Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Married Roman Rite priests? Sure, but...


Pope Francis has begun exploring the possibility of ordaining married men as priests to make up for a serious shortage in the church.
Fine with me but 1) some of those already ordained would be envious because they still may not marry*, 2) honestly, how many American Roman Riters would pony up to support a priest's wife and kids?, and 3) Roman Rite bishops like their priests to be like soldiers, easy to move around. Can't do that as easily with a wife and kids.

Of course we've been ordaining the married for centuries; the Roman Rite, which most Catholics belong to, doesn't but that's just a rule.

And married priests aren't a cure for the vocations shortage. Mostly, none of us has a big pool to recruit from anymore. With a population shrinking faster than the Roman Rite's, the Eastern churches in America don't get many either. Mainline Protestants, including the Catholic-ish Episcopalians and ELCA Lutherans, marry the ordained and ordain practicing homosexuals and women, and they're cratering.

Nearly no real apostolic churches marry the ordained (the little and shrinking Polish National Catholic Church in America does; they're a weird mix of Polish customs and old American Masonic liberalism); it's just a rule but not one to be changed lightly. (Orthodox bishops are celibate; they're usually technically monks.)

Photo: Yes, the cathedral of the archdiocese of my part-time parish has long had married priests from the Ukraine since the fall of Communism brought some immigration.

By the way, the church protects the Eastern rites by not letting men switch rites and canonical churches just to get married during seminary.

I understand that America has more married ex-Anglican priests, who are few, than married Byzantine Rite ones. One of those ironies, like how there are more Roman Riters in Greece and Russia than Byzantine Catholics.

*This caused two schisms in America that are essentially our fault. It's why Roman Rite clergy here treated Slavic Greek Catholics badly so one group of the latter left for the Russian Orthodox (what's now the OCA) over 100 years ago and another went to the Greek Orthodox nearly 80 years ago. (Still, if you think the church is only the East, I feel sorry for you.) The church can set and change rules; it decided to ban ordaining the married in North America for the Byzantine Rite. The Ruthenian bishop here opposed that ban and appealed to Rome but was overruled; many Ruthenian-American Catholics wrongly blamed him. Some say the ban no longer is in force, which again would be fine with me.

17 comments:

  1. "Nearly no real apostolic churches marry the ordained (the little and shrinking Polish National Catholic Church in America does ..."

    And the Assyrians/"Nestorians" - but for deacons and priests only; their bishops (but only since the 13th Century) have to be monks ("nominal" monks, since monasticism among them died out in the 18th Century).

    It appears that before two successive Persian Church synods (in 484 and 496) canonically permitted the ordination of married men to the diaconate, presbyterate, and episcopate (and allowed for deacons, priests, and bishops to marry or, if widowed, to remarry after ordination) all those ordained to those three "major orders" had not only to be celibate and unmarried, but never to have "got married," at least after their baptisms if adult converts. In the 19th Century, after most, or all, of the fragments of the Nestorian Church had come into communion with Rome as the Chaldean Catholic Church (the Assyrians stem, curiously, from a Nestorian bishop who entered into communion with Rome in 1553 and was killed by the Turks in 1555; his successors remained in sporadic contact with Rome down to ca. 1605 - but when contact was renewed in the 1660s and Rome, having discovered that they still commemorated Nestorius as a saint, ordered that to cease, they refused to do so, and repudiated communion with Rome in 1670) Rome made them adopt the clerical marriage discipline of the Orthodox and Miaphysite churches: no marriage after ordination, celibate bishops, ordination of married men to the diaconate and presbyterate.

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  2. FYI re: "some say the ban no longer is in force" -- this isn't just a he-said-she-said rumor, it's a fact:

    "Eastern-Catholic bishops in the U.S. and Canada can once more ordain married men to the priesthood, now that the Vatican has removed decades-long prohibitions that had prevented them from following the traditional practice of their patriarchal Churches.

    "The decree — signed by Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, the prefect of the Congregation for Oriental Churches — was dated June 14, 2014, in the Acta Apostolicae Sedis. It was published online in November and announced that Pope Francis restored the faculty of Eastern-Catholic bishops 'outside of the traditional Eastern territories' to admit married men to the priesthood 'according to the traditions of their respective Churches.'"

    (National Catholic Register)

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  3. Someone needs to get that iL Papa under control. Whatever is going on with that den of vipers (the Vatican Curia)? That's their job! They are acting more like our effete U.S. Congress seemingly every day! :O

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  4. I forgot--my comments pertain solely to the Roman Rite.

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  5. Two practical considerations, one you mentioned, one you didn't. First, most Latin Rite parishes have no inclination to pay a married priest the salary necessary to support a wife and raise children, particularly the number of children likely to result if the priest and his wife follow Church teaching in the matter of contraception (unthinkable that they wouldn't). Second, with married priests will come ... divorced priests. That is going to be a problem, particularly since once ordained, the priest won't be able to marry again post-divorce (and annulment, of course). Divorce is a real problem within the Protestant ministry (I have a friend who is an LCMS Lutheran pastor who was divorced by his first wife while in his first parish as a pastor, he has since remarried). It is foolish to think that the incredible stresses and strains of ministry wouldn't have an effect on the priest and his wife's relationship. And sometimes, those strains will result in divorce.

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    1. And the requirement of celibacy acted as a stalking horse for the homosexualisation of the Latin-rite presbyterate, but that's not a black mark against it in the same way that the possibility of divorce is against clerical marriage, is it?

      Catholics just have to start behaving like adults regarding this issue - that means thinking rationally. It also means admitting that the alleged law of celibacy is tainted with the error of ritual purity - as is the alleged prohibition and invalidation of post-ordination marriage.

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    2. Great point about clerical divorce.

      Someone once told me that in one big Roman Rite diocese the number of homosexuals among priests was twice the general population's. This spike happens in the caring/helping professions. With priests that gives you a whopping ... 6%. That said, the priesthood's long been a respectable option for them. Shrug. An orientation's not a sin.

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  6. At some point, I recommend surveying a few parish budgets. Here's an example.
    http://www.churchofsaintmary.org/Financials/2016/budgetspread.pdf

    As you can see, it's a $1.4m budget. I'm not discounting that it's a culture change, but...An Episcopal / Anglican parish with a $1.4m budget would have 2-3 full time clergy, several paid staff, etc. If there's something I'm missing about the way Catholic parishes do their budgeting, please let me know.

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  7. How, in the light of I Cor 9:5, can it reasonably be argued that the (secular) clergy do not possess a divinely conferred right to marry?? St Paul was already a bishop and he maintains he is seized of such right - cf Vogels'Celibacy: Gift or Law? The "requirement" of clerical celibacy represents legal positivism at its "finest".

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  8. "... the alleged prohibition and invalidation of post-ordination marriage ..."

    When and where was "post-ordination marriage" ever permitted in the Early Church? You seem to be asserting a "right" quod nusque quod nusquam quod ab nullis creditum est among the Church Fathers.

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  9. Where do the fathers universally deny the existence of such a right? How could it be any clearer than if enshrined in Divine Revelation? The sacraments do not, and cannot work against each other. cf. Vogels concerning the doubt experienced by the council fathers of Lateran II that they even had the jurisdiction to impose such an impediment. Actions speak louder than words - the practice of post-ordination marriage in the early-mediaeval Latin church could not have just emerged out of thin air.

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    1. This seems to call for some Peter Anson-style sarcasm: Right; the Roman Rite of the Catholic Church has been a big flop, limited to some groups in Europe, whilst the more open-minded Western churches likewise claiming apostolic succession but marrying the ordained, exercising a divinely conferred right, have fulfilled the Great Commission and done good works all over the world for centuries. (Anglicans might claim that thanks to the British Empire but they're not Catholic and a lot of them, the Evangelicals, don't claim to be.) Look at what they did in America, with parishes of thousands of families each all over the Northeast, schools, hospitals, convents, etc. We mackerel snappers learned our lesson, schooled by the churches that marry the ordained, the true Roman Catholic Church.

      I know that the Old Catholics, though liberal, ran a relatively tight ship at first, still agreeing with us in not recognizing Anglican orders, so I wouldn't be surprised if they kept the celibacy rule or least not marrying the ordained for a while too. Now they're a rump sect of continental Episcopalians. When you start with a plausible appeal to antiquity against the church, you end up with Modernism (and yes, that's true in the non-Catholic East, despite their traditional liturgies: now they're for contraception, for example).

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    2. I think that the European Old Catholic churches that emerged in the 1870s dropped the celibacy requirement almost immediately (in terms of both ordaining married men and permitting the ordained to marry) almost immediately upon their formation; and recognised Anglican Orders, if at first only tacitly, very quickly as well, in the 1880s. The Dutch Old Catholics abolished the clerical celibacy requirement in the early 1920s (allowing both the ordination of married men, and the ordained to marry), and recognised Anglican orders in 1925; on the latter, cf.:

      http://anglicanhistory.org/cbmoss/orders.html

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    3. A postscript to my last (I sent it too soon!): the Dutch Old Catholics (who began to celebrate liturgical services in the Dutch language only in 1910) abolished the clerical celibacy requirement in 1922, before going on to recognize "Anglican Orders" in 1925.

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  10. By the way, I'm open to be convinced of your position, it would seem to be a heavy onus to discharge, that's all ...

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    1. "Where do the fathers universally deny the existence of such a right?"

      The burden of proof is not upon the upholders of traditional practice in this case, but upon you to prove the existence of such a suppositous "right" by both assertions of it by contemporary advocators, and by its uncontested exercise. Otherwise, quod gratis asseritur, gratis negatur . I know of no examples of either, by the way.

      Rather, I consider those examples of "the practice of post-ordination marriage in the early-mediaeval Latin church" (or of assumed post-ordination marriage), even on the part of a few bishops, to be an abuse analogous to that of groups or gatherings of bishops in Ninth-Century Frankland who tried to justify more than one Frankish ruler's desire to ditch a wife in favor of a mistress, or to wink at it, only to be condemned by the papacy for doing so.

      As for I Corinthians 9:5, I simply read St. Paul as saying "if I were married, like Cephas and the Lord's brothers, I would have the right to have my wife travel around with me, like them, and like them expect you to support the two of us in my and our labors;" no more.

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  11. St Paul uses the indicative, he's talking about an extant right - just as he's able to eat and drink, he has the right to marry. As to the fathers: (i) this is clearly a matter of discipline, not faith and morals; (ii) the first patristic treatment of clerical marriage/celibacy comes about 300 years after the founding of the church, that some fathers say one thing, others another. Clement of Alexandria contradicts himself, so it seems, does St Jerome (or he at least changes his mind); (iii) no-one, so far as I know, is daring to claim that the prohibition on post-ordination marriage is of divine law; (iv) there's no mention ot the prohibition, let alone a requirement of celibacy or continence with in clerical marriage, in the Didache.

    In the light of the above, it's hard to see the prohibition on post-ordination marriage as anything but an exercise in legal positivism. Furthermore, if I remember the test of the relevant canon of Lateran II rightly, it was also tainted by considerations of ritual purity. This poses a jurisprudential prooblem.

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