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In June 1980, the Holy See, through the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, agreed to the request presented by the Bishops of the United States of America on behalf of some clergy and laity formerly or actually belonging to the Episcopal (Anglican) Church for full communion with the Catholic Church. The Holy See’s response to the initiative of these Episcopalians includes the possibility of a pastoral provision which will provide, for those who desire it, a common identity reflecting certain elements of their own heritage.

The entrance of these persons into the Catholic Church should be understood as the “reconciliation of those individuals who wish for full Catholic communion” of which the Decree on Ecumenism (n. 4) of the Second Vatican Council speaks.

In accepting former Episcopalian clergy who are married into the Catholic priesthood, the Holy See has specified that this exception to the rule of celibacy is granted in favor of these individual persons, and should not be understood as implying any change in the Church’s conviction of the value of priestly celibacy, which will remain the rule for future candidates for the priesthood from this group.

In consultation with the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has appointed the Most Rev. Bernard F. Law, Bishop of Springfield-Cape Girardeau, as ecclesiastical Delegate in this matter. It will be his responsibility to develop a proposal containing elements for the pastoral provision in question to be submitted for the approval of the Holy See, to oversee its implementation and to deal with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in questions pertaining to the admission of former Episcopalian clergy into the Catholic priesthood.


(March 31, 1981)