Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C., announced Tuesday that a church body will be created to incorporate several disaffected Episcopal clergy.
Over half of the 67 Episcopal clergy who have recently applied for membership with the Catholic Church have been approved by the Holy See.
In addition to the clergy, two Episcopal congregations that split from the Anglican Communion will also join the Catholic Church in an agreement that lets them retain their Anglican traditions.
Robert Lundy, communications officer for the American Anglican Council, told The Christian Post that the clergy who left did so because of the Episcopal Church’s “unbiblical actions.”
“We wish them well and understand that their decision was a matter of conscience,” said Lundy, who agreed with their decision to “swim the Tiber," which is a slang term used among some Episcopalians to mean when someone Anglican becomes Catholic.
Jeff Walton, an Anglican staff for the Institute on Religion and Democracy, said the clergy are leaving in order to embrace a more “historic Christianity.”
“Clergy embracing Roman Catholicism (and Eastern Orthodoxy) signal a desire to be connected to historic Christianity and the truths it professes,” said Walton.
“As the Episcopal Church distances itself from historic Christian teachings, many priests are attesting to an increasingly stark division.”
Walton also said that Episcopal seminaries are dropping in attendance as potential students “are voting with their feet, increasingly opting for more vibrant church bodies focused upon the Great Commission, rather than just social charity or liberal political causes.”
“I do believe that God is still working within the Episcopal Church, but traditionalist clergy tell of an increasingly difficult environment for them within many dioceses.”
The Rev. Dr. Christopher Wilkins of Via Media USA, a group that seeks to maintain unity in the Episcopal Church, said that he did not believe this exodus was an indicator of damage caused by progressive theology.
“Clergy and laypeople often move between these two denominations, in either direction, with some frequency,” said Wilkins.
“We regret when people leave The Episcopal Church for any reason, but wish everyone well on their spiritual journeys.”
Cardinal Donald Wuerl said the creation of an “ordinariate” for Anglicans leaving the Episcopal Church will be established on Jan. 1, 2012.
According to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, an ordinariate is a geographical region akin to a diocese except that they are national in scope. They are headed by an “ordinary,” which can be either a bishop or a priest.
The first ordinariate, Our Lady of Walsingham, was created for disaffected Anglicans in England and Wales on Jan. 15 of this year. Other ordinariates are being considered in Australia and Canada.