Door opening for married Catholic priests

Priests in the Anglican Church have long been allowed to date, get married, and start a family. And now, in a stunning decision by Pope Benedict the16th, some of them are being invited into the Catholic Church, wives and all.

"If you look at it from a practical point of view, in terms of all the demands that our made time wise and otherwise on priests in this culture, there isn't time for family," Monseignor Michael Carroll of St. Catherine of Siena Church said.

Despite that belief by some Catholic priests, some of their soon to be colleagues will make time. In the wake of an invitation by the Pope, some married Anglican priests, most likely conservative Episcopalians, are expected to become Roman Catholic priests, allowed to change churches, but keep what comes with them.

It's a luxury former Catholic priest Joe Ruane would have liked.

"It was really a very deep struggle, a deep decision to be able to change that," Ruane said.

8 years into his young priesthood, Ruane felt something was missing. He loved the Catholic Church, but he also wanted to love a wife. So, in 1969 he took off his priestly collar, and in 1971 put on a wedding ring.

Nathan Torre, who is studying to become a Catholic priest, knows he, too, will face that struggle.

"I mean I'm a normal guy. I have all sorts of temptations, all the same feelings that normal guys do," Brother Torre said.

Torre says he made the sacrifice willingly, aware of the challenge that comes with his place in the Church.

But David Moyer, a married Episcopal priest in Rosemont, Pennsylvania, who also wants to become a Catholic priest, won't have to make that sacrifice. He's among those disappointed by the more liberal leanings of some in his faith, prompted largely by its acceptance of women priests and gay clergy. Moyer is one of those now seeking to switch.

"What Pope Benedict did was to respond to a request in such a way that if possible to preserve some of their spiritual position," Monseignor Carroll said.

But even as it's described as a move toward unity between the two Churches, it is already being met by resistance from both.

In a statement, Episcopal Bishop Christopher Epting said it "flies in the face of the slow, but steady progress made (toward unity) over forty years."

Some also feel it amounts to a sort of raid by Rome.

The local Episcopal Diocese is suing David Moyer, saying he's welcome to go, but the church he now runs must stay.

Some Catholics, meanwhile, question whether married priests can adequately serve both in a house of worship, and at home, including those who decided to forgo one for the other.

"Is it worth it to give up my life for others to get them to Heaven? And I told Christ, I said, yes, whatever it takes," Torre said.

But dwindling numbers of Catholic priests may force a new reality and this move is being viewed as the first significant step toward reaching it. While it couldn't come soon enough for some, others, like Joe Ruane wish it came sooner, and included him, too.

"There's always the idea that it would have been nice to have all of this and the priesthood and the Catholic Church, certainly," Ruane said.

There are already as many as 200 Catholics priests who are married right now in America, all of whom converted from other faiths after they were already married. This move is expected to increase that number dramatically. And with more married priests visible conducting the everyday duties of the church, it is thought that may ramp up pressure to open the door even wider perhaps one day soon, allowing all Catholic priests to get married.

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