By now everyone is probably aware that the doors of the Roman Catholic Church have been opened widely to those disaffected members and the Anglican Communion who seek communion with Rome. Such disaffection usually has to do with the ordination or women and more open attitudes toward gays and lesbians in some branches of Anglicanism. Whether as individuals or even as entire parishes and communities, Rome has put in place processes and structures by which Anglicans (Episcopalians in the US) can enter the Catholic Church, often keeping in place many of the traditions and practices they bring from their Anglican heritage.
On its face, this would seem like a gracious thing to do. It was back in 1980 when Pope John Paul II granted a special “Pastoral Provision” allowing clergy from the Anglican Communion to become Catholic and continue to exercise their priestly ministry. The difference with this new provision was (and remains) that if married, such clergy would obviously remain married — thus creating a married Catholic priesthood. At the time, I was surprised that there wasn’t more of an outcry from Catholic priests who had made the difficult choice between marriage and priesthood. After all, the Church has always thought of both as vocations, both sacramental, and not mutually exclusive. Though complex, the rationale of mandatory celibacy in the Roman Rite of the Catholic Church has largely been rooted in matters of order and church discipline. Yes, there have been countless attempts to spiritualize this requirement, but mandatory celibacy for non-monastic clergy in the Roman Rite has sometimes been called a discipline in search of a theology.
More recently, this open door policy has been expanded not just to individuals, but to entire Anglican parishes. Benedict XVI’s apostolic constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus (2009) established the norms and procedures for this en masse “swimming the Tiber” to take place.
And so we come to the most recent meeting of the US Bishops held in Baltimore Nov. 14-16, 2011. There, it was announced that the Anglican Ordinariate, as it is known, would be implemented in the US on January 1, 2012. Washington’s Cardinal Donad Wuerl heads up the US bishops’ efforts to welcome former Anglican groups, while Bishop Kevin Vann of Fort Worth, TX takes over as the “Ecclesiastical Delegate” for the 1980 Pastoral Provision process.
So, my question is this: What do men who were raised Catholic and who feel called both to priesthood and marriage have to say about all this? We certainly know that priests were not consulted before either of these provisions were announced, but one would expect that some priest or group of priests would at least raise to the bishops questions about the fundamental fairness of this very unequal treatment. I can find nothing from a “policy perspective” on the website for the National Federation of Priests’ Councils, nor can I even find a website for a recently announced new Association of U.S. Catholic Priests. So, what do straight Catholic priests think of all this? Anyone??