Anglican plan won't alter celibacy for most priests

Mon Nov 9, 2009 11:10am EST
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By Philip Pullella

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - The Vatican said on Monday its plan to allow married Anglican priests to convert to Catholicism does not signal any change to its age-old rule of celibacy for the overwhelming majority of Catholic priests.

The Vatican stressed its position in a preface to Pope Benedict's Apostolic Constitution "Anglicanorum Coetibus" (Groups of Anglicans) regulating the admission of Anglican converts to Catholicism, including married priests and bishops.

"The possibility envisioned by the Apostolic Constitution for some married clergy within the Personal Ordinariates (the structure for ex-Anglicans) does not signify any change in the Church's discipline of clerical celibacy," it said.

The Vatican announced last month an initiative to make it easier for conservative Anglicans who feel their church has become too liberal to convert to Catholicism. This stirred widespread speculation on what it could eventually mean for the celibacy rule in the Roman Catholic church.

There was also speculation about whether men who had left the Catholic priesthood to marry and later became Anglicans could return to the Catholic priesthood and remain married.

The constitution ruled out this possibility and also said unmarried Anglican priests who convert must remain celibate after their conversion and ordination as Catholic priests.

When the initiative was announced on October 20, some Catholic dissidents described it as important ammunition for supporters of a married priesthood.

The constitution says that "as a rule" only celibate men will be admitted to the Roman Catholic priesthood but that the admission of married Anglican priests will be decided on a case by case basis after a petition made to the pope.   Continued...

<p>Pope Benedict XVI walks near a statue of Pope Paul VI to enter a museum in Concesio, near Brescia November 8, 2009. REUTERS/Osservatore Romano</p>