Monday, July 25, 2005

Married priest will be the first in Catholic Diocese of San Bernardino


Gregory Elder, an Episcopalian turned Catholic priest, is poised to become the first married priest in the million-member Diocese of San Bernardino. Elder and the diocese were informed Friday of the decision. Elder said he was told that the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, personally presented his application to the dying Pope John Paul II. Elder, who has two children ages 16 and 18, was an associate pastor at Trinity Episcopal Church from 1991 until he converted to Catholicism in 2003. Before Pope John Paul died on April 2, he allowed Elder to be ordained into the Catholic clergy through a rarely invoked exemption to Canon Law. An ordination date has not yet been set.
UPDATE: This San Bernadino County Sun article has more including:

In April, San Bernardino Bishop Gerald R. Barnes said allowing priests to marry would not be a cure-all solution. His assistant, the Rev. Paul Granillo, said Monday that Elder in no way represents a political statement.

"This is an extraordinary process that exists so people who feel called can fulfill that call. This doesn't change the requirement that (nonprovisional) priests remain celibate,' Granillo said.

Elder was admitted through a rarely used exemption to Canon Law. In 1980, John Paul approved the Pastoral Provision, a process by which married Episcopal priests can join the Catholic priesthood. The provision only applies to priests in the United States.

About 85 married men have been ordained as Catholic priests since then, said the Rev. William Stetson, director of the Catholic Information Center in Washington, D.C., and the provision's liaison.

Many of them were pushed to the more conservative Catholic Church by the more liberal Episcopalian positions on abortion, homosexuality and ordination of women, Stetson said.

That wasn't the case for Elder. For him, it was theology, plain and simple.

"I felt I could be of more service to Christ in the Catholic Church,' Elder said. "I felt, to some degree, a bit dishonest, theologically a Catholic in an Anglican robe.'

He and his wife, Sarah O'Brien-Elder, wed in 1982 a year before he entered seminary. His wife converted to Catholicism in 1987 and is a lay employee at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Redlands.
. . .
During the past year, Elder studied Canon Law with Granillo. This month he took his final entrance exams. Friday he was told he passed.

Granillo said he will be ordained a transitional deacon in the fall and prepped for the priesthood.

"God willing,' Granillo said, Elder will be ready to pastor by early next year.

He likely will begin as a part-time hospital chaplain, Granillo said. Elder plans to keep his full-time post as an associate professor of history and humanities at Riverside Community College.

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