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The television version of Hilary Mantel’s novel Wolf Hall is the latest account to challenge St Thomas More’s reputation as a courageous defender of the rights of conscience. Was he, in truth, a liberal icon, a religious fanatic or something in between?
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Congratulations on highlighting Chris McDonnell’s excellent article (The Tablet, 19 July). The article states facts too often ignored about the historically late origins of the celibacy law for Roman rite priests – now modified to apply only to cradle Catholic candidates for ordination – and shows clearly and sensibly the blatant anomaly that results, to the amazement of all thinking Catholics.
May I comment on the two vocations of your headline for this article? Isn’t this word vocation – meaning God’s call – confusing, maybe dangerous, and surely presumptuous in a context that adds to God’s call to ministry the man-made requirement of celibacy which is admitted by popes to be unnecessary? Is it right to confuse those attracted to ministry – especially the young – by unjustifiably adding to a genuine attraction to priesthood the unnecessary obligation to live life alone?
McDonnell is right: "The time has come to revoke a discipline that has become a hindrance to vocation."
Brendan Farrow, by email
In reply to the question posed by Chris McDonnell why Catholic priests should be allowed to marry, comes the flippant and hoary old saw: "only if they love one another"!
With no disrespect to those who may be in that situation and to be as serious as the issue he and the Association of Catholic Priests in Ireland raise, I refer to an un-sent letter written as I turned 70, some 5 years ago now to my then Bishop. As a former priest celebrating my 50th anniversary of ordination and 40th as a married man this year with three grown up children, prompted by the angel of an early morning inspiration, I wrote then, asking if he might consider using my ordained services should Eucharistic and pastoral necessities require it. They did then. They do now. Viri probati yes.
But some of us who left the priesthood have reached those gifts of contemplative old age, which would fit well alongside theirs, to serve the good People of God whose lay and ministerial lives we have been privileged to be part of for the last 40 years or so. Some such are keen to do so. Others like myself are totally content as we are, but have at last learnt that real contentment comes from meeting the needs of others. Marriage and a de-clericalised priesthood can teach that - a lesson I was too immature and young to heed when ordained. My letter remains unsent. Should I send it now?
David Jackson, Shipley, west Yorkshire