The prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, Cardinal Claudio Hummes, explained that the Church welcomes all expressions of “legitimate diversity” in reference to ministries. He also called on priests to always fulfill their commitments and for those in irregular situations to bring them to a resolution.
In an interview with L’Osservatore Romano, the cardinal said the Catholic Church “is quick to receive in her bosom all legitimate diversity. She is not concerned with human categories that focus on right, left, progressive, conservative. Ours is not a sectarian Church. She is Catholic, one, holy, apostolic, and quick to embrace all, like a great mother.”
The Church “offers to all the possibility to take diverse paths in the common witness of the Gospel. If one thinks of the history of religious orders, of their different spiritualities, one sees they are all diverse but capable of carrying the riches of the charisms in the one Church of Christ. Naturally, they should all walk in unity. But unity does not mean uniformity,” the cardinal said.
Openness to Anglicans
Asked if it was in this spirit that the Pope issued the apostolic constitution, “Anglicanorum coetibus,” which lays out the manner in which Anglicans can return to full communion with the Church, Cardinal Hummes replied, “Yes, without a doubt. Becoming a part of our ecclesial community was their request. The Catholic Church has done nothing more than open her doors, as is her welcoming style.”
“To the Anglicans who have come among us,” he said, “she offers them the chance to live the faith, maintaining some of the characteristics of their rite, their spirituality, their liturgy, that is, of everything that makes it possible to live their faith without compromising the unity of ecclesial community. This means that they enter fully into ecclesial communion.”
Cardinal Hummes went on to refer to priests who are living in irregular situations, exhorting them to normalize their situations. “The Church does not abandon anyone, nobody is excluded from love and from fraternity. Not even those who have not yet decided to ask for a dispensation, which is always the best thing to do in certain cases.”
“Those who have de facto abandoned the ministry or who in some way are not in the necessary condition to continue ahead, are called to regularize their situations, as priests, before God, before the Church and before their own consciences.”
Cardinal Hummes said that “by officially requesting to be dispensed from their obligations, such individuals return to living correctly before God. In the end, all are always offered the possibility of recovering their state of grace.”
After being asked if “one can repent and come back,” the cardinal said, “Yes, keeping in mind that certain conditions and a true conversion are necessary for returning to the exercise of the ministry.”