THE Vatican has granted a dispensation for another married former Anglican clergyman to be ordained a priest in the Catholic Church.
John Heley, who until 1983 served in the Anglican diocese of Norwich, is the third priest in recent months to be allowed to take up Holy Orders while married fuelling in certain church circles speculation that the Church may curb the celibacy laws and allow a married clergy.
Mr Heley, who has been sponsored in his petition by Bishop Alan Clark of East Anglia is married to a convert Catholic and has five children, two sons and three daughters.
Since his reception into the Catholic Church in November 1983 Mr Heley has been working for the Converts Aid Society as Midlands district organiser and has expressed his desire to devote himself "quietly and whole-heartedly to the work of charity and to whatever role the bishop may give me."
Speaking of the Vatican's decision to make the dispensation Bishop Clark expressed "delight" and assured John Heley "of a warm welcome from the Catholic community in our diocese".
The bishop's secretary, Fr Gary Dowsey, explained to the Catholic Herald, "we expect that the ordination will Ixe sometime in the autumn, although no definite date has been set. He will probably stay in Norfolk after the ordination and work within the diocese."
The ordination of England's first married anglican clergy in April was denied as being any sort of precedent in official Church circles. Archbishop Couve de Murville of Birmingham even went so far as to issue a pastoral letter stating that celibacy was "something the Catholic Chruch will never abandon."
Adrian Hastings, Professor of Theology at the University of Leeds and a campaigner for a married priesthood contended that this was a precedent, however.
"It is perfectly suitable for a man to be both married and a priest, and that such a person can be expected to exercise a fruitful ministry", he concluded (Catholic Herald, April 10).