10 November 2016
You’re hired!: Can the Catholic Church learn about choosing parish clergy from the Church of England?
Ecumenical Catholic leaders have been considering whether they could learn from the Church of England about lay involvement in choosing parish clergy
One of the most distinctive differences between parochial life in the Catholic Church and the Church of England is in the choice of parish leader. The appointment of a Catholic parish priest is made by the diocesan bishop, while an Anglican vicar is often appointed in response to an advert, with the laity helping to choose the most suitable applicant.
Last month in Rome, participants at a major colloquium on ecumenical dialogue, held at the Gregorian University, heard from members of the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission that the body is considering whether the Catholic Church could benefit from introducing lay participation into the choice of parish clergy.
Lay Catholics keen to find more of a role in their parishes may well find this idea appealing, but it is not as straightforward as it sounds. In a very Anglican way, there is no single, centrally determined process. Although the standard format is for responsibility for an appointment to be shared between the bishop, representatives of the parish or benefice, and the patrons, in practice the process is often more a product of serendipity and organic evolution than intentional design. Some parts of the Anglican Communion, notably Ireland and the United States, have had significant lay involvement in the appointment of parish clergy since the nineteenth century.
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