Vatican clarifies celibacy issue for Anglican clergy who convert

Cardinal Levada

Cardinal Levada

Seminarians from Anglican communities who join the Catholic Church under new papal provisions would be required to be celibate as a rule, said the head of the Vatican's doctrinal office.

However, Cardinal William Levada, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, left open the possibility that there could be exceptions to this requirement in a statement issued by the Holy See Press Office on 31 October.

"With regard to future seminarians, it was considered purely speculative whether there might be some cases in which a dispensation from the celibacy rule might be petitioned," the cardinal stated.

"For this reason," he said, "objective criteria about any such possibilities (eg married seminarians already in preparation) are to be developed jointly by the Personal Ordinariate and the Episcopal Conference, and submitted for approval of the Holy See."

The cardinal was responding to media speculation concerning the issue of celibacy in the forthcoming Vatican document on the creation of "personal ordinariates" - similar to dioceses - for Anglicans entering into full communion with the Catholic Church.

The American-born cardinal said there was "no substance" to press speculation that the delay in publishing the apostolic constitution was due to "disagreement about whether celibacy will be the norm for the future clergy of the Provision."

Married Anglican ministers may be allowed to become Catholic priests "on a case by case basis," as is the current practice, said the cardinal.

The Vatican cardinal said the delay in publishing the apostolic constitution "is purely technical in the sense of ensuring consistency in canonical language and references."

He anticipated that the technical work on the document and the "norms" that will accompany it "will be completed by the end of the first week of November" but did not give a date for actual publication.

It is not clear whether the document will be published before Archbishop Rowan Williams of Canterbury, head of the 80-million strong Anglican Communion, meets Pope Benedict XVI in a private audience in the Vatican on 21 November.

Dr Williams is coming to Rome for a symposium on 19 November  to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the birth of one of the great figures of the Catholic ecumenical movement, the Dutch-born Cardinal Jan Willebrands. He was president of what is today known as the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity from 1969 to 1988.

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