LEICESTER, United Kingdom — A fourth Anglican bishop in a year has been received into the Catholic Church.
It was confirmed by the Church Times – an independent newspaper covering the Church of England – that the former bishop of Chester, Peter Forster, became Catholic last year.
The three other Church of England bishops to become Catholic last year are the former Bishop of Rochester, Michael Nazir-Ali; the former Bishop of Ebbsfleet, Jonathon Goodall; and the former Bishop of Burnley, John Goddard.
Foster was received into the Catholic Church in the Archdiocese of St. Andrews and Edinburg in Scotland, where he and his wife now reside.
Forster retired from the Diocese of Chester in 2019, having been the longest serving Church of England bishop. There were complaints he mishandled an allegation of abuse against a priest of the diocese in 2009, and in testimony to the Independent Inquiry Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA), he admitted he made a “misjudgment” and that “it wasn’t handled properly at the time.”
While a Church of England Bishop, Forster served as a member of the English Anglican-Roman Catholic Committee. While opposed to efforts to legalize same-sex marriage in the UK and the ordination of practicing homosexual clergy, he had supported the ordination of women, and the first woman bishop in the Church of England came from his diocese.
However, the Church Times said that Forster was worried about the effect of women bishops on ecumenism.
“[He] noted a ‘drift’ in ecumenical relations ‘from a vision of full visible unity to an essentially debased vision of reconciled diversity.’ It was ‘astonishing’ that ARCIC had not produced work on the ordination of women, he said,” the newspaper reported.
The bishop was one of 26 Lords Spiritual — Church of England bishops serving in Parliament — serving in the UK’s House of Lords from 2001 until his retirement in 2019.
Forster was also critical of Pope Francis’s 2015 environmental encyclical Laudato Si’, co-authoring The Papal Encyclical: A critical Christian response with Bernard Donoughue, a Labour Party peer. The document, published by The Global Warming Policy Foundation, called the encyclical “somewhat naïve” and claiming that if the pontiff’s policy prescriptions were followed, it would “only serve to increase the very poverty that he seeks to reduce.”
The retired bishop, 71, hasn’t spoken about his reception into the Catholic Church, and there is no information on whether he will seek to become a Catholic priest.
In addition to the four Church of England bishops, former Church of England priest Gavin Ashenden was also received into the Catholic Church in December 2019. Ashenden had been ordained a bishop in the Christian Episcopal Church, a breakaway Anglican denomination, in 2017.