WASHINGTON – Four priests from the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth, Texas, who said they are troubled by the “liberal” direction taken by the Episcopal Church met with the Catholic bishop of Fort Worth.
The meeting raised questions about whether they intend to seek a way to join the Catholic Church.
The Episcopal clergy members met with Bishop Kevin W. Vann of Fort Worth June 16 to explore how the two faith communities can better collaborate spiritually, Pat Svacina, director of communications for the Catholic diocese, confirmed to Catholic News Service Aug. 14.
“The bishop listened to them as part of an ongoing dialogue he has been having with them,” Svacina said. “The bishop has not taken a position on this topic at this time. Ultimately, full communion with the Catholic Church would be a decision made by the Vatican.”
Established in 1983 when it was created from the Episcopal Diocese of Dallas, the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth has resisted ordaining women as priests, which the Episcopal Church allows, and its members have voiced opposition to the church ordaining an openly gay bishop.
In a prepared document delivered to Bishop Vann, the Episcopal priests said they have witnessed Episcopal dioceses throughout the U.S. “fall away from a traditional biblical and Catholic practice of the faith.”
“The four priests did go to visit with the local Catholic bishop and did talk about a fuller communion,” confirmed Suzanne Gill, director of communications for the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth. “It was not an attempt by the diocese to join the Catholic Church, but to reach a fuller unity on those things that we do hold in common.”
However, the document presented to Bishop Vann does suggest the Episcopal priests are seeking guidance from Pope Benedict XVI to effect “more quickly the healing of this portion of the broken body of Christ.”
Though Fort Worth Episcopal Bishop Jack Leo Iker did know the priests were meeting with Bishop Vann and was given a copy of the document they presented to him, they were not representing their diocese, bishop or congregations, Gill said. “They represented only themselves.”