesiastical Delegate. He was later replaced by Newark Archbishop John J. Myers in 2003 and Kevin W. Vann in 2011. William H. Stetson, a priest of the Prelature of Opus Dei, is Secretary to the Ecclesiastical Delegate.

The Congregation for Divine Worship gave provisional approval for the group's liturgy, the Book of Divine Worship, in 1984, an approval rendered definitive in 1987. This book incorporates elements of the 1928 Book of Common Prayer, but the Eucharistic liturgy is from the 1979 Book, with the Eucharistic Prayers taken from the Roman Missal and the ancient Sarum Rite (with the modern English Words of Institution inserted in the latter).[6]

Concern about ecumenical relations with the Episcopal Church prevented the Archbishop of Los Angeles from authorizing the establishment in his archdiocese of personal parishes of the kind envisaged, in spite of requests from two groups, whose membership exceeded that of any of the groups for which personal parishes were set up in other dioceses. The peititioners were told that they could only be received as members of the existing ordinary Catholic parishes.[6]

The number of personal parishes established is only 7, but, since 1983 over 80 former Anglicans have been ordained for priestly ministry in various Catholic dioceses of the United States.[7]

A new arrangement whereby a personal ordinariate for former Anglicans in the United States will be established on January 1, 2012 was announced at the November 15, 2011 meeting of the bishops conference.[11]

Married priests[edit]

As of November 2012, approximately 70 married men have been ordained as priests under the Pastoral Provision.[2] In general, though there are some exceptions, married priests have not been allowed to be pastors.[2] Some priests work outside the church earning a salary that supports his family.[2]

Outside the United States[edit]

The pastoral provision for former Episcopalians is limited to the United States, but in other countries too there are former Anglican clergy who have become married Catholic priests. The Toronto Star reported that in Canada some half dozen married former Anglican priests are ministering in Roman Catholic parishes. One of these, Fr. Rick McKnight, was quoted[who?] as being against lifting priestly celibacy for priests in general.[citation needed] He is a priest on the staff of Our Lady of Grace Parish in Aurora, Ontario, and chaplain at St Basil the Great College School in North York, Ontario.

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