Wow, that's a fast catechumenate

trinityObviously, there are converts to the Episcopal Church and then there are CONVERTS to the Episcopal Church. As you would expect, the Miami Herald offered a major piece on decision by Father Alberto Cutié to leave the Roman Catholic Church and to enter the Episcopal Church, where he will start preaching this coming Sunday, yet wait about a year to become active as a priest.

Obviously, the newspaper focused on celibacy as the central issue involved in this new set of headlines about Father Oprah:

While the Catholic Church requires priests to hew to a vow of celibacy, the Episcopalians, who broke from Rome in the 16th century, have no such rules. Cutié was formally welcomed into the Episcopal Church in a small, private ceremony early Thursday afternoon at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral (pictured), the church's South Florida headquarters in downtown Miami.

''I am continuing the call to spread God's love,'' Cutié said after the ceremony, adding that he has gone through a "spiritual and deep ideological struggle."

In attendance at Trinity was Cutié's girlfriend, Ruhama Buni Canellis, 35, a divorced mother living in Miami Beach. It was the first public sighting of the couple since compromising photos appeared in a Mexican magazine early this month that led the telegenic cleric to take leave from his South Beach parish. Cutié sat smiling beside Canellis during the half-hour ceremony. Deacons and former Catholic priests now in the Episcopal Church were by his side -- many notably accompanied by their wives.

Now Cutié had earlier stressed that he did not want to become known as the anti-celibacy priest. However, this decision raises a host of doctrinal issues -- with celibacy barely making it into the Top 10. The Herald mentions a few items that have made the biggest headlines, in this era and that of King Henry VIII.

The more-liberal Episcopal church considers itself the ''middle way'' between Protestantism and Catholicism. It ordains women and has an openly gay bishop. The church represents the U.S. wing of the 77 million-member Anglican Communion and traces its roots to the Church of England. In South Florida, the Episcopal diocese has 38,000 members, compared with the 800,000-member Catholic archdiocese.

While the Episcopal and Catholic churches have almost identical worship services, there are significant differences. Episcopalians, for instance, do not believe in the infallibility of the Pope.

The obvious question: What beliefs were in his mind when Cutié said he had been engaged in a "deep ideological struggle" before this decision? As I said, celibacy is a powerful issue for a man who wants to get married. But, when listing differences between the Catholic Church and the modern Episcopal Church, it's not a major issue of doctrine or ideology.

Meanwhile, there was one other question that I think the newspaper's team should have raised while doing this story. When Catholics convert to the Episcopal Church, at least in all of the cases I have witnessed (including friends) or covered as a reporter, they go through the same process as other people who convert and are "confirmed" into the denomination. However, since Catholics are coming out of an ancient church with full orders, they are "received" into the Anglican Communion, rather than being "confirmed."

This usually takes between three and nine months, depending on how seriously a parish takes the confirmation process (or the catechumenate in the ancient churches).

Obviously, it appears that a bishop can speed that process up. Obviously, he or she can speed it way, way up. However, as Doug LeBlanc noted, when I asked him about this, it appears that the canon law involved is rather open and, in the true meaning of the word, liberal:

It is expected that all adult members of this Church, after appropriate instruction, will have made a mature public affirmation of their faith and commitment to the responsibilities of their Baptism and will have been confirmed or received by the laying on of hands by a Bishop of this Church or by a Bishop of a Church in communion with this Church. Those who have previously made a mature public commitment in another Church may be received by the laying on of hands by a Bishop of this Church, rather than confirmed.

I still think that's an interesting subject. Why did the bishop need to act so fast? And putting Cutié straight into a pulpit?

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