Archbishop Vincent Nichols was interviewed by Ian Wyatt on BBC Radio Essex this morning:
IW: The leader of England’s Catholics says that Anglicans in Essex his church this Easter will be warmly welcomed. And Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols, says the possibility of more married Anglican vicars becoming Catholic priests is not a threat to existing Catholic priests who are celibate. Archbishop Nichols was speaking just before he gave a Lenten lecture to 700 Christians at Brentwood Cathedral on Wednesday, on the topic ‘How to live a Catholic life in a secular society’. Archbishop Nichols says that Anglicans will feel entirely at home as they join the Catholic Church.
VN: If their experience is anything like the Ordinariate people here in London, then over the last ten days they will have been receiving a very warm welcome from the Catholic community. On Sunday, I think, they were in Brentwood Cathedral, and I believe that they will now understand that there is a warm welcome for them within the Catholic Church. And I think they will also understand how, bit by bit, this will be an arena in which the Catholic community and those coming to us will find that there is a great, mutual ‘complimentarity’. So, for example I was talking to one former Anglican priest who is coming into the Ordinariate and I said, ‘How do you understand what you bring, what your patrimony is?’ And he said ‘If there is an Anglican bone in my body, it is in my ear’. And he said, ‘We have a wonderful tradition of Church Music which enriches liturgy’; he said ‘that’s one thing we want to bring’. I think there are many other things they bring, too, and that is a real commitment – a different kind of stance – to English society than, traditionally, the Catholic Church has had. So I think we have a lot to learn; they have a great welcome to enjoy and it’s going to be a very interesting time. And at the same time, as the Bishop of Chelmsford and Bishop Tom McMahon have done, we will keep open and positive our relationships with the Church of England.
IW: That’s important, isn’t it? To make sure that the good work that is done between the faiths isn’t, in some ways, ‘off-railed’ by any bad feeling that this might leave.
VN: Yes. And I seriously hope it doesn’t leave bad feeling, and I know in many places the Church of England bishops – starting with the Archbishop of Canterbury – have been most gracious over this. They recognise that if there are groups of people who seriously want – and are convinced that their discipleship of Christ is best lived in this new circumstance – then they understand. And some of them have been gracious enough to say ‘they go with our blessing’.
IW: What has the Pope said to you about the large numbers that have joined the Ordinariate?
VN: I haven’t spoken to him since the numbers became clear. But I do think that this initiative – and it is his initiative – shows us not to be afraid of diversity within the Catholic Church, you know – to recognise that the Catholic community has got many different faces in this country now.
IW: And a final thought. You talk about the warm welcome that those joining the Ordinariate will receive. Will there be some bad feeling – not bad feeling, but perhaps a little bit of resentment – from celibate priests in the Catholic Church with all these married Anglican priests becoming Catholic priests this summer?
VN: We have been receiving priests from the Church of England and ordaining them into our presbyterate, now, for 15 years. And some of those have been married and have their own families and I think it has led, on the whole, to a greater maturity about reflection on celibacy as part of the priesthood in the Catholic Church as the norm in the Latin Rite as we call it – in the Latin Church. You see, sometimes when us celibate priests think of marriage, we think of it as a solution but a lot of the married priests who come to us tell us it’s not a solution at all – married people tell us your marriage is a task, it’s a vocation; you’ve got to work hard at being married, it’s not simply an answer to requirements and I think we’re appreciating the particular distinctive qualities of each call – a call to a celibate way of life and are therefore a free and open availability to parishioners at all times, and the combination of the vocation to marriage and priesthood on the other hand. But there’s no doubt that the remaining tradition in our church will be the norm of priests being totally dedicated in a celibate way of life to God and their people.