Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, Proposed Guidelines for the Transfer of Clergy Between the Old Catholic and Roman Catholic Churches, 29 October 1996.
The relations between the Roman Catholic Church and the Utrecht Union have been strongly burdened in recent years by members of the
clergy changing from one church to the other. From an ecumenical point of view this situation is a challenge for both churches. It can only be overcome if both sides enter into a sincere dialogue which is underpinned by the honest desire for conversion and reconciliation. The following guidelines intend to lay down regulations in an ecumenically responsible way for those cases in which members of the clergy pass from one church to ordained ministry in another.
2. Improving communication
Acting in an ecumenically responsible way presupposes reciprocal communication. Consequently, it is necessary to put arrangements in place for regular exchange of information between the church leaders in charge of each country and internationally concerning all matters of mutual interest. Such an exchange of information is an appropriate way to create a climate in which fruitful cooperation can grow. Communication and responsible cooperation are especially needed in the case of a member of the clergy changing from one church to the other.
3. Cases in which members of the clergy pass from one church to ordained ministry in another
The changing of members of the clergy creates problems for both sides, and it is equally painful if a member of the clergy finds himself unable to keep promises given on the occasion of his ordination and if he is changing to another church despite the canonical consequences. On the other hand one has to respect the decision of conscience of the individual person, which is often the result of a long internal conflict.
Consequently, both sides have the duty to cooperate if a member of the clergy is changing, in order to limit the pain for the parishes caused by such a changing, in order to prevent any kind of proselytism and in order to avoid impairing future ecumenical relations.
For improving the mutual relations, the president of the International Old Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Utrecht Union and the president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity agree upon the following guidelines:
4.1 Before making a decision to admit to ordained ministry a member of the clergy from another church, responsible authorities at the diocesan level are to exchange information with each other.
4.2 After the assumption of a member of the clergy, there is to be a waiting period (of at least three months). This waiting period is to enable the study of the theology, liturgy and pastoral praxis of the church to which the member of the clergy is changing. It is furthermore recommended that the waiting period be used for a practical pastoral training which, however, is not to include the celebration of the eucharist and the imparting of any other sacraments.
4.3 It is the responsibility of the responsible church leaders of each country to negotiate regulations for arranging financial support for a member of the clergy during this waiting period.
4.4 The member of the clergy who has changed will not be appointed to the territory of the parish(es) in which he was formerly active.
5. Putting the guidelines into effect
5.1 These guidelines will be transmitted by the president of the International Old Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Utrecht Union to all member churches of the Utrecht Union and by the president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity to the bishops’ conferences of the Roman Catholic Church of the respective countries.
5.2 The (presiding) bishop of each member church of the Utrecht Union and the president of the bishops’ conference of the Roman Catholic Church of the respective country are to get in touch with each other to consider how far the guidelines deserve particular forms of adaptation or addition for their country.
5.3 It is for the member churches of the Utrecht Union and the bishops’ conferences of the Roman Catholic Church to approve the guidelines as well as any national adaptations or additions according their own statutes.
5.4 The guidelines, including any national adaptations and additions, come into force in each country after the approval by the competent bodies on both sides.
6. Future relations
These guidelines intend to open the way to creating new trust which will be the basis on which other pastoral and theological questions of mutual interest can be dealt with in the future.
Vatican, Oct. 29, 1996
Cardinal Edward Idris Cassidy
Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity
Utrecht, Nov. 11, 1996
Archbishop Antonius Jan Glazemaker
International Old Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Utrecht Union
Origins, 26 (1996-1997): 678-679; CLSGBI Newsletter, 111 (1997): 45-47.