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Debate: Should married former Anglicans be allowed to become priests?

As an ordinariate looks set to be established by next week, the debate about married priests reopens

By on Friday, 7 January 2011

A former Episcopalian priest kisses his wife after his ordination to the Catholic priesthood (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

A former Episcopalian priest kisses his wife after his ordination to the Catholic priesthood (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

With three ex-Anglican bishops received into full communion at the start of the year, the ordinariate project is rapidly moving forward. But their ordination to the priesthood due to be held on January 15 has re-opened the debate about married priests.

Although Anglicanorum coetibus lays down that an ordinariate will only allow celibate priests as a rule, in the tradition of the Latin Rite, the Ordinary can petition the Pope for the admission of married men “on a case by case basis, according to objective criteria approved by the Holy See.”

Priestly celibacy is a discipline rather than a doctrine, and married priests are allowed in Eastern Rite Catholic churches, following their patrimony. As prior marriage is not a bar to a valid ordination, to deny these men the ability to become Catholic priests might be seen as denying the Church in England access to a much-needed influx of priests.

On the other hand, priestly celibacy is the tradition and the norm of the Latin Rite; as an ordinariate is part of the Latin Church it should conform to its tradition. The introduction of exceptions to that tradition might introduce discord among priests, with some resentful of the latitude given to others but not allowed to themselves.

So is it fair that married former Anglicans are allowed to become Catholic priests?

  • Anonymous

    Because the Pope didn’t speak about condoms – he spoke about an intention of due concern towards another [within a gravely sinful act] having a potential moralising effect and the potential to be a beginning of a journey out of that immorality – all perfectly valid considerations – all straight out of the Summa Theologicae – the motive has nothing to do with the physical means exacted by that motive [which was grossly erroneous, gravely sinful , directly contravenes the fifth commandment etc.]

    Bishop Conry is an opportunistic reprobate in this regard – he saw what he wanted to see ; and acted accordingly. Ditto Rhonheimer and Ivereigh and Sandro Magister and David Gibson.They wanted to see a Pope who advocated condom-use – therefore they invented a paradigm where he did just that !

    ….and you lot did exactly the same thing – YOU saw what you wanted to see – as did the SSPX – and saw it as a stick to beat a Pope you’ve constrantly wanted to knock down because he refuses to make the Church in your own image and likeness – you were wrong – shamefully wrong – and even persisted in your error when many told you how wrong you were!!!

    …and Luke Gormally – utterly insensed with his terror that this could be backdoor Rhonheimerism – makes two errors:

    a] he confuses the subjective evil in the act with an objective evil and designates the breaking of the unitive and procreative acts within lovemaking as objectively intrinsically evil – That is NOT what the church teaches – humanae vitae makes it very clear – it may be subjectively evil but objectively it is an intrinsic moral disorder [disordo] NOT objectively intrinsically evil [malo] – why does the Church teach this ?
    Well it makes no difference towards the potential subjective gravity of the sin – when it is willed towards its own end it still remains gravely, mortally sinful – but it does allow a moral loophole for right action when confronted with a grave objective evil. An action which would be forbidden if the action were objectively intrinsically evil.
    Because of the grave situation of moral dilemma where one is faced with an objective evil – e.g. a rapist threatens to kill you if you do not have sex with them – IF breaking the unitive and procreative act were intrinsically evil it would be impossible to submit to the rapist’s demands – one must rather die than submit to being raped because one is absolutely forbidden from engaging in an intrinsic evil – BUT under the provisions of moral dilemma [the flipside of the double-effect] one has recourse to allowing an intrinsic moral disorder to be perpetrated to prevent and intrinsic evil act occurring.

    b] Because Gormally mis-categorises the objective sin – he becomes blinkered with his blindspot that condom use actually aggravates the sinfulness of the already [in his eyes] ‘intrinsically evil’ act – that irrespective of any intention or motive – the sin is aggravated and compounded and not only CANNOT be mitigated in any way – there can be no moralising activity within it at all. If he was right in his categorising – he would be right here – but because he’s wrong in the first part – he is not necessarily right – what the Pope said in regard to ‘potentially moralising’ is a valid precept within an intrinsically morally disordered act – in just the same way there can be moralising effects within actuating a just war or killing in self-defence – which are equally intrinsically morally disordered acts – exacted to prevent an objective moral evil occurring within the strict remit of moral dilemma .

    Gormally becomes outraged at the Papal comments because he doesn’t see beyond his own ethical pre-occupation – and thus imposes a paradigm onto the papal comments which simply doesn’t exist.

    Now Frs Tim Finigan and John Boyle inadvertently nealy fall into Gormally trap but they aren’t so maniacally obsessed with the gravity of contraceptivity outweighing every other consideration. Instead they apply the simple precept [kantian deontological] that the intention has no objective moral worth whatsoever becase it is within a gravely sinful act – therefore they choose to ‘politely disagree’ and find the Pope’s words unhelpful. They couldn’t distinguish between the motive and the erroneous means which were actuated by the motive – if the means are sinful the motive is negated – But Aquinas does not declare that the motive is automatically negated of all moral worth – St Thomas agrees with the Pope – any extension towards the moral has a moralising effect – even within the most depraved act.

    …Now I think I should warn you before you go any further down this route:
    BE VERY CAREFUL what you say – because you’re getting very close to contravening Catholic dogma.

    What the Pope said is valid in regard to potential moralising intention – BECAUSE

    The Pope might not have been aware of it when he said it but it’s Catholic dogma that every sinful act has that potential to contain alongside it some intention towards the moral – external to the objectively evil and subjectively gravely sinful act – and that it’s impossible for it not to have that potential.

    Why ?
    Because there is no sin which can be committed which can annihilate human dignity [and consequently the means for the entry of redemptive grace]

    Says who ?
    Well – The councils of Arles, Quiercy, Nancy, Valencia and Trent

    So be very careful to whom you appeal – be very careful when you talk about ‘it’s evil and nothing prevents it being evil and nothing good can come out of evil’ – we know that already – but that’s not what the Pope was saying – he wasn’t even referring to lesser evils like Gibson tries to suggest – nor was he referring to intentionalist considerations [like Rhonheimer,Sandro Magister and Ivereigh wanted him to] – and he most definitely WASN’T referring to condoms – like you bunch of renegades wanted him to – so you could denounce him for it – and like Conry and the media [regrettably including many Catholic sources] wanted him to so they could laud him for it….

    The Pope was referring to that single ‘spark of human decency’ which for an instant made the grave sinner have some due concern for another…and how it could be a beginning…

    Now you already tried a muck-raking attemt on this by presuming all manner of debased mercenary scurrilous selfish motives behind the action – but none of those have anything to do with that to which the Pope was referring – he was referring to one specific hypothetical – where for a brief instant there was some due concern – and just like Aquinas said – it had its source elsewhere – in supernatural grace – and being of divine origin has the potential to work wonders….

    Now how about getting back to your job and defending the Church against its enemies without and within? Instead of inventing those who do not exist…?

    Why not do us all a favour ? Go after Rhonheimer !

  • EditorCT

    The Pope didn’t speak about condoms, you say. Yet again, she said wearily, here is the question.

    Peter Seewald: “Are you saying, then, that the Catholic Church is actually not opposed in principle to the use of condoms?”

    Pope Benedict: “She of course does not regard it as a real or moral solution, but, in this or that case, there can be nonetheless, in the intention of reducing the risk of infection, a first step in a movement toward a different way, a more human way, of living sexuality.”

    What is the Pope speaking of here, if not the use of condoms? Please explain because if you take his answer out of the context of the question, it makes no sense. What is “it” that is not a real or moral solution? What is “it” that can be “nonetheless…. a first step towards a more human way of living sexuality.” What is this “IT” that the Pope refers to, if not the condoms in the question asked?

    You cannot win this paulpriest, because either this pope is wrong on condoms or all of his predecessors were wrong on condoms. A pontiff has been wrong. You are going to have to live with it, Sugar Plum.

  • Anonymous

    …and you do it again!!!

    He is NOT speaking about condom use ; which he has stated is NOT a real or moral solution.
    He IS speaking about the intention – the motive – which led to recourse of erroneous ‘neither real nor moral’ sinful means.

    Are you wilfully being so obtuse?
    The IT was the intention – NOT THE MEANS – it’s there before your eyes !!
    Why do you persist in this????

  • Christina

    Good. Linguistic light relief! I’m sorry to have to disagree with both William Wheatley and EditorCT on this one. I believe that these explanations are both fanciful (though I did believe the ‘by Our Lady’ one for many years). Before, and at the time that Shakespeare ‘s characters were saying ‘By’r Lady’, there was also much use of the word ‘bloudy’ in conjunction with cruel (e.g. in polemical anti-Papist writings of the reformers!!). Swift’s use of both the ‘by Our Lady’ expression and ‘bloody hot walking’ seem to me to indicate, not that there was an unlikely very rapid transition from one to the other in his lifetime, but rather that they were totally unrelated and in current use together. Thus it seems more likely that ‘bloody’ first used in conjunction with appropriate nouns such as cruel, merely became an intensifier used with others. So if anyone thinks paulpriest was swearing on that occasion, he probably wasn’t!

    It’s interesting that the most of the earlier swear-words that were blasphemous (e.g. ‘zounds, – God’s wounds, ‘sfoot – God’s foot, ‘sbodikins and ‘zbud – God’s body) have been dropped, although ‘strewth lingers on.

  • Horace Zagreus

    “[A] married priesthood IS entirely contrary to Catholic Tradition” – Are you saying Eastern Catholics have an invalid tradition, then? How about Maronites, who united with the Holy See in 1182? Be careful what you call “contrary to Catholic Tradition”, because despite your bluster, your grasp of the genuine nature of that tradition looks DECIDEDLY shaky.

  • Anonymous

    Christina, I think you misunderstand me. I was not saying that “By Our Lady” was a swear word in medieval times – in fact, in my post above yours, I cited the novel Men of Iron to make the opposite point.

    I did, in any case, say in my original short point, not intended to generate a massive discussion, that even in our times it is a “mini” swear word. It may not BE, in fact, a “swear” word, as you say, Christina, but the lesser educated among us who have used the term in annoyance at something or other, generally intend it so to be!

    However, in order that we do not expend any more time or energy on what I had only intended to be an aside (a cheeky post, calculated to annoy my friend, paulpriest…) allow me to defer, always, to those, like Christina, with obviously greater knowledge of language than moi, not to mention a far greater intellect all round.

    And I, in the meantime, will concentrate on trying to become LESS “all round” – Scottish Slimmers here I come!

  • Bridget

    In the book,’ How Christ said the first Mass’ by Fr.James L. Meagher, there is a note about the foreshadowing of the celibacy of the priest in the descriptopn of preparation for the ceremonial of the Day of Atonement. “Seven days before the Day of Atonement, the high priest moves from his house…and takes up his abode in the Palhedrin Chamber…” This book is a must for anyone really interested in knowing and understanding how the sacrifice and rite of the Mass is derived in all its beautiful detail from the rites celebrated in the Old Testament to the Last Supper Mass. It explains everything from the bread of life(manna in the desert), the prayers, symbols of candles and the actions which are replicated in the true Mass. A beautiful book.

  • Ann Arbor Frozen Toesen

    My impression was that it was standard practice to allow married Anglican priests to join the Caholic church, becoming married priests. Certainly, I met many such priests while travelling through the UK.

    To me, it seems like the reasonable thing to do. We can only wish that all Anglicans would join the Catholic church, ending our long separation.

  • David

    Those who claim that the priesthood was celibate from the start not only need to read some history, but their Bibles. Paul’s First Epistle to Timothy, Ch. 3: “A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife … one that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection…”

  • Horace Zagreus

    It’s not quite standard practice – there was a period in 1993-4 when married Anglican priests could come over and be (conditionally?) ordained as Catholic priests, and it doesn’t seem to have caused any massive collapse (or at least, none that wasn’t happening already).

  • Anonymous

    Thanks David – after listening to madame editrix I thought I was going crazy…

  • John

    Yes just as the holy priests of the Eastern Rite Catholic Churches are allowed to be married so should the Anglican priests who join the Anglican Ordinate.

  • Harrybendelow

    I was interested by your inclusion of “strewth” which I suppose is a reference to “God’s Truth”. I had occasion to use that very word recently, to the surprise of those present in my local Church. We were subjected to a (so called) Celtic Communion; during which, it was claimed that in touching “all bread” and “all matter” we were in fact touching Jesus. The congregation then were treated to the revelation that God was female and the Almighty was also a “Sun behind all Suns” and a “Soul behind all Souls”. Sin was restricted to “trampling God in Creation”. My exclamation “strewth” seemed most appropriate as I walked from the building before the end of the service. The Church was not Catholic but a C of E run by a New Age, Neo Druidic, Pantheistic, Monist Vicar.
    I know that this does not throw light on “bloody” but I thought I would mention it any way. Every person I know informs me that “bloody” is a reference to Mary the Mother of Our Lord and menstruation. Have you tried the OED – I guess you have?

  • Harrybendelow

    Dear William Wheatley,
    Well put William! I can confirm that all the converts from the C of E known to me are very well versed in the Catechism of the Catholic Church – certainly more than the average Catholic. As an Anglican I rest all my preaching on the Catechism.
    Many of the sour Roman Catholic comments on this issue certainly remind me of the brother of the prodigal son.

  • Anonymous

    Editor CT, You vare just offensive which is uncharitable and un Christian. Calm down dear! you are so dyspectic and choleric.

  • Anonymous

    Dyspectic and choleric? Me? I’d better get to the doctor, pronto!

    Luv ‘n stuff…

  • Christina

    I apologise for returning to this, especially since it is off-topic, but I have spent some time checking on the various opinions and interpretations of those to whom you refer in your post, on what the Holy Father actually meant. He has certainly caused much confusion, but I am not qualified to judge whether this will ultimately bear good or bad fruit. As a lay person, I received a good, Catholic, pre-Vat.II education, but, lacking any higher education in moral theology (or any theology at degree-level), I find

  • Christina

    Sorry – I don’t know what happened there – here’s the rest:

    I find much of your post hard-going!

    If it can be done briefly, therefore, it would be most helpful if you could explain in simpler terms, what you mean by the short extract from ‘What the Pope said is valid in regard to potential moralising intention – BECAUSE……..’, down to ‘Says who? Well – the councils of Arles, quiercy, Nancy, Valencia and Trent’.

    Any Catholic should understand that mortal sin cannot close the door on the grace necessary for repentance, and, in the Catechism of the Council of Trent, in answer to Ch. V Question vii, ‘By what steps….one may ascend to that Divine Virtue of Penance?’, there follows a list of steps beginning ‘First, then, the mercy of God prevents us, and turns our hearts to himself….’. Apart from this, I can find nothing easily understandable (in Session VI of that Council), on Justification, to explain ‘moralising intention’ in the act of mortal sin.

    Am I barking up two wrong trees in these references, and if so, please redirect!

  • Alex Roman

    Dear Friends,

    As an Eastern Catholic, I grew up with both married and celibate priests. My grandfather was a married priest with seven children, he was arrested by the Soviets and endured prison for the Catholic faith. His wife, my grandmother, supported him throughout and supported his seventy-year ministry as a Catholic priest. I’ve several married priests in my family, two of whom are theology professors.

    Our Cardinal Joseph Slipyj spent 18 years in Siberia for the Catholic faith and while he was for celibate priests only, he later came out in full support for married Eastern Catholic priests.

    Married priests in our tradition are the most conservative voices for the Catholic faith. I know celibate priests who are not. I applaud celibate priests in traditional orders etc., but these are few and far between. It is a matter for the Latin Catholic Church to deal with and I hope you deal with it resolutely and soon.

    I have several friends who are Anglicans who have decided to join the Ordinariate. They have been “Catholic” all their lives, have always esteemed the role of the Pope, and are very traditional – they would put most modern RC’s to shame. I would suggest a greater familiarity with such Anglicans (and the term “Anglicana Ecclesia” does predate Henry VIII). Their “Anglican Rite” that reflects the ancient usages of Sarum, Hereford, and York is simply that – a usage of what is the Roman Rite. They are staunchly conservative in terms of Catholic reproductive morality as well. As for married Anglican ministers wishing to be ordained as Catholic priests – perhaps traditional RC’s can simply chalk this up to their “invincible ignorance” for having married. Despite their right to marry as Anglican clerics, they obviously had a lapse of judgement. And the RC Church has been allowing individual married Anglican and other ministers to become ordained Catholic priests. If we don’t like this, we should take it up with Rome. Otherwise, it is perhaps not a good thing to be more “papal than the pope.” These conservative Anglicans are to be welcomed with open arms – it is the great mass of liberal RC’s that should be the object of concern. And there is no sign ever of the EC Churches even thinking about “women priests” as a result of having married priests. I would recommend that those who are sceptical should perhaps attend an EC parish and get to know these Catholics as well.

    Alexander Roman

  • Anonymous

    er…sure – and I’m sorry for the confusion ; but I didn’t say ‘in the act of mortal sin’ – I said ‘alongside’ a gravely intrinsically objective evil [which is always [bar invincible ignorance]gravely sinful]

    - although a moralising intention can be within an intrinsically moral disordered act when [within the restrictive remit of moral dilemma] it is deliberately willed to prevent an intrinsic objective evil from occurring. [what most people call the double effect isn't actually the double effect - but moral dilemma.

    Double effect is very specific - it is recourse to a moral disorder - i.e. that which would be normatively sinful as a secondary direct immediate act towards 'right action' [what people refer to as a greater good - but as moral disorder is involved - it isn't ideal, aspiring to perfection or a 'good-in-itself' - it is [at most] right action.
    Now amazingly a lot of our human existence involves recourse to the double effect – in order to achieve a ‘better’ end we utilise secondary actions which if solely directed towards their own end – would be sinful! e.g. smacking a child’s hand to prevent them touching a cooker or run out in front of traffic ; by eating meat we have to kill an animal – that which praises and glorifies God by its very existence ; even using natural family planning – because it’s contraception by omission [even though there's no direct will to it ] is at most only right action – because it requires recourse to the double effect.

    Within the double-effect there is a moralising intention which is always of intrinsic moral worth and dignity – even if it is utterly misguided – and even if the action itself leads to the most disastrous consequences [say for instance you tell a white lie to make someone feel better but they realise you're lying and it makes them feel worse.

    Now the flipside of double-effect [a lot of people incorrectly refer to this as double-effect] is moral dilemma.
    Moral dilemma involves actions objectively categorised as ‘intrinsically morally disordered’ – i.e if they are performed to their own ends they are normatively gravely sinful – but they are NOT objectively intrinsically evil in themselves.
    One can only ever have recourse to an intrinsically morally disordered act IF-AND-ONLY-IF it prevents an objectively evil act from occurring. There is a strict remit for its actuation – it must be the only remaining available recourse, immediate, direct, the end-in-itself of this secondary act must not be willed but the primary one must be etc
    This is not committing a lesser evil [or the lesser of two evils] – one is expressly forbidden from committing evil.
    Taking a human life is an intrinsically morally disordered act – breaking the unitive and procreative aspects of human lovemaking is an intrinsically morally disordered act – declaring a war is an intrinsically morally disordered act – assaulting another human being is an intrinsically morally disordered act….you getting the gist?
    Moral dilemma allows us to critically kill in self defence or defence of another – be they individual, group, community etc, allow oneself to be raped in self-defence etc, inaugurate a just war in self-defence etc,, resort to violent assault in self-defence etc

    Now notice the difference: Double effect only involves morally disordered acts – you are expressly forbidden from resorting to an intrinsically morally disordered act to promote ‘a greater good’ – you can’t steal from the rich to give to the poor, you can’t beat up a bully, you can’t become a surrogate mother, or become a prostitute to give your kids financial security, or use artificial contraception in the same way you use NFP , you can’t start an offensive war against a tyrant – There are rules !

    You can lie to the mad axeman hunting for his victim – but you can’t lie on your cv to get promoted…

    In double effect and moral dilemma there is still opportunity/potential for a moralising intention within the act itself – something impossible when one commits an objectively evil act.

    But as I said – no evil act can destroy human dignity and close the door to redemptive grace within the human person – but the moralising intention is NOT within the act.

  • M buggens

    No it is clearly not.The Catholic church has lost many potential priests through the celibacy ruling and to allow these men to join now is just a slap in the face for them and the congregations who have had to manage on fewer and fewer priests over the years.

  • Paul Ryan

    I want a priest whose priorities include my soul’s salvation, rather than no priest.

  • Greg Carenvale

    We have married clergy in the Eastern Catholic church and always have had. It’s the Western church that has the problem and Rome, at the moment, thinks only in Western terms-far removed from its ancient roots.

  • An

    Some time ago I called out to a Church of England Vicar that I had a message from one of his house-bound parishoners. He turned around and said “Not now I’m going to fetch my children from school”. As I stood and watched him walk on I thought’”THAT’s the difference between married and single priests Lord!. He later had an affair and his marriage broke up. People need to be aware that over 20 years ago 1/3 of all vicars were divorced and another 1/3 were gay. Vicars are not Priests – they are Ministers of the Gospel. That is why those who are accepted as Priests in the Catholic Church are Ordained by a Catholic Bishop. I do not say that they do not love Jesus or are not good christian men – but they are not priests!

  • An

    Why would anyone think the the church would benefit from the “insite” of married priests? A priest’s duty is to confer six of the seven sacraments, the seventh being ordination, which is conferred by the bishop. Priests are not called to be marriage advisory councillors or sex therapists! There are secular organisations already established for that. The church does not exist for married couples alone.

  • Hidden One

    As I read these comments, think I, “Behold! The lay episcopate strikes again!”

  • Paul the Vicar

    I would love to know where you got your figures from. I wonder what the figures are for good Catholic Priests who have been forced out of work with stress? I wonder what the figures are for Catholic Priests who have had sexual encounters after ordination but for whom Diocesan authorities or the Holy See either know nothing of or choose to ignore. I am sorry that the Vicar involved was in a rush, I am sorry too that he was not faithful to his wife. But stressing that Vicars are not Parish priests because a few fail to live up to expectations is not a good enough argument. Parish Priests, Anglican or Catholic, (And dont get me started on Apostolic succession!) are fallible human being doing all they can for our Lord through his grace and his alone. The grace of orders is alive in many Priests of both traditions and some will fall short, BOTH Catholic and Anglican because the authority conferred by Orders does not remove the Priest’s humanity and ability to fail.

  • Musadorn

    Why odd? The Bible doesn’t mention the irrelevant. What is to focus on is the tradition of ‘Q’, the sayings of Jesus recorded in the Gospels. The private lives of the apostles, and Jesus, are not our concern. What we need to do is to live the Gospel message in our own lives, and stop all this unchristian bickering. I am strongly tempted to give up the Catholic church, which is quietly imploding anyway, with fewer and fewer priests, who have no time to visit parishioners anyway — so much for all this talk about Anglicans not being able to visit their parishes because they have families. Listen to the Holy Spirit and stop being so spiteful to each other, you miserable lot!

  • Philomena Carolan

    No I don’t think that married Anglican priests should become Catholic priests as the Pope is not being at all fair as he should not even have to do that if this problem was not here, all the scandal and shortage of priests and he decides to bring in none catholic priests for the catholic cjurch, that will not solve the problem, is he thick or he is hiding something, all of this is so wrong he should not be allowed to get away with it, it is not fair to anyone, anywhere.

    He has done nothing for the abused, he will not accept change in the church for the better as in many ways, the changes are to be reverted back to St. Peters days.

    He is rightly against abortion but, is against abolishing celibacy, he says life starts from the moment of conception but, a couple cannot conveive a child by being celibate even if the pope says celibacy is a “Gift from God”, all us humans are actually but, never mind.

    So, how can the pope make it right that former Anglican priests can be Roman Catholic priests still be with their wives but the existing Roman Catholic priests remain celibate, is that fair? No, not to me. Once again as I have said many of times, there is someone somewhere who has the ‘power ‘ to force the Pope to resign, well instead of who ever it is including the Pope ooming and arming, why can’t someone actually do something? We are all waiting.

    Thank you

  • Philomena Carolan

    What I also meant to say is, next Sunday there is a retiring collection for the “Priest Training Fund”. What a laugh, if anyone has any sense they will not put a penny to it, I know I am not, until the Pope is fair with all of this and does a Popes job properly, I am not putting any money at all toward the Priest Training Fund.

  • Philomena Carolan

    Oops! here’s trouble.

  • Philomena Carolan

    Oh! dear, more trouble. I would niot like to be either of you.

  • Philomena Carolan

    Mmn! Okay.

  • Philomena Carolan

    Yes! right, well! I knew that too. Happy fighting people, happy fighting…..

    God Bless

  • Philomena Carolan

    Oh heck, I am off as there is going to be “Bloody spilt” byeee.

  • Rene O’Riordan

     A priest by definition is one who offers sacrifice – it comes from the tribe of the Levites in the OT.  At Mass a priest offerst the Eternal Sacrifice of the Lamb in atonement for our sins – in an unbloody manner – Hope this helps – Blessings – Rene