Skip to comments.Melkite Catholic Church to Ordain Married Men to Priesthood in USA
Posted on 11/09/2011 11:02:16 AM PST by NYer
At his recent enthronement as the Melkite Greek Catholic Bishop in the USA, Bishop Nicholas Samra stated that the Melkite Catholic Church (an Eastern Catholic Church in union with the Pope of Rome) will begin ordaining married men to the priesthood in the USA.
Bishop Nicholas Samra, Bishop of the Melkite Eparchy of Newton, Massachusetts made the comment in a dinner speech following his enthronement on August 23, 2011. The Bishop’s speech, newly published in the Melkite journal Sophia, contains the first published public statements by the Melkite Greek Catholic Church of their intention to ordain married men to the priesthood for the American Melkite Church.
Bishop Nicholas, the first American-born Bishop to serve the Melkite Church in the USA, noted that “we are on a shoe-string of clergy to serve our Church as priests.” At present, the American Melkite Eparchy, with 35 parishes and approximately 27,000 members has only “one priest to be ordained next year.” Worldwide, Melkite Catholics number about 1.6 million and are part of the Melkite Partriarchate of Antioch. The Melkite Catholic Church shares similar traditions with the Antiochian Orthodox Church, but entered communion with Rome in 1729.
Encouraging vocations among his American flock is one of Bishop Nicholas’ goals:
We are grateful for our ancestors — priests and laity and bishops who came from the Middle East and brought us to where we are presently. But now we have come of age and we need priests from among our people in this American Melkite Catholic Church.
Towards the end of his speech, Bishop Nicholas spoke of the need to both study and implement the training of married men to the priesthood in the Melkite Greek Catholic Church so that “hopefully soon we can see the growth of properly formed married clergy”:
God calls men and women to religious vocations. And I believe he also calls married men to the priesthood. We need to study this situation in our country and develop the proper formation for men who are truly deemed worthy of this call. The Deacon Formation Program is a good program; however is not the backdoor to the priesthood. Married men who are called to priesthood need the same formation as those celibates who are called. I have already discussed this issue with those involved in priestly formation and hopefully soon we can see the growth of properly formed married clergy. Of course there are also major financial issues to be looked at and we will embark on this also.
I began my talk with vocations and I end with it also. We need priests for your sanctification and the mysteries of the Church. Seminary formation is a must — please send us vocations. The Church is in our hands, mine and yours. Together we build His Body. [(Sophia, Summer 2011, pp. 8-9; issue released October 2011)]
The Sophia article did not discuss the issue of earlier restrictions on the ordaining of married men to the priesthood in America. Bans on ordaining married men to the priesthood for Eastern Catholic Churches in the USA were imposed by Rome in the last century, but enforcement of the Ban has waned in the past fifteen years causing many Catholics, both Eastern and Latin Rite, to wonder if the Ban should be taken seriously. Earlier, in the 1970s and 1980s, the Melkite Church ordained five married men for service in America as priests but the ordinations were ruled illicit by Rome and their priestly faculties were removed. However, a 1996 ordination of a married Melkite deacon to the priesthood was noted by the press but was considered “hardly a trend” with no recorded public reaction by Rome. At the time, the 1996 ordination was seen by some as “testing the waters,” but there was no push by the previous American Melkite Bishops to encourage married men to enter seminary. Nonetheless, the Melkite Catholic Church has long felt that their right to have a married clergy is an important part of their canonical tradition.
Changes have also slowly begun to appear in other Eastern Catholic Churches in the USA. The Ban is no longer absolute in the Ruthenian Byzantine Catholic Metropolia of Pittsburgh, though that Eastern Catholic Church has to obtain individual dispensations from Rome for any married men it might ordain. Ordinations of some married men to the priesthood in the Ukrainian Catholic Church in the USA and Canada are also now beginning to occur. The Coptic Catholic Church, with no hierarchy in place in the USA, made a formal request to Rome last year for an end to the Ban so that married Coptic Catholic priests could serve American parishes.
However, the Ban is apparently still viewed by Rome as being in effect. An official of the Eastern Congregation, one of the offices of the papal curia in Rome overseeing the Eastern Catholic Churches, stated in 2003 that the Ban “remains unchanged,” but that it would no longer suspend the priestly faculties of married men ordained by Eastern Catholic Bishops in the USA. America reported:
Msgr. Lucian Lamza, an official in the Vaticans Congregation for Eastern Churches, said on May 22[, 2003] that the Vaticans ban on the ordination of married men for the Eastern churches in the West remains unchanged. The ordinations are against the norm, he said. But, of course, these priests can validly celebrate the liturgy and sacraments, since the ordinations are sacramentally valid. He would not discuss the Vaticans reaction or lack of reaction to the ordinations.
Censures from Rome over this issue have not occurred since 1996, though tensions between celibate Latin Rite priests and married Eastern Catholic priests have erupted; for example, in Italy in 2010.
Bishop Nicholas’ public call for married men to be included in the call for priestly vocations for American Melkite Catholics is a first and is likely to signal greater acceptance of married clergy for Eastern Catholics in the USA. Greater acceptance of married Eastern Catholic clergy by Rome in Western lands may also now be occurring. Will it lead to a full repeal of the Ban on the ordaining of married men in Eastern Catholic Churches outside their traditional territories? Only time will tell.
While this diversity within the one Catholic Church can appear confusing at first, it in no way compromises the Church's unity. In a certain sense, it is a reflection of the mystery of the Trinity. Just as God is three Persons, yet one God, so the Church is 22 Churches, yet one Church.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church summarizes this nicely:
"From the beginning, this one Church has been marked by a great diversity which comes from both the variety of God's gifts and the diversity of those who receive them... Holding a rightful place in the communion of the Church there are also particular Churches that retain their own traditions. The great richness of such diversity is not opposed to the Church's unity" (CCC no. 814).
Although there are 22 Churches, there are only eight "Rites" that are used among them. A Rite is a "liturgical, theological, spiritual and disciplinary patrimony," (Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, canon 28). "Rite" best refers to the liturgical and disciplinary traditions used in celebrating the sacraments. Many Eastern Catholic Churches use the same Rite, although they are distinct autonomous Churches. For example, the Ukrainian Catholic Church and the Melkite Catholic Church are distinct Churches with their own hierarchies. Yet they both use the Byzantine Rite.
To learn more about the "two lungs" of the Catholic Church, visit this link:
The Vatican II Council declared that "all should realize it is of supreme importance to understand, venerate, preserve, and foster the exceedingly rich liturgical and spiritual heritage of the Eastern churches, in order faithfully to preserve the fullness of Christian tradition" (Unitatis Redintegrato, 15).
A Roman rite Catholic may attend any Eastern Catholic Liturgy and fulfill his or her obligations at any Eastern Catholic Parish. A Roman rite Catholic may join any Eastern Catholic Parish and receive any sacrament from an Eastern Catholic priest, since all belong to the Catholic Church as a whole. I am a Roman Catholic practicing my faith at a Maronite Catholic Church. Like the Chaldeans, the Maronites retain Aramaic for the Consecration. It is as close as one comes to being at the Last Supper.
My recollection from reading years ago is that priests werent allowed to marry because in ancient times they would establish churches in remote places that might rarely be visited by church authorities. If the priests married then the churches might be claimed by heirs as their property and the church would lose it. (Dons protective clothing and hunkers down.)
Probably the best thing would be for the Vatican to offer a similar deal to what it does for married priest Anglicans who convert, likewise treated on a case-by-case basis.
Already the policy. Married Episcopalian Priests are ordained when they convert to Catholicism without havign to anull their marriage.
Not at all similar. These are not converts. As noted above, it is Vatican policy for Eastern Rite priests serving communities in the West, that they respect the Latin culture of celibacy. Though I am Roman Catholic, I practice my faith in a Maronite (Eastern) Catholic Church, that respects those norms. To address the shortage of priests, the local bishop has arranged with a monastery in Lebanon, to provide priests to serve for 10 years. At the end of that time, they may be moved to another country or allowed to renew their ministerial contract for another 10 years. Currently, our parish is served by a priest from that monastery. He has adapted very quickly to our culture and brings a wealth of spirituality to our community. The Maronite Catholic Church allows married men to apply for the priesthood but may only serve in Lebanon. The church strongly embraces priestly celibacy and only sends celibate priests to the diaspora.
The Melkite Catholic Church is taking a serious step in ordaining married men to serve in the US. I believe it will backfire on them.
The allowance of married clergy was part of the union agreements between Rome and the Orthodox who became Catholics. We are only reclaiming our tradition.
If Rome wants union with the Orthodox a good starting point would be to recognize the self-governance of the Eastern Catholic patriarchates apart from the Roman curia.
Eis polla eti Despota!
The Melkite Church must restore its autocephaly to be true to itself.
The Melkite Church must restore its autocephaly to be true to itself.
And what will likely happen with the Anglican rite. Latin rite will stay the same. :)
Well, that would cause problems, because these Eastern Rites have always been a part of Rome. They either did not participate or weren’t around at the time of the Schism.
If the Orthodox are willing to accept Petrine supremacy, then we can talk about reordering things in the east. Until then, we shall see.
I have no problem whatsoever with the Eastern rites retaining their traditions in the west.
“If Rome wants union with the Orthodox a good starting point would be to recognize the self-governance of the Eastern Catholic patriarchates apart from the Roman curia.”
I used to be EC. My family “doxed” 8 years ago when we got tired of the never-ending stream of “bi-ritual” priests and angry Latins who wanted more post Vatican II smells and bells.
The straw that broke the camel’s back was when the priest and some church members came to my wife (choir director) and demanded she not sing the correct tropar and kontakia (they had other hynmns to sing) and add “and the son” to the creed. She brought up the fact that our agreement to come into communion with Rome specifically stated (among other things immediately ignored by Rome) that the filioque need not be said and that our liturgy would remain unchanged.
Indeed, the agreement REQUIRES Rome to allow married EC priests, with NO stipulation as to the location of the parish.
Not surprisingly, now that we doxed, we get to live our Faith as handed down by the Church fathers without demands of massive changes from Latins.
Your recollection is indicative of poor knowledge of the topic.
Correction: Some married former Episcopalian Priests can be ordained after a lengthy process of study and the approval of their Bishop after they convert to Catholicism without having to anull their marriage. Said converts must agree that if their spouse precedes them in death they will then adopt the discipline of celibacy for the remainder of their life. No agreement, no ordination.
The previous Melchite bishop abruptly closed a seminary in Newton, MA, forcing Melchites to use the Lebanon (as in Syria’s puppet, not Pennsylvania) for ordination, to the shock of MY Melchite community anyway, or go to a Ruthenian monastery in Pittsburgh.
I’ll be sure to ask the bishop when I see him Saturday ;^)
This does not surprise me, since now the Latin or Roman Rite now has an Anglican usage rite which accepts married priests. It was bound to happen.
But with efforts being made by PBXVI to outreach to the Eastern Orthodox Churches, things couuld ease up.
This is quite different. In the Latin Church situation, they are 'normalizing' Anglican priests who are already married. In the Melkite situation, they are taking it to the next step and ordaining married men to the priesthood. This will not fly with the Vatican .. mark my words.
Canon law already allows it. The Ukrainian bishops in Canada have been doing it for years.
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