The Vatican said on Monday its plan to allow married Anglican priests to convert to Catholicism does not signal any change to its age-old rule of celibacy for the overwhelming majority of Catholic priests. It set out its position in a preface to Pope Benedict’s Apostolic Constitution “Anglicanorum Coetibus” (Groups of Anglicans) regulating the admission of Anglican converts to Catholicism, including married priests and bishops.
“The possibility envisioned by the Apostolic Constitution for some married clergy within the Personal Ordinariates (the structure for ex Anglicans) does not signify any change in the Church’s discipline of clerical celibacy,” it said. (Photo: Pope Benedict, 4 Nov 2009/Alessia Pierdomenico)
The Vatican announced last month an initiative to make it easier for conservative Anglicans who feel their church has become too liberal to convert to Catholicism. This stirred widespread speculation on what it could eventually mean for the celibacy rule in the Roman Catholic church. There was also speculation about whether men who had left the Catholic priesthood to marry and later became Anglicans could return to the Catholic priesthood and remain married.
Read our full story here. As for reactions from Anglicans, the Church of England’s Bishop of Fulham John Broadhurst, chairman of the traditionalist group Forward in Faith that opposes women bishops, said: “What is interesting is how far they appear to be willing to go to find a home for Anglicans who are cheesed off with the situation. It will effectively be a church within a church, accepting Roman authority, but actually effectively self-governing, which I think is fascinating.”
Bishop of Guildford Christopher Hill, Chairman of the Church of England’s Council for Christian Unity, said: “We note the publication of the text of the Apostolic Constitution and its complementary norms today. It will now be for those who have requested and at this point feel impelled to seek full communion with the Roman Catholic Church to study the Apostolic Constitution carefully in the near future and to consider their options.