The Anglican Right

In the late 1970s, a group of Episcopal clergymen with typical American chutzpah wrote to Pope Paul VI. They said they wanted to become Catholics, and wished for their priestly ministry to be fulfilled by being ordained as Catholic priests. The only problem was that they had wives and children.
 
Paul VI received their petition, and they heard nothing. In the autumn of 1978, the pope died; then another pope died, and John Paul II took charge. The little group of Episcopal priests waited with crossed fingers and bated breath while Rome made a decision. In 1980 they finally had an answer: A procedure was to be established whereby former Episcopal priests could be ordained as Catholic priests, even if they were married. Individual bishops would apply to a papal delegate for a dispensation from the vow of celibacy, and after suitable training the Episcopal priests could be ordained as fully functioning Catholic priests.
 


Since 1983, about 75 married former Episcopalian priests have been ordained in the United States. When the Anglican Church was splitting over women’s ordination in the early 1990s, the English Catholic bishops also appealed to Rome for permission to ordain married former Anglicans. Permission was granted, and the English bishops set up their own procedure. No one is certain of the exact numbers, but since the early 1990s about 600 former Anglican priests have been ordained in England, of whom about 150 are married. Married former Anglican priests have also been ordained in Scotland and in Spain.
 
 
Who’s In and Who’s Out?
 
Rev. William Stetson is the priest who assists Archbishop John Myers of Newark in administering the Pastoral Provision. I asked him why, if Anglican orders are null and void, Episcopalians and Anglicans get special treatment. Why couldn’t a married Baptist minister convert be ordained as a Catholic priest? Father Stetson explained that there is a special situation for men from the Anglican communion — not because their orders are more acceptable, but because their priestly experience, theological training, and spiritual formation is closer to Catholicism.
 
Indeed, married converts from other denominations have been accepted for ordination as well. Jim Anderson of the Coming Home Network reports that in the United States, Catholic men who came into full communion from the Lutheran, United Methodist, Presbyterian, Charismatic Episcopal, and Continuing Anglican churches have also been ordained as Catholic priests. Dom Bartholomew Leon, O.S.B., pastor of the Maronite congregation in Greenville, South Carolina, observes that the Eastern Rite churches have had married priests for ages, and that the exception for former Anglicans doesn’t seem so unusual for them.
 
So what’s up? Is Rome changing the celibacy discipline by stealth? Are the Vatican officials testing the water to see how married priests work before they make a wholesale change? Not really. The truth, as G. K. Chesterton observes, is often just what it seems. There’s no conspiracy. Rome is not changing the celibacy rule. It is simply making an exception to Church discipline in order to encourage Christians who are separated from full communion to "come home to Rome." If you like, Rome is sending a very practical message to Anglicans: "We are willing to be flexible and do everything possible to facilitate your journey home." Linked with this explanation is a proper concern for evangelization: Rome hopes the Anglicans who come in will continue to be an example and minister to other Christians who seek full communion with the ancient Church of the apostles.
 
 
It’s Our Rite!
 
When the Pastoral Provision was first established in 1980, permission for married Protestant pastors to be ordained was only part of the plan. In addition to allowing married Episcopal priests to be ordained, Rome set up a program for whole parishes to come into the Catholic Church. Not only could their married ministers be ordained, but congregations of former Episcopalians were permitted to worship according to their own traditions.
 
The provision for their own liturgy is sometimes called the Anglican Rite. To be precise, it’s really the Anglican Usage of the Roman Rite. This is to distinguish it from the Eastern Rite churches like the Maronites, Melkites, and Malabars that enjoy union with Rome with not only their own liturgy, but their own hierarchy as well. The Anglican Usage remains part of the Latin Rite, since the English were historically part of the Latin Church. Their unusual liturgy is simply one form of the liturgy authorized for use in the Latin Church.
 
The Anglican Use parishes use the Book of Divine Worship,which is based on the 16th-century Book of Common Prayer written by Thomas Cranmer. The Book of Divine Worship is a total resource for former Anglicans. Cranmer’s version of the Psalms is retained, and traditional Anglican services like Morning and Evening Prayer are authorized for use. In the liturgy of the Eucharist, most of Cranmer’s memorable and beautiful prayers are retained, but placed in the correct order and subjected to the doctrinal demands of Catholic liturgy. Anglican Use priests celebrate the Mass facing the altar; communicants kneel to receive the Eucharist; and they claim that their liturgy is a faithful 16th-century translation of the Latin Mass.
 
A look at the Book of Divine Worship makes one realize that a huge amount of effort and concern has gone into the production of a way forward for troubled Episcopalians. Has there been a huge positive response? Not so far. Only seven Anglican Use parishes have been established. Of these, only a few are thriving. Our Lady of the Atonement in San Antonio and Our Lady of Walsingham in Houston have both built new churches and are supported by growing congregations. The other Anglican Use parishes either worship in existing Catholic parishes or exist as small missions.
 
 
A Lost Cause?
 
The most recent Anglican Use congregation is theSociety of St. Thomas More in Scranton, Pennsylvania. Made up of about 20 families and their former Episcopal pastor, Rev. Eric Bergman, the members of the society left the Episcopal Church and were received into full communion by Rev. Charles Connor, the pastor of St. Peter’s cathedral, in October 2005. Since then, Father Bergman has been ordained, and the congregation worships according to the Anglican Use in St. Clare’s Church.
 
Father Bergman explained why there has been so little take-up of the Anglican Use so far: For an Anglican Use parish to be established, an Episcopal priest has to convert with a good number of his congregation. They have to step out in faith together, without a building and without financial support for their married priest. After converting, they have to wait for permission from Rome for their priest to be ordained. Because of the difficulties involved, some congregations have wanted to become Anglican Use parishes but their priest was not willing, and vice versa.
 
A possible new change in the rules promises a more positive response in the future. Father Bergman explained that in November 2006, the leaders of the Anglican Use communities, the Pastoral Provision Office staff, and Archbishop Myers, the ecclesiastical delegate, met to discuss how the Pastoral Provision might be more fully implemented in communities in the United States. Two task forces were created to draw up proposals for Archbishop Myers, who took them to Rome for approval in April 2007.
 
The first proposal concerns raising money for men and groups in transition from Anglicanism to Catholicism. The Anglican Use Society will be used to collect money and will then distribute it in consultation with their bishop. The second suggestion is to create guidelines to match a priest to a group of Anglicans desiring to take advantage of the Pastoral Provision. Through these new guidelines, it is hoped that a priest can be ordained for the Anglican Use, even though he is not affiliated with a particular congregation.
 
 
An Ecclesiastical Eccentricity
 
Not everyone is enthusiastic about these new proposals, however. When given the Anglican Use option, the English Catholic bishops rejected the possibility outright. Most of the former Episcopal priests who have been ordained under the terms of the Pastoral Provision serve as ordinary diocesan priests within the Roman Rite. They simply resigned from the Episcopal Church to join the Catholic mainstream. Many of them perceive the Anglican Use with benign indifference. They see the Book of Divine Worship as a liturgical curiosity, while others regard the whole thing as an unfortunate ecclesiastical eccentricity.
 
The $64,000 question is: Do enough Episcopalians really want their own little churches in communion with Rome that use the old 16th-century liturgy? Father Bergman thinks so. He believes the growth in popularity of the Tridentine Mass indicates a surge in demand for traditional, formal, and beautiful liturgy. In addition to this, the large number of Anglican breakaway churches use some form of the traditional liturgy, and the Anglican Use provides a bridge for them to come into full communion with the Catholic Church.
 
Father Bergman also points out that Anglican Use parishes have become a refuge for cradle Catholics from the stranger liberal liturgical experiments. "The established Anglican Use communities have many cradle Catholics who come to the Anglican Use Mass because they appreciate the beauty of the music, the reverence of the liturgy, and the orthodoxy of the priest," he explains. Rev. Christopher Phillips, the pastor of the Church of the Atonement in San Antonio, reports that about 60 percent of its members are reverts to the Catholic Faith or cradle Catholics who have returned for what they perceive to be a proper liturgy. People who actually converted to Catholicism represent only 40 percent of the large Anglican Use parishes in Texas.
 
Rather than being an ecclesiastical eccentricity, it could be that the Anglican Use parishes will provide a safe haven for shipwrecked Anglicans, as well as a home for Catholics who are refugees from clown Masses, new age rituals, and the whole range of goofy liturgical abuses found within the American Catholic Church.
 
 
Evangelistic and Ecumenical Tool
 
Critics of the Anglican Use argue that the whole thing is a waste of time and energy. If people want to convert to the Catholic Church, let them convert and join their local parish. Why should Episcopalians get special treatment? What’s the point?
 
Defenders argue that the Pastoral Provision and Anglican Use parishes are part of a larger ecumenical and evangelistic plan. If the Catholic Church is serious about unity, then she should be making every effort possible to reconcile different groups in a multitude of different ways. The Anglican Use, they say, is a tool for evangelization and reconciliation.
 
The Anglican Use "bridge" is not only a way across the Tiber for Episcopalians; there are an increasing number of Anglican and Episcopal breakaway churches. To date, there are nearly 100 independent Anglican denominations. As the worldwide Anglican communion goes into meltdown, there is a real possibility that whole provinces of the Anglican Church will break away. Could a breakaway denomination or a whole Anglican province convert and use the Pastoral Provision and Anglican Use in order to come into full communion with Rome?
 
Father Bergman explained that the Pastoral Provision can only be fully instituted in those countries where the national conference of Catholic bishops approves its implementation. So far, only the United States conference has done so. Some moves are being made for bishops’ conferences in other English-speaking countries to do the same, and there is a dream that the growth of the Anglican Use will one day justify the creation of a personal prelature or an apostolic administration.
 
If this were to take place, there could be a real opportunity for Anglican Use parishes to exist in many places around the world where the Anglican communion now has a presence. Some Anglican provinces in Africa and Asia are both Anglo-Catholic and orthodox in doctrine, and such an option may very well be a way forward as they seek to disentangle themselves from the irreformably liberal Anglican regimes of Canterbury and New York.
 
 
A Society, a Network, and a Conference with a Cause
 
Despite pulling the word "Protestant" from their name 30 years ago, the vast majority of the Episcopal Church of the United States is Protestant through and through. They don’t object to the Catholic Church these days with the old cry of "No popery!" Nor do they react against Catholicism because they hold to Protestant doctrine. They object to Rome now because Rome is against feminism, homosexuality, and the dictatorship of relativism. Most Episcopalians are far from the banks of the Tiber, but there are still many faithful Episcopalians who are distressed by the direction their church has taken and who do not wish to move sideways into one of the many Episcopalian splinter groups.
 
Why are these priests and people so slow to investigate the Anglican Use option? It could be that part of the problem is a lack of publicity and promotion. Faithful Episcopalians still have many questions and problems about Catholic faith and practice. They have many prejudices and concerns about what it means to be Catholic in the 21st century. A place for them to discuss their concerns is vitally needed.
 
One of the forums available is the Coming Home Network. In 1993, former Presbyterian minister Marcus Grodi founded a small apostolate to tend to fellow Protestant ministers whose faith pilgrimage was bringing them close to the Catholic Church. The Coming Home Network has grown enormously since then, thanks to Grodi’s successful program on EWTN. The greatest portion of clergy converts it deals with are Episcopalians. Grodi’s organization offers books, resources, and personal mentoring from others who have already made the journey. It also offers assistance and advice as clergymen give up their livelihood to come into full communion with the Catholic Church.
 
Coming Home Network‘s older sister is the English-based St. Barnabas Society. Founded at the end of the 19th century, when a large number of Anglican clergymen were coming into the Catholic Church, the St. Barnabas Society offers pastoral and financial support to convert clergy and their families. As an established English charity, its scope is not yet international, but its leadership is aware of the Anglican Use and follows the developments with interest.
 
In Pennsylvania, Father Bergman has taken the call to evangelization seriously and has started an annual conference on the Anglican Use. The first conference (in 2006) attracted 120 participants, 40 of whom were clergy. The theme was "Conversion to Catholicism," and the late-Avery Cardinal Dulles, himself a convert, was the key-note speaker.
 
The conferences offer Episcopalians a chance to network, as well as the opportunity to meet people and clergy who have taken the step toward Rome. Episcopalians will gain encouragement as they speak with those who have blazed the trail, and will begin to see the move as a viable option.
 
Father Bergman says that the numbers are growing, and there are more men following this path every year. The Anglican Use is part of the overall movement toward Rome. "Everywhere an Anglican Use community is established it reconciles many to the Church." He calls on the Catholic faithful to be open to this unusual new development, to let others know about the Pastoral Provision, and to be generous in donations to help more Anglican priests take the courageous step to be reconciled to the Catholic Church.
 
 
Foundation or Footnote?
 
The Pastoral Provision has been in existence for 25 years. Since then, only a handful of Anglican Use parishes have been established, and the number of married Episcopal priests to be ordained is currently less than 100.
 
Is this really a movement to be reckoned with? Is it the stroke of genius that it seems? Have these first 25 years been a time of quiet foundation-building for a great tidal wave of Anglican clergy and laity into the Catholic Church, or is the whole movement just an interesting idea promoted by a few eccentric enthusiasts?
 
Much depends on the success of the newly reformed and updated Pastoral Provision Office — whether it will continue to be proactive in promoting the Pastoral Provision; whether it will be able to publicize and encourage this creative option successfully, along with committed men like Father Bergman; whether it receives support from the conferences of bishops and the Vatican; and whether it will be given the resources to reach out confidently to the various Anglican groups worldwide.
 
If so, what it has done so far may well be a solid foundation for an exciting development in the Catholic Church’s relationship with worldwide Anglicanism. If not, the Anglican Use will become merely an interesting footnote in the history of ecumenism.
 

 

Rev. Dwight Longenecker

By

Rev. Dwight Longenecker is the parish priest of Our Lady of the Rosary parish in Greenville, South Carolina. His latest book is The Romance of Religion published by Thomas Nelson. Check out his website and blog at www.dwightlongenecker.com.

  • Austin

    Ordaination of married Anglican Priests to become Catholic Priests is a good thing I believe. However, a devout Catholic layman, who was born and raised a Catholic, married a Catholic, etc, can never be ordained. I understand that the Vatican does not worry about “fairness” but nonetheless, I think it does make one think.

    I know the “official position” of the Vatican is a big NO to ordaining married Catholic laymen, but I suspect a lot of priests and perhaps more than a few Bishops would be inclined to have an open mind about it.

    The door is of course closed to the ordination of women, and it is closed for now to married Catholic laymen, but this may change in the future.

  • Ted Seeber

    Ordaination of married Anglican Priests to become Catholic Priests is a good thing I believe. However, a devout Catholic layman, who was born and raised a Catholic, married a Catholic, etc, can never be ordained. I understand that the Vatican does not worry about “fairness” but nonetheless, I think it does make one think.

    I know the “official position” of the Vatican is a big NO to ordaining married Catholic laymen, but I suspect a lot of priests and perhaps more than a few Bishops would be inclined to have an open mind about it.

    The door is of course closed to the ordination of women, and it is closed for now to married Catholic laymen, but this may change in the future.

    To be exact, Austin, the door isn’t closed to everybody. A Catholic lay man, who had raised his family, and whose spouse had died, could become a priest. If he could find the financial means to go through seminary and get a Bishop to take a chance on somebody over 30 anyway….

  • R.C.

    About married clergy:

    As you have probably heard many times before, there is a tremendous advantage to a Catholic priest being unmarried, in so far as he can tend to his parish families at all kinds of odd hours and not worry that he is short-changing his wife and children.

    Having said that, a priest who is married and whose marriage is sound, and whose children are out-of-the-house and thus not overly distracting from parish work, could probably do fine.

    But then one must ask the question: If all Latin Rite clergy can marry, with little in the way of restriction, what proportion of them will still be unmarried in fifty years time?

    I would guess: Not a very large proportion, and that leads to four difficulties:

    (1.) A lot of married clergy with family pressures distracting them from their calling, trying to practice that calling not merely after their children are grown, but when some are still young; and,

    (2.) A much-diminished set of priests from amongst whom to select bishops. For the discipline of celibacy is older and stronger and more universal for bishops even than for priests.

    (3.) A diminished symbolism, typology, or perhaps even sacramental fittingness (if that’s a word) for married priests performing those sacraments in which the priest stands in persona Christi. For, if the priest is for that moment Christ, then for that moment his bride is the Church, not Laura Jean in the front pew; he is husband to the faithful generally, not one woman.

    (4.) I even suspect that voices calling for women’s ordination might increase a bit under such circumstances, although of course their arguments would be no more valid than they are now. But the feeling would be thus: “You already have up here, offering the Mass, someone who can’t claim to be wedded to the Church since he’s wedded to Laura Jean there. So saying that a woman can’t be ordained to transubstantiate and to exculpate just because she can’t validly stand as the husband of the Church isn’t a consistent argument.”

    These problems are perhaps not insurmountable.

    One could perhaps refuse to admit married men to the priesthood until their wives were past menopause; this would take care of item (1.), and would go a long way toward encouraging young men to consider celibacy in order that they might enter the priesthood earlier in life. This in turn might keep the number of celibate priests high enough to allow the majority of the bishops to be selected from amongst celibates, taking care of item (2.).

    Item (3.) cannot really be alleviated in any way I can see. The moment the proportion of married priests rises above 40%, it becomes difficult to refer to clerical celibacy as being “the norm.” And I am confident the percentage would rise that high, if not become an absolute majority, should men with childbearing-aged wives be admitted to the priesthood. So, when it is no longer the norm to think that the priest is wedded to the Church, that symbolism, or typology, or sacramental suitability is lost; it ceases to be the general and cultural understanding of the Church.

    As for Item (4.); well, I am not concerned for the Church’s teachings: They will remain infallible, and the women’s ordination types will continue to be told to stuff it in the usual compassionate and endlessly patient way. It concerns me only in the sense that it might further strengthen schismatics both of the liberal/progressive and conservative/traditional camps: The former perceiving another reason to think it’s okay to ordain women, and the latter perceiving another reason to think that the Church has gone off the rails and must be supplanted under some sedevacantist pretender.

    All of this is to say: Clerical celibacy is a discipline, and not a dogma; it is obligatory but not unchangeable. I can imagine more and more exceptions being permitted, to gradually transition to a state-of-affairs where celibate clergy remain the majority, but the proportion of married clergy become a large minority, and most of them are past child-rearing.

    But I rather hope (and suspect) the Church will be cautious not to let such a transition get out-of-hand. Otherwise, celibate clergy might become rarities in a few decades’ time, and that would be a great loss to the Body of Christ.

  • Austin

    R.C., good points. I did not in any way imply that the celibate priesthood should be tossed out the window. Just that perhaps there be a few more more exceptions to ordain married men be made, and not just for the Anglican converts. You bring up a very valid point, that being what about Priests whose marriage goes on the rocks? Do they get an annulment? What happens there. A very serious concern, but of course, we have had problems with “celibate” Priests breaking vows all along anyway.

    The Church cannot change willy-nilly with every fad, but the issue of ordaining married men is not just another stupid fad, and is deserving of serious thought and perhaps even a little “toe in the water.” Perhaps what we need is not a blanket acceptance of ordaination of married men in large numbers, but the Vatican to allow Bishops, after very careful screening, to ordain devout married men in small numbers and see how it goes. I suspect this will not be as catastrophic as some of the “Trads” fear. I have seen the Bishops getting bashed a lot by both Left and Right, but I think we have to have some faith in them, and I believe that if the Vatican allows them the descretion to screen and ordain a small number of devout married men, it will not destroy the Church.

  • Louis Smith

    I am in the Diocese of Louisville. We have one Episcopalian priest, a friend of mine, who has come over under the pastoral provision. He is married and has some older children. (It’s strange to me to ask a priest “How’s the wife”.)

    We also have in the diocese an older priest who’s wife had died and who was ordained at around 70 years old. He had been a deacon for several years. He has grandchildren. He had been a major business figure locally, the head of the local branch of one of the largest companies in town.

    Louie

  • scotch meg

    The problem of divorced clergy is real. Ask the Orthodox.

    I know personally of one instance where an Orthodox priest was abandoned and divorced by his wife. Some years later, he sought permission to marry a woman whose husband had abandoned and divorced her. Within five years, he himself abandoned and divorced this second wife. He also abandoned Orthodoxy and is now an Episcopalian minister.

    Regardless of the circumstances, this situation makes priestly advice about the sacramental nature and permanence of marriage a joke.

    We cannot afford the laugh.

  • Devin Rose

    Great post, Fr. Longenecker!

    I hope and pray that the Anglican Use of the Latin Rite becomes very popular as a way for Anglicans to enter full communion with the Catholic Church. The ability to preserve the very good parts of their liturgy and prayer is appealing and demonstrates Pope Benedict’s support for ecumenism that is not just “one of return” where all that Anglicans are is jettisoned so they can become Catholic; rather, the beautiful things of their worship and faith life are retained, while those teachings which are in error are left for the fullness of the truth.

  • Old Convert Judy

    (1) One problem with conversions from various portions of Anglicanism to RCism may be inertia. (2) Divorce and remarriage are major issues; check the factions in any split-off Anglican parish. (3) Why is it that a discussion of the Pastoral Provision short circuits so quickly to the desire by some RCs for their own married clergy? The motivation of the married convert priests has NOT centered on their marriages; indeed, that would, I believe, be considered inadequate motivation! First and foremost, they wanted to be in union with the See of Peter. Look first to the Faith. (4) Respect for God in the Liturgy is reason enough for the Anglican Use; would that I had such a congregation at hand. –A convert from the Episcopal Church before it was fashionable–and before I met my husband

  • Lynne B.

    … and bad liturgy destroys faith!

    I’m quite familiar with Our Lady of the Atonement in San Antonio, TX. If it were possible, I would move there immediately to become a part of such a vibrant, alive, intelligent, prayerful, spiritual and devout parish! Believe me, there is much to be learned from the Anglican Usage.

    I’ve had enough of bilingual, jazz, beebop, rock-n-roll nonsense to last be a lifetime. There is such a serenity about Our Lady of the Atonement parish and their top quality school!!
    Their pastor is a man of grace as is their deacon. My compliments to the entire staff for their awe inspiring achievement in the name of our Lord, Jesus Christ and the Holy Catholic Church. They are the example after which we should all strive — hands down.

  • Mark

    Not to derail this in the direction of a celibacy discussion too much but a couple of points:

    1) If the Powers-That-Be in the Church *really* believed that celibacy was absolutely necessary for ordained ministry they would *not have ordained any of these guys* and *would not ordained married men as deacons.* If the trend continues, within a decade, there is really just going to be no sense among the laity that mandatory celibacy for clergy is necessary.

    I mean, you just can’t say to people, “Oh, we need our priests to be celibate so they can effectively run the parish and give themselves to the people” when their parish has no resident priest and is being effectively run by a married permanent deacon who does everything – including sacramental functions (marriages, baptisms) except say Mass and hear Confessions.

    Which to me is a *good* thing. The “unfairness” for lack of a better word, of a convert layman being able to be ordained when a devout, well-educated cradle Catholic layman being prohibited is going to make sense to fewer and fewer people. There are many well-educated married Catholic laymen in parish ministry right now. It really makes no senses that a guy from a Baptist background could be ordained and him not.

    2) One thing that is consistently omitted from these discussions when comparing the RC to the Protestant or even Orthodox situations is the existence of religious orders in Catholicism. Celibacy is a huge element of religious life and it has always seemed to me that by dropping a mandatory celibacy requirement for secular clergy it would only highlight the value and gift of the charism for those in religious orders.

  • Austin

    The Religous Orders would retain their celibacy, as it is a big part of who they are. The diocesian clery would retain celibacy in MOST cases, but, the Bishop would be given the option to ordain married Deacons who is he is comfortable with.
    If a married Deacon has been a Deacon for some number of years, is devout, solid and trusted, and the Bishop feels like he would be a good priest, why not? This is actually not as big of a deal as ordaining a married Anglican priest. This is not “heresy” but a careful commonsense next step.

  • Br. John-Bede Pauley, O.S.B.

    I might not be entirely up-to-date on this point, but while it is correct to say that there is no ‘Anglican Rite’ in the Catholic Church, referring to the liturgy approved by the Pastoral Provision as the ‘Anglican Use,’ while more accurate, is still, I believe, not approved usage. (See f.n. 9 here: http://www.liturgysociety.org/…Pauley.pdf). Nonetheless, we use the term, ‘Anglican Use,’ for want of a better one. (One suggested term is “liturgy of the common identity parishes under the Pastoral Provision of 1980” Quite a mouthful!)

  • Tony Layne

    If the Powers-That-Be in the Church *really* believed that celibacy was absolutely necessary for ordained ministry they would *not have ordained any of these guys* and *would not ordained married men as deacons.*

    Reminds me very much of the secularist argument, “If you Christians really believed what you say, none of you would be hypocrites.” The fact that the hierarchy is making some concessions to facilitate conversion doesn’t mean that they have any less regard for celibacy than they did before. If I’m not mistaken, nothing in Fr. Longenecker’s column indicates that celibate Anglican priests would be allowed to marry after conversion and Catholic ordination, or that young married laymen could become priests after conversion. The Protestants that are being ordained are patently already ministers, not laymen.

    Yes, married deacons have been effectively running many parishes. Point is, that’s not supposed to be their job. Moreover, that effectiveness is not necessarily without any cost to their family lives.

    Celibacy is a huge element of religious life and it has always seemed to me that by dropping a mandatory celibacy requirement for secular clergy it would only highlight the value and gift of the charism for those in religious orders.

    The only problem with that thought is that the religious are, by and large, out of the public eye. Both Fr. Andrew Greeley and George Weigel agree–if on nothing else–that the celibate priest functions in public as a sign of contradiction, that their singleness rattles and nudges our certainty about the world we know, and that that very tendency to disturb us is a good thing. Far from pointing up the celibacy of the religious orders, I’m afraid dropping the celibacy requirement would weaken the priesthood as a dissonance-producing element in society without making the religious orders any more noticeable.

  • Tony Layne

    If the Powers-That-Be in the Church *really* believed that celibacy was absolutely necessary for ordained ministry they would *not have ordained any of these guys* and *would not ordained married men as deacons.*

    Reminds me very much of the secularist argument, “If you Christians really believed what you say, none of you would be hypocrites.” The fact that the hierarchy is making some concessions to facilitate conversion doesn’t mean that they have any less regard for celibacy than they did before. If I’m not mistaken, nothing in Fr. Longenecker’s column indicates that celibate Anglican priests would be allowed to marry after conversion and Catholic ordination, or that young married laymen could become priests after conversion. The Protestants that are being ordained are patently already ministers, not laymen.

    Yes, married deacons have been effectively running many parishes. Point is, that’s not supposed to be their job. Moreover, that effectiveness is not necessarily without any cost to their family lives.

    Celibacy is a huge element of religious life and it has always seemed to me that by dropping a mandatory celibacy requirement for secular clergy it would only highlight the value and gift of the charism for those in religious orders.

    The only problem with that thought is that the religious are, by and large, out of the public eye. Both Fr. Andrew Greeley and George Weigel agree–if on nothing else–that the celibate priest functions in public as a sign of contradiction, that their singleness rattles and nudges our certainty about the world we know, and that that very tendency to disturb us is a good thing. Far from pointing up the celibacy of the religious orders, I’m afraid dropping the celibacy requirement would weaken the priesthood as a dissonance-producing element in society without making the religious orders any more noticeable.

  • Christian

    “I understand that the Vatican does not worry about “fairness” but nonetheless, I think it does make one think.”

    I’m a cradle Catholic who actively considered the priesthood, attending a minor seminary (high school)in my teens. I knew the deal was either marriage or priesthood. I chose marriage. I don’t think it the least bit unfair that those not raised Catholic should be treated with some flexibility in this matter, while such as me should not.

  • Dymphna

    As a revert from Anglicanism, I would join an Anglican use parish in a minute! My husband and I both miss the beautiful Anglican liturgy.

  • Anastasia Juneau

    Married men can be ordained, however, never at the expense of scandalizing the doctrines that have always exulted and justified perfect and perpetual continence for married clergy. All married clergy are required to receive permission from their wives to renounce their marital rights with one another and to agree to live permenantly as brother and sister if the married man truly believes he is being called to the priesthood He cannot go forward with ordination without this. One must ask oneself how is it that the Church has upheld the celibate life i.e perfect and perpetual continence for married clergy for over 2000 years and now has all of a sudden in the past 50 or 60 years has changed it’s mind on it. The only thing that I can say is please read your history and canon law to see that just because what is no longer being taught after Vatican II does not mean that the doctrines have changed. Church doctrines can never be changed. The suppression of doctrines is an abomination against our Lord’s teaching. This is what is presently going on. Please read the following to help get you out of your ignorance- Apostolic Origins of Priestly Celibacy by Father Cochini, and Dr. Edward Peter’s paper on Canonical Considerations of Deaconical Continence. Both these sources explain that since Apostolic times married clergy were required to live as brother and sister with each others after ordination and only with the wife’s permission. The 1983 code of canon law still require this permission from the wife for candidates to the deaconatry. Now just what is the wife signing off on? The acceptance and hours and emotional toll the priesthood might have on her? No this is not so. After reading Cochini’s book and Peters’ paper you should be able to understand that married clergy are required to agree to live as brother and sister with their wife. Why is rome remaining silent about this instruction? I guess the spirit of Vatican II novelties is still alive and kicking. Almost all married clergy deacons of course have never heard of such a thing. Please study your history. To be immersed in history is to cease to be protestant. This silence on perfect and perpetual continence for married clergy scandalizes the doctrines that have always exulted and justified priestly celibacy/continence. Furthermore it degrades marriage and redefines the sacraments of the priesthood and marriage. A married clergy who has never been instructed on the requirements of perfect and perpetual continence for the priesthood does not configure Christ and degrades the sacrament of marriage. His presence removes the sacrificiality and exclusivity from both sacraments and to their one bride not two. This suppression of the teaching of perfect and perpetual continence for married clergy of course fits in superbly with the new teachings on marriage i.e the so called NFP mentality that believes that one can have recourse to the infertile period only in order to avoid the fertile period for the purpose of avoiding conception.

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