Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 16 April 2014

The can of worms opened by Pope’s offer to Anglicans

The offer by Pope Benedict to allow Anglican clergy and laity to convert into full unity with the Catholic Church will provide dilemmas for both churches.

It is obvious that there are many Anglicans who are disaffected by the decision to allow the consecration of women priests and bishops and admittance of gay priests into the Church.

They may well see a more natural home in the more conservative Catholic Church — no women priests there and no open admittance of homosexuality among the clergy.

So the Church could get new clergy and new lay converts, but at what price?

Married Anglican clergy would pose two problems.

At the moment when a Catholic priest retires, the church only has responsibility towards him.

But what if the priest was married, has a wife and family?

Where would they go if they had to vacate their parochial home? What would they live on? What would happen to clerical widows or, even more distressingly, orphaned children?

Secondly, how could the Catholic Church maintain its stance on clerical celibacy?

It cannot argue logically that it is permissible for married Anglican clergy to convert to full communion with the Catholic Church and yet deny Catholic clergy the right to marriage.

The phrase ‘family of the Church’ could take on a whole new meaning in the near future.

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