A priest in the Ordinariate created for former Anglicans has been suspended after it emerged that he had entered a civil partnership.
An investigation by The Mail on Sunday revealed that Fr Donald Minchew entered into a civil union with Mustajab Hussain in 2008 while he was still a vicar in the Church of England. Fr Minchew maintains that he was motivated by a wish to help Mr Hussain, a Pakistani immigrant, to remain in Britain.
The Church of England allows its clergy to enter civil partnerships if they assure their bishop their relationship is chaste. Catholic priests are barred from entering civil unions and the local bishop or ordinary has responsibility for ensuring priests’ lifestyles are compatible with church teaching. The Home Office stipulates that immigrants in civil partnerships have to show they are in a genuine relationship before they are granted rights to stay in the UK.
Fr Minchew, 66, told The Mail on Sunday his civil partnership to Mr Hussain, 32, was “the only way I could see of getting him in the country”, adding that he and Mr Hussain had not seen each other for “donkey’s years”.
A statement from the leader of the ordinariate, Mgr Keith Newton, was read at Fr Minchew’s church, St Mary's Catholic church in Croydon, yesterday. It said:
"It has been necessary for me to withdraw Fr Donald Minchew from public ministry for the time being. This is because, two days ago, he informed me that, in 2008 – four years before he was ordained as a Catholic priest – he entered into a civil partnership in order to gain a British passport for a Pakistani national whose family is well known to him. I had no previous knowledge of this and I need now to investigate the implications fully. The Mail on Sunday carries a report on this in today’s issue. Fr Minchew has informed me that this partnership involved no sexual relationship. He deeply regrets his action. He apologises unreservedly for any harm or embarrassment he has caused the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham and the Catholic Church in general.”
Questioned by The Mail on Sunday last week Fr Minchew said: "You are talking to a ruined man. I am finished. End of story."
Fr Minchew was ordained as a priest for the ordinariate in September 2012 by Southwark Archbishop Peter Smith.
Months before, when he told his congregation of his intention to leave the Church of England for the ordinariate, many in his congregation said they wanted to join him. In April 2012 he criticised the “pap and banality” promoted by the established Church, adding in an interview with the Daily Mail: “We’ve forgotten about discipline and obedience in the Anglican Church.”
Last night the Home Office said it was determined to crack down on immigration offenders. Mr Hussain faces an investigation and possible deportation and Fr Minchew could face prosecution for aiding unlawful immigration through the sham civil partnership.
The civil partnership certificate shows the event took place at the register office in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, and was witnessed by David Nicholas and Edward Minchew, the priest’s brother. It records Fr Minchew’s previous marriage as having been dissolved.
Now a widower, the father of four insisted he was not gay and said Mr Hussain, a Muslim, had a wife.
Mr Hussain corroborated Fr Minchew’s version of events. He told the paper: “He helped me. That’s it. There is nothing more.” He refused to comment on his immigration status.
He later suggested there had been a gay relationship with the priest but produced no evidence for this.
Fr Minchew admitted he had not told the Catholic Church he was in a civil partnership, adding: “That is an omission on my part and I will have to pay the price for it.”