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

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.

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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?

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