THE SHORTAGE OF priests is beginning to make itself felt in many parishes in the country.
One practical solution which is being suggested is to redeploy convert Anglican clergymen as parish priests in the Catholic Church. Because of the present anomaly regarding the validity or not of their Anglican priesthood in the view of the magisterium of the Catholic Church, this involves their conditioned reordination.
If they were married, this apparently is not an insuparable obstacle to such redeployment. This can serve to concentrate our attention on what is vital and central to the Sacrament of Orders, and in so doing maybe open the way to another solution to easing the priest shortage.
The fact that the priest, in virtue of the Sacrament of Orders, acts as an instrument of Christ in persona Christi (Catholic Catechism 1548), and this quite independently of his personal, material, or acquired gifts and skills or lack of them, even independently of his personal holiness or not ( Catholic Catechism 1581-2) serves to re-emphasise this crucial element of instrumentality in the few vital acts in which Christ, through the power of the Holy Spirit, continues His saving acts throughout space and time, mainly in the representation of the unique Sacrifice of Calvaryand the sacra ment resulting therefore. Nor is celibacy an indispensable prerequisite or condition on the part of the instrument for this to take place.
Now, as married Anglican clergy can be re-ordained and used as priests in the Catholic Church, surely those Catholics who have already been validly ordained and even exercised a long and fruitful ministry in the Church, but have now been refused the exercise of that instrumental power because of their not having kept a promise to celibacy made at the time of their ordination (but surely not intrinsic to its valid authenticity?), surely they can, with even greater reason be reused, or rather allowed to release their power of Orders, for the benefit of their brother and sisters in Christ?
Many of the priests have continued to live exemplary lives as Catholic married laymen. To the best of estimates there are upward of a thousand such validly ordained priests in this country.
Why is the Church going to such abnormal lengths to allow convert clergy to be reordained, when all it needs to do is to re-allow those already in its midst and validly ordained to exercise Christ's saving act through their ministry?
John McGregor Malvern, Wares