Can Regular Catholics Join Ordinariate Parishes?
Divine Worship Mass, Incarnation Ordinariate Parish in Orlando, Florida with Bishop Steven J. Lopes on August 13th, 2017
It’s a little known fact, and seldom reported, that regular diocesan Catholics, who have no historical attachment to Anglicanism or the English Patrimony, can join Ordinariate parishes as full-fledged members. This is how it works…
The Ordinariates of English Patrimony (or “Anglican Patrimony” if you prefer), are not part of a separate rite in the Catholic Church. They’re actually part of the Roman Rite, and members of the Ordinariate actually fall under the Roman Code of Canon Law. The Ordinariates aren’t a rite. They’re jurisdictions, like a diocese. This means the parishes within that jurisdiction are part of the same Roman Rite, and under the same Code of Canon Law. So becoming a member of such a parish is perfectly permissible to any regular Roman Catholic. The only catch is, you can’t become a member of the Ordinariate itself. You can only be a member of the parish.
What’s the difference?
Here’s the difference. Parish membership defines who your priest is. Ordinariate membership defines who your bishop is. See the difference? I’ll use my own Ordinariate parish (St. George Catholic Church in Republic, Missouri) as an example…
If you’re a member of St. George, then your priest is Fr. Chori Seraiah and St. George is your parish. However, if you are a regular diocesan Catholic, then your bishop remains Bishop Edward Rice, of the Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau. So your priest is Fr. Seraiah and your parish is St. George. However, your bishop remains Bp. Rice and your dioceses remains the Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau. Got it? This is actually a very common arrangement and perfectly normal. If somebody asks you; what’s you’re parish? You say “St. George.” If they ask you; who’s your priest? You say “Fr. Seraiah.” If they ask you; who’s your bishop? You say “Bishop Rice.” That’s it. There’s nothing complicated. If you’re already Catholic, it’s no different than joining any other regular Catholic parish. You just walk into the parish, introduce yourself to the priest, say “I want to join,” then sign the papers. Done! You’re now a member of the parish. To make matters easier, our own parish (St. George) even lets you start this process online through our website. So you can just download the application, fill it out at home, then hand it to the priest as you walk in for your first Sunday mass with us. Come on! It doesn’t get any easier than that!
Now some members at St. George are not only members of St. George, but they’re also members of the Ordinariate too. That means they’ve effectively switched dioceses and have a new bishop. That’s the difference between Ordinariate membership and parish membership. When you join a parish, you’re just making that parish your home and that priest your priest. That’s all. When you join the Ordinariate, however, your switching bishops and going under a completely different juridic diocese. Not every Catholic can do this. This is where the special rules come in. You have to be eligible for Ordinariate membership to switch your bishop. Eligibility includes one or more of the following…
- A Catholic who has an Anglican or Methodist background.
- A Catholic who receives a sacrament of initiation (baptism, confirmation, first communion) in an Ordinariate parish by an Ordinariate priest.
- A Catholic who has an immediate family member (spouse, child, parent, sibling) who is already a member of (or joining) the Ordinariate.
If a Catholic meets any one of these preconditions, he/she is eligible to switch bishops and become a member of the Ordinariate too. In the case of my local parish (St. George), that would mean switching from Bishop Edward Rice of the Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau, to Bishop Steven Lopes of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter.
Now beyond that, if somebody is not yet a Catholic, and wants to come into the Catholic Church, said person can join both an Ordinariate parish and the Ordinariate itself at the same time as being received into the Catholic Church. One’s religious background does not matter. He/she could be Baptist, Pentecostal, Mormon, Jewish, Muslim or Atheist. It’s irrelevant, because said person will make his/her profession of faith, and receive his/her sacraments of initiation, in an Ordinariate parish. So according to the second precondition above, that automatically qualifies him/her for Ordinariate membership.
In other words, the only restrictions for Ordinariate membership (switching bishops) are set on people who are ALREADY Catholic. Those are the three preconditions I described above. A Catholic only need meet ONE of those preconditions to be eligible to join the Ordinariate (switch bishops), BUT any non-Catholic can join the Ordinariate by simply coming into the Catholic Church through an Ordinariate parish.
We find that most regular, diocesan Catholics are perfectly content to simply join an Ordinariate parish without having to join the Ordinariate itself (switch bishops). After all, this is exactly what would happen if they attended a Fraternity (FSSP) or Institute (ICKSP) parish, or any similar type of specialty parish. One’s parish membership changes but the bishop remains the same.
Of course, the inevitable questions seem to constantly rise to the surface. “What if I have my child baptized in an Ordinariate parish? Would that make me and my whole family eligible for Ordinariate membership as well?” I suppose if you’re that eager to switch bishops, the answer is a simple yes. But it may not always be like you think. Such membership is not automatic. The child’s baptism only makes the child eligible for Ordinariate membership. It doesn’t automatically make the child a member. The family might have to wait until the child is old enough to say “I want to be a member of the Ordinariate” before the whole family could enter the Ordinariate with the child. On the other hand, some circumstances may move things along more quickly. The best thing to do in this situation is fill out Ordinariate applications for the whole family when the child is baptized, send them in to Houston, then patiently wait and see what happens.
Things could potentially progress much quicker if there is a non-Catholic parent, sibling, spouse or in-law who would be willing to join the Catholic Church through an Ordinariate parish (just a thought). For example; suppose your sister is Catholic, but her husband (your brother-in-law) is not Catholic. Suppose your sister’s husband (your brother-in-law) is willing to join the Catholic Church through an Ordinariate parish. Once he does so, your sister and her children are automatically eligible to join the Ordinariate too. Once your sister joins the Ordinariate, now you and your family are eligible to do the same. This is what I call “chain-transfers,” where one family member sets off a chain reaction, wherein multiple family members end up transferring to the Ordinariate almost instantaneously. All of this could be accomplished in under a year — the time it takes for your brother-in-law to go through his catechism course. So if you’re looking for a way to join the Ordinariate (switch bishops) in a timely manner, this would likely be a much better option. As to why you might want to do this, it really doesn’t matter. I suppose people have their reasons, and it’s not our place to judge or even ask. Do whatever you like. Just do it legally and proper.
The whole point here is that Ordinariate parishes are not ghettos for Catholics who used to be Anglicans. They are full-fledged Catholic parishes, which any Catholic can join, and you don’t need to be a member of the Ordinariate to do it. Most regular Catholics are happy to simply join the parish and keep their regular, diocesan bishop. They can sit side-by-side in the pews with Ordinariate Catholics and fully participate in parish life just as much as they do. As to WHY regular Catholics would want to join an Ordinariate parish, I’ll explore that in my next essay on this topic. For now it suffices to say that Ordinariate parishes are full-fledged parishes, for all Catholics, that are fully engaged in the Great Commission to evangelize ALL PEOPLE who are not yet Catholic. That’s what needs to be understood. They are real Catholic parishes that are open to EVERYONE!