'You were Catholics before deciding to be so. That is why the change has been easy.'
BY ANDREW M BROWN
IN HIS most emphatic statement so far on the flood of former Anglican vicars into the Catholic Church, the Archbishop of Westminster last week said their route into the Catholic priesthood had been "easy" because they were Catholics before "deciding to be so".
Also, he apologised for any "administrative problems and delays", blaming them on "human frailty". In a homily to the six men, five of them married, whom he ordained to the priesthood last Friday in Westminster Cathedral, Cardinal Hume also answered suggestions he called them "personal and private wounds" that the converts had left their original Church because they had "problems with women as such" and not just women's ordination. "This is not so, emphatically not so," the Cardinal said. "Let me be very clear: those, now over 50 of you, who have been ordained for this diocese have been and are a real enrichment."
The Cardinal's diocese is one of the most efficient in England and Wales at receiving and ordaining convert clergymen. The Cardinal explained to the candidates that the process has been "easy for you and for us" because "you were Catholics before your deciding to be so".
But, he added: "The final step to full communion with the Catholic Church was and is essential." He urged prayer that their previous ministry "has been derived of the very fullness of grace and truth entrusted to the Catholic Church".
Then, directing his remarks at the five married men and their wives, he went on to say that although celibacy is the "norm" for Catholic priests, the Pope himself had authorised this departure from the norm.
"I need no other authorisation," he said. "I need no other reason. I am satisfied, and so must you be, that these ordinations of you married men is God's will." The wives, he said, would be part of their husbands' ministry.