Tuesday, October 16, 2007

"Full, Corporate, Sacramental Union"

Two alert readers have already sent this along as comments, but I think it warrants a post of its own. It is a statement by the Traditional Anglican Communion (TAC) primate, Archbishop John Hepworth, on the much-awaited news from Portsmouth. It is just what he told me that he hoped would happen and the cause, hopefully, for much rejoicing.

"The College of Bishops of the Traditional Anglican Communion (TAC) met in Plenary Session in Portsmouth, England, in the first week of October 2007. The Bishops and Vicars-General unanimously agreed to the text of a letter to the See of Rome seeking full, corporate, sacramental union. The letter was signed solemnly by all the College and entrusted to the Primate and two bishops chosen by the College to be presented to the Holy See.
The letter was cordially received at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The Primate of the TAC has agreed that no member of the College will give interviews until the Holy See has considered the letter and responded."
+ John


Anonymous said...

My prayers and hopes that this is well received in Rome. My impression is that Cardinal Ratzinger might not have approved, but perhaps Pope Benedict XVI may. If so, then this will portend a remarkable step in reunification.

Michael said...

It is my hope that a statement like this will be welcomed even by those continuing Anglicans who do not presently feel a call to such a union. Any progress that could be made here would be a huge boost to Christian unity in general. It would, I think, truly be a revival of ecumenical hope. (And if this works, that's what I'm writing my PhD thesis about...)

tdunbar said...

There’s a relevant 15minute video, produced by David Naglieri of Salt and Light Catholic Television (Canada’s Catholic Network), which highlights the Traditional Anglican Communion and the quest for unity with Rome. The Program was aired across Canada on its FOCUS program 20th February 2007 and is online at:

TAC & Rome

Fr. J. said...

As a Catholic who once attended regularly at Truro Church in Fairfax, Va, now of CANA fame, I have a personal affection for the Anglican tradition. I have only attended the traditional Anglican prayer services on a few occasions and as a Catholic, I admit to real envy.

For the prospects of communion with Rome I pray with true eagerness. I hope it is well understood among all churches in the Anglican family what a momentous occasion this event truly is.

God Bless you all.

Fr. J. said...

Alan: If Cardinal Ratzinger participated in the formulation of the Anglican Use, B16 could well be an agent of a new Anglican Rite. The return of Tridentine Mass demonstrates the lengths to which he will go to bridge gaps. As the Tridentine form was the liturgy of the West (essentially) at the time of the East-West Schism as well as at the time of the Reformation, its return can be seen as an ecumenical gesture to the Orthodox, the Traditional Anglicans as well as to the Traditional Catholics. It may well be the greatest ecumenical gesture of the past century!

Fr. Robert Hart said...

The Primate of the TAC has agreed that no member of the College will give interviews until the Holy See has considered the letter and responded."

Which means that the story is not complete at this time.

My impression is that Cardinal Ratzinger might not have approved, but perhaps Pope Benedict XVI may.

Cardinal Ratzinger was, as I have been told, very encouraging. However, full communion, from Rome's point of view, will lead back to the question of Anglican orders. Considering what may have happened if only the Anglican Communion had remained straight, if Anglican churches had not started "ordaining" women, a lot could have been accomplished.

The statement is about communion, which implies something other than either a "uniate" or personal prelature. If so, the reality is that this may lead to discussions that pick up where Archbishop Ramsey and Pope Paul VI left off. For the near future that is about all that can happen; but it would be significant progress.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

...As the Tridentine form was the liturgy of the West (essentially) at the time of the East-West Schism...

Not exactly. Of course, the word "essentially" was added in eirenic fashion; so, the comment redeems itself.

I would prefer a good apologetic for the traditional Anglican liturgy, especially after the Scottish model. A new Anglican Rite is not desirable.

Fr. J. said...

Fr. Hart,

I think I used rite in an equivocal way. To clarify, would TAC be amenable to a sui iuris relationship? This gives virtual autonomy in governance and liturgy. As it has evolved in the Catholic Church, and continues to evolve, it is quite different than the old uniate status. (Uniate is now shunned as a term for Eastern Catholic Churches.) The Catholic Church today now sees itself as both a Church and a Communion of Churches with the Eastern Churches.

If by communion is meant a mere technical intercommunion that allows the faithful to receive in each others churches without any further ecclesial inter-relationship (and Petrine primacy), then this is likely a non-starter for Rome.

I would not think that Rome would be amenable to a greater independence for a Western Church (which is historically less justifiable) than that of the Eastern Catholic Churches which can actually claim to have never directly depended on Rome for their foundation.

Jacobite said...

I would prefer a good apologetic for the traditional Anglican liturgy, especially after the Scottish model. A new Anglican Rite is not desirable.

Father, I just toasted you through my monitor with my glass of scotch! Would you perhaps begin with the Nonjurors' liturgy of 1718?

Anonymous said...

This would be just...

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Oops. "Rite" as in Latin Rite, Byzantine Rite, etc. These brain stoppages happen to us old grandfathers (but, to Agrarian's question, yes).

Michael said...

Before Cardinal Ratzinger became pope, he was apparently quite interested in this sort of proposal. At least one or two TAC bishops have been in correspondence with the Holy Father for a number of years.

When John Paul II passed away, some TAC clergy (including bishops) were scheduled to have a meeting with Cardinal Ratzinger the following week.

As for the question of Anglican orders, I don't think that's a major concern. The groundwork has been laid, I think, for at most a conditional ordination. I'm told that the Roman view of a conditional ordination is that they believe the ordination was valid, but that they might have been illicit, or questioned in some way. So, for them to reordain Anglican clergy conditionally wouldn't be to deny the validity of their orders, but simply to confirm them within the communion of the Catholic Church.

Also for practical purposes, I believe that there was some new work released this past summer relating to theological education for clergy received into the Anglican use. If so, it means that - whatever happens in terms of ordination itself - Rome is preparing itself to absorb a large number of clergy.

I'd recommend the Salt and Light video, for anyone who hasn't seen it already. It contains a number of good clips from TAC bishops (the Archbishop, as well as several Canadian bishops), as well as parishioners.

John A. Hollister said...

Arthur referred to "a sui iuris relationship [which] gives virtual autonomy in governance and liturgy."

Just one word of caution. "Sui juris" ("of their own law") is now the technical term for the 21 Eastern Catholic churches that are in communion with Rome.

How much autonomy in governance this gives varies from time to time. There is still before us the heavy-handed treatment the E.C.s received a few decades ago when, in complete violation of their own canon law and of the guarantees that had been given them, their North American bishops were ordered to stop ordaining married men and to stop importing married clergy from abroad. It is said this step was taken at the behest of the Irish/Italian "Latin Rite" hierarchy here which was having too much trouble explaining to its flock why Fr. Mischkewicz down the street was married with children.

Some of the E.C.s refused to take this oppressive action lying down and went back to Orthodoxy, which is the origin of the "Carpatho-Russian" Orthodox body that is still with us today.

What has happened once can happen again. The so-called "Latin Rite" still comprises the overwhelming majority of Roman Catholics so one must wonder whether, f its leaders again feel their parochial interests are threatened, the other "Rites" may again be forced to the wall.

John A. Hollister+

Anonymous said...

I have heard that the question of orders has been addressed by the TAC - a few years ago, some graduate students were hired to track the 'pedigree' of their bishops, and of bishops who ordained their priests, with the goal of 'fixing' any ordinations that Rome might not accept. The question of married Bishops has been addressed as well; there will be a 50 year period at the end of which the TAC would be in accord with the current practice of the Catholic and Orthodox Churches of unmarried Bishops. I agree that no-one is interested in either absorbtion or mere local communion; it would be an intercommunion at the head. Praise God!

Abu Daoud said...

I'm wondering: I bet that if this works out there would be a good number of other Anglican churches that would join up. Also, there are some highly capable ordained Roman Catholic clergy who later got married and thus have agreed not to officiate sacramentally. Could they perhaps minister in such an Anglican Catholic church?

Michael said...


The origin of the Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Church was much earlier than "several decades" ago. The important point is that it was before Vatican II, which significantly changed the relationship between the Eastern Catholics and Rome.

I've taken theology classes with Eastern Catholic seminarians whose fathers are priests, and who hope to be married priests themselves. This was in Canada, not the US, but still. I don't think there's much chance of going back to the old situation.

What needs to be understood is that any practice (such as clerical marriage or celibacy) is deeply ingrained within the ethos of a church. Practices grow up together, and can't just be changed randomly. If the Latin rite suddenly completely changed their rules on marriage, it would probably not work very well. If it were to change, it would have to change slowly, over generations.

In the same way, requiring all future Anglican use Catholic priests to be celibate would also destroy those churches. Anglicans have grown up with married clergy very much part of their ethos. Perhaps Anglicans should value celibacy more than they do (although I think they do value it - I know many Anglican bishops, priests and deacons who are celibate), but forcing a change quickly would be a disaster.

Having an Anglican ecclesia sui juris in communion with Rome could give Rome an avenue to allow married Western Rite priests, without making major changes in the Latin rite right away. In some cases, this might mean that the Anglican church becomes very popular. Some Catholics might welcome this, because it allows them to move forward on married clergy while maintaining the discipline of the Latin rite. The two churches could co-exist fairly well, I think (I know I'm very optimistic, but I believe in the Resurrection, so this isn't that hard, really).

Fr. Robert Hart said...

...Perhaps Anglicans should value celibacy more than they do...

I agree. But, Rome needs to value marriage more than it does, and to take a closer look at I Timothy chapter three. I am a better priest, a more pastoral priest, for having been a father of four these many years. This was what St. Paul the Apostle looked for.

tdunbar said...

"until the Holy See has considered the letter and responded."

And is there any informed opinion about when that might be? In a week, decade, month or year?

poetreader said...

I have no information, but, as a student of history i would caoution that no one hold their breath or even undertake a fast times to end at such time. Rome will make up its mind, but v-e-r-y slowly. It always has moved slowly, and to do otherwise would be in opposition to its ethos.


John A. Hollister said...

Michael wrote:

1. "The origin of the Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Church was much earlier than 'several decades' ago... before Vatican II."

It was recent enough that I know Byzantine Catholics, younger than I am, who were brought up with this still as a live issue and whose families were still bitter that their rights and traditions had been trampled upon.

2. "Eastern Catholic seminarians whose fathers are priests ... hope to be married priests themselves."

The operative word is "hope". So far as I know, only the Ukrainian Catholic bishops, and only those in Canada, are disposed to insist on their right to ordain married men in North America.

The fact that this is even a matter for discussion simply underlines what I wrote earlier.

Which "old situation" is there not much chance of going back to? Not that of imposing an artificial discipline of celibacy on the Eastern Catholics, for by and large over here that still pertains. The "old situation" of their having their historic married parish clergy? I agree, there's very little chance of going back to that, because across the board marriage is such a touchy issue for Rome.

John A. Hollister+

poetreader said...

Vatican 2 was only a few decades ago. I was already an adult. I'm digging deep in my memory, and thus could be off on details, but, when I lived in the East Village of New York City in the early sixties, the Carpatho-Russian Orthodox situation was new enouigh to be still quite eccentric. Not far from where I lived was one such church (St. Nicholas?) whose priest and deacon, both married with children, had left the RCC. Their church had no iconostasis, nor even the two standing icons often made to do temporary duty. There was a daily Divine Liturgy (apparently still called Mass by some of the people), which included only a small amount of singing, and lasted about 40 minutes. Father wore Byzantine vestments, but with a very italian looking lace alb, lace to the armpits, and walked about outside of service with a Latin cassock and a biretta. Canonical Orthodox in the area tended to deny that such a place even existed, as did RCs.


Anonymous said...

Father Hart:

I do not mean to rain on anyone's parade. But, IMHO, a married clergy is far more feasible where the congregation is small (as is usually the case, here in America, with both Easterrn Orthodox and Anglican Continuing churches) than where the congregation is large.

Catholicism is not a religion comprising mostly small, largely inentional communities. It is the religion of the hoi polloi, and many of our parishes are huge. Here in the Southeast, where I live and where Catholicism is flourishing, the churches are bursting at the seams. The influx of Hispanic immigrants has only accelerated this trend.

My own priest serves two parishes--one in the inner city (roughly half black, half Hispanic), the other in a rural area (mostly Anglo but with a growing Hispanic presence). I cannot imagine how he could do all that he does if he had a family. Not only would he be stretched too thin; his family would inevitably be (and feel) neglected.

Sure, a married priesthood might alleviate the priest shortage (although vocations are booming in our diocese, so said shortage is pretty much resolving itself). But the logistical problem still remains: There are 60 million Catholics in America--and our number keeps growing. And growing.

The sheer numbers of Catholics make the situation more complicated. Your family life may have borne fruit for your priesthood (and vice versa) in a Continuing church...but what if you served a huge multi-ethnic, multi-income parish, perhaps in an area where raising a family wasn't particularly safe? Even in a suburb, the sheer size of the typical Catholic parish might impose excessively heavy burdens on your family. I've known celibate Catholic priests who have been utterly worn out by such situations. "This place is a pressure cooker," one priest told me, WRT a large, bustling Catholic parish, the "rich people's parish" in our nearest city. He was grateful that he was being reassigned to a small parish in the Western Carolina mountains. Just imagine how much more stressful his situation would have been if he had had a family!

Again, I don't mean to denigrate the idea of a married clergy; not at all. But the Church has had sound reasons (including logistical reasons!) for enjoining celibacy on her Latin Rite clergy. It's just remotely possible that she knew what she was doing--especially in light of the size of her flock and the 24/7 demands on her priesthood.

God bless,


Fr. Robert Hart said...


Excuse me for answering as boldly as my little time allows.

Frankly, large congregations are a problem due only to the clergy shortage. A large congregation can afford more priests, but those priests are not available. In Baltimore City one of the largest and most important RC parishes, serving what had been a large Polish neighborhood, was closed down because there were not enough priests for the Baltimore area. If I wore my collar in the local area, Anglican as I am, I felt like one of the Beatles having to run and hide from the fans.

There are no statistics available to account for the many RC men who feel called to the priestly vocation, but never pursue it because they do not feel able to live as celibates, and because they want to have families (I know that they never bring it up except to very trusted individuals). This choice should not have to be made by any man.

Selling me on the practicality of imposed priestly celibacy, and on the idea that its origin was anything other than a horrible sin, is impossible. Nothing can justify the forced separation of families at that time in history, married women put away into poverty and children into the disinherited status of the fatherless, all for the love of money, the theft of estates from rightful heirs. The See of Rome was not led by the Holy Spirit to do this evil; and the experiment of forced priestly celibacy has failed over and over and over, just like Communism. Ideological arguments do not change the results.

poetreader said...

I would add, Diane, a few points:

1. Could it not be that part of the reason some priests feel so overloaded is precisely because they lack the support that only a family can provide? The bitter lonliness of a man not specifically called to celibacy, but yet unable to have a wife is a heavy burden indeed. Unless one can establish a solid theological rationale that priests must be celibate (difficult to do in the light of centuries of the Easter Church), one is allowing a rule evolved for what seemed to be practical reasons to trump the human concerns involved, and to declare something God has blessed to be sin.

2. The experience of Evangelical megachurches adequately demonstrates that impressive size is not necessatrily incompatible with married leadership.

3. Might it not be so that the Roman Church in the West has so organized itself as to preclude a married clergy and demand a celibate clergy for other reasons than whether it would really work? I believe this is the case of a self-fulfilling prophecy.

4. Is it necessarily a good or necessary thing that RC parishes tend to be so huge? Perhaps if married men were eligible for ordination the many who have felt they had to choose between a priestly vocation and marriage would be priests, and perhaps it would then be possible for parishes to be more manageable.

Just a few thoughts. I'm not sure the answers are clear -- but they raise enough questions that the desireabil;ity of enforced celibacy becomes harder to justify.


tdunbar said...

"the experiment of forced priestly celibacy has failed over and over and over, just like Communism."

tho the clinical trials have been going on an order of magnitude longer, with some disagreement about the asserted failure

John A. Hollister said...

Diane wrote, "Again, I don't mean to denigrate the idea of a married clergy; not at all. But the Church has had sound reasons (including logistical reasons!) for enjoining celibacy on her Latin Rite clergy. It's just remotely possible that she knew what she was doing--especially in light of the size of her flock and the 24/7 demands on her priesthood."

Except, Diane, that when, about a thousand years ago now, the Western Roman Church began making serious efforts to impose mandatory celibacy on its clergy -- and for centuries thereafter -- there was in the British Isles and Europe no clergy shortage. Quite the contrary, thanks to flourishing state of the monasteries and the chantry system in the parishes, there were often more clergy than there were in fact real jobs for.

The attempt thus had little or nothing to do with logistics and everything to do with the monastic ideology that had taken a firm grip on the upper echelons of the church's hierarchy.

As knowledgeable insiders, such as Fr. Donald Cozzens, have pointed out, if Rome would take effective steps to break the widespread contemporary impression of the Roman clergy as an homosexual occupation, there would be sufficient vocations that those clergy would not have to work 24/7 and thus would be able to appropriate the spiritual and psychic benefits of a normal family life.

John A. Hollister+

Anonymous said...

Ed and Father Hart:

You make good points (although I confess that the argument that mandatory celibacy is a "horrible sin" strikes me as more than a tad ludicrous;)).

I can only speak from my own experience as a Cradle Catholic who went through a decade-long Anglican phase before returning happily home to Rome. On that basis (admittedly largely anecdotal), I will make a few points (rather rambling, so please bear with me):

1. Parish size may be partly (even largely) related to the priest shortage, but it is certainly not exclusively the result of said shortage. As my old historiography professor used to say, there's no such thing as mono-causality--either WRT, say, the French Revolution or (I would venture to suggest) WRT Catholic parish size. Catholic parishes were large when I was a kid, too, and that was at the height of the late '50s/early '60s vocations boom.

IOW, Catholic parishes are big because there are a lot of Catholics. Even if we had priests coming out of the proverbial woodwork, we would not have the luxury of building quaint little stone churches for every 100 or so Catholic families. That's simply not feasible, either logistically or financially.

It wasn't feasible in the early '60s, when priests were in plentiful supply. And it's even less feasible now, when Catholic numbers are increasing dramatically. (Hispanic immigration's not gonna slow down anytime soon, IMHO. And Hispanic families tend to be young...and growing. As Katherine Jeffers Schori so charmingly noted, we papists tend to breed a lot. :))

The increasing number of Catholics would place a burden on the parochial infrastructure (so to speak) even if we had priests out the wazoo.

2. Y'all's experience may be (I'm guessing here) with the relatively moribund Northeast. (I'm a native Bostonian, born and bred, but I've been living in North Carolina for the past 18 years, with no intention of returning to the frigidity--climactic and spiritual--of the frozen North. :)) In the South, it's a different story. Priestly vocations are booming here in the Diocese of Charlotte. Other conservative, orthodox dioceses--in the South and elsewhere--report a similar trend. Some of the conservative religious orders are practically beating applicants off with a stick. (Just kidding.) But seriously...the data suggest, IMHO, that the key to solving the vocations crisis is episcopal / diocesan orthodoxy, not a churchwide repeal of mandatory clerical celibacy. From what I've seen in the Catholic media (reliable diocesan statistics from hin and yon), when an orthodox bishop takes over a diocese, vocations rise. And in some cases even soar. This means the priest shortage is in the process of resolving itself--leastwise in conservative dioceses. Sure, it will take time; we have a lot of ground to make up, and meanwhile elderly priests are retiring (and dying) and the number of laity is rising. But the fact remains that the trend is positive--more priestly vocations--which means, again, that the "vocations crisis" is in the process of passing, without any help from a massive moratorium on clerical celibacy.

3. Saint Paul gave the second best rationale for clerical celibacy (after Our Lord's, of course): The single man is free to live entirely for the Lord and the Church, without other cares to sap his time and energy.

Again, I know this is anecdotal, but I have known Catholic priests who have utterly spent themselves for their flocks. I just don't see how this would be either possible or desirable for a married cleric. How could his family not suffer? He would constantly be torn between the overwhelming demands of his parish and the quite reasonable needs of his family.

During my decade-long stint as an Episcopalian, I must say, I don't think I ever encountered an Anglican clergyman who spent himself for his flock the way some Catholic priests I know have done (and do) for theirs. I'm sure such Anglican clergy exist...and, Father Hart, no doubt you are one of them. But again, all I can say is--I see this phenomenon (of the totally dedicated priest) quite frequently among Catholic clergy, both old and young. I never saw it among the Episcopal priests I knew. That's just my experience, but there it is!

Indeed, I distinctly recall one Episcopal priest who shocked me by admitting that he saw his priesthood as a job, not a calling, and that he'd initially pursued it because he wanted to do something that was more or less in the public eye, and the clerical state was as good as anything else. Admittedly, this is just one case; and I'm sure I could find equally disturbing examples among Catholic clergy, e.g., the guys who used to join the Jesuits just to get the Society to pay for their PhDs...I've heard of such cases. And, as we've all learned over the past five or six years, there are some very bad Catholic priests out there, priests who disgrace their calling.

But there are also many very good Catholic priests out there, including many who minister in difficult situations with total dedication, 24/7. And, I respectfully submit, it would be nigh impossible for them to do so if they were married.

In short: For very good reasons, married clergy simply cannot spend themselves as selflessly and completely as celibate clergy can. As St. Paul said, the married man has quite legitimate cares (the needs of his family) which, understandably, will consume some of his time and energy. This, in turn, inevitably means he will have less time and energy for his flock. The single man, OTOH, is free to be radically available, 24/7, in an utter, wholehearted way that simply cannot be possible for a family man. I don't see any way around this. It's simple common sense. And it's Biblical.

So, again, I can see a limited role for married clergy--e.g., in the Eastern Churches, which tend to have smaller parishes, and in the context of the Pastoral Provision. But for most Latin Rite parishes, with their growing, diverse, demanding congregations? No way. I just don't see how it would be anything but disastrous.

God bless,


Fr Matthew Kirby said...

I am uncomfortable with the description of "imposed clerical celibacy" as a "horrible sin". Even if it was a mistake, or if some policies (at particular points in history) associated with its enforcement may have been sinful in motivation, such a description seems over-reaching. After all, while the East was never very impressed with the Western practice in this regard, it never treated the centuries-old difference as anything close to communion-breaking. Live and let live was the attitude on both sides most of the time, it seems. And there was never a heretical claim by the West (at the dogmatic level) that married men were intrinsically unable to be priests, but rather a prudential decision that they should not be.

Part of the problem with the argument here is that two separate issues are being conflated illegitimately. One is who is more likely to be a better or more effective priest, the married or celibate. The other is whether it is appropriate to make obligatory the state we determine is better. Even a clear, unambiguous answer to the first question in itself would prove nothing about the second, since what is superior is not morally equivalent to what is intrinsically mandatory.

As to the first issue, most Catholics (Anglican, Eastern and Roman) would agree that, "on average" or normally, the celibate priest has the advantages mentioned by Diane and is more likely to be able to give more of himself. However, it is also worth mentioning that the married priest also has advantages over the celibate in certain areas, such as providing a living example to the flock of godly patriarchy and healthy, functional family. And if the advantages of the celibate outweigh those of the married priest overall, this does not mean they would necessarily do so under all circumstances, as Diane has effectively acknowledged.

Diane argues that the present situation of the RCC makes celibacy the only practical option, due to the necessity for RC priests to be unreservedly given over to the service of the Church 24/7. But she never really answers the argument that if married men were allowed to be priests, there would probably be more of them (no matter how many celibate vocations are presently apparent in the orthodox dioceses to which she refers), and so less need for every single priest to have no "interfering" family responsibilities and less chance of devoted priests becoming burnt-out. Their willing self-sacrifice does not give the Church the excuse or right to wring them dry when it is not even necessary. The real issue which it appears no-one is addressing is money: priests cost money and married ones cost more. If RCs tithed, or even came halfway close to doing so, none of this would be an issue. The expectation that each parish only has one priest (or less as he is often shared now between a plurality of praishes) is a very modern one and is a large part of the reason Diane cannot imagine married priests being sufficient to the task of pastoring RC congregations.

Finally, as to the second issue abovementioned, all the advantages in the world for celibacy would not change the fact that the non-Roman practice does not prevent celibates pursuing their vocation, it allows others to pursue such a vocation. In other words, ceasing to make celibacy mandatory would not stop celibates performing their more radically sacrificial ministry anyway. Whatever Diane's personal experience, the fact is that both the Eastern Orthodox and Anglican Churches have had many unmarried clergy and missionaries spending themselves for their flocks, despite not mandating this. So the question becomes whether it is better for each person who may have a vocation to celibate service or to married service to be trusted to discern and obey their particular calling, or whether it is better for the Church to force a choice for all who may have the potential to be a priest between celibate priesthood or none. It is not self-evident that the latter is the only or the best way to ensure there are enough priests of sufficient devotion to build the Kingdom.

poetreader said...

Anecdotal information proves very little, but it does serve as a means of illustrating what is being said. A few bits of anecdotal information, then:

1. in my city there are three RC parishes. Only a few years ago the two larger parishes had three priests each and the smallest parish had one of its own. The city population has quadrupled since then, and the official membership of all three has grown considerably (though attendance is way down -- which is another story altogether). One parish has two priests, but also takes care of the small one, which has no priest of its own, and the other has one priest, also responsible for a neighboring parish that used to have its own. In another neighboiring town the church (which used to have a priest) has been closed, largely due to lack of clergy. That looks like a remnant of three clergy where there once were nine, with a large increase of "official" Catholics. No wonder they are overburdened. I'm told that in the old days all nine worked hard. Is the reported increase in vocations anywhere bnear to making up this kind of defecit?

2. I'm personally aquainted with more than one devout priest who came to realize that he had neither an authentic vocation to celibacy nor the ability to continue functioning as if he did, and consequently became laicized and married. If a man exhibits devotion in the Mass and a genuine pastoral ability, does it serve the purpose of the Church to cast him out of ministry for seeking something which the Lord has blessed?

3. I also know more than one person who felt (and still feel) a deep sense of vocation to priesthood, but also a divine call to marry. What are they to do? Is the Church really capable of doing without them simply because a rule of celibacy cannot be worked into that?

What I seem to be observing, then, is a serious shortage of priests combined with a refusal to use some whose call from God may indeed be genuine. I can't make sense of it, even though I do recognize that celibacy is a genuine and high call of God.

Why is there not room for both approaches?


Fr. Robert Hart said...


For the sake of clarification: The "horrible sin" that I mentioned was to force families into separation. Married clergy were forced to divorce their wives and disinherit their children. History makes this clear. That was a sin, and to blame it on the Holy Spirit is as absurd as the blame cast on him recently by the Episcopal Church: "The Holy Ghost made us do it." No, He did not.

The size of Roman Catholic parishes is not a problem. The clergy shortage is the problem. Fr. Kirby has already said enough in his comment.

We got onto this subject because the Eastern Rite churches in the U.S. and Canada were brought up. It is true that they were subjected to something that was never supposed to have happened.

Michael said...

I am now a continuing Anglican, and a member of a fairly small parish, one of the larger parishes in my diocese. My parish has a rector who is also a suffragan bishop, two other priests (one somewhat retired), and a deacon. We consider ourselves somewhat thin on the ground, since a few years ago, we had a bishop, four priests, and a deacon, as well as a couple of ordinands. Many of our smaller parishes also have more than one priest. Some of them are single, some have families. Many are forced to take secular employment. But in spite of all these concerns, I know that all of them pour their hearts into their ministry. I know one priest who, for a number of years, had a full time day job, and also put in at least forty hours a week at the church. Incredible.

If such a small community can produce such a number of clergy (and believe me, almost without exception they are very good clergy), despite the fact that most of them are not paid, I find it odd that such a large community (the Catholic Church) does not have more priests. If a church of 100 has several priests, why can't a church of 1000 have a dozen or so? Why only one? In one sense it's a self-fulfilling prophecy - who wants to single handedly pastor a parish of 1000 people, even if you do feel a call to celibate life?

I recognize that a radical change in the Latin rite, especially if done right away, would be a disaster. But I think that over time, something should be done.

I do not believe that I am called to a single life - I don't see that as an absence of calling; rather I believe that I am called to marriage. I also believe that I am called to the priesthood. In the married Anglican clergy I know, as well as Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Catholic clergy, I see a model of how marriage can fit very well into a priestly vocation.

Protestant churches have lost a great deal by not having a way of affirming and blessing the vocations of those called to be celibate. Roman Catholics are missing out in something of the blessings that can be found, for those called to it, in the marriage of clergy. One of the things I appreciate about Anglican Christianity is that we have managed to hold onto both.

Unknown said...

Let me preface my comment by saying that no one would be happier than I to see an Anglican Church in a state of full communion with the Roman See. I have followed the TAC's efforts in this area for a couple of years now with great hope. Unfortunately, I see two enormous impediments that no one seems to be addressing. First, Roman sacramental theology would require not only that all the TAC clergy undergo at least conditional ordination, but that all the TAC faithful be conditionally confirmed. Would TAC Anglicans accept this? One doubts it. Similarly, any and all divorced-and-remarried Anglicans of the TAC would have to undergo the annulment process and would have to abstain from the sacraments during that process (which typically takes at least a year). Again, would TAC Anglicans actually put up with this treatment?

Second, there is simply no way that Rome is going to permit a married clergy. Among Eastern Catholics in North America, to give one precedent, married men cannot be ordained to the priesthood, despite the ancient practice among these same communities in their countries of origin. And given the drastic priest shortage in the RC Church (which, btw, is getting worse), why would Rome make available an easy exit and route to the priesthood for young RC men who would like to be married priests? It would only exacerabate the problem. As I said at the beginning of this post, no one would like to see the TAC's efforts attain success more than I, but Anglicans greatly underestimate Rome's institutionalized antipathy to any such arrangement.

Fr. Robert Hart said...


You need to take a closer look at what has already happened with the Pastoral Provisions and the Anglican Use. The questions you raise have been answered, and the changes have already begun This is not new.

John A. Hollister said...

Thomas wrote that "there is simply no way that Rome is going to permit a married clergy. Among Eastern Catholics in North America, to give one precedent, married men cannot be ordained to the priesthood, despite the ancient practice among these same communities in their countries of origin.

To this, Fr. Hart replied, "You need to take a closer look at what has already happened with the Pastoral Provisions and the Anglican Use. The questions you raise have been answered, and the changes have already begun".

I must quibble about whether the Pastoral Provisions have actually answered Thomas's concerns. One of the unattractive features of the Anglican Use of the Latin Rite of the Roman Church is that ONLY convert clergy are permitted to be married. If a young man grows up in one of the seven or eight Anglican Use congregations, and receives a call to Orders but also has a call to marriage and fatherhood, he must deny one of those promptings of the Holy Spirit.

Further, not only can he only become a celibate clergyman but he can only become a clergyman of the Novus Order version of the Latin Rite, not of the Anglican Use expression of it.

Thus the very institutional structure of the Anglican Use was and is designed to make it a temporary, dead-end measure, intended to die out as the generation of converts from Anglicanism dies out.

There are some who have said this ungenerous treatment is symptomatic of a wider, and historic, Roman disdain for things Anglican. I hope these critics are wrong, on all counts, but the tale will be told by the treatment accorded to the next wave of Anglican accessions to Rome.

John A. Hollister+

Anonymous said...

Fr. Robert Hart said, in response to Thomas' concerns:

"You need to take a closer look at what has already happened with the Pastoral Provisions and the Anglican Use. The questions you raise have been answered, and the changes have already begun This is not new."

Caedmon replies: Surely Thomas' concerns are the least of our worries.

"Smaller but purer."

Anonymous said...

I think that Thomas raises some real concerns that have been only partially dealt with in the USA with the Pastoral Provision and AU. I write, however, as a Canadian Anglican who has followed the issue of the reconciliation of Anglicans with Rome over many years. Like Thomas, I pray for and continue to hope (a theological virtue) but am not optimistic about a positive response to the TAC proposal from Rome.

Please do not mistake me, I truly hope that there may be a breakthrough but continue to find that the attitude of Canadian RC Latin Rite bishops (the great majority) to be both very protective of celibacy and, at the same time, attempting to maintain the semblance of ecumenical civility with the Anglican Church of Canada. For what reason the latter preoccupies them, we may put down to good manners since the ACC is in meltdown.

In two attempts since 1992 to have the Pastoral Provision implemented in Canada the proposals first by a community of some fifty people in Toronto and the most recent (this year) by individual priests to seek ordination and assist with AU in the Archdiocese of Toronto, the decision has been no.

Although the bishops do not say that they are opposed in principle to the Pastoral Provision, there seems to be a great concern that to allow further conditional ordinations (which BTW a number of Anglican clergy have applied for recently) would undermine the drive – certainly in Toronto – to recruit young Latin Rite men for the priesthood. The archbishop actually gives out his phone number on virtually every occasion he speaks.

In the most recent instance of application for the Pastoral Provision, the archbishop indicated that he would take the matter to Rome in June, but after several months and consultations, presumably with the local chancery and other officials, the response came back this fall that there would be no conditional ordinations under the Pastoral Provision at present. Mind, it has not been ruled out entirely or forever but a further assessment will, in the opinion of many, require clear direction from the highest levels in Rome. Though there is no proof, it seems that there was a red light given to the matter in June when the archbishop was in Rome to receive the pallium. A change of direction in response to the TAC proposal, therefore, seems, from this perspective to be unlikely at any time soon. Again, I would love to be proved wrong.

Another and absolutely critical reason why the TAC proposal is unlikely to receive approval is the question not so much of married priests but that of married bishops. No one that I have spoken to believes that Rome would even consider changing the common practice of both the East and West (even for 50 years as suggested in posts above) when it comes to the celibacy of bishops.

I do not know how many, but I do know that a number of the TAC bishops are married. I understand that the Primate, Abp Hepworth is prepared to retire should the proposal be given approval. His case is complicated because he was a Latin Rite Roman priest who left to become an Anglican and marry.

For these reasons, I submit that short of a miracle, we are unlikely to hear positive news on the issue of AU in Canada, UK or elsewhere or on TAC reconciliation with Rome. I very much regret to say it and do hope and pray for a miracle.

Unfortunately, the deep-seated attitudes and the many other pressures upon the Roman hierarchy make this issue one which they are likely to avoid, while encouraging Anglican, Lutherans and others to be reconciled individually and bring their gifts into the service of a revised Novus Ordo.

The AU phenomenon in the USA is an interesting and hopeful sign, but it is infinitesimal in light of the Catholic Church worldwide and the fact that it has not been allowed in Canada, the UK, Australia, NZ, or anywhere else in the English speaking world does not bode well.

S. Augustine ora pro nobis!

Michael said...

Dear St. Augustine ora pro nobis,


Especially as a fellow Anglican, would love to be able to respond, but have no idea what to call you. Could we at least get a nickname or something?


CB in Ca said...

As a historic Anglican of Reformed Convictions, I cannot be encouraged by this move of the TAC. It strikes me as a repudiation of Bishop Jewel's "Apology for the Church of England" and the historic Angllican Formularies: Scripture, Creeds, 39 Articles, and Ordinal. Charles

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Anglicanism left Jewel behind in the dust long ago, like about the time of Hooker. By the time of Laud, Jewell was outright repudiated by the ABC, regarding Rome.

Michael said...

Correction: in my last post, I meant to address the annonymous poster as a "fellow Canadian", not a "fellow Anglican" (although that is true as well).

Belatedly attempting to make more sense...


Anonymous said...

One imagines that 'Archbishop' Hepworth's journey from being a priest in the Roman Catholic Church, to a priest within the Anglican Church of Australia, and then into his own communion will not go unscrutinised by the Holy See.
Nor the fact that he is married, and was married prior to that and (I think) both wives are still alive.

Anonymous said...

I don't see how you can ignore Pope Leo XIII: Anglican orders are null and voic. Anglican ministers cannot confect the Eucharist. The only exception being those that had an Old Catholic or Polish National Church bishop participate in their ordinations. In the US there are many Old Catholic bishops and priests of questional orders themselves. "Archbishop" Hepworth is an apostate. He'll have to step aside.

To a poster above: the validity of orders never depends on licit or illicit consecrations and ordinations. If a consecrator has valid Apostolic orders the consecration is valid. Period. The Apostolic succession is intact. Validity does not depend on canonical permissions.

Now, don't get me wrong. I hope that this works out, but it won't be easy.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Franzjosf wrote:
I don't see how you can ignore Pope Leo XIII: Anglican orders are null and void.

Anglicans have never ignored Apostolicae Curae, but have refuted it rather soundly since 1897. Arguing against that particular bit of Vatican hogwash has always been like shooting fish in a barrel. Not sporting, but necessary. The Vatican document is not an embarrassment for us, but for Rome, and the best RC scholars avoid the subject for just that reason.

I assume that Archbishop Hepworth has been labeled an "apostate" in the above comment because he left one of the two One True Churches.

Father Ron said...

Michael speaks of 'a huge boost to Christian unity'.

It is difficult to see Archbishop Hepworth as being more than a minnow in the 'Sea of Faith'. What sort of a catch is this for the Bishop of rome, I wonder?

Father Ron Smith,
Anglican Church of Aotearoa/NZ

Anonymous said...

Fr. Hart:

Here's how I see it. Let me be quick to add that, although I've been following developments with the TAC for a couple of years, I'm not omniscient and may have missed important points.

From all I've read, the clergy of the TAC believe all that is held and taught by the Holy Roman Church. The big difficulty is validity of orders and married clergy, because most of these clergy and faithful have been born into the Latin Rite and her discipline. From what I have seen, the worship is a mixture of Roman and Sarum traditions, using hieratic English. It certainly looks very Catholic.

From a traditional Catholic persepctive, everyone on Earth becomes Catholic at Baptism, even if unknown to themselves and a heretical minister that baptizes them, and is born into a Rite. Then, these protestants incur automatic excommunication for adhering to an heretical or schismatic sect. As far as I can tell, the TAC is not heretical, but it is schismatic because it has set up a parallel hierarchy on the geographical territory of Latin Rite ordinaries. So the problems to be overcome are disciplary (celibacy) and canonical (legal), not doctrinal.

Now, I have heard that the priests and bishops have been ordained and consecrated (at least 'conditionally')with valid Old Catholic bishops participating. If that be true, their orders are valid. (But I have not been able to confirm that rumor.)

Not being a canonist, I can't tell the status of confirmations. All sacraments to be valid must have proper matter, form, and intent (to do what the Church does). Perhaps 'intent' is the problem here, but maybe not if the confirming bishop intended to comfirm them in the Church of Jesus Christ.

If I am correctly informed, then, the difficulties boil down to
1) celibacy
2) canonical structure
3) perhaps confirming the faithful
4) validity of orders, if the abovementioned rumor is not true or if the TAC apologists can convince Rome that Leo XIII was mistaken. I have a priest friend who used the pastoral provision. He was not conditionally ordained, but simply ordained to the sacred priesthood in the Latin Rite.

Perhaps 'apostate' was too strong a word, but he did sever communion with the Roman Pontiff yet seems not to have rejected the Faith itself.

'...two of the One True Church.' LOL. Or three if you include the schismatic oriental churches.

I'm sure you're familiar with the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith's recent document once again stating the Holy See's view of what constitutes a Church. If the question of orders is cleared up, the TAC clearly constitues a Church.

A difficult, but not impossible set of obstacles. I very much hope that this will work out.

God bless you and everyone working for the salvation of souls.

Anonymous said...

As I understand it this approach from the TAC is conditional on its hierarchy, including married bishops, remaining intact. I should have thought that this is very unlikely to be acceptable to the Vatican or indeed the dioceses of the Church affected by such a decision (both clergy and laity). There are many devout married clergy converts to the Church whose desire for ordination remains just that at least for the moment and it is important, as many have been told to become a Catholic first and then to allow a decent period of reflection on both sides about the possibility of ordination. If the TAC approach is accepted on the basis on which it is made, I for one should be astonished.