Anglicanorum Coetibus (Latin: Groups of Anglicans) is an apostolic constitution of the Holy See that envisages the establishment of the new canonical structure of personal ordinariates to facilitate corporate reception of groups of Anglicans by allowing them to enter into full communion with the Catholic Church while preserving some elements of their distinctive Anglican spiritual and liturgical patrimony. The new structure is intended to integrate these groups into the life of the Catholic Church in such a way as "to maintain the liturgical, spiritual and pastoral traditions of the Anglican Communion within the Catholic Church, as a precious gift nourishing the faith of the members of the Ordinariate and as a treasure to be shared".[1].

The constitution was signed by Pope Benedict XVI on 4 November 2009 and was released on 9 November 2009, after being announced on 20 October 2009 by Cardinal William Levada at a press conference in Rome and by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, and the Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols, at a simultaneous press conference in London.

Similar institutions

The personal ordinariates that the apostolic constitution envisages are similar to military ordinariates for the pastoral care of members of armed forces in that membership is on a personal rather than a territorial basis; but they differ in many aspects, as can be seen by a comparison of Anglicanorum coetibus with the apostolic constitution Spirituali militum cura of 21 April 1986 by which Pope John Paul II restructured the military ordinariates, which were previously called military vicariates. For instance, the military ordinariates must be headed by a bishop and lack structures such as the "governing council" of the ordinariates for former Anglicans.

The personal ordinariates for former Anglicans differ also from personal prelatures, which, according to canon 294, are composed of secular priests and deacons, excluding lay people, even those who, in accordance with canon 296, dedicate themselves to the apostolic works of a personal prelature by a formal agreement. Membership of a personal ordinariate for former Anglicans extends to "lay faithful, clerics and members of Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, originally belonging to the Anglican Communion and now in full communion with the Catholic Church, or those who receive the Sacraments of Initiation within the jurisdiction of the Ordinariate".[2]


The Anglican Constitution is the response by the Vatican to concerns and requests coming from within the Catholic Church, particularly the Anglican Use parishes; from Continuing Anglican churches, particularly the Traditional Anglican Communion; and from Anglo-Catholic sections of the Anglican Communion, such as those involved with Forward in Faith.

What brought the matter to a head was the formal request that in October 2007 the Traditional Anglican Communion (TAC) formally presented to the Holy See for full union in corporate form (i.e., as a body, not merely as individuals) with the Catholic Church.

This worldwide grouping, under a single primate, of churches of Anglican tradition, but outside of communion with the see of Canterbury, was founded in 1991. It was formed over a number of issues, principally the ordination of women. Other issues included liturgical revisions, the acceptance of homosexuality and the importance of tradition. In October 2007, its bishops made a formal request for "full, corporate and sacramental union" with the Catholic Church.[3] On 5 July 2008, Cardinal Levada gave written assurance that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith was giving serious attention to the prospect of "corporate unity" raised in that request.[4] The request thus became a basis for the decision, announced by Cardinal Levada on 20 October 2009, to issue the apostolic constitution.[5]

Anglican Use parishes have existed since the early 1980s, in line with the Pastoral Provision granted by Pope John Paul II at the request of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, allowing for the creation of parishes celebrating the liturgy in an approved form of the Anglican tradition and with a married clergy composed of former Anglican priests who on joining the Catholic Church were ordained in the Catholic Church. Many of these Anglican Use Catholics left the Episcopal Church because of women's ordination, revisions of the liturgy, and changes in its moral teaching. However, the Pastoral Provision was granted only for the United States and it directly subjects those former Anglicans to whom it is applied to the governance of the existing local Latin Rite bishops.

Other Anglo-Catholics and in particular many of those involved in what is called the Continuing Anglican movement have also expressed interest in joining the Catholic Church, if ways are found to preserve aspects of Anglican identity and tradition. This movement is composed of jurisdictions that are numerous, usually quite small in membership, and that often splinter and recombine. Similarly, the movement Forward in Faith, which is formed of members of the Anglican Communion that share many of the same concerns over women's ordination and liturgical revisions that the TAC has, many of whom are Anglo-Catholics who have long desired to be in full communion with the Catholic Church, is not a church or a grouping of churches, each with its own bishop, as is the Traditional Anglican Communion.

Contents of the apostolic constitution

The document provides for the establishment by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, within the area of an episcopal conference and in consultation with it, of personal ordinariates, juridically comparable to dioceses, composed of lay faithful, clergy and members of religious orders originally of the Anglican tradition but now in full communion with the Catholic Church.

Without excluding liturgical celebrations according to the Roman Rite, the planned ordinariates may celebrate the Eucharist, the other sacraments, the Liturgy of the Hours and other liturgical celebrations in accordance with liturgical books proper to Anglican tradition and approved by the Holy See, so as to maintain the Anglican liturgical, spiritual and pastoral tradition.

The ordinary, after having heard the opinion of the local diocesan bishop, may erect, with the consent of the Holy See, personal parishes for the faithful of his ordinariate. Every five years the ordinary is required to make an ad limina Apostolorum visit to Rome and to present to the Pope, through the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and in consultation with the Congregation for Bishops and the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, a report on the status of his ordinariate.

On the basis of objective criteria determined by the ordinary in consultation with the episcopal conference and approved by the Holy See, the ordinary may petition the Pope, on a case by case basis, to admit married men to the priesthood as a derogation of canon 277 §1 of the Code of Canon Law, but the general rule is that the ordinariate will admit only celibate men.[6]

The ordinary is not necessarily a bishop: he may instead be "a presbyter appointed by the Roman Pontiff ad nutum Sanctae Sedis, based on a terna presented by the Governing Council" of the ordinariate.[7]

The governing council that each ordinariate is to have will be composed of at least six priests. Its duties are those that the Code of Canon Law assigns to the presbyteral council and the college of consultors of a diocese, and additional duties specified in the complementary norms, requiring in some cases its consent for an action to be undertaken.[8]

Anglican religious institutes

The apostolic constitution provides a juridical framework within which Anglican religious communities may join the Catholic Church as a group: “Institutes of Consecrated Life originating in the Anglican Communion and entering into full communion with the Catholic Church may also be placed under his (the ordinary's) jurisdiction by mutual consent.”[9]

Married former Anglican clergy and rules on celibacy

The Catholic Church does not recognize Anglican priests as validly ordained (see Apostolicae Curae) and requires that if they are to minister within the Catholic Church they be ordained in that church: "Those who ministered as Anglican deacons, priests, or bishops, [...] may be accepted by the Ordinary as candidates for Holy Orders in the Catholic Church″.[10]

Ordination to the priesthood is open in certain cases to married former Anglican clergy: "In consideration of Anglican ecclesial tradition and practice, the Ordinary may present to the Holy Father a request for the admission of married men to the presbyterate in the Ordinariate."[11] There is no blanket acceptance of all married former Anglican clergy for ordination to the priesthood: the admission of married men to the order of presbyterate will be granted only on a case by case basis,[12] after a process of discernment based on objective criteria and the needs of the ordinariate,[13] and not as a matter of course but by exception: "The norms established in the Encyclical Letter of Pope Paul VI Sacerdotalis coelibatus, n. 42 and in the Statement In June are to be observed."[14]

The complementary norms for Anglicanorum coetibus explicitly exclude two categories of former Anglican clergy from admission to priestly ministry in the Catholic Church: those who had been ordained in the Catholic Church before becoming Anglicans and those in irregular matrimonial situations.[15] The apostolic constitution itself speaks generically of the exclusion of those who are "impeded by irregularities or other impediments",[16] a phrase that it explains by making reference to the section of the Code of Canon Law headed "Irregularities and other impediments".

Provisions for former Anglican bishops

Ordination of married men to the episcopacy is excluded in the Catholic tradition, but the Holy See went to great lengths to take into account the position of married former Anglican bishops.

A former Anglican bishop who is married may be ordained to the priesthood. Any former Anglican bishop who is a member of an ordinariate may be invited to participate in the meetings of the episcopal conference, with the status of a retired bishop.[17] In addition, a former Anglican bishop who has not been ordained a bishop in the Catholic Church can nonetheless request permission to use episcopal regalia.[18]

Even as priests they may be chosen to head an ordinariate,[19] which enables them to remain at the service of their community. The head of an ordinariate is a full member of the episcopal conference.

See also


  1. Apostolic Constitution, III
  2. Apostolic Constitution, I §4
  3. Anglican Catholic Church of Canada
  4. Facsimile of Cardinal Levada's letter
  5. Scott P. Richert Differences between Anglicanism and Roman Catholicism
  6. Apostolic Constitution, VI §2; complementary norms, 6 §1
  7. Complementary norms, art. 4 §1
  8. Apostolic Constitution, X §2; complementary norms, art. 12
  9. Apostolic constitution, VII
  10. Apostolic constitution VI §1
  11. Complementary norms, art. 6 §1; cf. Apostolic constitution, VI §2.
  12. Apostolic constitution, VI §2
  13. Complementary norms, art. 6 §1
  14. Complementary norms, art. 6 §1. The first document cited declares: "While, on the one hand, the law requiring a freely chosen and perpetual celibacy of those who are admitted to Holy Orders remains unchanged, on the other hand, a study may be allowed of the particular circumstances of married sacred ministers of Churches or other Christian communities separated from the Catholic communion, and of the possibility of admitting to priestly functions those who desire to adhere to the fullness of this communion and to continue to exercise the sacred ministry. The circumstances must be such, however, as not to prejudice the existing discipline regarding celibacy." The second, which is quoted in press release of the United States Catholic Conference of 12 January 1982, states: "In accepting former Episcopal 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."
  15. Complementary norms, art. 6 §2
  16. Apostolic constitution VI, §1
  17. Complementary norms, article 11 §3
  18. Complementary norms, article 11 §4
  19. Complementary norms, article 11 §1

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