Skip to comments.Messori: Married priests no remedy for “vocations crisis”
Posted on 01/20/2007 3:43:16 PM PST by GCC Catholic
Madrid, Jan 18, 2007 / 02:11 pm (CNA).- The renowned Italian journalist Vittorio Messori published an article recently in which he blasted one of the most popular myths of the day: that married priests would solve the crisis of vocations.
Reprinted by the Spanish daily La Razon, Messoris article notes, The Protestant, Orthodox and Jewish communities are all undergoing similar crisis of vocations, if not greater, than that of the Catholic Church, despite the fact that their pastors, priests and rabbis can marry.
Marriage, therefore, would not be the remedy for the shortage of priests, Messori continued. Nor would it be the remedy for the sexual disorders in certain religious environments, beginning with pedophilia. Most of all because pedophilia manifests homosexual impulses (boys are more often victims than girls) and having a wife would therefore not be an adequate solution. And moreover, as the statistics confirm, because the vast majority of abuse takes place in the home, between parents and children and uncles and nephews, this would not be remedy for such situations.
Messori underscores in his article that sexual continence is not some imposition by the Church, but rather the result of a free choice that has its origins in the early Church and that has been practiced for centuries both in the West and the East. It is not a dogma, he noted, but rather an aspect of Tradition that should be treated with the reverence due to that which is considered to be of apostolic times.
In the early Church, the vast majority of the clergy was made up of older men who assumed holy orders, left behind their wives, who gave their consent, and entrusted their families to the community. From that moment they were called to live in perfect continence, no longer living at home but rather in church buildings, Messori asserted, citing a study by Cardinal Alfons Stickler, the former Vatican librarian and archivist.
Cardinal Sticklers research proved that priestly celibacy was never considered a novelty and that it has always been an indisputable part of early Church tradition, and it demolishes the theory that clerical celibacy can only be traced back to 1139, to the Second Lateran Council.
And what of the Eastern Churches, where only monks and bishops are obliged to embrace celibacy, while priests and deacons can marry, as long as it is the first and only marriage and takes place before ordination? Messori asked. All of the documents show that for many centuries, the abstinence practiced in the West was discussed in those communities and the exceptions that are cited today are actually based on fraudulent sources.
Messori explained that only in 691, at the Council of Trullano, was the practice of todays Orthodox established. But there was an explicit capitulation: the Church in the East did not have the hierarchal organization of the West and it lacked means for repressing abuses, which were increasingly more numerous. And not only that: subject to the Byzantine emperor, the Church in the East gave in to politicians who claimed that a clergy with family was more easily controlled. The attempt was made to salvage the principle, imposing sexual continence at least during the period in which priests were exercising their ministry and saying Mass, while aspiring to chastity for bishops and monks. No doubt it was a forced situation, not ideal at all, as many complained and as many still complain about in the East. Its curious that some today consider that to be desirable for the West also.
Then it seems that Orthodox parishes can be very, very small.
If there are 100 MEMBERS (not families) in a parish, and two-thirds of those aren't active (often the regrettable situation in Catholic parishes), that means that there are priests who have a single parish for which to care comprising perhaps 35 active members?
That wouldn't be typical at all in the Catholic Church.
My own parish is far more typical, where there are perhaps 650 or 700 registered families, but where perhaps 200 families are active, with a single, full-time priest dedicated to our parish, assisted by one deacon. Our parish used to be larger, with over 1,000 families, and perhaps 300 or more active families, but then, we had two priests and two full-time deacons.
And that we have a lot more priests in comparison and no laity serving the Eucharist.
"And that we have a lot more priests in comparison and no laity serving the Eucharist."
It would be interesting to know, in the United States, how many folks are counted as Orthodox, how many are active, and how many priests there are.
Also, it would be interesting to know these statistics in the rest of the world at large. I remember looking a couple of years ago about Orthodoxy in the Republic of Georgia. There were around 600 priests, if I recall correctly, for several million nominally-Orthodox persons. But it seems that at least in that country, the ratio of active believers to the entire number of nominal believers is quite low.
Bump for later.