Skip to comments.Married Priests Back Celibacy (Part 1 of 2)
Posted on 12/20/2006 6:23:43 AM PST by NYer
Part one of Two
WACONIA, Minn. It was a Saturday night, and Father Larry Blake had just celebrated Mass at St. Josephs Church in Waconia, Minn. He hadnt eaten dinner and longed to spend time visiting with his wife and children.
No sooner had I sat down than our emergency line rang, said Father Blake, a former Lutheran pastor who was ordained to the priesthood in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis in 1999. Someone at the hospital needed the anointing of the sick. I determined I had enough time to finish eating dinner and then left for the hospital.
By the time he returned home at 11:30 p.m., his wife and children were all fast asleep.
Id be dishonest if I said I wouldnt have rather sat at home and visited with my family, but this is what I was called to do.
It is challenges like this that are often overlooked in the debate over whether Catholic priests ought to be allowed to marry.
Its an age-old debate that has been back in the news of late. On Dec. 10, Zambian Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo installed two more married men as bishops outside of the Catholic communion at the conclusion of his Married Priests Now convention in New Jersey. In September, Archbishop Milingo had installed four married men as bishops, leading to his excommunication by Pope Benedict XVI.
In early December, Cardinal Claudio Hummes, newly appointed to head the Vaticans Congregation for Clergy, said in a Brazilian newspaper interview that celibacy is a disciplinary norm and not a Church dogma and therefore was open to possible change.
Shortly after arriving at the Vatican from his native Brazil Dec. 4, the cardinal issued a statement emphasizing that priestly celibacy was a long and valuable tradition in the Latin Church, based on strong theological and pastoral arguments.
As well, a couple of ordinations in December of former Anglican clergymen who are married led some to wonder, Why should they be permitted the exception when priests who went off and got married are not allowed to return to active ministry in the Church?
According to one scholar, the Church has been struggling with the celibate priesthood question from time out of mind.
Father Andrew Cozzens, an instructor of sacramental theology at the St. Paul Seminary School of Divinity in St. Paul, Minn., said the Church first legislated clerical celibacy at the beginning of the fourth century. At that time, it was mostly the teaching of continence, he said. It was almost universally required that if a married man was ordained a priest, he lived as a brother and sister with his wife.
Father Cozzens, who is writing his doctoral dissertation on how the priest is a living image of Christ the bridegroom, said that the continence idea stemmed from St. Leo the Great, who said that when a man becomes a priest, his former marriage becomes a spiritual one because he enters into a new marriage.
He added that the practice was common in both the East and West until the seventh century, when the East began to permit married men to live as married men, except for bishops, who are required to remain celibate.
In the West, every time the question comes up for discussion, the magisterium grows stronger in its defense of the connection between priesthood and celibacy, he said. Once the Church started legislating, they started pushing celibacy.
The Numbers Speak
Yet, organizations such as Corpus and FutureChurch continue to argue that opening ordination to married men as well as to women would attract more priests.
We feel that celibacy is a gift, and a gift should be freely exercised. It shouldnt be mandatory, said Stuart OBrien, member services director of Corpus, a Massachusetts-based organization representing priests who have left ministries in the Church to get married. The priesthood should be open to all the gifts of all people.
Yet, the argument that making celibacy optional would solve the priest shortage seems to be contradicted by the Protestant experience. Ordinations among denominations that allow married clergy have seen nothing but decline. Male ordination in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America has dropped from 354 men in 1980 to 151 in 2003. In fact, in 2003, female ordination surpassed that of male ordination in the Evangelical Lutheran Church.
That decrease is also observable in the Episcopal Church of the USA. Male ordination decreased from 272 in 1974 to 94 in 1997, while female ordination increased from nine in 1974 to 69 in 1997.
The Protestants have their own problems, rejoined Corpuss OBrien. They arent necessarily our problems.
And yet, married men ordained priests legitimately arent the ones calling for a change. Often, they are the ones that are most supportive of celibacy.
I fully support the position of the Church on celibacy and consider it an exceptional privilege to serve the Church in this way, said Father Blake, of Minnesota. Still, he admits that its a balancing act.
It would be dishonest for me to say that there are not times when there are things that happen in the parish, and it means that I have to take time from my family, or there are times when I dont attend something happening at the parish because of a family obligation, he said. If I were by myself, I might go. It cuts both ways. The reality is that I now have two vocations.
Through the Pastoral Provision, the Church accepts married Episcopalian priests who have become Catholic. To date, 82 men have been ordained under the provision, the latest being Fathers Alvin Kimel in Newark, N.J., and Dwight Longenecker in South Carolina. Father Longenecker is a Register columnist.
Statistics are not available for Protestant converts who become priests, as they have more stringent requirements, and are handled on a case-by-case basis by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
Father William Stetson, who serves as secretary to Newark Archbishop John Myers, the ecclesiastical delegate for the Pastoral Provision, pointed out that Episcopal ministers who are ordained to the Catholic priesthood do not ordinarily serve full-time in parishes.
The Church tries to recognize that they have a duty to their family, said Father Stetson. Practically, a married man is not as available. Theologically, its a gift of Christ to his Church. The best way for a man who is invested with the priesthood of Jesus Christ is to serve the portion of the flock given to his care with an undivided heart.
Providing for his family is a common challenge for married priests, he said. Many of the priests have to supplement their income with secular jobs, said Father Stetson, who knows of priests who are policemen, university professors or psychiatrists. The experience of every single Episcopal priest that has come into the Catholic Church is that they are surprised by the volume of work that the majority of Roman Catholic parishes require.
Corpus OBrien finds the Pastoral Provision incongruous.
Those who are married can practice the priesthood in the Roman Catholic Church, said OBrien, while those who have been ordained and would like to return are excluded. Its something that, to me, doesnt make any sense.
Greek Orthodox Deacon Virgil Petrisor, of Brookline, Mass., said that he finds it sad that married priests so often cite the problem that the priesthood diverts their attention from their parishes to their wives and children.
I tend to view the family as a part of the ministry, said Petrisor, who is studying to be a priest at Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology. Its not these other people who keep him from doing his job. Rather, its the priests and his family doing Christs work. I think the family can and should be an asset rather than a distraction.
Jesuit Father Joseph Fessio disagreed.
I dont see how a priest who is faithful to his calling can give his wife and children the time and attention that they need in a marriage, said Father Fessio, provost of Ave Maria College in Naples, Fla. Does it mean it cant happen? No, it doesnt mean that, but I believe that there is some fundamental inner tension which can never be resolved.
to this report.)
Tim Drake is based in
St. Joseph, Minnesota.
Next: Priests speak candidly about the spiritual and practical benefits that they have gained from the gift of celibacy.
A Precious Jewel
Surprisingly, some of the most vocal defenses of priestly celibacy have come from those who can marry Eastern-rite Catholics and former Anglicans who have been ordained under the Pastoral Provision, an exception granted by Pope John Paul II in 1980.
During the 2005 Synod of Bishops on the Eucharist, for example, Cardinal Angelo Scola, Patriarch of Venice, raised the issue of viri probati (tested men), saying that some bishops had put forward the request to ordain married faithful of proven faith and virtue. Bishops from Great Britain and New Zealand supported the idea, arguing that it might encourage additional young men to enter the priesthood.
During the interventions by Eastern-rite bishops, Cardinal Nasrallah Sfeir, the Maronite patriarch of Antioch in Lebanon, said that half of his dioceses priests are married.
It must be recognized that if admitting married men resolves one problem, it creates others just as serious, he told the synod members.
The priests duty to care for his wife and children, ensure their education and oversee their entry into society are among the problems Cardinal Sfeir mentioned.
Another difficulty facing a married priest arises if he does not enjoy a good relationship with his parishioners, he said. His bishop cannot transfer him because of the difficulty of transferring his whole family.
Celibacy, in fact, is the most precious jewel in the treasury of the Catholic Church, the cardinal declared, contrasting the practice against an impure culture. How can celibacy be conserved in an atmosphere laden with eroticism? Newspapers, Internet, billboards, shows, everything appears shameless and constantly offends the virtue of chastity.
If Jesus Christ wanted priests to be married, he continued, he would have gotten married himself.
The cardinals remarks drew applause from the synods participants.
Article URL: http://ncregister.com/site/article/1636/
Mar Nasrallah Peter Cardinal Sfeir
Patriarch of Antioch and all the East
How funny. It must be hard to hear from the married guys you have to abstain from marriage and all that goes with it while they run home to their familes. On the otherhand, I would hope that the priests get the same pay regardless of status in marriage. Getting married should not guarantee a payraise (yes I am married).
And if Jesus Christ wanted people to have cars, he would have had one himself.
By whom? Other than that, good article.
Aren't priests in the model of Arron?
After you get married, the celebacy part pretty much takes care of itself.
Priests are in the model of Christ - the New covenant.
Where in Scripture does it say people who speak the Word to others should be celibate?
Oh look, a practice that an institution has had for hundreds of years makes sense.
Why does anyone doubt this? No one is saying that marriage is bad, or that it is morally wrong for priests to be married, all the Church is saying is that this way works best. This is the best way for these men to be the fathers they were called to be and the best way for them to act in persona Christi. That's all.
And they have had more than enough time to determine which way works best.
1 Cor 7:25-38 "Now in regard to virgins, I have no commandment from the Lord, but I give my opinion as one who by the Lord's mercy is trustworthy.
So this is what I think best because of the present distress: that it is a good thing for a person to remain as he is. Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek a separation. Are you free of a wife? Then do not look for a wife. If you marry, however, you do not sin, nor does an unmarried woman sin if she marries; but such people will experience affliction in their earthly life, and I would like to spare you that.
I tell you, brothers, the time is running out. From now on, let those having wives act as not having them, those weeping as not weeping, those rejoicing as not rejoicing, those buying as not owning, those using the world as not using it fully. For the world in its present form is passing away.
I should like you to be free of anxieties. An unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord. But a married man is anxious about the things of the world, how he may please his wife, and he is divided. An unmarried woman or a virgin is anxious about the things of the Lord, so that she may be holy in both body and spirit. A married woman, on the other hand, is anxious about the things of the world, how she may please her husband.
I am telling you this for your own benefit, not to impose a restraint upon you, but for the sake of propriety and adherence to the Lord without distraction. If anyone thinks he is behaving improperly toward his virgin, and if a critical moment has come and so it has to be, let him do as he wishes. He is committing no sin; let them get married. The one who stands firm in his resolve, however, who is not under compulsion but has power over his own will, and has made up his mind to keep his virgin, will be doing well. So then, the one who marries his virgin does well; the one who does not marry her will do better."
Indeed, those are good verses describing most singleness as being either acceptable or good.
But for ministering the Word, there is no support to suggest marriage is wrong.
Now, understand, I have never been married. That said, I don't go around thinking I'm better than all the married people here, although it sounds like I'm getting some support for starting to think that way.
Hbr 7:11 ¶ If therefore perfection were by the Levitical priesthood, (for under it the people received the law,) what further need [was there] that another priest should rise after the order of Melchisedec, and not be called after the order of Aaron?
Hbr 7:12 For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law.
Whatever opinion they adopt with regard to the historical value of all the traditions concerning Aaron's life, all scholars, whether Catholics or independent critics, admit that in Aaron's High Priesthood the sacred writer intended to describe a model, the prototype, so to say, of the Jewish High Priest. God, on Mount Sinai, instituting a worship, did also institute an order of priests. According to the patriarchal customs, the first born son in every family used to perform the functions connected with God's worship. It might have been expected, consequently, that Ruben's family would be chosen by God for the ministry of the new altar. According to the biblical narrative, it was Aaron, however, who was the object of Yahweh's choice. To what jealousies this gave rise later, has been indicated above. The office of the Aaronites was at first merely to take care of the lamp that should ever burn before the veil of the tabernacle (Exodus 27:21). A more formal calling soon followed (xxviii, 1). Aaron and his sons, distinguished from the common people by their sacred functions, were likewise to receive holy vestments suitable to their office. When the moment had come, when the tabernacle, and all its appurtenances, and whatever was required for Yahweh's worship were ready Moses, priest and mediator (Galatians 3:19), offered the different sacrifices and performed the many ceremonies of the consecration of the new priests, according to the divine instructions (Exodus 29), and repeated these rites for seven days, during which Aaron and his sons were entirely separated from the rest of the people. When, on the eighth day, the High Priest had inaugurated his office of sacrificer by killing the victims, he blessed the people, very likely according to the prescriptions of Num., vi, 24-26, and, with Moses, entered into the tabernacle so as to take possession thereof. As they "came forth and blessed the people. And the glory of the Lord appeared to all the multitude: And behold a fire, coming forth from the Lord, devoured the holocaust, and the fat that was upon the altar: which when the multitude saw, they praised the Lord, falling on their faces" (Leviticus 9:23, 24). So was the institution of the Aaronic priesthood inaugurated and solemnly ratified by God.
According to Wellhausen's just remarks, Aaron's position in the Law with regard to the rest of the priestly order is not merely superior, but unique. His sons and the Levites act under his superintendence (Numbers 3:4), he alone is the one fully qualified priest; he alone bears the Urim and Thummin and the Ephod -- he alone is allowed to enter the Holy of Holies, there to offer incense (Leviticus 23:27) once a year on the great Day of Atonement. In virtue of his spiritual dignity as the head of the priesthood he is likewise the supreme judge and head of the theocracy (Numbers 27:21 - Deuteronomy 17). He alone is the answerable mediator between the whole nation and God, for this cause he bears the names of the Twelve Tribes written on his breast and shoulders; his trespasses involve the whole people in guilt, and are atoned for as those of the whole people, while the princes, when their sin offerings are compared with his, appear as mere private persons (Leviticus 4:3, 13, 22; 9:7; 16:6). His death makes an epoch; it is when the High Priest, not the King, dies, that the fugitive slayer obtains his amnesty (Numbers 35:28). At his investiture he receives the chrism like a king and is called accordingly the anointed priest, he is adorned with a diadem and tiara like a king (Exodus 28), and like a king, too, he wears the purple, except when he goes into the Holy of Holies (Leviticus 16:4).
Aaron, first High Priest of the Old Law, is most naturally a figure of Jesus Christ, first and sole Sovereign Priest of the New Dispensation. The writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews was the first to set off the features of this parallel, indicating especially two points of comparison. First, the calling of both High Priests: "Neither doth any man take the honour to himself, but he that is called by God as Aaron was. So Christ also did not glorify himself, that he might be made a high priest, but he that said unto him: Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee" (Hebrews 5:4-5). In the second place, the efficacy and duration of both the one and the other priesthood. Aaron's priesthood is from this viewpoint inferior to that of Jesus Christ. If indeed, the former had been able to perfect men and communicate to them the justice that pleases God, another would have been useless. Hence its inefficacy called for a new one, and Jesus' priesthood has forever taken the place of that of Aaron (Hebrews 7:11-12)
Couldn't Catholic priests get married until approximately 1055 ad ?
Only in certain ecclesiastical provinces and dioceses. The Spanish Church banned married clergy in the 4th century, for example.