SCRANTON, Pa. — Eric Bergman gave up friendships, his home and his priesthood in the Episcopal Church for his beliefs. The 34-year-old renounced his priesthood Dec. 31 and now wants to win souls as a priest of the Roman Catholic Church.
Joining him in the move to Catholicism are his wife, Kristina, and his three children, all under the age of 3. Bergman also brings with him some 60 parishioners from his former congregation, the Church of the Good Shepherd in Scranton, Pa., where he served as rector for five years, and 10 Episcopalians from a nearby parish.
Bergman is petitioning the Holy See to be ordained a priest under the “Pastoral Provision Decision,” a Vatican-approved process that allows married, former Episcopal priests to become Catholic priests while retaining elements of their Anglican customs and heritage.
“Jesus said the gates of hell shall not prevail against the Church,” said the Yale Divinity School alumnus. “The Church should be on the offensive. If we adopt the defensive posture, that means we’re adopting the posture of the devil. That’s not what God intends for us, and I don’t want to be part of that. I want to be on the offensive to win souls for Jesus.”
Bergman cited the provision — along with Pope John Paul II’s commitment to the culture of life, the Church’s teaching authority and its “steadfastness and unwillingness to waver with regard to the moral teachings that are the foundation to the life of holiness” — as among reasons he decided to convert.
The pastoral provision, which the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith approved in 1980 with the blessing of Pope John Paul II, makes clear that the Church is not changing its stance on priestly celibacy, only that it will make an exception for married Episcopal Church clergy who want to become Catholic priests, according to Maria Orzel, executive director of communications for the Diocese of Scranton.
Issues that have long set Rome and Canterbury at odds — and some new ones — spurred Bergman. One of them harks back to the Anglican Communion’s 1930 Lambeth Conference, which sanctioned the use of contraception.
“When you get down to it, if the (Episcopal) Church is not going to back you up on the issue of (the immorality of using) contraception, there’s no way you’re going to be able to preach the whole gospel of life,” Bergman said. “I understood on my own that I had to leave; I didn’t know anyone would come with me.”
"…Bergman is now considered a layman. If the Vatican consents to his ordination, he could become a priest in about two years, after sacramental preparation and theological formation, he said.
For now, he has been named by Scranton Bishop Joseph Martino to be the executive director of the newly formed St. Thomas More Society of St. Clare’s Church in Scranton. His former parishioners, and those from the other Episcopal church who want to convert, are receiving sacramental preparation and are members of the society, he said. The goal of the St. Thomas More Society, he added, is to establish a “Pastoral Provision Parish for Anglican Use” in the Diocese of Scranton. …"