Letter: Must Roman Catholic priests always be celibate?

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The Independent Online
Sir: Even very committed Catholics such as myself (a former parish and deanery pastoral council chairman) have great difficulty with Bishop Hugh Lindsay's question "Why retain celibacy?" and the answers he gives (Another View, 5 July). The more relevant question is "Why require celibacy?"

Few of us doubt the value of a vocation to celibacy and have met priests who exemplify its virtues, but it is clear that a vocation for the priesthood does not necessarily include a vocation for the celibate life.

For diocesan clergy, unlike those in religious orders, there is no vow of celibacy. lt just seems to be taken for granted that it goes with the job. We now see that it is not a necessary requirement. Former Anglican clergy seeking ordination to the Roman Catholic priesthood are being told explicitly that it is not.

Many of us also know of dedicated priests who, finding that they have no vocation to celibacy, have had to "leave" the priesthood. The number of these is much greater than the number of their Anglican confreres seeking ordination. For me this raises an intriguing possibility: supposing such a priest has married and become an Anglican priest but now wishes to return to the Roman Catholic Church as a priest. What rule would apply to him?

I cannot avoid a deep suspicion that he would not be allowed to return.

Yours faithfully,

Stephen Rouse



5 July