Monsignor Barnes on married priests

Green to purple in a rush tomorrow. In St Thomas More, Iford, the Parish celebrates the third in Ordinary Time (heart-stirring title) and within minutes the Ordinariate will be keeping Septuagesima in its customary purple. Good that we were permitted to renew some of those old titles – not least because for us this is a countdown to Lent, a time for preparing ‘to starve thy sin, not bin’ (Herrick), the third before Lent.

It is good to have such distinct ways of celebrating in the Ordinariate. Perhaps the time will come when we shall be trusted to exercise a little more freedom, for instance in restoring the Ascension and Epiphany to their traditional dates, rather than shunting them off to some already occupied Sunday.

There are more important things, though, than these liturgical niceties. If Anglicanism’s greatest gift is to take root in the Catholic Church, then some day it must become usual for married men to be ordained, rather than simply permitting this as an extraordinary event needing special dispensations. Fortunately we have a married Ordinary in England, who understands this rather better than others, even bishops, might do. Not that marriage has always been simply taken for granted among Anglican clergy. When as a curate I wanted to become engaged I had to seek the permission of my training Vicar, and of the Bishop. Perhaps that no longer happens, but it certainly did in the ’60’s in Portsea.

Today I met a layman who works in another diocese, promoting youth work. He said how he knows several married former Anglican priests. They seemed to him more ’rounded’ (his word) than many Catholic priests, with a real generosity of understanding of the human condition. He did not mean to denigrate the celibate Catholic clergy; they had their own special charisms. But it was something he reckoned was a gift, coming into the Church through “Anglicanorum Coetibus”. If that is true, and I hope it is, then it seems to be part of the ‘patrimony’ which we are enjoined to share with the rest of the Catholic Church. Pope Francis has spoken of the need for us all to be ready for change. Such a change might begin in a very small but important way by seeing clergy wives not as an embarrassment to be tolerated, but as a great gift to the Church. Just an idea….

Mgr. Edwin Barnes (from his blog Antique Richborough)

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6 Responses to Monsignor Barnes on married priests

  1. Viola Hayhurst says:

    ….wow what a “hot topic” ! My issue is not with married Ordained Priests within the Roman Catholic Church. From the stance of former Anglican / Episcopal Priests that have come via the Pastoral Provision, their wives who have as well made the committment to join the Faith — do add to the mission of the community and the church within their husband’s assignment and in concord the Church does concede that their wives have to be nutured, as well. But my issue is with those Married Priests that are ordained into the Ordinariate but with wives that are not following their husbands into the Faith, instead continuing to remain Protestants . This in my opinion is taking the concept of “mixed marriages” far to the extreme. After all Roman Catholics do uphold the premise of the “Domestic Church” ! But very honestly your question is exactly what many in the Vatican had so feared.

    • William Tighe says:

      “But my issue is with those Married Priests that are ordained into the Ordinariate but with wives that are not following their husbands into the Faith, instead continuing to remain Protestants .”

      Interesting; I wonder how common this is. The (Eastern) Orthodox will commonly not ordain a married man (whether Orthodox-born or a convert) whose wife is not Orthodox (I would have written “invariably” rather than generally, except for the fact that there was a notorious case in England ca. 15 years ago of a scholarly Anglican clergyman who divorced his wife to marry one of his graduate students, had to resign from the Anglican ministry as a result, became Orthodox some years later, and some years later still was ordained in a “jurisdiction” of the Orthodox Church, despite his second wife’s not being Orthodox.) I would opine that the Orthodox practice is a wise one.

  2. EPMS says:

    A letter from the would-be priest’s wife supporting his decision to seek Catholic ordination is part of the application package for a nulla osta. I imagine that theoretically it could be persuasive despite the wife’s decision not to follow her husband into the Church, but this would probably require some rhetorical power.

  3. Rev22:17 says:


    With regard to the issue of celibacy that Msgr. Barnes raised in this article, Pope Francis has expressed a desire to relax the discipline in clerical celibacy to permit ordination of married men to the order of presbyter as a matter of normal practice throughout the Roman Rite.

    However, the pope also stated that he wants the initiative on this to come up from the episcopal conferences rather than down from the Vatican — undoubtedly in recognition that practical issues require local resolution to make it work.

    As I have noted on previous occasions, (1) the configuration of many Catholic rectories, designed to accommodate celibate clergy, might not be suitable for married clergy with children and (2) the budgets of many dioceses will need major realignment to provide a decent standard of living for large numbers of clergy who are married and have children.

    With the pope’s expression of a clear desire to change the discipline, there’s little doubt that many episcopal conferences are quietly addressing these issues. When an episcopal conference votes to relax the discipline of celibacy within its territory, that relaxation undoubtedly will extend to the ordinariate(s) therein.


    • But this is exactly the opposite development to what Mgr. Barnes suggests.

      A married clergy is already Anglican patrimony, as it is the patrimony of the Eastern Churches. Therefore an amendment to Anglicanorum coetibus, permitting the ordination of married or celibate men as a norm would indeed make a lot of sense, especially as it is specified that the Ordinary may be a celibate bishop or a married presbyter.

      What the Latin-Rite dioceses do is a totally different matter.

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