A good man

Chris McDonnell

We have lost the voice of a good man, the writer, teacher, priest and family man, Michael Winter, who died in hospital last Sunday morning after a brief illness.

Michael Winter was ordained priest for the Catholic diocese of Southwark in 1955. He served for the next nine years as curate and parish priest in a variety of parishes in the diocese. Later he pursued further studies in theology at the universities of London, Cambridge and Fribourg (Switzerland), where he was awarded the Doctorate in Theology in 1977. He resigned from active ministry in 1986 and turned to university teaching and writing in subsequent years.

Apart from a number of books and many articles, Michael helped with the formation of the Movement for Married Clergy advocating the option of marriage for clergy of the Latin Rite. One man, two vocations seemed perfectly plausible. A frequent contributor to the letters page of the TABLET journal, he spoke and wrote with integrity, his life experience and academic qualifications supporting his argument.

He was persistent in discussion yet was always a good listener. As secretary of MMaC he guided the movement through difficult and frustrating years trying to engage in dialogue with the bishops’ Conference. Their lack of response was deeply frustrating to Michael. Yet he remained throughout loyal and faithful to the Christian faith by which he lived and in which he died. His broad vision of our faith and his insight into evident needs of our time will remain with us. The title of an early book, ‘Mission or Maintenance’ is an apt summary of his position. Should the Christian concentrate on maintaining what we have got, or actively be missionary in outlook and daily life? It was a seminal book of its time and remains relevant to present day discussion.

Every so often voices arise in the Church that demand our attention and just as often they are ignored. Michael did not live to see his vision of an option for priests to marry but he did the spade work for that story to be told.

He was indeed a good man.


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