21 October 2009

The matter of the married, ex-Anglican, Catholic priests

CNN | Vatican welcomes Anglicans into Catholic church

ROME, Italy (CNN) — The Vatican said Tuesday it has worked out a way for groups of Anglicans who are dissatisfied with their faith to join the Catholic Church.

The process will allow groups of Anglicans, including bishops and married priests, to join the Catholic Church some 450 years after King Henry VIII broke from Rome and created the Church of England, forerunner of the Anglican Communion. [...]

"The Catholic Church is responding to the many requests that have been submitted to the Holy See from groups of Anglican clergy and faithful in different parts of the world who wish to enter into full visible communion," Levada said.

Levada said "hundreds" of Anglicans around the world have expressed their desire to join the Catholic Church. Among them are 50 Anglican bishops, said Archbishop Joseph Augustine Di Noia of the Congregation for Divine Worship.

The Anglicans will be able to retain their Anglican rites while recognizing the pope as their leader, Vatican officials said. The British monarch is the titular head of the Anglican church.

I know the R.C.Ch. has made special dispensations for married Protestant and Eastern Rite clergy to convert before but this is the first time they have allowed it on a wide scale.

I've always understood why the Catholic Church supports clerical celibacy. I get the theory behind it: split allegiances, distractions, bridal theology, etc. It's a fine hypothesis. The problem is that it's been put to the test by early Church, by Anglicans and other Protestants, and by Orthodox churches of various stripes, and it doesn't hold up. I defy anyone to give me evidence that married clergy are worse pastors. In fact many traditions, such as the Russian Orthodox, have come to the opposite conclusion that married parish priests provide better pastoral care to the families in under their care. I'm inclined to agree with them.

(I think this is part of a broader problem with Catholic priests, which is that they tend to be recruited, at least in America, while still in college. Their life experiences, as a result, are very limited. This makes it more difficult for them to relate to their charges, or vice versa.)
AOL News | Catholic Church Makes 'Stunning' Move

"It's a stunning turn of events," says Lawrence Cunningham, theology professor at Notre Dame University [sic*]. "This decision will allow for many more married clergy in Western churches, and that's going to raise anew the question, 'If they can do it, why can't the priests of Rome?'" says Cunningham. "I can already picture the electronic slugfest on the Internet in coming days and weeks."
I had the pleasure to take a class with Cunningham, and he stands out as one of the smartest and most learned people I've ever studied under. Which is to say, I trust his judgement.

[* Pedantic note to AOL News editorial: It's University of Notre Dame, not Notre Dame University, which is in Lebanon.]

Personally, I don't understand how you make the argument that it's acceptable to have married clergy, but only if those clergymen were members of a different flavor of your religion first. Men can either handle the dual responsibilities to family and Church, or they can't. Good for the goose, good for the gander.

My friend Skipper, who is knowledgeable on these matters, predicts we're headed towards a non-celibate priesthood, but the Magisterium is just taking her time, as she tends to do. He thinks we will see married priests in the next couple of decades, though the episcopate and many or most religious orders will remain celibate. I think he's got it right. I do anticipate the founding, eventually, of religious orders specifically geared towards married couples. I haven't really thought through how that would work, but it's coming.

I haven't seen this news viewed from this angle yet, but I think this is going to shift the center of gravity in the Catholic Church towards West Africa, where the R.C.Ch. is growing fast, both among the clergy and laity, and where the Anglicans are both numerous and conservative — i.e. most upset with the current Anglican power structure. (See the WSJ for more on Anglican discontent.)

(Via TJIC, The Mandarin, Special Lady Friend, The Guardsman, and several other friends.)

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