The number of married Catholic priests could grow sharply as the result of the Vatican's epochal decision to welcome thousands of disaffected Anglicans and Episcopalians into the Catholic church.
At press conferences in Rome and London on Tuesday, Vatican officials announced that the church would set up a special canonical structure that will ease the conversion of members of the Anglican Communion without them having to give up what the Vatican called "the distinctive Anglican spiritual and liturgical patrimony." That means not only a body of prayers and hymns, but also a tradition of married priests and bishops.
"It's a stunning turn of events," says Lawrence Cunningham, theology professor at Notre Dame University. "This decision will allow for many more married clergy in Western churches, and that's going to raise anew the question, 'If they can do it, why can't the priests of Rome?'" says Cunningham.
But the arrangement with the Anglican Communion goes much further. Cardinal William Levada, the Vatican's top doctrinal official, announced in Rome that the church would set up a personal ordinariate -- in essence a diocese defined not by geography, but by function, like the division that serves Catholics in the military -- for converted Anglicans.
The move comes after years of discord within the Anglican Communion, which unites 77 million Anglicans and Episcopalians under the loose authority of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams. The church has been racked by schisms over the ordination of women and its stance toward homosexuality. Some Anglicans believe the Vatican's move will deepen those divisions.
NO comment ...but its kind of funny!