Monday, November 07, 2011


Melkite Church to ordain married men to priesthood in US
Fr C:
Most of us think the Eastern Catholic Churches have married priests everywhere. That is not so, and there has been an insistence in the western world (America and western Europe) that all priests are celibate like those of the Latin Rite, so that they can’t “game the system”. This article is worth reading, as it concerns the USA, and we are apparently not talking about dispensations but a general change of the laws.
Well, that’s wonderful. But you need to know the history/context to put it in perspective.
  • Good because Eastern Rite Catholics including Greek Catholics are generally more traditional than the Novus Ordo. But they have an ‘Eastern Novus’ feeling about them.
  • Most Greek Catholics (descendants from converts from Orthodoxy) are Ukrainian Catholics originally from old Polish Galicia. They have married priests in their homeland.
  • Of the Greek Catholic churches, the most Orthodox are the Melkite (Arabs from Syria, Lebanon and Palestine, split from the Antiochian Orthodox... not to be confused with the Lebanese Church, the Maronites) and the tiny Russian Catholic Church (some intelligentsia converted 100 years ago; now it’s a few non-Russians who love everything Russian Orthodox but don’t want schism from Rome and don’t try to convert Russians). So it’s not surprising that the American Melkites are doing this.
  • The Melkites in brief: in 1724 a boy patriarch (influenced by the French?) converts to the RCs; a faction splits from that and gets another patriarch from the Greeks; they’re the Antiochian Orthodox.
  • Both patriarchs of Antioch now live in Damascus, Syria (as does the Syrian Church’s) and are very friendly...
  • A far cry from Western convertodox anti-Romanism, in Syria and Lebanon but not Palestine, lay Orthodox and lay Melkites are really one church. They intermarry and intercommune though families identify as one or the other. So many/most (?) Melkites are technically born Orthodox. The only division is the clergy don’t concelebrate.
  • Famous Antiochian Orthodox Arabs: Paul Anka and Jamie Farr.
  • Uniquely Melkite thing: they don’t use the gold spoon for Communion but cut the loaves (Greek Rite churches use leavened bread: traditional there) into strips and dip them into the chalice. Some say it’s because the French were afraid of les microbes.
  • Universal practice (including the Orthodox) not doctrine: Catholic churches can and do ordain the married but don’t marry the ordained. So this is nothing to do with the old liberals who wanted priests to marry like Protestant ministers, and besides such wouldn’t want the relatively traditional liturgy and sound theology, ‘I love icons’ ecumenism notwithstanding. (The PNCC marries the ordained: sorry, they’re strange and don’t make sense. They used to be sort of Episcopalian. Started by a liberal wacko [I have proof, a copy of his book] but now ironically relative conservatives in Old Catholicism – credally orthodox and they don’t ordain women; they left the Episcopalians over that – thanks to Polish-American cultural conservatism.) Orthodox bishops are celibate and usually officially become monks (the veiled stovepipe hat Bishop Nicholas is wearing is part of the Orthodox monk’s habit).
  • Eastern Rite Catholics are about 2% of all RCs. Most RCs have never heard of them.
  • In America, imposing the celibacy rule and getting rid of lay trustee parish ownership (which the Greek Catholics did to survive as a group vs the hostile local Irish), neither of which were to do with religion (no heresy such as Modernism!), caused a few schisms to the Orthodox. The Toth schism 100 years ago, which you can rightly call the John Ireland schism since he started it: about 60% of the OCA, of American Russian Orthodox, are Ruthenian descendants of ex-Greek Catholics, the Russians’ Slavic cousins but not Russian, the people in The Deer Hunter. Almost a repeat 70+ years ago when celibacy and diocesan ownership were enforced even harder: the Chornock schism, this time to the Greeks because Russia was Communist and they didn’t want to be russified like the Toth people were and wanted to be left alone to do what they’d always done (generally a good plan), charming Tridentine latinizations and all. That’s ACROD, the Carpatho-Russian or Johnstown Diocese. (When that started, the Ruthenian Greek Catholics were sending their boys to seminary in Slovakia where they got married as is their immemorial custom, then were told ‘sorry, Charlie, we can’t ordain you’ when they came home. Again nothing to do with theology. The stuff against the Pope is an ex post facto rationalization.) The PNCC split, a tiny group, was 100 years ago for the same reasons. Now basically a Novus clone with priests from Poland who switched to get married but a real church with fourth-generation members including many of the priests.
  • Ironic fact I read somewhere: there are more married Roman Rite priests (ex-Episcopalians under the Pastoral Provision) in America than married Greek Catholic ones. (Like the ordinariate in England now.)
  • John Ireland is sort of getting his wish as the American Greek Catholics are dwindling; the Orthodox lose many people by assimilation/moving away too.
  • But sound conservative or traditional refugee Roman Riters have been a shot in the arm to several such parishes, whether the newcomers easternize or not.
  • Vocations bust: American Ukrainian Catholic bishops import married priests from the Ukraine to fill the shortage.
  • Been to a Melkite church once, Transfiguration in McLean, VA, and liked it very much (it’s both Arab and refugee Roman Riter/convert), like I’ve been to New York’s Russian Catholic one (in one of Old St Patrick’s buildings), St Michael’s, several times (one parishioner was from... Ireland).
  • Rome wants Greek Catholics to look just like the Orthodox in church (rite controls what you do in church; thou shalt not mix rites there; home devotion is freestyle); most ethnic members don’t and don’t ID with the Orthodox at all (except the Melkites and non-Russian Russian Catholics). Understandable of the Ukes as the Soviets stole their country, Galicia, and their churches and gave them to the puppet Orthodox at the time.
  • Most East Slavic immigration to America ended with WWI; the Ukes got WWII refugees, like some of the Russian Orthodox (the ones who are actually Russian); the first people of this tradition I knew were from that.
  • Of course Catholic priests or deacons who switch to marry aren’t allowed back in as clergy although theologically it’s possible. Rome has every right to stop people gaming the system.
  • There’s a little more leeway for laymen who switch, marry and are ordained somewhere, like the case of Fr Ivan Aquilina in England (Catholic boy became a married Anglican priest then came back to the church and is now a Catholic priest in good standing). Surprising – normally Catholics don’t ordain such – but fine with me. He made a mistake but the church forgave him; he’s not a heretic. Wonderful!
  • I have no strong opinion on the Latin form of clerical celibacy (well, duh: I’m not a young man in seminary). If it changed it would be to the Orthodox way and not what the liberals want.

1 comment:

  1. The Melkites elsewhere are not that Orthodox. The American Melkites are very interesting.

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