NOTTINGHAM - Rt Rev Malcolm McMahon, Bishop Nottingham, has said that with the influx of married Anglican clergy to the Catholic Church, it is unfair to maintain the rule against priests marrying.
The Daily Telegraph yesterday reported that Bishop McMahon said there is no doctrinal reason preventing them from having wives.
While Bishop McMahon said changing the law would not solve the Church's problems in recruiting men for the priesthood, he said that there would be benefits to such a move.
Clergy with a family could offer different gifts and it would enable men who did not feel called to celibacy to enter the priesthood, he said.
"There is no reason why priests shouldn't be allowed to marry... It has always been a matter of discipline rather than doctrine."
Priests have had to take a vow of celibacy after a decree from Pope Gregory VII in the eleventh century, which was then confirmed by subsequent Popes in the following century.
Bishop McMahon said: "It is a question of justice for those men who want to be priests and to have a wife. Marriage should not bar them from their vocation but they must be married before they are ordained. The justice issue also applies to communities which could be deprived of the Eucharist because there aren't enough priests."
"We were told to be generous to the Anglican priests who joined, but we were surprised when the special permission was extended and made available to some who joined the Church of England after 1994 [when women were ordained for the first time].
"This has undoubtedly caused some grievance," he said.
Bishop McMahon defended the Anglicans who had crossed to Rome: "They bring a great experience of family life into the parish. I find that they are excellent at ministering to women."
He warned, however, that such a radical step could present as many problems as solutions. In particular, he expressed concern that supporting families would cause financial difficulties for the Church.
Source: Daily Telegraph