Ordination offers hope to converts

SPECULATION was growing yesterday that other retired Anglican bishops opposed to women priests might follow the lead of the former Bishop of London and have their Anglican priesthood partially recognised when they convert to Rome, writes Andrew Brown.

Dr Graham Leonard was conditionally ordained as a Roman Catholic priest by Cardinal Hume last Saturday in the chapel at Westminster Cathedral.

Officially, the Roman Catholic Church is insisting that Anglican priestly orders are 'utterly null and void' in the words of a Vatican decree of 1896. Conditional ordination, a ceremony that implies that the ordinand might have been a priest or even a bishop outside the Roman Catholic Church, was a concession eagerly sought by the Anglicans who have been trying to become Roman Catholics after the General Synod's decision to ordain women priests. But it has in general been unequivocally refused.

So far, 182 Anglican priests have announced their intention to resign over the issue. Dr Leonard's ordination is not unprecedented. An Anglican priest was conditionally ordained as a Roman Catholic in Germany in 1959.

The official reason given was that he could prove that his consecration as an Anglican bishop had been assisted by Old Catholic bishops, members of small churches in full communion with Canterbury whose orders are none the less accepted by the Vatican.