A Prince Edward Island man is set to become the province’s first married Catholic priest. Martin Carter, a former Anglican clergyman, will be admitted to the Catholic priesthood in August. Currently, the Roman Catholic Church does not support the ordination of married men. P.E.I. Bishop Vernon Fougere explains that Carter, who is married and has three sons, “had to petition the Holy Father—the Pope—for permission”; the whole process took almost four years. And Fougere stressed that Carter’s case was exceptional: “In the Catholic Church, we do not ordain married men. [This] does not mean that permission will be given tomorrow to every married man to be ordained.”
Still, Timothy Scott, a Catholic priest who is also president of St. Joseph’s College in Edmonton, says that the ordination of married men has been happening for 15 or 20 years—but “quietly.” And, Scott says, there’s a catch. The exception to the Church’s rule of celibacy for priests is only made for men who were priests or ministers in other Christian denominations—Anglican or Lutheran, for example—and then converted to Catholicism. A man who is born Catholic and later marries can never become a priest. “It’s a bit confusing,” he concedes. And every case needs the approval of the Vatican.
Scott says the conversion of Anglican priests to Catholicism is part of a broader trend among conservative Anglicans frustrated with their church’s more liberal practices. In particular, he says, many Anglicans disapprove of ordaining women and performing blessing services for homosexual couples, and so might be drawn to the more orthodox Roman Catholic Church. So what do the the members of Charlottetown’s St. Pius X parish think of their recently converted priest? “I have not done a survey, but the people I have spoken to in the shopping malls are elated that this can happen in the Catholic Church,” claims Bishop Fougere. “A lot of people see the Church as being very rigid, but that is not always the case.”