On married priests, we should look east

SIR – I have read with interest Fr Ray Blake’s blog post (see News Focus, page 16) about lonely and demoralised priests. I remember in the 1940s already seeing depressed and lonely priests shuffling about their presbyteries.

I have lived in Lebanon since 1954 and was incardinated in the Greek-Melkite Catholic Patriarchate in 1957. Like all the Catholic bishops, priests and monks whom I know personally, I simply do not understand the Western objection to ordaining married men as priests.

Bishops have a duty to provide the faithful with the Liturgy, the sacraments and instruction; how can they do this if they are prevented from ordaining a sufficient number of priests? I knew in London a highly instructed, prayerful retired Catholic who had made a number of conversions and who would have made an excellent priest, who would have been strongly supported by his wife. With married priests in the smaller parishes, others with a vocation to celibacy could live in community.

What happened in the past was that, in their desperation to find priests, bishops ordained men who simply were not fit for the job. During my RAF service I knew a chaplain, a Capuchin, Fr Kevin Harrison, who was a saint and an apostle, but many others … oh dear! Bishops will always have to make an effort to find zealous priests, but here in Lebanon the Catholic (and Orthodox) parishes are well supplied with priests, mostly married, and the faithful are happy. There are also flourishing religious orders. St Peter and many Apostles were married, so what’s the big deal about simple priests?

Kenneth Mortimer

By email

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