Monday, October 26, 2009

Married Priests In The Catholic Church

A Married Priest With His Wife And Children

(Rorate Caeli) - Very interesting answers in this lengthy interview granted by the leader of the Traditional Anglican Communion, Primate John Hepworth, to The Australian Inquirer...

Married Priests:
Inquirer: How do the Pope's proposals mesh the Latin celibate discipline for all clergy with Anglicanism's longstanding acceptance of married priests and bishops?

JH: Bishops in the new Anglican structure will be unmarried. This is out of respect for the tradition of Eastern and Western Christianity. But priests who come from Anglicanism will be able to serve as priests in the new structure, whether married or not, after satisfying certain requirements. The truly radical element is that married men will be able to be ordained priests in the Anglican structure indefinitely into the future...

read full story here
THE CATHOLIC KNIGHT: The concept of married Catholic priests (under the Anglican Ordinariates) poses no threat to my Traditional Catholic sensibilities whatsoever, and here is the reason why. The Catholic Church has had married priests in the United States for literally DECADES! The first class come from former protestant ministers, usually Anglican, already married who seek to become Catholic priests. In most cases, the Church has granted this. The second class is this...
(PG News) - Saturday, October 02, 1999
By Ann Rodgers-Melnick, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

The Vatican has cautiously opened the door to the ordination of married men as Byzantine Catholic priests in the United States.

The change comes as the Metropolitan Byzantine Archdiocese of Pittsburgh prepares to celebrate its 75th anniversary tomorrow at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, Downtown. But the new law is not a full return to the church's practice of 75 years ago, when Rome's permission was not needed.

A set of newly approved canon laws for the archdiocese permits bishops to submit the names of married candidates to Rome for approval on a case-by-case basis....

read full story here
Here we see that Rome has allowed married men in the United States to become Byzantine Catholic priests for exactly ten years now. All of this comes with no shock or disruption to the Catholic Church in North America. The key here is rites. By that I mean liturgical rites. In the western world we are most familiar with the Roman Rite, however the Catholic Church actually consists of many rites. There are four primary rites in the Catholic Church, all of them recognizing the Bishop of Rome as the sovereign pontiff. Each primary rite has other rites that may have sprang forth from it, but primary rites form the main groups. These four primaries are the Roman Rite, Antiochian Rite, Alexandrian Rite and Byzantine Rite. All of them are 100% Catholic. All of them are in full apostolic communion with the pope (who is head of the Roman Rite). All of them make up the Catholic Church. Yet only one of them has mandated celibacy of all it's clerics, and that is the Roman Rite.

Celibacy has always been practiced in Christianity by those who were able to practice it. Jesus Christ himself was celibate, as was the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Paul, the apostle who wrote two-thirds of the New Testament. St. Paul encouraged celibacy among all those clergy who were able to practice it. However, the first pope, St. Peter, was married, as were a number of bishops in the early Catholic Church. Christianity has always placed high value on both marriage and celibacy as two different ways of practicing chastity. Though celibacy was preferred among the clergy as a way of fostering total devotion to care of the Christian flock. As St. Paul put it, the married man strives to please God and his wife, while the celibate man strives only to please God. It wasn't until the early second millennium (1100's) that celibacy was mandated of all clerics exclusively in the Roman Rite. This mandate did not apply to other rites within the Catholic Church. Any charge that the Catholic Church banned marriage from all clergy is spurious to say the least, as married Catholic men have always been allowed to become priests in the other Catholic rites. However, it had been the custom within all rites for some time to restrict the office of bishop to celibate men alone. This is not to say that a married man couldn't be a bishop. It's just that it hasn't been the custom of any Catholic rite to allow this for some time, and that is not likely to change.

The crisis that erupted in the Protestant Anglican Communion during the late 1970s led some Anglican clergy to seek refuge in the Catholic Church, and among them were married Anglican priests. So in the early 1980s, Pope John Paul II created a "Pastoral Provision" in the Roman Rite that would allow married Anglican priests to be ordained as Roman Catholic priests and continue to practice their Anglican customs. This was essentially an experiment to see if married clergy (operating under an "Anglican Use" pastoral provision) would coexist well among a predominately celibate priesthood within the Roman Rite. The experiment proved to be a success, in that these married priests proved to be just as faithful and devoted as celibate priests within their limited capacity as married men. Ironically, they often proved to be more conservative, more orthodox, and more traditional than the average number of celibate priests throughout the United States. This is not to say that marriage makes one more conservative, orthodox or traditional, but rather demonstrates that marriage does not in any way detract from these things. In other words, married men make just as good priests as celibate men, thought admittedly, married men do not have as much time for their priestly duties. So if you're looking for quantity of ministry, celibacy is definitely the way to go, but if you're looking for quality of ministry, there really is no measurable difference between married and celibate.

As the Anglican Ordinariates are organized and grow, we can expect a larger number of married Catholic priests operating under this pastoral provision of the Roman Rite. What does that mean? Well in essence, it means the Catholic priesthood will be much more accessible to married men in the years ahead. Granted, it's always been available through the eastern rites, but this is the first time in a thousand years when it will be widely available to Catholic men in the Roman Rite (under Anglican Ordinariates). In practical application however, I wouldn't expect a flood of married men applying to the priesthood. There are still many strictures that make the priesthood difficult for married men even under an Anglican Ordinariate. For starters, probably the biggest obstacle is money. Married men tend to need a lot more of it then celebrate men, and the Church is not likely to provide a higher salary to married priests at risk of discrimination against celibate priests. So married priests will have to work on the side to bring home the bacon, now splitting his obligation three ways between ministry, family and job. Either that, or his wife is going to have to go out and work. However, a married priest would be just as obligated to obey the Church's teachings on contraception, so he is likely to have at least a few children and possibly more. That being the case, we're talking about more money and less time for ministry. All and all, the Church is getting less bang for it's buck with married priests, and I'm sure that played a role in the Church's initial decision to mandate celibacy in the Roman Rite nearly a thousand years ago.

I should point out that this is just one pastoral provision within the Roman Rite. It is not the entire Roman Rite itself. In many ways, the whole Anglophone world has just become a laboratory. It's a repeat of the experiment done with Anglican Use priests in the United States thirty years ago, but this time on a much grander scale. It doesn't apply to the Spanish-speaking world on the same level, nor the French-speaking world, etc. It mainly applies to the English-speaking (Anglophone) world and who knows where it will lead? One thing is certain. English speaking Catholics have been clamoring for married priests for decades. Now they're going to get it, though perhaps not the way they expected, and certainly with no hint of sacrificing traditional Catholic orthodoxy.  If anything, they should expect incoming married priests to be more traditional and conservative than many of their celibate counterparts.  At least that's what the trend has been so far.