Pastoral Message; Married Former Anglican Clergy
Pastoral Message of Bishop Cormac Murphy-O'Connorto be read at all Masses on Week-end of 1 - 2 July 1995
Concerning Married Former Anglican Clergy
My dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ
At the present time the Catholic Church is welcoming into full Communion married clergymen of the Church of England, often together with their wives, and in some cases, their children. We, the Bishops of England and Wales, are of one mind in welcoming them.
Many of these clergy wish to be ordained priests in the Catholic Church. We are engaged in discerning God's will for each one of them. We are convinced the the minsitry of these men, whether married or unmarried, will enrich the Church.
With the full approval of the Holy See, arrangements will shortly be in place in this country for considering the application for the ordination to the priesthood of these former married Anglican clergy. Permission for each ordination has to be given by the Holy Father, but in thes new circumstances, the procedure leading to this decision have been entrusted to this Bishop's Conference.
The Holy Father has asked us to be generous. We are confident that you also will welcome and appreciate these new priests when, in due course, they begin to sreve in different capacities in the life and mission of the Church.
The permisision being given for the ordination of these married men is by way of exception and in recognition of the journey of faith which they have made. Such permission does not take away from the general norm of the Catholic Church which requires priests to live celibate lives.
It is not the thin edge of the wedge of change. In fact all who are ordained, whether single or married, are required to express their consent to this discipline of the Church. The commitment made by the celibate priest, which gives shape to all his friendships and experience of love, speaks eloquently of this total dedication to the Lord and the hope of the fulness of life and love which is the promise of heaven.
A sensitive issue at this time is the situation of those Catholic priests who have left their minstry as priests in order to marry. They, and many who wish to speak on their behalf, may feel hurt by this inclusion in the priesthood of those who are married while they themselves are excluded from its ministry. While acknowledging thes feelings, it is important to note that the two situations are not quite the same. One involves those who gave the solemn undertaking of life-long celibacy; the other does not. What is being permitted now is in response to a personal journey of faith from a Church which permitted the marriage of its clergy. The Catholic tradition has not included such a permission. Even the Orthodax tradition permits such marriages, but only before ordination and never after that irrevocable step has been taken. At this time it is important that we are sensitive to those who feel so excluded, while encouraf=ging them to continue in their life of faith and service, as the disciplines and practices of the Church permit.
The special provision under which married former Anglican Clergy will be ordained priests are being granted for a period of four years. During thhis period, we have been asked by the Holy Father to be generous in our response to those of the Church of England who find themselves in difficulties of conscience. As your bishops we are confident that such generosity will be forthcoming and that we weill be ready not only to welcome our new priests, and their wives and families, but also to be enriched by the experiences and insights which they will bring to us all.
With an assurance of my prayers and kind wishes,
Yours devotedly in Christ,
Bishop of Arundel and Brighton