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Canon Joe Wheat, Vicar General of the Diocese of NottinghamScreenshot

NOTTINGHAM, U.K. (LifeSiteNews) – The vicar general of the Catholic Diocese of Nottingham in England has called for married and female priests, saying it would be a “long overdue” change and one which would address clergy shortages in the diocese.

Speaking to parishioners at the multi-church parish of Holy Family, Canon Joe Wheat outlined the immediate future facing the diocese. 

Parishes will be more than halved in number, he said, going from 105 to 52 over the next year, as the diocese consolidates smaller parishes together and closes other churches. The number of active priests will also drop by 20 to 67. 

Highlighting these and other issues affecting the diocese, Wheat warned “there is no silver bullet for any of this. Much of what we are experiencing is a diocesan and national problem – and some of the solutions go far deeper than us simply restructuring what we do.”

In order to remedy the issue, he called for “a fundamental shift in how the Church lives and works, much of which was identified in our discussions and comments through the synod process in the parish.”

As such, the vicar general called for married priests, and even female priests, saying that this would be a “significant move” which is “long overdue.”

“The situation calls for a fundamental shift in how the Church lives and works, much of which was identified in our discussions and comments through the Synod process in the parish,” he stated:

  • “The issue of married clergy – the removal of compulsory celibacy would be a significant move and long overdue.”
  • “The same could be said for the priesthood no longer being restricted to men. The issue of who leads the Church at different levels needs to be addressed.”
  • “It can’t just be clerics and we need to take the need for lay leadership seriously and actually do something to bring it about.”
  • “We need to make sure that the focus of our church is not simply maintaining age old structures, but looking to the margins and being an open church that is truly present in the area and serves the needs….”

“Pope Francis gets this, he’s no fool,” continued Wheat, who previously told people not to attend Christmas Masses if they had not taken one of the abortion-tainted COVID-19 injections. “If you are not vaccinated and/or won’t wear a mask, please do not come to Mass,” a parish newsletter read.

The Nottingham diocese’s synodal report for the current Synod on Synodality supports Wheat’s desire for a departure from Catholic teaching on a number of issues. Under the section “Dreams about Church Teaching” the report lists: “Re-examine church teaching: married clergy, women priests/deacons, divorce etc; a greater awareness of the changing needs of the people & their relationships with each other & diverse communities.”

It also references the rules for married Anglican clergy to become Catholic priests via the Ordinariate, appearing to suggest that there should be similar freedom for Catholic clergy.

The report also calls for those in the “LGBTQ community, those who are remarried & those in long-term partnerships” to be given “senior leadership” positions in Catholic schools. 

While Canon Wheat advocated for female ordinands, Pope John Paul II has already condemned this, writing in his 1994 Apostolic Letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis: “I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church’s faithful.” 

The Polish Pope also quoted from Pope Paul VI’s 1975 letter to the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury, in which the Pope wrote that “the exclusion of women from the priesthood is in accordance with God’s plan for his Church.”

More recently, Cardinal Gerhard Müller, former Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, spoke with LifeSite’s Maike Hickson about the issue of female ordination, issuing a categorical clarification about the Catholic prohibition on the matter of women as priests, or even deacons:

It is certain without doubt, however, that this definitive decision from Pope John Paul II is indeed a dogma of the Faith of the Catholic Church and that this was of course the case already before this Pope defined this truth as contained in Revelation in the year 1994. The impossibility that a woman validly receives the Sacrament of Holy Orders in each of the three degrees is a truth contained in Revelation and it is thus infallibly confirmed by the Church’s Magisterium and presented as to be believed.

LifeSiteNews contacted Canon Wheat and Nottingham’s Bishop Patrick McKinney, asking whether they were seeking a change in Church teaching on priestly celibacy or female priests. LifeSite also questioned the diocesan synodal report, given that it advocated for issues already condemned by the Church. No reply was received by time of publication.