Yes, it is theoretically possible for the Latin (Western) Church to adopt the Greek Church's practice of ordaining married men to the priesthood, and it has done so for the exceptional case of former Anglican clergy. But McMahon suggests there there is simply nothing to be said for the immemorial practice of the Latin Church. Saying that we could have women priests is not a denial of doctrine; saying that the theological considerations in favour of a celibate clergy have no weight is. It is an implicit denial of the value of celibacy in the priesthood. This is something which has been reiterated recently by Pope Benedict XVI:
Post-Synodal Exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis (2007) 24 The Synod Fathers wished to emphasize that the ministerial priesthood, through ordination, calls for complete configuration to Christ. While respecting the different practice and tradition of the Eastern Churches, there is a need to reaffirm the profound meaning of priestly celibacy, which is rightly considered a priceless treasure, and is also confirmed by the Eastern practice of choosing Bishops only from the ranks of the celibate. These Churches also greatly esteem the decision of many priests to embrace celibacy. This choice on the part of the priest expresses in a special way the dedication which conforms him to Christ and his exclusive offering of himself for the Kingdom of God. (75) The fact that Christ himself, the eternal priest, lived his mission even to the sacrifice of the Cross in the state of virginity constitutes the sure point of reference for understanding the meaning of the tradition of the Latin Church. It is not sufficient to understand priestly celibacy in purely functional terms. Celibacy is really a special way of conforming oneself to Christ's own way of life. This choice has first and foremost a nuptial meaning; it is a profound identification with the heart of Christ the Bridegroom who gives his life for his Bride. In continuity with the great ecclesial tradition, with the Second Vatican Council (76) and with my predecessors in the papacy, (77) I reaffirm the beauty and the importance of a priestly life lived in celibacy as a sign expressing total and exclusive devotion to Christ, to the Church and to the Kingdom of God, and I therefore confirm that it remains obligatory in the Latin tradition. Priestly celibacy lived with maturity, joy and dedication is an immense blessing for the Church and for society itself.
See the Catholic Encyclopedia on clerical celibacy; more comments by Damian Thompson and Fr Ray Blake.
Bishop McMahon is often described as 'conservative', but this is only the latest in a string of unsettling outbursts and scandalous policies.
He called for women priests in his own diocesan newspaper in 2002 - so explicitly that his later claim that he had been misquoted can only be understood as a face-saving way of back-peddling. On the same occasion he called for married clergy. (See this Christian Order article.)
What is more serious is that he has allowed his diocesan adoption agency to secularise, and, taking the assets given to it for Catholic charitable activities with it, to place vulnerable children into the care of homosexual couples.
Finally, Bishop McMahon, who is a Dominican, he has allowed Quest (see our dossier), the dissident gay group which was excluded from the Catholic Directory by Cardinal Hume for its support for gay sex, to have weekly Masses in the Dominican house in his diocese, Holy Cross in Leicester. Nottingham Quest members gratefully report that Bishops McMahon has encouraged them. What a nice man he must be.
Why is he regarded as 'conservative'? Because he has occasionally attended the Traditional Mass? Is that all it takes? This really is grasping at straws.
Why is McMahon coming out with this while apparently being considered by Rome for the Archdiocese of Westminster? Perhaps because in these matters the influence of liberals is greater than the influence of orthodox Catholics, and he wishes to establish his credentials as a liberal.