Married Priests in the Roman Catholic Church – a Possibility

Pope says married men could be ordained priests if world’s bishops agree on it
10 April 2014 15:23 by Christa Pongratz-Lippitt

A bishop who met with Pope Francis in a rare private audience on 4 April has said in an interview that the two men discussed the issue of the ordination of “proven” married men – viri probati – in a serious and positive way.

Bishop Erwin Kräutler, Bishop of Xingu in the Brazilian rainforest, spoke to the Pope about Francis’ forthcoming encyclical on the environment, and the treatment of indigenous peoples but the desperate shortage of priests in the bishop’s huge diocese came up in the conversation. According to an interview the Austrian-born bishop gave to the daily Salzburger Nachrichten on 5 April, the Pope was open-minded about finding solutions to the problem, saying that bishops’ conferences could have a decisive role.

“I told him that as bishop of Brazil’s largest diocese with 800 church communities and 700,000 faithful I only had 27 priests, which means that our communities can only celebrate the Eucharist twice or three times a year at the most,” Bishop Kräutler said. “The Pope explained that he could not take everything in hand personally from Rome. We local bishops, who are best acquainted with the needs of our faithful, should be corajudos, that is ‘courageous’ in Spanish, and make concrete suggestions,” he explained. A bishop should not act alone, the Pope told Kräutler. He indicated that “regional and national bishops’ conferences should seek and find consensus on reform and we should then bring up our suggestions for reform in Rome,” Kräutler said.

Asked whether he had raised the question of ordaining married men at the audience, Bishop Kräutler replied: “The ordination of viri probati, that is of proven married men who could be ordained to the priesthood, came up when we were discussing the plight of our communities. The Pope himself told me about a diocese in Mexico in which each community had a deacon but many had no priest. There were 300 deacons there who naturally could not celebrate the Eucharist. The question was how things could continue in such a situation.

“It was up to the bishops to make suggestions, the Pope said again.”

Bishop Kräutler was then asked whether it now depended on bishops’ conferences, as to whether church reforms proceeded or not. “Yes,” he replied. “After my personal discussion with the Pope I am absolutely convinced of this.”

Last September the Vatican Secretary of State, then-Archbishop Pietro Parolin – who was then Apostolic Nuncio to Venezuela – answered a question put to him by El Universal newspaper by stating that priestly celibacy “is not part of church dogma and the issue is open to discussion because it is an ecclesiastical tradition”. “Modifications can be made, but these must always favour unity and God’s will,” he said. “God speaks to us in many different ways. We need to pay attention to this voice that points us towards causes and solutions, for example the clergy shortage.”

In 2006 Brazilian Cardinal Claudio Hummes issued a clarification in the Holy SeeBollettino reiterating his support of church teaching and tradition just hours after telling a Sao Paolo newspaper: “Celibacy is a discipline, not a dogma of the Church … Certainly, the majority of the apostles were married. In this modern age, the Church must observe these things, it has to advance with history.”

The topic of ordaining “viri probati” was raised with a question mark over it in a speech by Cardinal Angelo Scola of Venice, at the October 2005 Synod on the Eucharist – the first synod of Pope Benedict XVI.

“To confront the issue of the shortage of priests, some … have put forward the request to ordain married faithful of proven faith and virtue, the so-called viri probati,” he said. Cardinal Scola, who read his speech in Latin in the presence of Pope Benedict, did not say which bishops from which countries had suggested discussing the ordination of older married men.

Above: Lay Catholics have become familiar with the sight of married priests who were formerly in the Anglican or Lutheran Churches, or who minister in international dioceses of Eastern Rite Churches such as the Maronite Church (pictured). Photo: CNS


This article in ‘The Tablet’ (the premiere R.C. newspaper in the U.K.) speaks of the possibility of allowing married men to become priests in the Roman Catholic Church – dependent on the agreement of the world’s Roman Catholic Bishops!

In conversation with PopeFrancis recently, on the shortage of priests – Bishop Irwin Krautler said that  “I told him that, as bishop of Brazil’s largest diocese with 800 church communities and 700,000 faithful, I only had 27 priests, which means that our communities can only celebrate the Eucharist twice or three times a year at the most.” 

From this article, one can clearly discern the great need for more priests in South America, where Roman Catholics are having to make do with a sparse diet of Eucharistic Nurture. One cannot be surprised that this has caused this pragmatic successor in the Throne of Peter to re-assess the real need of the Church for more priests if the Church is to survive in its present constitution. Without Eucharistic ministry, which is at the heart of Catholic teaching, the Church will have great difficulty in carrying out its appointed mission to the world in which is operates.

This is surely an important example of where the Church needs to meet the real needs of its constituents. If the present code of discipline for priestly ministry – that of the need for celibate men – does not meet the needs of the mission, then some alternative has to be put in place, and urgently.  In South America, where parishes are deprived of sacramental ministry because of the acute shortage of suitable celibate males to become priests,  the first step would be to ordain non-celibate males. If this does not provide enough new recruits, then, who knows, Rome may yet agree that its women, also made in the Image of Likeness of God, might be considered fit for ordination. Mind you, that might take more than the patriarchal magisterial system of the papacy could stand at this present time.

However, if anyone at the Vatican could bring about the miracle that such radical re-organisation requires – to meet the present and future need – Pope Francis is the one to encourage it. Remarkably, although Pope Francis clearly agrees with his brother bishop as to the real need of married clergy – he does not assume his role of exercising the papal Magisterium to enforce his opinion on the Church. Rather, emulating the humility of his illustrious forebear, Saint Francis of Assisi, he leaves any decision to his brother bishops.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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‘Church Times’ on ‘Same-Sex Marriage v. Murder in Africa’

We face attacks if C of E marriage policy changes’

Madeleine Davies

by Madeleine Davies - ‘Church Times’ - Posted: 11 Apr 2014 @ 12:14

Click to enlarge

BISHOPS in South Sudan have confirmed the Archbishop of Canterbury’s warning that Christians in their country face a violent reaction if the Church of England permits same-sex marriage and blessings.

Archbishop Welby gave his warning during a phone-in on LBC radio last Friday. Asked why the Church of England could not permit clergy to bless same-sex relationships, he said: “The impact of that on Christians in countries far from here, like South Sudan, like Nigeria, and other places, would be absolutely catastrophic.”

He spoke of a visit to South Sudan in January: “The church leaders there were saying, please don’t change what you’re doing because then we couldn’t accept your help, and we need your help desperately.”

The LBC presenter, James O’Brien, suggested that gay Christians might interpret the Archbishop’s words as a ban on marrying “because of the conniptions it would give to some, dare we say, less enlightened people in Africa”.

“I don’t think we dare say ‘less enlightened’, actually,” replied the Archbishop. “That’s nothing to do with it. It’s about the fact that I’ve stood by a graveside in Africa of a group of Christians who’d been attacked because of something that had happened far, far away in America.”

Returning to the subject later, he said: “What was said was that ‘If we leave a Christian community in this area’ – I am quoting them – ‘we will all be made to become homosexual; so we are going to kill the Christians.’ The mass grave had 369 bodies in it, and I was standing with the relatives. That burns itself into your soul – as does the suffering of gay people in this country.”

On Tuesday, the Bishop of Maridi, the Rt Revd Justin Badi Arama, verified this report. “Gay relationships in the Church of England would mean the people of South Sudan going back to their traditional religions which do not take them to same-sex practice,” said. “Secondly, there would be continued violence against Christians [in the fear] that they would bring bad and shameful behaviour or homosexual practice, and spread it in the communities.”

Any change would lead to a rift, the Bishop of Wau, the Rt Revd Moses Deng Bol, warned on Wednesday. “The Church of England blessing gay marriages will be dangerous for the Church in South Sudan, because people here, like many African countries, strongly oppose gay marriages. And so they would want the Church here to break relationship with the Church of England.

“As a Church, we need to remain united as a body of Christ. We must be mindful of our brothers and sisters in other parts of the world when taking decisions, because what affects one part of the body affects the whole body as well.”

Bishop Arama concurred: “As South Sudanese, we very much value the partnership, and all the efforts of the Church of England to support the Church in Sudan during all the difficult moments in our history. Same-sex practice would distort this long history, because light and darkness cannot stay together. It is our prayer that the Church of England should not follow the world into darkness, but lead the world into light.”

On Thursday, the Bishop of Cueibet, the Rt Revd Elijah Matueny Awet, said that, if the Church of England blessed gay relationships, Christians in South Sudan would “go back and worship their traditional beliefs and Gods [rather] than worshipping the true God. . . Islam will grow rapidly in South Sudan because of the pagan believing on same-sex marriage.”

He argued, however, that it would not lead to reprisals in South Sudan, which would take a different path to that pursued in the West.

“We have been described by English people and American that we are a rude community . . . The question now, is who is rude now? Is it the one who is claiming his or her right? The one who is forcing people to accept his behavior?”

Clergy elsewhere have been critical of Archbishop Welby’s comments. On the same day as the broadcast, the Bishop of California, the Rt Revd Marc Andrus, described them as simplistic.

“His proposed way forward – to continue to oppress LGBT people in the UK – will fail to keep Africans safe for this reason: if Africa is watching the UK as closely as the Archbishop would have us all believe, then they will not miss that the spiritual head of the Anglican Communion is on the side of continued second-class citizenship for LGBT people.”

In the UK, the Vicar of St Mary with All Souls’, Kilburn, and St James’s, West Hampstead, the Revd Andrew Cain, said that the Archbishop had “allowed himself to be subject to moral blackmail of the worst sort”. Mr Cain plans to marry his same-sex partner later this year.

“The solution is perhaps not sacrificing the mission imperatives of our country to the frankly bullying tactics of some African prelates, but to recognise that it is perhaps time that the position of primus inter pares of the Archbishop of Canterbury in the Anglican Communion is no longer tenable, and to give it up to a rotating leadership. That would . . . set the Church here free to be the Church of England, and not caught in some awkward mid-point between African and European cultural and religious traditions and developments.”

On Monday, Davis Mac-iyalla, a gay Nigerian Anglican who has sought asylum in the UK after receiving death threats, said that clashes in Nigeria had “no link with homosexuality at all. . . I was very shocked when the Archbishop tried to make that statement that rights given in the UK will affect Christians in Africa, and I think he is wrong in that statement or mistaken.”

He suggested that it was conservative Christians in Nigeria who “try to portray the picture that it will have consequences, but it will not”.

During the phone-in, the Archbishop reiterated a traditional position on same-sex relationships: “My position is the historic position of the Church, which is in our canons, which says that sexual relations should be within marriage, and marriage is between a man and a woman.”

Asked whether he could imagine a day when two people of the same sex married in the Church of England, he said: “I look at the scriptures, I look at the teaching of the Church, I listen to Christians round the world, and I have real hestitations about that.

“I am incredibly uncomfortable about saying that. I really don’t want to say no to people who love each other, but you have to have a sense of following what the teaching of the Church is. We can’t just make sudden changes.”

On Wednesday, in an interview with the Anglican Journal during his visit to Canada, the Archbishop said: “One of the things that’s most depressing about the response to that [LBC] interview is that almost nobody listened to what I said. . .

“What I was saying is that when we take actions in one part of the Church, particularly actions that are controversial, that they are heard and felt not only in that part of the Church but around the world . . . And, this is not mere consequentialism. I’m not saying that because there will be consequences to taking action, that we shouldn’t take action. What I’m saying is that love for our neighbour, love for one another, compels us to consider carefully how that love is expressed, both in our own context and globally. We never speak the essential point that, as a Church, we never speak only in our local situation. Our voice carries around the world.”

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Wading through this ‘Church Times’ report about the ABC’s connection between any prospect of the Church of England’s acceptance of Same-Sex Marriage in England and Wales and the possibility of the murder of Christians in Africa; I came upon this item from a statement made by one of the South Sudanese Anglican Bishops

‘Bishop Arama concurred: “As South Sudanese, we very much value the partnership, and all the efforts of the Church of England to support the Church in Sudan during all the difficult moments in our history. Same-sex practice would distort this long history, because light and darkness cannot stay together. It is our prayer that the Church of England should not follow the world into darkness, but lead the world into light.” ‘

One can understand the cultural difficulty for African people’s acceptance of same-sex relationships – as being, for them, ‘counter-cultural’. However, for Bishop Arama to compare same-sex ‘practice’ with ‘darkness’ as seemingly opposed to heterosexual practice as ‘light’, is to ignore the modern understanding of homosexuality as a given for a minority of human beings and, therefore, worthy of expression for those who have no other way of being. Homosexuals are not necessarily called to celibacy just because they are homosexual. Nor is homosexuality considered to be a ‘sickness’ in the modern world.

Africans have their own cultural attitudes, but they need to learn that we in the Western Churches of the Anglican Communion no longer denigrate people who happen to be gifted with a different sexual-orientation from the binary ‘norm’. Such people have a right to express their human love in ways that are consonant with monogamous faithfulness to one partner – as is also expected with heterosexual relationships. The big problem for the Church and Society is when monogamous relationships are spurned, in favour of licentiousness – whether for heterosexual or same-sex couples. If monogamous relationships are generally accepted as serving ‘A Common Good’, then this should be everyone’s right.

Also, on this subject; local communities must be allowed to conduct their polity on locally agreed parameters. The law of the land – as long as it is based on a respect for the rights of the individual to flourish in that community, with regard for the common good – must determine how the Church is to operate in that place. International courts have the capability of determining whether, or not, the individual human rights afforded to the citizens of those countries that sign up to a common polity meet the standards set down by the courts as being for the common good.

Because the law in certain African countries mitigates against the human rights of LGBTI people; this does not mean that we in other countries – whose governments have now outlawed discrimination against LGBTIs – have to live by the oppressive polity of such African regimes.  In England and Wales (the catchment area of the Churches of England and Wales) discrimination on the grounds of one’s sexual-orientation has now, effectively, been outlawed. It seems to be taking the Church a long time to catch up to the reality; but, on both gender and sexuality issues, the turning tide is inexorable. 

It is of course realised that some countries around the world have yet to sign up to the Charter for Human Rights. It should be part of the pastoral ministry of the Churches of the Anglican Communion to ensure that bigotry and  hatred against  (and, in some places, the murder of)  the LGBTI community, is not  countenanced as part of the way of life for member Churches. Such activity is in itself part and parcel of the darkness of this world, which needs to be exposed for what its really is and brought into the light of day.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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Archbishop of Canterbury: a Canadian Interview

Welby explains gays and violence in Africa remarks

By Marites N. Sison on April, 09 2014

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and Archbishop Fred Hiltz met for two hours at the convent of  Sisters of St. John the Divine in Toronto. Photo: Michael Hudson

After a 12-hour day of back-to-back engagements, a jet-lagged Justin Welby, the 105th Archbishop of Canterbury, sat down for a 15-minute interview with the Anglican Journal late Tuesday evening, April 8.

Welby and his wife, Caroline, arrived in Toronto Monday afternoon for a one and a half day “personal, pastoral visit,” his first, to the Anglican Church of Canada. Welby, whose area of expertise includes conflict resolution, has said that these visits are part of a process for getting to know the primates (senior archbishops) and their churches. The Anglican Communion, which has been struggling with divisions over the issue of sexuality, has about 80 million members in 143 countries. Including Canada, the archbishop has visited 17 of the Communion’s 37 provinces and aims to visit them all by the end of the year or early 2015. He arrives today in Oklahoma City, to visit The Episcopal Church.


Q: How would you describe your first visit to the Anglican Church of Canada? What have you learned about this church that has been most unexpected?

A: Two things have been unexpected, that have been striking. One is the depth of commitment to the truth and reconciliation process, which I didn’t realize quite how deep that went into the life of the church. And, also, the commitment of the church to support the Council of the North dioceses…That’s all part of the same sense of commitment to those who the church has damaged or who are on the edge. The other thing that’s struck me has been the commitment to the Five Marks of Mission and that these are very much part of the strategy of the church, and that’s the vision of the church.

Q: You mentioned in your dinner remarks that your conversation with the primate, Archbishop Fred Hiltz, has been most useful in terms of how to move forward in the Communion.

A: We had two hours together and I find him a particularly helpful, thoughtful and challenging interlocutor, and someone who seems to be able to unlock and unpick issues that were weighing on my mind and to…enable more creativity. I don’t know if that’s part of his life as primate, but I felt that, as a result of the conversation, I was more creative than I was before it.

Q: Could you give us a sense of what you talked about? 

A: There were these obvious things. We talked about the challenge of diversity in the Communion, that we have such breathtaking diversity across the Communion, that it’s a massive task to even think about how we can relate to each other effectively. We talked quite a lot about the companion dioceses and the value they are…the depth they get into.

Q: In 2016, the church’s General Synod will be presented with a resolution changing the marriage canon to allow same-sex marriage. Is this a cause for concern?

A: That’s a really tough question. Well, it’s got to be a cause for concern because this is a particularly tough issue to deal with…And, I hope that two or three things happen: I hope that the church, in its deliberations, is drawing on the wealth of its contribution to the Anglican Communion and the worldwide church, to recognize…the way it works and how it thinks, to recognize the importance of its links. And that, in its deliberations, it is consciously listening to the whole range of issues that are of concern in this issue. We need to be thinking; we need to be listening to the LGBT voices and to discern what they’re really saying because you can’t talk about a single voice anymore than you can with any other group. There needs to be listening to Christians from around the world; there needs to be listening to ecumenical partners, to interfaith partners. There needs to be a commitment to truth in love and there needs to be a commitment to being able to disagree in a way that demonstrates that those involved in the discussions love one another as Christ loves us. That’s the biggest challenge, that in what we do, we demonstrate that love for Christ in one another.

Q: Some people have reacted strongly to your statements about the issue of gay marriage in your interview with LBC radio.

A: Lots of people have.

Q: Were you in fact blaming the death of Christians in parts of Africa on the acceptance of gay marriage in America?

A: I was careful not to be too specific because that would pin down where that happened and that would put the community back at risk. I wouldn’t use the word “blame”— that’s a misuse of words in the context. One of the things that’s most depressing about the response to that interview is that almost nobody listened to what I said; they mostly imagined what they thought I said…It was not only imagination, it was a million miles away from what I said.

Q: So what exactly were you saying?

A: What I was saying is that when we take actions in one part of the church, particularly actions that are controversial, that they are heard and felt not only in that part of the church but around the world…And, this is not mere consequentialism; I’m not saying that because there will be consequences to taking action, that we shouldn’t take action. What I’m saying is that love for our neighbour, love for one another, compels us to consider carefully how that love is expressed, both in our own context and globally. We never speak the essential point that, as a church, we never speak only in our local situation. Our voice carries around the world. Now that will be more true in some places than in others. It depends on your links. We need to learn to live as a global church in a local context and never to imagine that we’re just a local church. There is no such thing.

Q: You’ve said the issue of same-sex marriage is a complex one that you wrestle with every day and often in the middle of the night…

A: I have about a million questions. I think really I’ve said as much as I want to on that subject.

Q: You recently released a video collaboration with Cardinal Vincent Nichols. What was the impetus for that?

A: It came about in the discussions we were having together. We meet together to discuss and pray quite regularly and out of that came the sense that we ought to do something public and visible that demonstrated what the church is already doing, to draw attention to that and that we’re centered both in prayer and social action. 

Q: Is there an Easter message you’d like to give to Canadian-Anglicans?

A: I would say that at the heart of my own thinking as we approach Easter is to recall the joy that is in the risen Christ.

Q: Is it harder for you now to be on Twitter because you’re the Archbishop of Canterbury? 

A: Yes.

Q: Are you less candid?

A: I’m not necessarily less candid. It’s very interesting with social media, isn’t it? Every day I get loads of questions directed at me through a Twitter message—everything from “What’s your favourite book?” to “Are you really saying…whatever?” Sadly, there’s really no way I can respond to those—it’s just impossible. I would do nothing else all day, and then I wouldn’t get through it. One of the things I find difficult is ignoring responses to things that are tweeted because everything in me wants to respond to the people who’ve responded to me. But it’s just not possible. The other thing is that you just become aware of the dark side of all these things: that people feel that they can write things about other people, and not just about myself, which are really horrible. And so I have to say there are moments when you think, “I just don’t know if I want to put up something on social media because it will just unleash a torrent of abuse from some people.” But in the end you think, “Well, I won’t read it…there’s no point… I’m just going to get on with life.”

Q: Do you still compose your own tweets? 

A: Yes.

Q: You don’t have a minder doing that for you?

A: No, no. I said it’s got to be authentic. It’s got to be me; that’s why there are sometimes gaps. I’ll go through a few days where nothing particularly occurs to me or I’m travelling. I’m not on Twitter today—I might just manage it today before I go to sleep. Some days, lots of things happen; other days, my mind is a perfect blank…

Q: You also need to be kind to yourself.

A: I do know about that, but you at least have to know when you’re going to bore people stiff.

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Thanks to Marites N. Sisson, of the Canadian “Anglican Journal’, for this interview with the Archbishop of Canterbury, during his visit with Archbishop Fred Hiltz, the Canadian Anglican Primate, in Toronto, during the course of a lightning visit to the Provinces of Canada and the U.S.A. Asked about his use of ‘Twitter’ as a means of  communication with people in today’s world, the ABC admits that he find this particular form of social media frustrating – as everyone expects a personal answer to queries that he can find difficult to answer ‘on the wing’.

On more substantive matters, within his orbit as Primus-inter-pares in the world-wide Anglican Communion, Archbishop Justin has been obviously challenged by the questioning of his statement made in a recent LBC television interview in the U.K., that what the Church of England did about its acceptance, or not, of Same-Sex Marriage would endanger the lives of Anglican (or other) Christians in African countries, where such relationships are banned. Naturally, perhaps, as one of the points he made in his broadcast was that certain Church activity in North America had caused many deaths in parts of Africa.

In this interview, the Archbishop was careful to say that his reference to the connection between what the Anglican Church decided to do about Same-Sex Marriage, and the fact of murder of Christians in African countries was ‘not mere consequentialism’; “I’m not saying that because there will be consequences to taking action, that we shouldn’t take action. What I’m saying is that love for our neighbour, love for one another, compels us to consider carefully how that love is expressed, both in our own context and globally”. On the face of it this would seem to be a not unreasonable statement.

However, what seems to have missing in this context, is the fact that the criminalisation of homosexuals in African countries may not seem to prick the consciences of the hierarchy of the Church of England to the same extent. If the Church of England declares the fact that homophobia is a sin, why is it not – in the context of ‘mutual accountability’ suggested by the ABC – a matter that should be absorbing the efforts of the other members of the Anglican Communion in protesting against such persecution? What is the Church doing about bringing justice to bear  on the African Churches towards their treatment of those people who cannot help being homosexual?

The fact that the Anglican Church of Canada has now authorised the Blessing of Same-Sex Partnerships, in parishes where both priest and people are happy with this new arrangement, could not have been avoided during the talks between the two Archbishops. And very soon, in his talks with the Presiding Bishop of TEC, the Archbishop of Canterbury will have been very much aware of TEC’s historic stance on this issue. One might hope that something of the conversations will have helped the ABC to a better understanding of the situation of the Anglican Churches in North America; and how, if at all, this situation should be allowed to influence the Churches  of the United Kingdom and other Provinces of the Anglican Communion in their approach to same-sex relationships. Communication, after all, is not just on a one-way basis only.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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Fine By Me: An All-Embracing Love

By Eric Immel, SJ on April 8, 2014 (The Jesuit Post)


With Open Arms

The first time a friend came out to me I was shopping for a Campbell’s Soup Can costume at a Target in St. Louis. As I searched for a means to disguise myself as comfort food he chose to reveal part of his true self to me. It might have been the environment or the context we were in, but I wasn’t alarmed by his revelation. Quite the contrary. It was an invitation to experience and understand my friend in a deeper way. Sometimes, we might need to keep ourselves hidden, but other times, the costumes must come off.

Growing up in Green Bay, I had a pretty homogenous worldview. For the majority of my youth I thought that every black man that I saw played for the Packers. It wasn’t until an embarrassing encounter in a Foot Locker (another story altogether!) that I learned otherwise. Admittedly, I had much to discover about diversity, difference, and privilege. My college years at Saint Louis University were filled with nights of deep discussion about race and sexuality, grounded in mutual respect, honest dialogue, and a spirit of reconciliation. It’s a classic tale, really–guy goes to college, gets rocked by the vastness of the human experience, and strives to go further still in how he engages the world.

While I had many gay friends at SLU, it was still a relatively closeted community. When I began working and studying at UW-Madison many of the students I encountered identified openly as Queer. Condoms were passed out ad nauseum by people wearing gigantic condom hats and there was a student organization called “Sex Out Loud.” Needless to say, it was much different than my preceding 17 years of Catholic education. My understanding of the students’ unique and often challenging circumstances with family and friends, their network at the University, and their efforts to educate others about Queer issues grew tremendously. I became an active supporter of LGBTQ student groups and programs, an ally, if you will. I quickly learned that being an ally comes with its own risks and challenges.

During Lent my first year in Madison there was a PR program through the LGBT Campus Center. The catch phrase for the campaign was “Gay? Fine by me.” I wore my bright blue t-shirt often and pinned a small yellow button bearing the slogan on my backpack. I believed in what they said. Since it was Lent I was attending daily Masses. One day I visited the chapel around noon and set my backpack down beside me in the pew. When the time came for the sign of peace an older professor type (a daily Mass regular) offered his hand. He pulled me close and said quietly, “You should be ashamed to wear that pin in here.” These words deflated me.

I abandoned daily Mass for the remainder of Lent because I was unwilling to remove the pin from my bag and also unwilling to face the shame I felt because of his comment. I looked at the world around me–Madison, the liberal capital of Wisconsin–and felt guilty for the comfort I experienced in that environment as a Catholic man. I deeply wanted to be supportive of the Queer community, but because of that one comment it seemed that my own faith community couldn’t affirm me in that desire. It was a hard time for me to be Catholic.


But my faith persists. I’ve since entered the Society of Jesus, and as a Jesuit scholastic I’m grateful to have heard other voices in the community of faith. I’m happy to seek out places of encounter, of welcome, and of dialogue. I’m back on campus at another Jesuit university for my philosophy studies. Recently there have been panels on Queer Theology, free showings of “Dallas Buyers Club,” and programs discussing LGBT issues and Ignatian spirituality. I regularly hear “Same Love” blaring in the gym. There are many people working to make this a place of welcome and understanding. There are still many tough questions to be asked and answered.

When I look to the history of my church I realize that we have a community of believers whose arms have been opened wider and wider by the movement of the Holy Spirit. These open arms are not new; indeed, the love Christ witnessed is this ‘same love’ we witness moving in our lives today; it’s a love of radical inclusion. We have a Pope who says in action and deed that our voices of judgement and exclusion have been given a pulpit for far too long. He speaks instead in a voice of mercy and forgiveness about a culture of compassion and encounter.

Every time I walk into our chapel on campus the image I’m met with is one of a God whose arms are spread wide, a God crucified for love. This God tells me that no one is turned away, not because of a pin on their backpack, who they hold hands with, or how they reconcile their own lives with a world that can at times bear hatred and discord. In that image lies a model for Christian love and my own hope. In this church I pray for the willingness to wrap my own arms around even those who withdraw in fear from the work being done and the hard work yet to do all in the name of love.


A dear friend of mine, educated by the Jesuits, keeps me up to date with one of their latest publications in the U.S.. This piece, an article by Eric Immel, S.J., describes the pilgrimage from ignorance of the phenomenon, to an accepting embrace of homosexual people – on the part of a young man who has now devoted his life to Christ in the Jesuit Order. It’s sheer humanity and Gospel inclusiveness, is a tonic for all who believe that LGBTI people are fellow children of God and worthy of respect and nurture.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand


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Anglican & Catholic Theologians in Dialogue in England

Anglican, Catholic theologians host informal dialogue in England

 |  NCR Today
A group of 16 prominent Anglican and Catholic theologians met for five days last week in Canterbury, England, to continue a set of informal dialogues between the two churches.Although not officially sanctioned by either denomination, the gathering, known as the “Malines Conversations Group,” has support from both the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Christian Unity and Anglican officials in London.At one point last week, the 16 were received together at the Anglican church’s London headquarters at Lambeth Palace where they met with both Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury and head of the Anglican Communion, and Vincent Nichols, the cardinal archbishop of the Catholic archdiocese of Westminster.Nichols and Welby told the group, which had been meeting on the theme “Memory, Identity, and Difference,” they are serving as a “laboratory” for efforts of dialogue between the two churches, according to a release from the group about the meeting.

Welby, the group said in the release, focused his remarks on “the importance of pilgrimage in our ecumenical relations.”

Among other topics addressed at the dialogues, according to the release: “liturgy as dangerous memory; the ethics of liturgy; the spiritual renewal of our Churches; [and] the changing face of Anglicanism and Roman Catholicism.”

Also presenting during the meetings were retired Mechelen-Brussels Cardinal Godfried Danneels and retired Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams.

Last week’s meeting was the second for the group, which previously met last year in Belgium. They are planning another meeting for March 2015.

The group takes its name from the French name for the Belgian city of Mechelen, where the late Cardinal Désiré-Joseph Mercier held a series of similar dialogues in the 1920s. Official dialogues between Anglicans and Roman Catholics take place within the Anglican and Roman Catholic International Commission and the International Anglican-Roman Catholic Commission for Unity and Mission.

Among others taking part in last week’s dialogues:

  • Anglican priest Jennifer Cooper, a professor at the College of the Resurrection in Mirfield, West Yorkshire, UK;
  • Anglican Fr. Jeremy Morris, the dean of King’s College, Cambridge;
  • Anglican Archbishop David Moxon, the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Representative to the Holy See;
  • Saskatoon, Canada, Catholic Bishop Donald Bolen, a co-chair of the Anglican-Roman Catholic Commission;
  • Fr. Anthony Currer, an English Catholic diocesan priest who serves at the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Christian Unity;
  • Paul Murray, president of the Catholic Theological Association of Great Britain and a professor at the UK’s Durham University.
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Thanks to the National Catholic Recorder for this article.

Those in our Church today who question the catholicity of the Church of England and other Anglican Churches around the world, need to understand the deep convergence that does exist between Roman Catholic and Anglican theologians who seek to cultivate a closer relationship between our two branches of the Universal Church.

This particular meeting of Anglican and Roman Catholic theologians – included our very own Bishop David Moxon (former Pakeha Archbishop of ACANZP, and presently Head of the Anglican Centre in Rome); together with the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby; Roman Catholic Cardinals Vincent Nichols (Westminster) and Godfried Danneels (ex-Brussels); and the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams.

The initial ecumenical impetus for such informal meetings came from the late lamented Cardinal Mercier in the 1920s, under whose auspices the very first informal ecumenical gatherings of Roman Catholic and Anglican theologians took place.

Encouraging is the fact that such dialogue continues – separately from the ongoing official dialogue between our two Churches at the ARCIC meetings – of which Bishop David Moxon is a co-convenor – which take place on a formal inter-Church basis between Anglican and Roman Catholic appointed delegates.

A most interesting feature of this meeting was the presence among the theologians of an Anglican woman priest, ‘Jennifer Cooper, a professor at the College of the Resurrection in Mirfield, West Yorkshire, UK’. When one considers that the College of the Resurrection, an Anglo-Catholic Theological College of the Church of England, has not long been used to including women clergy on its academic staff, this is a real breakthrough from the earlier ‘men-only’ tradition. This will bring a female perspective into the discussion. 

No doubt, in these times of controversy within both our respective Churches, such informally arranged meetings between theologians of both faith communities will generate further possibilities of convergence on issues concerning the mission of the Church in the future – where challenges from secular society will need to be addressed in common with our shared inheritance in the Gospel.

May the Holy Spirit bring light and truth into these conversations!

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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Equal marriage – what’s a parish vicar to do?

by  on April 4, 2014 J

Jesus’ presence at a wedding party initially seems unremarkable – he simply responded to an invitation. When the celebration was about to be cut short by the lack of wine, he was at first reluctant to help, saying “My time has not yet come”. But before long, (an inordinate) amount of washing-water had been turned into fine drink in an act of generous, almost reckless liberality. An unplanned moment revealed him as an agent of his Father’s blessing.

In our parish tonight, almost on our doorstep, there’s going to be another wedding party. Peter McGraith and David Cabreza will begin one of the country’s first same-sex marriages in the Council Chamber at Islington Town Hall.

I don’t know Peter or David and I haven’t been invited to their wedding. But human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell has issued an invitation on his website, for people to celebrate outside in Upper Street from 11pm, with rainbow flags, streamers, whistles, sparklers, vuvuzelas and flowers. It sounds like it’s going to be a huge party.

This nicely illustrates the predicament that vicars like me find ourselves in.

The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 comes into force tomorrow and soon same-sex marriages won’t be a novelty, they’ll simply be facts of public life. The Act itself prevents the celebration of same-sex marriages in the Church of England. The House of Bishops has made it clear that clergy may not provide services of blessing, since the Christian understanding of marriage remains that it is between one man and one woman.

I take the discipline of the Church seriously. After all, my parish ministry isn’t mine alone. It belongs to Jesus Christ, to the worldwide Church and to the Church of England. It also belongs to my bishop, with whom it is shared and by whom it is licensed. Like all licensed clergy, I have taken an oath of obedience. I will abide by the rules as they are and I won’t be conducting blessings of same-sex marriages.

But still the question remains. What should I do tonight, when the streets of our parish are teeming with people celebrating the momentous introduction of equal marriage?

I have read the recent Pilling Report, and many of the other studies on homosexuality, which describe the wide range of views in the Church of England. We won’t ever find a clever theoretical settlement on this issue that finally resolves all debate.

Things change at midnight. The Church held out for the conventional understanding of marriage. It put its case, and lost. There is absolutely no prospect of reversing the law. So the manner of our theology must change. Instead of analysis in the abstract, we are required to do theology in the moment, in the local context with all its complexity.

This is always the best place for theology and it’s one reason that the parish system is a treasure of the Church of England. The parish system means that we vicars can’t pretend about the world as it is. We can’t lock the doors of our buildings and do our theology in laboratory conditions. We can’t be content to think in the abstract about idealized lives. Nor can we settle for recruiting a congregation with narrow interests or to build a community in our own image. God calls us out, into the world, among it all and to seek him and his Kingdom there.

We must seek to understand scripture and to apply our faith among the lives that are lived in the streets outside the church. Our theology and our pastoral practice must always be adequate for the parish. Or else they’re not adequate at all.

Throughout Jesus’ itinerant ministry in the years that followed that rather awkward moment at the wedding in Cana, he was confronted with more real-life situations. So the parish clergy of the Church of England find ourselves regularly in moments where some kind of pastoral response is required of us. The reality is that our ministries will now take place in a society which includes the fact of same-sex marriage. We’ll need to work out responses that are, at the very least, welcoming and accepting.

For me tonight with a party on our doorstep it’s rather challenging. Should I respond by staying in and going to bed early, or by going out and seeing what’s happening outside?

I’ve decided to go outside. I can’t pray God’s blessing on Peter and David as they begin their marriage. But I can show my support for their commitment and wish them well.

My personal preference has always been to do theology from the ground up, working with both context and scripture, meeting real people who live real lives and making a space for hope, knowledge of God, mercy and peace, grace and truth. So I’m relieved that the phase of campaigning and theorising is over. Christianity is much better at dealing with facts, rather than hypotheses. And now the facts include equal marriage.

I’m open to more learning in this and I’ve been glad to learn from people with whom I disagree, as well as those who share my thoughts. My personal views began to change long ago to be more inclusive and accepting. I’m certain that our church will remain open to all people, regardless of their sexuality and lifestyle. We will do our best to be non-judgemental and to be generous in our invitations. We will remain an “open evangelical” church. Open to God in his life-giving word and open to the real lives of those around us.

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Bishop David Rice – from Waiapu/NZ to San Joaquin, USA

David Rice steps up to the challenge

Waiapu’s former bishop is “seated” for a trail-blazing role: Bishop of San Joaquin in central California.


Despite huge challenges, the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin in central Califorrnia is fronting up to new frontiers of mission under Bishop David Rice.

Formerly the Bishop of Waiapu, +David was elected and “seated” at a special convention in St Paul’s Church, Bakersfield, on Saturday.

It’s a brave new world for Episcopalians in San Joaquin, following a breakaway by the former bishop along with many of his clergy and parishes seven years ago.

Most departing parishes took their properties with them. However, In every parish a remnant stayed committed to the Episcopal Church of the United States (ECUSA), and Bishop David has been called to lead the rebuilding of the diocese – a big challenge indeed.

St Paul’s, Bakersfield, is one of the properties returned to the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin after several years of litigation.

On Saturday morning, the special convention heard from the president of the diocesan standing committee about the search for a new bishop and the eventual choice of Bishop David.

The resolutions necessary to elect him were then put and passed unanimously – to sustained acclamation.

There was obvious delight and energy as the convention looked to a new era. I was impressed, too, by the calibre of the diocesan leadership.

But huge challenges lie ahead. More legal cases are in process, with the biggest not expected to conclude before June.

The good news for the Episcopal Church is that the courts are generally ruling in its favour.

Members of the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin have also discovered that a lack of buildings has enabled their mission to be leaner, more focussed, and in many places more effective.

There’s even talk of selling much of the property that is being returned, and continuing with new strategies for mission.

The convention was chaired by Bishop Chester Talton, who came out of retirement to assist the diocese part-time at this challenging time.

A gracious man, he has clearly done much to draw the diocese together and launch this new beginning.

Bishop David is the first full- time bishop since the breakaway of the former Bishop, so there was great thanksgiving and joy on Saturday.

I was accompanied to San Joaquin by the Vicar-General of Waiapu, Brian Hamilton, and his wife Susie, and Bishop Ross Bay of Auckland.

In the Kiwi way, we brought Bishop David and Tracy to their new place and handed them into the care of their new diocese.

But not before assuring them of the abiding love of the people of Waiapu and Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia.

Philip Richardson is Archbishop of the New Zealand Dioceses.


What a lovely lot of pictures from the occasion of the enthronement of Bishop David Rice, on his translation from ACANZP to The Episcopal Church in the USA. And so good to hear of this very positive report of the expectations of the San Joaquin Diocese in the wake of the schismatic breakaway of their former Bishop, taking many of the diocesan clergy and parish plant with him. Thank to Anglican Taonga for both pictures and story.

Our Pakeha Archbishop of New Zealand, ++Philip Richardson – who wrote this report for ‘Taonga’ – together with the Bishop of Auckland, +Ross Bay and other Waiapu representatives from New Zealand, performed the typical Kiwi ‘handing-over’ ceremony of Bishop David to his new diocese of San Joaquin, on behalf of us all in ACANZP.

The task ahead for Bishop David, fraught as it may be with the daunting task of re-building the Diocese of San Joaquin from the ground up, is seen here by Archbishop Philip as a task well within the capabilities of the new Bishop, who is a native-born North American, used to the diverse nature of the Anglican Church in New Zealand.

As a former Dean of Dunedin, David Rice became Bishop of Waiapu, where he was known to support the ethnic diversity unique to that Diocese. David was also a well-known and enthusiastic supporter of a new approach in the Church towards Women and Gays, and one suspects that this openness on social justice issues is what commended him to the hierarchy of the Episcopal Church in the USA as a possible contender for leadership in San Joaquin and in the Episcopal Church in North America.

May God richly bless +David and his family as they resume life in their former homeland.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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