Something new to local Catholics: a married priest

Something new to local Catholics: a married priest
Buffalo News 1/23/13

( Poster’s note : Can someone please shed light on this “papal exception”? I am unfamiliar with it)

A husband and father of three daughters will become the area’s first married Roman Catholic priest when he is ordained Saturday in Allegany County.

Bishop Richard J. Malone of the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo will preside over the ordination of John Cornelius, a former Episcopal priest who is being allowed into the ranks of the Catholic priesthood under a 2012 papal exception to the church’s celibacy rule.

Cornelius, 64, converted to Catholicism about two years ago with his wife, Sharyl.

He spent 20 years as a priest in the Episcopal Church until retiring in 2010.

“I look forward to celebrating Mass again. It’s been two years, and I missed it greatly,” Cornelius said Tuesday. “That closeness to God is an amazing thing.”

A directive by Pope Benedict XVI aimed at welcoming disaffected Episcopalians and Anglicans into the church allows for Cornelius’ ordination.

Last year, the pope established a new “ordinariate” – an entity similar to a diocese – serving former Episcopalians and Anglicans who have converted to Catholicism.

More than 100 former Anglican priests, including Cornelius, applied to become priests for the ordinariate, and Cornelius will be among the first 30 applicants to be ordained.

His wife of 33 years and their three daughters – Virginia, Rebecca Maier and Sarah – will be on hand for the 5 p.m. ceremony in Immaculate Conception Church in Wellsville.

Afterward, Cornelius will lead a small community of former Anglicans who meet in a Catholic church in Henrietta, in the Catholic Diocese of Rochester.

The community, known as the Fellowship of Saint Alban, is considered fully Catholic but may use a traditional Anglican liturgy, including the Book of Divine Worship, which features prayers in Elizabethan-style English.

Cornelius will be a priest of the Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter, which is based in Houston, and overseen by Monsignor Jeffrey N. Steenson, a former Episcopal bishop turned Catholic.

But much of Cornelius’ spiritual work will be focused in the Diocese of Buffalo – in Allegany County, where he will celebrate standard Catholic Masses and participate in other ministries at rural Catholic parishes.

His ordination doesn’t signal a relaxing of the Vatican’s celibacy policy.

“This is by exception. It’s not the norm,” said the Rev. Dennis J. Mancuso, a Catholic pastor of Allegany County who assisted Cornelius in his conversion to Catholicism. “The way they’ve done it is in accord with tradition.”

Cornelius went through a lengthy Vatican approval and formation process.

Under Benedict’s exception, former Anglican bishops, priests or deacons who are married may become priests for the ordinariate, but unmarried clergy who are ordained Catholic priests may not subsequently marry.

A 1980 provision by Pope John Paul II also allowed for some married Episcopal priests to be ordained.

Nonetheless, Cornelius’ presence at the altar will be highly unusual in the Diocese of Buffalo.

“This is something that’s totally new to people here,” he said. “Down in Texas, it wasn’t quite so much an anomaly.”

The Diocese of Buffalo has at least one other priest who was married and is a father. But the Rev. Richard J. Cilano was able to pursue ordination only after his wife died. Ukrainian Rite and Byzantine Rite Catholic priests are able to marry and have families, but it’s not common for them to celebrate Masses in Roman Catholic churches.

Cornelius said he believes that his perspective as a husband and parent could be a benefit in relating to parishioners.

“When they come to me and talk about their own families, there’s a certain amount of reciprocity of emotion that goes along with it,” he said.

Cornelius, who grew up in Bolivar, said he was laid off twice from jobs he held before entering the priesthood. He recalled the financial stresses of trying to support a family while out of work and the difficulties of raising children, including a daughter who once ran afoul of the law.

Having experienced those realities adds authenticity to his counsel for people to turn to God in times of trouble, he said.

“You can look at people and say, ‘Yeah, I know what you mean, but God will take care of you,’ ” he said.

Cornelius served as an Episcopal priest in Florida, Rhode Island, Texas and, most recently, near Albany. His disenchantment with the direction of the Episcopal Church, including its approval of a gay bishop in 2003, led him to the Catholic Church, he said. “I’m a traditionalist in a lot of ways,” he said.

Many Episcopalians took notice when the pope in 2009 made his initial overtures to disaffected members of their denomination, accusing the pontiff of attempting to poach membership.

But Cornelius said the effort was not aimed at practicing Episcopalians, but at those people who weren’t attending church anymore.

“I don’t think it was done with malice toward anybody. I think it was done for the care of souls,” he said.

The Rev. R. William Franklin, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Western New York, said in a statement that the change in an individual’s church affiliation would not affect the diocese’s efforts to seek “cordial relations” with other area organizations.

“We all have our own spiritual journeys,” Franklin said. “Throughout the history of the Episcopal Church, many Roman Catholic priests have become Episcopal priests and vice versa. I don’t believe God sees such things as a competition nor should we.”

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10 comments on “Something new to local Catholics: a married priest

  1. We all have our own spiritual journeys,” Franklin said. “Throughout the history of the Episcopal Church, many Roman Catholic priests have become Episcopal priests and vice versa. I don’t believe God sees such things as a competition nor should we.”
    I think God would disagree with his assessment.

  2. “Exception, not the norm”

    Uh huh. Sure. Cith, altar girls, emHC.

    My aunt fanny.

    What a crock. Thanks Your Holiness. Vive la revolution.

  3. “I look forward to celebrating Mass again. It’s been two years, and I missed it greatly,” Cornelius said Tuesday.

    If he had gone through proper catechesis during his conversion, he would have said, “I look forward to offering a real Mass for the first time!”

  4. Patrick, I knew this would happen in WNY when you moved from North Tonawanda to Encinitas.

    • ‘Natch!

      But my VERY good, supergifted pal from the Old Country, buffcath ( who posted this topic ) has it covered!

      And, exshully, I’m a tad north of Encinitas. But funny you should mention, already! I just got a line on Casa de Bandini in Encinitas earlier today. Mariachi! I love the stuff! They serenaded my daughter and our luncheon party over at Coyote Cafe in Old Town a week or two back. So, Senor, I weel raise a Margarita ( or six ) in joo honor when we heet zee Casa, okay? Ole!

      • Last time I looked for a Mass in Carlsbad/Encinitas/Leucadia, I found 4 or 5 sede locations .. look out for those pesky Pope-deniers (as beautiful as their Masses are). Also, those Old Town places will put you in an early grave – hit the Steak and Stein in Carlsbad.

  5. re: ” Poster’s note : Can someone please shed light on this “papal exception”? I am unfamiliar with it”

    As far as I know this is handled almost on a case-by-case basis and is very similar to the privilege granted to the Ukranian rite in that:

    Ukranian Rite:
    1. A seminarian can marry prior to ordination. After ordination is it not possible.
    2. If a married priest is widowed, he cannot remarry.
    3. A married priest is never admitted to the Episcopacy.

    Similarly in the AC Ordinariate:
    “After proper examination by his Catholic bishop and with the permission of the Holy Father, he would be then ordained first as a Catholic transitional deacon and then as a priest. If the former Episcopalian minister were single at the time of his ordination as a Catholic deacon and then priest, he would indeed take the vow of celibacy. If the married former Episcopalian minister were ordained as a Catholic deacon and then priest, he would be exempt by a special favor from the Holy Father of making the promise of celibacy; however, if he later became a widower, then he would be bound to a celibate lifestyle and could not remarry. In the future, if a lay member of one of these reunited parishes wanted to become a Catholic priest, he would be required to take the promise of celibacy.” (

    I don’t know if there is a provision of a AC married priest being prohibited from being a Bishop. I do know that if the Anglican Minister was previously Catholic, then he will NOT be admitted to the priesthood.

    I had heard of a similar issue arising under Pius XII, but I have not located any references.

  6. This is really not new. There have been many former Anglicans or Episcopalian ministers ordained in the past.

    The difference now is that there is an Ordinariate where they are allowed to keep many of their traditions.

    If one were to attend one of their Masses, you would see something much more similar to the TLM. They are awaiting a new missal and hopefully it will be very close to the TLM, although in English. Latin is also used in many of the Mass settings.

    The people kneel during most of the Mass and kneel to receive Holy Communion.

    At a small new parish I have attended, the priest says the Prayers at the foot of the altar and always uses incense. The Last Gospel is said and the Angelus is sung.

    There is much genuflecting during the Creed, the Last Gospel and the Angelus. Anytime the Incarnation is mentioned all genuflect, except some Catholics who it appears are from OF parishes.

    Only celibate priests can be made a Bishop. Although most on this forum attend TLM Masses, what these former Anglicans have brought into the Church is much that has been lost in OF parishes.

    The priests are very strict in following the faith and I have noticed that there are more men attending than women. As I said it is a very new group and small at this time. There are no abuses and no ab libs by the priest.

    Whatever one may feel about married priests, the ones that I know are more faithful to the Church than many liberal priests and are teaching the truth of the faith. Of course there have always been married priests in the Eastern Catholic Churches.

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