Monday, 26 October 2009

Patrimony and Matrimony

One of the details in the forthcoming Apostolic Constitution which most exercises me is the question of clerical celibacy. I understand that the intention of the Holy Father is to bring into the Catholic Church what is authentic in our Anglican Patrimony. Now the distinctiveness of the Church of England (and so of the Anglican Communion) was defined at the Reformation. At that time the matters of distinctiveness related to:-

[1] the Communion of the people - that it should be frequent, and in both kinds;

[2] Prayer - that common prayer should be in a language 'understanded of the people', and

[3] Clerical Marriage - that the clergy should be free to marry, if called by God to that Holy Estate.

We have given up on the part of the first thanks to the swine flu 'pandemic' (or more properly panic), Rome has conceded the second, but for me the third is the most important of all. The wives and families of priests and bishops have been one of the glories of our Communion; and by permitting clerical marriage we have increased the value of clerical celibacy when it has been freely chosen. It has also drawn us closer to Orthodoxy.

Of course it might make difficulties for the Roman church if there were another authentic part of the Church in England which does not share its rules on celibacy. But if we are genuinely to bring our (few) gifts into the greater church, then the married priesthood is crucial.

A married episcopate can wait - though I have heard some Orthodox bishops say that they wish they had the possibility of consecrating married men. On this, though, the concession about Ordinaries not necessarily being bishops is quite enough for the moment.

1 comment:

  1. My thoughts about the new "ordinariates" can be found here: