Hundreds of Priests State 'Unwavering Fidelity' to Church's Doctrine

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Almost 500 priests from England and Wales have signed an open letter stating their “unwavering fidelity” to the Church’s traditional doctrine regarding marriage and human sexuality.

Following “much confusion” that derived from the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops last October, and ahead of an Ordinary Synod on the Family to take place this autumn, the priests said they wished to “commit ourselves anew” to presenting the Church’s teaching in its fullness while reaching out “with the Lord’s compassion” to those struggling with living the Gospel “in an increasingly secular society.”

Implicitly addressing the debate of readmission of divorced and civilly remarried Catholics to holy Communion – a move discussed at the synod which opponents say would undermine crucial Church teaching on the indissolubility of marriage – they affirmed “the importance of upholding the Church’s traditional discipline regarding reception of the sacraments”. The priests also stressed that “doctrine and practice” must remain “firmly and inseparably in harmony.”

The clergy, who are theologians, philosophers, canon lawyers, well-known educators and evangelists, closed by urging all the participants of the Ordinary Synod to “make a clear and firm proclamation of the Church’s unchanging moral teaching, so that confusion may be removed, and faith confirmed.”

The priests reportedly felt the need to make their voices heard amid a climate "of moral confusion" created by media coverage of the synod and a lack of clarity from official Church leaders. 

Quoting an anonymous priest, Voice of the Family, a coalition of pro-life groups which had no part in the initiative but welcomes it, said there had been “a certain amount of pressure not to sign the letter and indeed a degree of intimidation from some senior churchmen.” Another priest said so many signed the letter because “it’s a matter of pastoral concern and fidelity to the Gospel."  

Asked if the letter was reactionary or merely extreme traditionalism, another priest responded: “Were Saints Thomas More and John Fisher obscurantist conservatives? No. They gave their lives in defense of the indissolubility of marriage. Catholics at the time of Henry VIII were willing to give up a thousand years of Catholic life and culture to defend the inconvenient but timeless truth. Now is our time to give witness."                   

The priests’ letter, which developed spontaneously and without any coordinating body, is the latest in a series of initiatives aimed at shoring up the traditional teaching of the Church ahead of this year’s synod. In January, a large confraternity of English-speaking clergy made a similar reaffirmation. Meanwhile, a laity-driven filial appeal, calling on Pope Francis to uphold the Church’s teaching on marriage, the family and human sexuality at the next synod, has at the time of writing received nearly 150,000 signatures.

These initiatives, along with that of the priests, are likely to serve to remind the synod organisers and those supportive of Cardinal Walter Kasper's proposal for remarried divorcees that they will face considerable resistance come October. Today's move is also being seen as heroic, probably limiting the chances of the signatories of their promotion to the episcopate. 

In his homily on the eve of the conclave that elected him in 2005, Benedict XVI said that, in a world governed by a dictatorship of relativism, “having a clear faith based on the Creed of the Church is often labeled as fundamentalism”. Given the resistance to this initiative among some ecclesiastical leaders, it appears such an attitude now pervades the highest levels of the Church.

UPDATE: 25th March 

Cardinal Vincent Nichols, the archbishop of Westminster, has voiced his opposition to the priests' initiative, saying their concerns are "not best conducted through the press.”


The full text of the letter:

SIR – Following the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops in Rome in October 2014 much confusion has arisen concerning Catholic moral teaching. In this situation we wish, as Catholic priests, to re-state our unwavering fidelity to the traditional doctrines regarding marriage and the true meaning of human sexuality, founded on the Word of God and taught by the Church’s Magisterium for two millennia.

We commit ourselves anew to the task of presenting this teaching in all its fullness, while reaching out with the Lord’s compassion to those struggling to respond to the demands and challenges of the Gospel in an increasingly secular society. Furthermore we affirm the importance of upholding the Church’s traditional discipline regarding the reception of the sacraments, and that doctrine and practice remain firmly and inseparably in harmony.

We urge all those who will participate in the second Synod in October 2015 to make a clear and firm proclamation of the Church’s unchanging moral teaching, so that confusion may be removed, and faith confirmed.

Yours faithfully,

Fr John Abberton, Fr Raymond Abuga MSP, Fr Benedict Bullem Abuo, Fr John Adikwu CM, Fr Richard Aladics, Fr Dominic Allain, Fr Hugh Allan OPraem, Monsignor John Allen, Fr Jim L Allen, Fr Blaise Amadi, Fr Moses Amune, Fr Thomas Amungwa, Fr David Annear, Fr Matt Anscombe, Fr Paul Antwi- Boasiako CSSP, Fr Gabriel Arnold OSB, Fr Thevakingsley Arulananthem OAR, Fr James Austin, Fr Francis Austin, Abbot Francis Baird OSB, Fr Gerard Balinnya, Fr John Barnes, Fr Kurt Barragan, Fr Lee Barrett, Fr Bernard Barrett, Fr Andrew Barrett, Fr Christopher Basden, Fr Jeremy Bath, Fr Antoine Baya OFM, Fr Michael Beattie SJ, Fr Miceal Beatty, Fr Lee Bennett, Fr Jerome Bertram CO, Fr Kazimierz Bidzinski, Fr Pawel Bielak, Fr Jonathan Bielawski, Fr Robert Billing, Fr Martin Birrell OSB, Fr Paul Blackburn, Fr Raymond Blake, Fr Terry Boyle, Fr Constant Botter SCJ, Fr Bede Rowe, Fr Bernard Boylan, Fr Cornelius Boyle, Fr Stephen Boyle, Fr James Bradley, Fr Jonathan Brandon, Fr Martin Breen, Fr John Brennan, Fr Neil Brett, Fr Charles Briggs, Fr Marcus Brisley, Abbot Cuthbert Brogan OSB, Fr Andrew Brown, Fr Stephen Brown, Fr Martin Budge, Fr Solomon Gidu Bulus, Fr Alan Burgess, Fr Paschal Burlinson OFMCap, Monsignor Andrew Burnham, Fr David Burns, Fr James Burns, Fr Peter Burns, Fr Gerard P Byrne, Fr John Cahill, Fr John Cairns, Fr Xavier Calduch, Fr Joe Calleja, Fr Victor Camilleri OFM, Fr Darren Carden, Fr Patrick Carroll, Fr Bernard Caszo MSFS, FrJohn Chandler, Abbot David Charlesworth OSB, Fr.William Charlton, Fr Neil Chatfield, Fr Gregory Chillman OSB, Fr David Chinnery, Fr Dominic Chukka, Fr Eddie Clare, Fr Basil Clark, Fr James Clark, Fr Peter Clarke, Fr Jose Claveria, Canon Joseph Clements, Fr Michael Clotheir OSB, Canon Matthew Coakley, Fr Anthony Cogliolo, Fr Christopher Colven, Fr Anthony Conlon, Fr Thomas Connolly, Fr Philip Conner, Fr Francis R Cookson, Fr John Cooper, Fr Robert Copsey SOLT, Fr John Corbyn, Fr Eamon Corduff, Fr Hugh Corrigan OAR, Fr James Cosker, Fr Francis Coveney, Fr Ross SJ Crichton, Fr Finton Crotty SSCC, Fr Edward Crouzet OSB, Fr C Crowther, Fr Michael Crumpton, Fr Anthony Cussen SMA, Fr Justin Daanaah, Fr James Daley MHM, Fr William Damah, Fr Michael D’Arcy-Walsh, Fr Jeremy Davies, Fr Philip de Freitas, Fr Armand de Malleray FSSP, Fr Timothy Dean, Fr Patrick Deegan, Fr Scott Deeley, Fr Richard Diala CM, Fr Paul Diaper, Fr Gary Dickson, Fr Charles Dilk CO, Fr Stephen Dingley, Fr Michael Docherty, Fr Charles Dornan, Fr Kevin Dow, Fr Jeffrey Downie, Fr Francis Doyle, Fr Marcin Drabik, Fr Gerry Drummond, Fr Tom Dubois, Fr John Duckett, Fr Richard Duffield CO, Fr Anthony Dukes, Fr Bruce Dutson, Fr Paul Dynan, Fr Philip Dyson, Fr James Earley, Fr Peter Edwards, Fr Robert Ehileme SMM, Fr Wilfrid Elkin, Fr Mark Elliot-Smith, Fr Joseph Etim, Fr Jude Eze, Fr Josaphat Ezenwa, Fr John Fairhurst SJ, Fr Ian Farrell, Fr Joseph Farrell, Fr Robert Farrell, Fr James Fasakin CSSp, Fr Prassad Fernando, Fr Christopher Findlay – Wilson, Fr Tim Finigan, Fr Kieran Fitzharris SVD, F. Gerald Flood, Fr John Fordham CO, Fr Andrew Forrest, Fr Thomas Forster, Fr Peter Fox, Fr William Fraser, Fr Patrick Gaffney CSSp, Fr Michael John Galbraith, Fr Andrew Gallagher, Fr Francis Gallagher, Fr Michael Gallagher, Fr Piotr Gardon SC, Fr John Gaul SCJ, Fr Guy de Gaynesford, Fr Vincent George CM, Fr Paul Gibbons, Fr Damien Gilhooley, Canon Leo Glancy, Fr Peter Glas, Fr Matthew Goddard FSSP, Fr Gonzalo Gonzales, Fr Maurice Gordon, Canon David Grant, Fr Brian Gray, Fr Andy Graydon, Fr Christopher Greaney, Fr John Greatbatch, Fr Julian Green, Fr Ian Grieves, Fr Nigel Griffin, Fr Philip J Griffin, Fr Tom Grufferty, Fr Jozef Gruszkiewicz, Fr Anton Guziel CO, Fr Bernard Hahesy, Fr Henryk Halman FDP, Fr John Hancock, Fr Neil Hannigan, Fr Francis Capener, Fr Stephen Hardaker, Fr Andrew Harding, Fr Benedict Hardy OSB, Fr David Hartley, Fr Raymond Hayne, Canon Brendan Healy, Fr Ian Hellyer, Fr John Hemer MHM, Fr Simon Henry, Fr Jonathan Hill, Fr Michael Ho-Huu-Nghia, Fr Marcus Holden, Fr Angelus Houle, Fr John Hunwicke, Fr Geoffrey Hurst, Fr David Hutton, Fr Patrick Hutton, Fr Raymond Hynes OFM, Fr Jude Iseorah SMM, Fr.Matthew Jakes, Fr Dylan James, Fr Slawomir Jedrych, Fr John Johnson, Fr Michael Jones, Fr Peter Jones, Fr Darryl Jordan, Fr Kevin Jordan, Fr Nicholas Kavanagh, Fr Brendan Kelly, Fr Daniel M Kelly, Fr John B Kelly, Fr Michael Kelly, Fr Peter Kelly, Fr Joseph Kendall, Fr Vincent Kennedy OFM, Fr John Kennedy, Fr Ian Ker, Fr Brendan Killeen, Fr Peter Kirkham, Monsignor David Kirkwood, Fr Krzysztof Kita, Fr Peter Knott SJ, Fr Vitalis Kondo, Fr Jaroslaw Konopko OFMCap, Fr Saji Matthew Koottakithayil MSFS, Fr Wojciech Kowalski SDS, Fr Douglas Lamb, Fr Michael Lang CO, Fr Julian Large CO, Fr John Laybourn, Fr Brian Leatherland, Fr.Paul Lester, Fr Nicholas Leviseur, Fr Jacob Lewis, Canon Michael Lewis, Fr Joseph Liang AA, Fr Gladstone Liddle, Fr Christopher Lindlar, Fr Denys Lloyd, Fr Laurie Locke, Canon Bernard Lordan, Fr Christopher Loughran, Fr Roy Lovatt, Fr Robbie Low, Fr Alexander Lucie Smith, Fr John Lungley, Canon Brendan MacCarthy, Canon John Angus MacDonald, Fr Stanislaus Maciuszek, Fr Hugh MacKenzie, Canon Peter Magee, Fr Brian O Mahony CSSP, Fr Kieran Mullarkey, Fr John Maloney, Fr Aleksander Marcharski, Fr Geoffrey Marlor, Fr Francis Marsden, Fr Bernard Marsh, Fr Terry Martin, Fr John Masshedar, Fr William Massie, Fr Michael Bateman, Fr Stephen Maughan, Fr Laurence Mayne, Fr Paul McAlinden, Fr James McAuley, Canon Anthony McBride, Monsignor Canon Kenneth McBride, Fr Ian McCarthy, Fr Derrick McCulloch, Fr John McCullough, Fr.David McDonald, Canon John McElroy, Fr John McFadden CSSP, Fr Terry McGarth MSFS, Fr Brian McGilloway, Fr Denis McGillycuddy, Fr Brendan McGuinness SDB, Fr Rupert McHardy CO, Canon Patrick McInally, Fr Bernard McInulty, Fr Michael McLaughlin, Fr William McMahon, Fr Martin McPake SVD, Fr Anthony Meredith SJ, Fr Stuart Meyer, Fr Nazarius Mgungwe, Fr Jan Milcz CSsR, Fr Philip Miller, Canon Paul Mitcheson, Fr Thomas Monaghan, Fr.Augustine Monaghan MHM, Monsignor Vaughan Morgan, Fr Richard Moroney, Fr Mark Morris, Fr Stephen Morrison OPraem, Fr Frederick Moss MHM, Fr Andrew Moss, Fr Deodat Msahala, Fr Clement M Mukuka, Fr Ted Mullen IC, Fr Ghislain B Mulumanzi, Fr John Mundackal, Fr Aidan Murray SDB, Monsignor Provost Cyril Murtagh, Fr Noel Bisibu N’Tungu, Fr Bijoy Chandra Nayak CMF, Fr James Neal, Fr Arthur Nearey, Fr Roger Nesbitt, Fr Peter Newsam, Fr Ponder Paulinus Ngilangwa SDS, Fr Guy Nicholls, Fr Aidan Nichols, Fr Julius Nkafu, Fr Peter Norris, Fr Bernardine Nsom, Canon Kevin O Connor, Fr Dominic O Conor, Fr Liam O Conor, Fr Patrick O Doherty, Fr Kevin O Donnell, Canon Vincent O Hara ODC, Fr Conleth O Hara CP, Fr Dominic O Hara, Fr Andrew O Sullivan, Fr Kevin O Toole, Fr Robert Ogbede CM, Fr Flavin Ohayerenwa CSSp, Fr Tobias Okoro, Fr Addison Opkeoh, Fr.Clement Orango MCCJ, Fr John Osman, Fr Arockia Mariadass Pagyasamy OCD, Fr Binu Palakapally IC, Fr David Palmer, Fr Fortunato Partisano, Fr John Pascoe, Fr Michael Patey, Fr Eoin Patten, Fr Sunny Paul, Fr Maurice Pearce, Fr Anthony Pellegrini, Fr Neil Peoples, Fr Leon Pereira OP, Fr David Phillips, Fr Terry Phipps, Fr.Andrew Pinsent, Fr Dawid Piot, Fr Anthony Plummer, Fr John Lawrence M. Polis FI, Fr Graham Preston, Fr James Preston, Fr Peter Preston SDS, Fr Robert Pytel, Fr Gerard Quinn, Fr Behruz Rafat, Fr N Ratu, Fr John Ravensdale, Fr David Rea, Monsignor Gordon Read, Monsignor Alex Rebello, Fr Charles Reddan SDS, Fr Alexander Redman, Fr Stephen Reynolds, Fr John Rice, Fr Graham Ricketts, Fr Jonathan Rollinson OSB, Fr George M Roth FI, Fr Andrew Rowlands, Canon Luiz Ruscillo, Fr Tadeusz Ruthowski, Fr Paschal Ryan, Fr Mario Sanderson, Fr John Saward, Fr Nicholas Schofield, Fr Alphege Stebbens OSB, Fr Francis Selman, Fr Jean Claude Selvini, Very Rev’d Fr Daniel Seward CO, Fr John Sharp, Fr Alexander Sherbrooke, Fr John Shewring, Fr Chris Silva, Fr William Simpson, Fr Bernard Sixtus, Fr Thomas Skeats OP, Fr Gerard Skinner, Fr John Smethurst, Fr Bernard Snelder MHM, Fr Pryemek Sobczak, Fr Edward Sopala, Fr Michael Spain OCD, Fr Roger Spencer, Fr.Simon Stamp, Fr Andrew Starkie, Fr Pawel Stebel, Fr Jeffrey Steel, Monsignor George Stokes, Fr Brian Storey, Monsignor Richard Stork, Fr Damian Sturdy OSB, Fr Shaun Swales, Fr Martin Sweeney MHM, Fr Mark Swires, Fr Roman Szczypa SDB, Fr Ryssard Taraszka, Fr Brian Taylor, Fr Christopher A Thomas, Fr Sean Thornton, Fr Matthew Thottathimyali, Fr Adrian Tomlinson, Fr Edward Tomlinson, Fr Dennis Touw, Fr Simon Treloar, Canon Harry Turner, Fr Andrew Undsworth, Fr John Vallomprayil SDS, Fr Edward van den Bergh CO, Fr Ian Vane, Fr Peter Vellacott, Fr Gregory Verissimo, Fr Mark Vickers, Fr Neil Vincent, Fr David Waller, Fr Gary Walsh, Fr John Walsh, Fr Joseph Walsh, Fr Patrick Walsh, Fr Victor Walter, Fr Edward Wanat SDS, Fr Peter Wareing CMF, Fr Ged Watkins, Fr Peter Wells, Fr Richard Whinder, Fr Henry Whisenant, Fr Joseph Whisstock, Fr.David J White, Fr Christopher Whitehouse, Fr William Wilby, Fr Bruno Witchalls, Fr Anthony Wood, Fr Jeffrey Woolnough, Fr William Wright OSB, Fr William R Young, Fr Lucjan Zaniewski OFMCap, Fr Richard Mary Zeng SDS, Fr Paul Zielinski, Fr Bartholomew Zubeveil CSSp