APROPOSAL CALLING for married men to be admitted Id the priesthood narrowly failed to gain approval at the N-ational Conference of Priests (NCP) last week.
A majority of clergy present at the conference at Newman College, Birmingham, indicated their approval of married priests. But the vote failed to achieve the twothirds majority required to make it NCP policy.
Particular concern was fdcussed by delegates on the possible influx of married former Anglican priests. The Wording of the motion was that the Church "should admit to the priesthood suitable married candidates as well as those who have exercised a ministry in another Church".
Proposing the motion, Fr Brian Godden of the Northampton diocese, said: "We should adopt the Greek Catholic practice that a priest cannot marry, but that a married man can be admitted. This is not just about a shortage of priests; it is a good thing in itself."
But in a crucial intervention, Archbishop Derek Worlock, who was present at the NCP, warned against a hasty decision and said that the issue could not be considered without bringing into question the very nature of celibacy.
Although the number of delegates voting on the proposal was small 30 out of 53 delegates present supported the measure the result highlights the sensitivity of clergy on the question of priestly celibacy, in particular on the possible arrival of former Anglican married priests.
The vote came in a week when a number of married Anglican clergy expressed "frustration" at the continuing silence from Rome over whether they would be allowed to become parish priests in the Catholic Church.
More than 100 mainly London-based Anglican clergy have been regularly meeting with Cardinal Basil Hume for much of this year, following the crisis sparked by the Church of England decision to ordain women priests. But many who wish to become Catholics have delayed their reception into the Church while they await Vatican approval for their ministry. Currently there are less than a dozen such married Catholic priests, all of whom are working as hospital, prison or school chaplains rather than in a parish.
In the NCP debate, Fr Michael McKenna from the Hexham and Newcastle diocese, said there was "anger and resentment among many priests" about the prospect of married Anglicans being allowed to run parishes. "It would contrast with the hundreds of Catholic priests who now cannot practise because they have married", he said.
A decision to allow a representative from Advent, the support group for Catholic priests who left to marry, to attend the NCP annually as an observer, was referred to the conference's standing committee for further consideration.
The NCP is made up of four elected representatives from each of the 22 dioceses of England and Wales and the religious orders, as well as chaplains from the armed forces, prisons service and the education world.