Letter: Anglican flocks leaving the fold

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Sir: Andrew Brown has made a fundamental error in his article ('Catholic bishops review terms for Anglican priests', 20 April) in saying that Anglican priests who convert to Rome must be 'conditionally' reordained.

Most Anglican priests believe that they are priests; and those who wish to convert to Rome usually believe that they are priests in the Roman sense.

But since the decision of 1896 that their orders are null and void, they have to be ordained unconditionally in the Roman church; and this involves denying their (previous) priesthood.

I am sure that this keeps many out. I had to surmount that hurdle - with difficulty - myself. But it is also a fact that an unknown but considerable number of Anglican priests have orders which Rome might pass as valid, because they have been ordained directly by, or in a succession from, Orthodox bishops, or bishops of the so-called 'old Catholic' hierarchy.

These would be 'conditionally' re- ordained if there was any question of serious doubts; and I believe no convert would find it hard to accept 'conditional' re-ordination.

It would be a noble and generous gesture if the Holy Father decided to offer 'conditional' re-ordination to all convert priests - not investigating in each case whether their previous orders were or were not valid.

We have no right to expect that he will do so - but if he did, it would solve a crucial problem for many men which Andrew Brown evidently does not know to exist.

Yours faithfully,

MICHAEL GEDGE

Liphook, Hampshire

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