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Married Priests Back Celibacy (Part 1 of 2)
National Catholic Register ^ | December 24, 2006 | TIM DRAKE

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. Joseph’s Church in Waconia, Minn. He hadn’t 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.

“I’d be dishonest if I said I wouldn’t 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.

It’s 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 Vatican’s 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 shouldn’t be mandatory,” said Stuart O’Brien, 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 Corpus’s O’Brien. “They aren’t necessarily our problems.”

And yet, married men ordained priests legitimately aren’t 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 it’s 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 don’t 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, it’s 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’ O’Brien finds the Pastoral Provision incongruous.

“Those who are married can practice the priesthood in the Roman Catholic Church,” said O’Brien, “while those who have been ordained and would like to return are excluded. It’s something that, to me, doesn’t 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. “It’s not … these other people who keep him from doing his ‘job.’ Rather, it’s the priests and his family doing Christ’s work. I think the family can and should be an asset rather than a distraction.”

Jesuit Father Joseph Fessio disagreed.

“I don’t 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 can’t happen? No, it doesn’t mean that, but I believe that there is some fundamental inner tension which can never be resolved.”

(CNS contributed

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 diocese’s 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 priest’s 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 cardinal’s remarks drew applause from the synod’s participants.

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TOPICS: Catholic; Religion & Culture; Theology; Worship
KEYWORDS: cardinalhummes; catholic; celibacy; lutheran
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To: Joseph DeMaistre


21 posted on 12/20/2006 9:05:06 AM PST by IrishMike (Democrats .... Stuck on Stupid, RINO's ...the most vicious judas goats)
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To: klossg
I have no problem with describing my own situation.

When I was a teen, I cam up with a list of things that must be expected of both me and the person I would date. They are as follows:

1. She must be a solid Christian
2. We must be good friends first
3. She should not desire drinking, smoking, or doing drugs
4. She cannot be divorced
5. Must have a great heart and a good mind, proven out over time to show her true character
6. I need to find her attractive or enduring in some way

Out of the six qualities mentioned above, only the last is something that is innately selfish in some way. On the whole, I don't see a problem with that.

I have seriously dated two women that effectively met all those qualities prior to the lady I'm now dating. She meets them all, not just nominally, but in every way.

I have waited until marriage, although I haven't always expected that my wife would have. The great reason for my own celibacy is because I knew I would need to model that behavior for my children to have true credibility with them. I never thought it would take so long to find someone with, not only all those qualities mentioned above, but who had also waited until marriage.

I could handle getting herpes or HIV from someone I loved, but I would rather not have such concerns. One of the women I seriously dated was a phlebotomist. While we were dating, she stuck herself with a needle from a potentially HIV-infected patient. I didn't have a problem with that then, nor now. I loved her.

For a relationship to work out in its earlier stages, both sides need to be in a similar mindset as well as need to find each other the one whom they would want to be with. I thought the phlebotomist and I would get married, but for her, she felt less attraction for me in the relationship than I did for her. It was to the point that she didn't think she would be able to sustain her romantic feelings with me. We broke up. She later told me she thought we'd get back together, but I knew it had to come from her.

I refuse to date divorced women based solely on Scripture. I have no need to commit adultery nor cause someone to commit adultery.

My current girlfriend has always felt the exact same way. We are both in our 30s and have always had higher standards for ourselves throughout our lives.

There were women I could have married along the way, but I'm not one to believe you marry just to be married. But, being one who thinks sex needs to be within marriage, the single life can be difficult at times, but I grew to easily handle that. Women that are less than what you want never make it beyond friendship when you have a list like the one I mention above. It's built-in accountability that has kept me from falling for the wrong kind of woman, a paternity suit, or getting a venereal disease.

On the Catholic church requiring priests to be celibate, I don't have a problem with that. I also don't have a problem with people who have given a vow to stay celibate to continue that way (they must, in fact).

However, I take issue with the idea that Christ effectively banned married people from leadership roles in ministry by saying, "If Jesus Christ wanted priests to be married he would have gotten married himself."

There is no such prohibition in the Bible. Only the Catholic church is responsible for requiring priestly celibacy. If the prohibition were true, even by Catholic standards, then Episcopal priests could not serve.

So the Catholic church also agrees with my stance.
22 posted on 12/20/2006 9:09:36 AM PST by ConservativeMind
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To: ConservativeMind
"If Jesus Christ wanted priests to be married he would have gotten married himself."

The Church herself does not say this. The Cardinal did. I am sorry if my protection of my Church fell into the personal issue you and others have with this Cardinal's statement. And maybe it is something that could have been left out of the article for more impact. But such is life. As you may already know, there are many more deeper reasons why the Catholic Church holds its priests to celibacy. See the Theology of the Body for most of the reasons.

I do hope you find a good woman to share life with. I have been blessed by God in the woman I married. I too lived chastely until marriage at 26. I know that the closer I stay to my Lord the better off I will be. By the way #6 on your list is highly overrated. Love and romance and life all mix together and trump physical attraction. Raw sexual desire has nothing to do with true love. It does not last ... you see it everyday ... Pamela Anderson and whoever she marries ... Britney Spears and whoever she marries ... the hottest looking people, with nothing else dump each other even if it means getting mauled by the public over intimate details of the breakup. True life long married love is way better and has much more power and sway. I am glad to see it is on the bottom of the list. I'd say replace it with "She must not irk me or irritate me." Love happens and truly understanding a person is way more incredible than a roll in the hey. And by understanding I do mean roll in the hey with too, but I mean UNDERSTANDING. We Americans have been duped by glorification of lust. (IMHO).
23 posted on 12/20/2006 10:02:03 AM PST by klossg (GK - God is good!)
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To: ConservativeMind; klossg; mockingbyrd; Pyro7480
Where in Scripture does it say people who speak the Word to others should be celibate?

First off, priests do more than speak the Word - much more! They administer the Sacraments. They have consecrated their lives to Jesus Christ.

In Matt. 19:11-12, Jesus says celibacy is a gift from God and whoever can bear it should bear it. Jesus praises and recommends celibacy for full-time ministers in the Church. Because celibacy is a gift from God, those who criticize the Church's practice of celibacy are criticizing God and this wonderful gift He bestows on His chosen ones.

And, in 1 Cor. 7:32-33, 38, Paul recommends celibacy for full-time ministers in the Church so that they are able to focus entirely upon God and building up His kingdom. He “who refrains from marriage will do better.”

24 posted on 12/20/2006 10:16:11 AM PST by NYer (Apart from the cross, there is no other ladder by which we may get to Heaven. St. Rose of Lima)
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To: NYer

Please see post #22.

25 posted on 12/20/2006 10:52:33 AM PST by ConservativeMind
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To: klossg
No problem. And I agree 100% with everything you state.

I noticed you help married couples stay together. That is an incredibly needed ministry.

We've gone from a less than 1% divorce rate to over 50% in 50 years. As of 2000, so-called "Christians" divorced at a higher rate than the general population. When it comes to believing marriage is until death, it helps to be an atheist. What a terrible statement on the Church!

The "Christian" divorce/remarriage/adultery bit is perhaps the most corrosive element present in today's Body. And so many think "God" has led them to their new spouse!
26 posted on 12/20/2006 10:58:10 AM PST by ConservativeMind
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To: NYer

In fairness St Paul also said that men who marry only once and have their house in order could be ordained Bishops.

(Also IIRC don't the Maronites have married priests?)

27 posted on 12/20/2006 11:15:39 AM PST by kawaii
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To: kawaii
Also IIRC don't the Maronites have married priests?)

If you scroll back up to the actual article, read the Patriarch's comments regarding married priesthood in the Maronite Church. The Maronite Catholic Church is worldwide - and growing. Only the celibate priests are assigned outside of Lebanon.

28 posted on 12/20/2006 1:47:47 PM PST by NYer (Apart from the cross, there is no other ladder by which we may get to Heaven. St. Rose of Lima)
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To: IrishMike

Their were circumstances where it was acceptable for a married man to become a priest (and those circumstances still exist today). But a man who is single and becomes a priest has never been given permission to marry after the fact. At least that's how I understand it.

29 posted on 12/20/2006 1:50:26 PM PST by Rutles4Ever (Ubi Petrus, ibi ecclesia, et ubi ecclesia vita eterna)
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To: NYer
I have always thought - even after after Pastor Ludder - that a married clergy...person(?)
will have to understand married life in order to properly minister to, eeek!...the majority?
30 posted on 12/20/2006 7:20:06 PM PST by onedoug
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To: NYer

It seems strange to me that if a married priest proves exceptional in Lebanon, given the volatile situation there, that he'd be refused the opportunity to work for the church in less volatile areas...

31 posted on 12/21/2006 6:47:59 AM PST by kawaii
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To: ConservativeMind

When I was a teen, I cam up with a list of things that must be expected of both me and the person I would date. They are as follows:

1. She must be a solid Christian
2. We must be good friends first
3. She should not desire drinking, smoking, or doing drugs
4. She cannot be divorced
5. Must have a great heart and a good mind, proven out over time to show her true character

32 posted on 03/30/2009 10:49:39 AM PDT by B-Chan (Catholic. Monarchist. Texan. Any questions?)
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To: B-Chan

Good list.....wrong order.

33 posted on 03/30/2009 10:50:26 AM PDT by wtc911 ("How you gonna get back down that hill?")
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To: B-Chan

What, on earth, made you find and respond to a three-year old thread?? :-)

34 posted on 03/30/2009 10:53:05 AM PDT by ConservativeMind (Cancel liberal newspaper, magazine & cable TV subscriptions (Free Stop funding the MSM.)
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To: ConservativeMind

It came up in my ping list today. I have no idea why.

35 posted on 03/30/2009 11:07:24 AM PDT by B-Chan (Catholic. Monarchist. Texan. Any questions?)
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To: Joseph DeMaistre

I’m not sure that priests were ever allowed to “get married” after they took the vows. Some Churches did and do allow already married men to become priests, this includes many Catholic Churches as well as Orthodox and Oriental.


36 posted on 03/30/2009 11:13:45 AM PDT by Ransomed (Son of Ransomed Says Keep the Faith!)
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To: Ransomed

Good grief this thread is years old, har har!!


37 posted on 03/30/2009 11:17:51 AM PDT by Ransomed (Son of Ransomed Says Keep the Faith!)
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To: wtc911
38 posted on 03/30/2009 8:19:20 PM PDT by B-Chan (Catholic. Monarchist. Texan. Any questions?)
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To: NYer

Thanks, I totally missed this one!

39 posted on 09/15/2009 4:54:54 PM PDT by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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