29 December 2015 | by Liz Dodd

THE BISHOPS’ Conference of England and Wales rejected calls to ordain married men and permit services of General Absolution during a private session of its November plenary meeting.

At that meeting in Leeds a majority did not back a motion by the Bishop of Hexham and Newcastle, Seamus Cunningham, to support the ordination of married men.

The discussion, which was reported in the Northern Cross, the diocesan newspaper for Hexham and Newcastle, took place during a closed session of the plenary meeting. Topics for these sessions are not noted on the public agenda and the outcome is not made public with the objective of allowing bishops to speak freely. 

Bishop Cunningham told his diocesan Council of Priests, who had asked him to raise the issue of married priests, that the bishops had a “calm and thoughtful” discussion about the tradition of the Church, the nature of sacrifice and celibacy, as well as the positive contribution of married priests. Following this the general consensus was “to maintain the traditional teaching of the Church for a celibate priesthood”, he said.