Father Len Black, 61 and a grandfather of two, was ordained into the priesthood this weekend, at a ceremony at St Mary’s Church in Greenock performed by Bishop Philip Tartaglia of Paisley.
He is the latest former Anglican clergyman in the UK, and the first in Scotland, to be ordained into the Roman Catholic Church under the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, the body set up earlier this year by Pope Benedict XVI to receive those leaving the Anglican Church because of the consecration of women bishops.
Father Black was an Episcopal minister for 30 years before converting to Catholicism. Until recently he was the minister at St Michael and All Angels in Inverness and was also the regional dean of Forward in Faith, the leading group of traditionalist Anglicans.
He delivered his last sermon at St Michael’s earlier this year. His move to the Catholic Church has divided the Inverness congregation, with about a dozen believed to be following him to his new charge.
Bishop Peter Moran of Aberdeen, who will shortly retire, ordained the former minister to the diaconate last month at Pluscarden Abbey near Elgin ahead of his ordination as a Catholic priest.
When the first plans for the ordinariate were announced in March last year, Father Black said he warmly welcomed the Pope’s efforts “to respond to groups of Anglicans, including members of Forward in Faith, seeking to be received into full communion with the Catholic Church while preserving elements of the distinctive Anglican spiritual and liturgical patrimony”.
Speaking ahead of the ceremony, he said: “The gift of ordination is a great privilege and honour, and for me it is also the culmination of a long journey into full communion with the Catholic Church made possible by the generosity of Pope Benedict.”
Bishop Tartaglia, who is the bishop-delegate in Scotland for matters to do with the establishment of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, said Sunday’s ordination was a significant step.
“I am delighted to ordain the Rev Len Black to the priesthood,” he said. “Although the group in Scotland is very small, when taken along with considerably more groups and clergy in England and Wales – and with ordinariate arrangements coming into place soon in the United States and possibly in Australia later – this begins to look like a new and visionary way of re- creating Christian unity after years of ecumenical stalemate.
“It is marked by the striking originality, simplicity, and generosity of a Pope Benedict XVI initiative.”
ather Black was Scotland’s first regional dean of the Forward in Faith group, which was set up in 1994 after a number of priests felt they had been abandoned by the Church after the decision to allow women to be ordained.
Father Beaumont Brandie, acting regional dean for Forward in Faith Scotland, said Father Black has taken with him some members of the congregation.
“We wish him and his group all best wishes as they go on their journey, and we are saddened that it is not been possible for them to find a place within the Episcopal Church which could allow them the freedom to express the traditional life of the Episcopal history,” he said.
“St Michael’s has been a bastion of hope for a lot of people in the Episcopalian Church for a long time. It is not surprising that those who now believe there isn’t any way forward now feel they must go.”
According to religious commentator Simon Barrow, about 60 Anglican clergy in England have been received into the Catholic priesthood, but “few if any” in Scotland are likely to follow Father Black’s lead.
When the Pope established the mechanism to set up the ordinariate, he said he was responding to petitions received “repeatedly and insistently” by him from groups of Anglicans wishing “to be received into full communion individually as well as corporately” with the Roman Catholic Church.