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The Deacon's Bench

The recent overture to the Anglicans has gotten more people to look at the question of a married priesthood. And that’s sent some reporters scurrying to talk to priests who left ministry to marry:

One of the hardest things Ed Donaghy has ever done was leave his ministry as a Catholic priest. For months, he agonized over his conflicting desires to have a family and serve as a priest in the Sacramento Diocese.

In the end, Donaghy felt he had no choice. The priest, who served in Woodland, Calif., told his bishop that he had to leave.

That was four decades ago.

“It would have been wonderful to be married and be a priest,” said Donaghy, 73, now retired as an insurance agent. “I loved the work and would have continued.”

Donaghy is one of more than 75 men in the Sacramento area who have left active ministry in the priesthood to marry. Many of them, Donaghy said, “would have returned in a minute if the rules changed.” That is not likely to happen soon.

But the likelihood of Catholics seeing married priests in the pulpit increased last month when Vatican officials announced an arrangement that welcomes Anglicans into the Catholic Church, including married Anglican priests.

Vatican officials have said repeatedly that celibacy will remain mandatory — at least in most circumstances. But many observers say having married Anglican priests in the church is a “major move” toward the idea of married Catholic priests.

“It’s significant,” said Sister Chris Schenk of FutureChurch, a Cleveland group studying shortages of priests in the United States.

“It’s time for the church to bring these married priests back into ministry and to address the issue of mandatory celibacy,” Schenk said. “We have parishes closing and a number of priests retiring. Look at the demographics.”

About 40,000 priests serve in U.S. dioceses, according to the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University. Many of those are nearing retirement. In 2009, 472 men were ordained.

“We have to do something because we need priests,” Schenk said. “It only makes sense to rethink celibacy.”

There’s much more at the link.

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