There is a very interesting article in the Denver Post about Phil Webb. Webb, a husband and father, is a former Episcopalian priest who is now considering ordination to the priesthood under the pastoral provision.
This article struck me in a number of ways. As part of my blogging duties here on CMR and on SummorumPontficum.net, I do a considerable amount of reading of secular news reports and ‘catholic’ publications. I am quite used to secular reporters to getting many details wrong when writing about church issues and often secular religion reporters and reporters in ‘catholic’ publications are sadly not much better. This was the first thing that struck me about this article. It is written by Electa Draper, a staff writer for the Denver Post. She does a great job of getting this topic right when many others would get it wrong. Kudos. Apparently good reporting is possible.
This article hits on a several big topics including the pastoral provision and the married priesthood. In it there is some good distinctions and interesting comments.
In the past 27 years, more than 80 Episcopal ministers in the United States have left their church and been ordained Catholic priests.
To any Catholic clergy who might be envious of his permission to be a married priest, Webb says don’t be.
“It’s a burden to carry around two vocations in life,” Webb said.
Even as a married Protestant minister, Webb said one is always robbing time from one vocation for the sake of the other.
The Catholic Church terms celibacy “a gift of an undivided heart.”
The article does note the call for married priests but balances it with a reasonable statement:
A recent study by Catholic University in Washington estimated that making celibacy optional likely would quadruple the number of priests.
The church says, however that the Pastoral Provision for Episcopalians is not a move in that direction.
“It is clear in everyone’s mind that this is not a proving ground for optional celibacy in the Catholic Church,” said the Rev. William Stetson on the Pastoral Provision website.
“In fact, the special challenges of a married clergy … show the value of the norm of celibacy for the sake of the kingdom in the Western Church,” Stetson said.
And finally, one part that really jumped out at me was some comments made by Webb about schism:
Webb said he decided to leave the Episcopal Church about three years ago after 16 years as a clergyman primarily because the church was tearing itself apart over changes in doctrine.
Over the past two decades, Webb watched members break away from Episcopal parishes to form new congregations, some becoming missions of conservative Anglican dioceses in Africa, over issues such as the blessing of gay unions and ordination of women and an openly gay bishop.
“It was an ugly fight. Relationships got fractured,” Webb said. “I just came to believe that if Christ founded a church, you wouldn’t be forced to leave it.”
For Protestant churches, the only solution to conflict is to split apart, he says. His years in the Episcopal Church were “rich and good,” but he has come to deplore schism.
“The Catholic Church has a clearer understanding of what it means to be one holy and apostolic church,” he says.
The entire article is definitely worth a read here.