In June, an Episcopalian church in Maryland announced it was joining the Catholic Church. And for years there have been former Episcopal priests who converted to Catholicism and started working as priests for the Catholic Church—despite being married and with children. Now the Catholic Church is looking to welcome in more parishes and priests that are leaving the Episcopal Church.
According to The New York Times, the Vatican has basically created the equivalent of a nationwide diocese that will embrace breakaway Episcopal churches and former priests that convert to Catholicism and will oversee them in the same manner that a regional diocese oversees the Catholics within its region. More:
Converts who join the new entity will be full-fledged Catholics, expected to show allegiance to the pope and oppose contraception and abortion. But they will be allowed to preserve revered verses from the Book of Common Prayer. And, in what one Catholic leader called “an act of generosity,” priests who are married will be exempted from the Catholic requirement of celibacy, though they may not become bishops.
The new grouping, called the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter, will have its headquarters in Houston and be led by Jeffrey N. Steenson, a former Episcopal bishop and father of three who left the church in 2007 and became a Catholic priest in 2009, under an existing exemption for converting Anglicans.
With the title of ordinary, Father Steenson will be a member of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and will report directly to the Vatican, church officials said.
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