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Vatican Says No Change
in Rules on Married Priests

BY FRANCIS X. ROCCA                                                                                  ©2009 Religion News Service

n November 9 the Vatican released rules for Anglican converts that allow them to retain traditional forms of worship and governance, but limits the Anglican practice of a married priesthood.
 
In an historic move last month the Vatican announced plans to facilitate the conversion of Anglican conservatives upset with their church's increasing acceptance of homosexuality and female clergy.
 
Under the new rules, Anglican clergy who are already married will be eligible for ordination as Catholic priests--but not as bishops--within the new structures, unless they have divorced and remarried.
 
The new provision does not allow for the perpetuation of a married priesthood, which some Anglicans have called a condition of their conversion to Rome. But according to the rules, leaders of the new dioceses may ask the pope for permission to ordain married men as priests "on a case by case basis."
 
The Vatican's acceptance of certain married Anglican priests led some progressive Catholics to speculate that the church would revise its centuries-old policy on priestly celibacy. Not so, the Vatican said Monday. "The possibility envisioned by the Apostolic Constitution for some married clergy ... does not signify any change in the Church's discipline of clerical celibacy," the Vatican said.
 
New Catholic dioceses called "personal ordinariates" will be set up by the Vatican's doctrinal office, in consultation with national bishops conferences, wherever there is sufficient demand (See related story).
 
Each diocese will be headed by a former Anglican clergyman, who will exercise an administrative and leadership role equivalent to that of a bishop. Unmarried men in such positions will also be eligible for ordination as Catholic bishops, giving them the power to ordain new priests.
 
The Vatican's qualified exception for ordaining married men as priests most likely will apply to men who have already started their preparation in Anglican seminaries, said Monsignor William H. Stetson, an American who has personally supervised the conversion of approximately 100 Episcopal priests since the early 1980s.
 
Eliminating one loophole for married clergy, the rules make former Catholic priests who have converted to Anglicanism ineligible for re-ordination in the new dioceses.
 
Members of the new dioceses will be able to preserve many of the Anglican liturgical, musical and devotional traditions developed over the more than 450 years since the Church of England split from Rome. Also in keeping with Anglican tradition, priests and lay people will take a larger role in governing the new structures than is normally the case within the Catholic Church.
 




 
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