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Q & A with Father Anthony



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Is there a loophole for becoming a Catholic Married Priest?

Rick asks:

I apologize if this question has been answered in anyway on another question. I have deeply discerned my priestly vocation nearly daily for about two years. Perusing websites, studying ecclesiology, liturgics, going to Mass daily. I have developed my prayer life greatly over this course and it has truly been a time.

The complication, as I'm sure you were waiting for, is that I have I have a girlfriend of five years. I have talked it over with her for the past year or so that I have spent seriously discerning and praying and I have come to the conclusion that I won't leave her.

So, Father Anthony, I have this one question. Would you consider it vastly immoral for me to first become ordained in an Anglican Communion priesthood and employ the "loophole" to learn the Roman Rite? I know that this is not how the "loophole" was meant to be used. I can only think that this is God's mysterious way to get me into the priesthood, but I would never want to cross what is good and holy and canonically legal.

Thank you, Father.

Dear Rick,

In your situation, there are two realities I think you ought to keep in mind, and I am afraid they are both going to be disappointing in relation to your present thinking.

The first is the true nature of our Christian life and the vocation to the priesthood, the second has to do with the "loophole" you mention. The first, in my view, is the more important of the two.

Jesus was different to other Rabbis in the tradition of Israel, because normally it was the disciple who freely chose which Master he would follow; he listened to one or another, heard them debate, and then made up his mind the one he would study under and be instructed by. In Jesus' case it was the opposite: he chose his disciples, and—this is important—he set the conditions. So, when he said, "follow me", the man called "left everything to go after him."

What this tells us is that any vocational discernment whose focus is what WE would like to do rather than asking Jesus what HE wants us to do, is necessarily incomplete, and in that sense mistaken, or not yet mature. And as we follow our vocation under the guidance of the Holy Spirit there has to be a progressive detachment from everything else that is not Jesus, so as to increasingly seek and live him in everything and above everything.

Since in the Latin Rite of the Roman Catholic Church one of the conditions—or it might be more accurate to call it an additional grace—that comes with the grace of a vocation to the priesthood and is inseparable from it, is the call/gift of priestly celibacy, a Catholic man can take as a sign that he ought or ought not follow his feelings/attraction toward the priesthood if he is willing or unwilling to embrace priestly celibacy.

Now, as regards the "loophole". I remember that a decade or two ago when the first commission was set up for the acceptance into the Catholic priesthood of married Anglican (Episcopalian) priests who had converted to Catholicism, the admission of former Catholic men who had become Episcopalian priests precisely because of the condition of celibacy was expressly prohibited. Reason? You can easily see that the disposition toward the faith and the priesthood is very different in the two cases: in one, a man renounces his faith so as to get what he wants; in the other he puts his faith and docility to God's grace first.

Rick, I will keep you in my prayers. You may have been expecting a different answer, but here I think clarity is the greatest charity. If you see that you cannot leave your girlfriend you have just discovered that your vocation is to marriage and not to the priesthood. Accept this in all serenity as a stepping-stone in the discovery of what God wants of you in this life. There is no reason to feel bad about it, the vocation comes from God and if he is not calling you he is not calling you, that is his privilege. We should love him all the more for it.

God bless, and be sure of my prayers.

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