Monday, January 28, 2013

Sex & the Married Priesthood: Ceasing Marital Relations within Marriage a "Praiseworthy Thing"?

Canon Lawyer Ed Peters praises Deacon John Cornelius, 64, who states that he will abstain from conjugal relations after he is ordained a Catholic priest. Peters says Canon 277 of the Western Code of Canon Law insists on perfect continence of all clergy, whether celibate or married. Now, Mr Peters is not the final word on the canon; Rome is. But Rome has been silent, to my knowledge, on this issue. I would suggest that Ed Peters is the best known Canon lawyer in the English speaking world. So his word will have a lot of weight (and hurt couples who feel shameful for being and acting married) until Rome clarifies the canon. 

Now Deacon John, if you would 'like to be perfect,' sell all that you have, reject your Episcopalian pension, and join a monastery. Your wife can join a convent. 
Occasional readers of this blog might be shocked at my harshness, but long-time friends will realize this is me, speaking from my heart. There is nothing wrong with a married couple bonding through conjugal relations. In fact, this is the marriage debt that couples owe to each other. If the Church permits married men to be ordained clergy, the Church must allow marital relations between these married couples.

There is the extremely rare 'Josephite marriage' that can be an exceptional response to God's call.  Some marriages begin with complete and constant continence and chastity. Of course, the supreme example of this is the marriage between Mary the Theotokos and her husband Saint Joseph. As Catholics, we believe they never kissed. They never were in any situation that would cause arousal, such as changing clothes in each other's vicinity. There was never any sexual feelings between them. The unitive aspect of their marriage existed only through their agape love for each other and their love for Yahweh and her son (Joseph's adopted son) Jesus Christ. 

How dare I even imagine that Mary and Joseph were not sexually aroused by each other! Well,  doesn't Canon 277, according to Ed Peters, declare that sexual arousal must not happen with ordained married men and their wives? Is the Church that obsessed with the lawful, non-contraceptive activities of married couples? Can married deacons and priests sleep in the same bed as their wives? Can they kiss them goodbye (discretely, of course)? Can they hold hands (never on the church grounds, clearly)? What level of affection becomes confessional material? All of these activities could illicit arousal which might cause the married couple to desire marital relations at some point. So if Canon 277 is correctly interpreted by Peters, they should not be in the same home. Perhaps the wives can come in to cook and clean- for free, of course! Wives don't charge their husbands to do wifely duties!

Another time that a continent marriage might occur is through illness or age. We vow to love our spouses in sickness and in health. If one decides with the agreement of the spouse to cease marital relations because of illness or age, this can be a beautiful witness to the unitive aspect of marriage that is brought about by history, friendship and love. But is it a Josephite marriage when marital relations did occur in the past and one still gives and receives varying degrees of marital affection (such as hugs, holding hands, kisses) that would not be permissible for someone not married? 

No, it is not a Josephite marriage even if marital relations cannot occur because of illness or age. We have all seen and read about older couples in nursing homes that have twin beds and hold hands before they go to sleep. He orders her roses for their 60th anniversary. She blushes when he pats her back when they dance with the help of walkers. These blushes and kisses did not occur in the marriage of Mary and Joseph, which is the example of pure chastity and continence.

And is it the world's business when marital relations will not occur for whatever reason between married couples? I would be humiliated if my husband spoke about such personal, lawful things! Deacon John needs to realize that he will not fit in with his brother priests even after he confessed to all that he will not be with his wife. In my opinion, he is having a difficult time reconciling both vocations. In my opinion, Canonist Ed Peters is disturbed with the possibility of married men being ordained. Perhaps it's the priest's wife concept that is disturbing to him. It is a very historical perspective- the decadence of the wives. His insistence on married men not acting married is part and parcel of this.

I say that it is impossible for a loving married couple (a couple not in an extremely rare Josephite marriage from the beginning) to be perfectly continent because marital relations is much more than intercourse. It is an emotional intimacy with another person that a celibate person does not experience. Marital relations is to receive a cup of coffee lovingly from your wife, as you can see from the video of Deacon John. If he entered a monastery, a housekeeper or a fellow monk giving him coffee would be a completely different thing. Marital relations is to be frustrated together over the latest mistake a child has made. Marital relations is to buy the stinky cheese that he likes so much. Marital relations is to clip coupons and soak beans cheerfully. To reduce marital relations to simply sexual intercourse (the lack of intercourse being the perfect continence required supposedly by canon 277) is to reduce us to animals who rut without thinking.

If you watch the short video of Deacon John at the Deacon's Bench blog, you might see that his declaration of future continence was unplanned and almost like he was telling the reporter a secret. I wonder if he regrets that statement now, as it degrades his marital vocation and the privacy of his marriage relationship. This declaration will not earn him praise by fellow priests, especially if they have struggled with their choice of a celibate life. Deacon John was able to enjoy married life normally, have three children, and now, even if he does not have marital relations with his wife after the age of 64, he gets to enjoy her companionship and help until the end of his life.

I'll be praying for Mrs. Cornelius who I suspect might feel like a hindrance to her husband's additional vocation because of this very public declaration from her husband. Most priests' wives are very quiet, trying not to scandalize the believers. We don't want to ruin it for others that will be coming after us. You don't see much of a presence of us wives on-line (....my sign-in name can disturb so many Catholics- I'm an extreme introvert...but my name is in everybody's face); maybe if we stay under the radar no one will be offended.  

As a fellow priest's wife, I invite you, Mrs. Cornelius, to not be ashamed of being who you are called to be. You are a wife, a mother, and the help of your husband who is a priest. It is your business how affectionate you are together. It is your business how you will serve the Church according to your talent and ability. You are travelling down a lonely road, but it is a road paved with grace.
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edit: A married deacon told me that there was a 'commentary of the curia' in 1986 releasing married clergy from Canon 277 but not a re-written canon yet. He's trying to find the exact source and text

Out of over 400 posts, I have very rarely written about this topic. Click on the 'marriage' label for some thoughts. I found two posts that specifically target continence:

33 comments:

  1. I find this really horrifying (not to mention unnecessary). As a Latin-Rite Catholic, I value the celibacy of the priests I know and have mixed feelings about the admittance of married clergy to the priesthood -- though I'd acknowledge that a good bit of this is a selfish holdover from the days when my husband *was* a clergyman, and I found the life very difficult. The role of the clergy wife would be a lot easier to shoulder, I now think with hindsight, with the benefit of the Catholic theology of personal sacrifice, which I certainly didn't have at the time.

    My husband is also a former Episcopal priest (and I'm commenting anonymously, by the way, to protect his privacy. This is not something I talk about to anyone other than my confessor, ordinarily), who has considered pursuing the Catholic priesthood via the Ordinariate. Fortunately he's enough of a theologian to dismiss Ed Peters' contention regarding marital continence. This would not be true of every former Episcopal priest; theological formation is shamefully wanting in Episcopal seminaries, and though I don't know Deacon Cornelius and wouldn't presume to comment on his judgment (except to say that I think he's wrong), it's not hard to imagine an Episcopal-priest convert leaping to embrace the celibate-priest thing -- just because it seems really, really Catholic to do so. There's a strain of this kind of thing in Anglo-Catholic culture anyway, the desire, always, to out-Catholic the Catholics up to and including the Pope.

    So my take is admittedly cynical, and I may be way off-base re this man's motivations (which I'm sure are sincere) but really I'm just angry for his wife, and for any other wife whose husband might take this as a precedent. I have considered that in the Latin Rite, ordinations include giving the cloth with which the new priest's hands are bound to his mother, to be buried with her as a sign that she has given a son to the Church -- if there's a wife, what sign is given her? And what does it mean? I haven't seen, yet, the ordination of a married man, so I honestly don't know, but I really wonder about the theology of it all, particularly in the Western rite where the giving is so much of the whole person, in a specifically marital way.

    This seems to me to be at odds with the presence of a human marriage, which is one of the great difficulties with which I struggle as the wife of a man who would like to be a priest. I'm *not* yet at the point of being willing to give my husband away, as a mother might give her son. Sorry. I need him. And he made a vow to me which pre-exists any vow he might make to the Church. Again, in my own case, I don't see my husband buying the continence argument, but even without that I find the whole thing difficult enough. I can only imagine what this is like for Mrs. Cornelius.

    And I thank you for your continual witness to the grace of the life of a priest's wife. I have sobbed about this in confession often enough, and thank God for my confessor, who says more or less the same thing, re unexpected graces. But it helps to hear it from someone actually living that life.

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    1. Anonymous- thanks for your thoughts...about 'giving the man away'- I think the problem here is the difference between being a MONK and being a secular priest. The Roman-rite sort of mixes the two vocations. When your husband- God-willing- is ordained, he will be a secular priest, working with the people. I say the difficult thing is that priesthood is eternal and marriage is not

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  2. I'm with you on this one, PC (obviously!). When Rome permits the ordination of a married man, it is essentially a derogation from the canon requiring celibacy; as you point out (& EP accepts) Rome has remained silent on this. I would honestly think the more reasonable position is that in the absence of a revision to the canons, any derogation from celibacy must also apply to the requirement for continence (as matter of simple justice to the wife and out of respect for the sacrament of marriage which has preceded ordination in such cases).

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    1. yes- it is not like a married priest needs to be indiscreet like the 'Vicar of Dibley' :)

      It is just that Rome is so slooooooow- just officially revise the canon, please!!! We say that marital relations is an obligation and something good within marriage- allowing canon 277 to stand cannot stand

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    2. Hi again, PW,

      It was good of Prof Peters to engage with you on this. I've looked through some of the material he provided links to, & I think I have a better understanding of what he's arguing. He's not commenting on whether married clergy, continent or not, are a good, bad, or indifferent thing: he's simply trying to outline the canonical position as he sees it.

      Having read some of what he has to say, I've done a post with my own musings on the topic (with a link to yours in it), as it's one I imagine Anglo-Catholics like myself might be interested in.

      Thanks for posting on this & bringing it onto my radar!

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  3. Thank you thank you thank you. I saw an article on that and I recently read this: http://www.zenit.org/rssenglish-36410?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+zenit%2Fenglish+%28ZENIT+English%29 and just got so frustrated. Sometimes it seems as though the Latin ignorance of a married priesthood and its historical roots have not changed since the time of John Ireland. I am a firm advocate and lover of the married priesthood and thank you and your family so much for your dedication to our churches historical roots and I know I can only seem some of the many sacrifices you all make on a daily basis to live out your vocation.

    The Latin church has the right to demand celibacy for the main part of its clergy but to first admit married clergy from other groups and then place all these little subtle messages about how continence would be superior just seems as though they are being stubbern and willfully ignorant.

    I also agree with you about the wife. I wonder how much of a say she had in the decision and how she feels about such a public declaration. To live with out sex is an EXTRAordinary calling. It is best lived out in a monastery with support. It is not something the average person is expected to be able to do. Sure it is admirable, the way any form of asceticism is when practiced correctly. Expecting ordinary people to live in extraordinary ways, to live ascetical lifestyles that they are not called to and not supported in, is just asking for trouble. I agree with your gut response that maybe they should both reject all their wordly belongings and join monasteries, but I don't see it as a 'harsh' response. I think it would be far better for each of them, especially if they are still a youngish, health couple. To live side by side with the person you once had a sexual relationship with and be unable to express your love physically is going to be very difficult to say the least. I will be praying for them.

    I do apologize if my response is strongly worded, it just saddens me to see how hard it is for our various EC churches to revitalize the married priesthood after it was utterly destroyed by John Ireland & co and I think this 'anti-normal marital relationships while being a priest' sentiment so present in the Latin church has infected certain aspects of even our churches and the mindset of most laity and that is what makes recovery so hard.

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    1. Anonymous- thanks for your thanks! :) For the normal man to successfully practice celibacy, I agree that certain protections should be in place- priests need to be accountable to each other (and even married priests together- to make sure that they are being chaste)- satan does not want any level of chastity and delights when a priest falls (either because of sex or money). Priests of all kinds should be HUMBLE, pray constantly, and do all they can to remain in God's grace.

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  4. Hi. There are several mistakes in the original post above, several irrelevancies, and some misleading speculations that might have been avoided by studying this issue a little more closely before posting about it. I wish I had time to respond to them here (I sense there is a willingness to think it thru) but I simply don't have the time. May I suggest interested parties visit this page for more information. http://www.canonlaw.info/a_deacons.htm. Sincerely, Ed Peters

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    1. Thank you Dr Peters for responding- Can people interested email you? I noticed that your website does not take comments.

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  5. Canon 277 does not apply to permanent deacons according to the Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Texts which settles part of it, at least for now.
    Dr. Peters reads the canon "in the light of the law" and with that comes the unbroken tradition of the Roman Rite. I think he is correct; no one has yet managed to put forth a solid canonical argument against his reasoning in relation to the presbyterate. He evidently is wrong at this time in regards to the permanent diaconate, but I think this calls into question the wisdom of the married permanent diaconate, at least in current practice and law. I have read his website's section on this issue (as well as the blog) in its near-entirety. Quite simply, his opponents simply wish to ignore the canon, and many hide behind anonymity. I think that for the purposes of the Anglican Ordinariate during its first generation, married priests should be allowed with dispensation, and the same goes for all others admitted under the pastoral provision first issued by Bl John Paul II. However, it should not continue for very long, and I think that the married permanent diaconate was certainly rushed through without much thought on the theology of Holy Orders.
    Yes, the canon merely requires requires one to refrain from sexual relations, and in Dr. Peters's view, that includes with the priest's wife. Perfect continence means nothing more than this. To use your example, the way he received the cup of coffee might constitute breaking his promise of chastity, I suppose, if it breaks anything at all.
    I think Dr. Peters, as suggested in the post and in the 2nd anonymous comment, is well-aware of the need to respect the traditions of the Eastern Churches, as well am I. Married clergy are a part of this. By this reasoning, it is a serious step to ask married clergy to observe periodic continence especially since daily Mass is a part of the Roman Rite. If I am correct, the Divine Liturgy is not frequently said during the week.
    Also, it's quite unjust to question the deacon's motivations, and to suggest that anyone involved are feeling any particular emotion relevant to their position in this situation.

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    1. The controversy comes - what is marriage? If married clergy is permitted occasionally in the Roman-rite, then the meaning of these marriages changes- and I still am unclear on what exactly continence is...yes, it is the lack of sexual intercourse, but I think that living as a married couple attempting to be continent would be a source of scandal (they held hands! if they do that in public..what are they doing in private) and an occasion of sin.

      I'm sounding like a broken record here...I think if the canon is interpreted the way that Ed Peters does then married clergy should never be permitted within the Roman-rite. The new 'crop' of married deacons and a few married priests should be tolerated...but no more.

      The sex life (lawful, discrete, non-contraceptive like any faithful Catholic couple) of married clergy should not be a subject of people's conversation. Perhaps Fr John Cornelius and Mrs Cornelius are basically finished with that part of their lives so it is not that difficult and they are confident that they can keep their promise. Why is this "praiseworthy?"- it is private, and they are making 'lemons out of lemonade'

      I'm not an intellectual (obviously) so I am not going to change anyone's mind. I just feel bad for those priests that are seen as lesser. I wish Fr Longenecker would weigh in- but he is one of those priests that very rarely comments on his family life.

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  6. Wow.
    You pretty much summed it up.
    There is nothing nobel about obstaining from a sarcramental marriage. Not mention his actions give sexual relations a very negative conotation... when in fact it can be a very holy and pure thing!
    Shame on him.
    I pray that God will shed some truth on that heart of his.

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    1. Thanks Anny- it really is all about marital relations being a part of marriage, isn't it?

      Maybe at the age of 64 it isn't that important to them- but he is still married- very different than a celibate priest- if it is permitted every so often...he shouldn't be ashamed!

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  7. Am I alone in wondering "how did things get this far?" ...my poor Roman-bred brain...It took me a little bit of going around in circles with Dr. Peters' link before I got a handle on the situation. Honestly, I wonder at Deacon Cornelius making such a statement, to begin with. My remarks are mostly speculative *shrug-
    Also: “I have always had friends that are Roman Catholic priests and I appreciate what they’ve given up to serve God and the priesthood."
    I'm kinda flabbergasted...It's out of respect for the priests, but I don't know how many priests would appreciate this! I'm half-tempted to bring the situation up with my priest here in PA. Not that I think his reaction will speak for all of them, but he's got a pretty good handle on the Church's official positions on various and sundry topics (once surprised me with a four point position on the Church and tattoos, at a ToT. Good stuff).
    Finally- I think Dr. Peters makes some good points about wanting to do what's right without being able to articulate it- perhaps Deacon Cornelius and his wife discerned a call to celibacy, which is not what the law requires of them with the current dispensation? If that's the case, then by all means -get thee to a monastery and a nunnery, respectively. Do not give cause for scandal or speculation about your private life by volunteering information about the additional sacrifices you've decided to make, in the privacy of your home.

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  8. P.S. The unknown comment up above was by me! Still figuring this sign-in system out. God bless!

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  9. Hi again. Yes, indeed, I can be emailed thru facebook or my wesbite. Can't always promise to answer, of course. I do have a day job. I see several more points (read: challenges) above, recently added, that are ably addressed in the tradition, if people would only study it, instead of immediately opining on things. This is not the first time the Church has thought this thru.

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  10. Sorry, meant to say for Mike Roth that I address the two PCLT letters here-- http://www.canonlaw.info/a_deacons.htm#letters_ They do not, I think, settle the matter, even for now. Best, edp.

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    1. Dr. Peters, thanks for the references, and while I am at it thank you for all the work you have done for the Church, in canon law and as you note on the blog and website, with your family!
      I think we can both agree that no major moves will be made at this time, regardless of the position one takes.

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  11. Dr Peters- about the Church 'thinking this through'- I'm not so sure that the Church has completely thought this through (or perhaps communicated their conclusions)- by allowing a certain number of married men to be ordained priest in the Roman rite and be bound to Canon 277- to live with a woman (his wife) and be continent (abstaining from sexual intercourse) would just be a source of temptation and scandal. Again I say that if canon 277 remains law for married priests, there should no longer be married men being ordained.

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  12. The "this" I had in mind was married clerics in the West, experience with which, and solutions to praxis problems in the wake of, go way, way back. People need to study that. The current situation is what's anomalous, there has been wholesale inadvertence to Western law and tradition here since the 1970s; dealing with THAT problem has not been thought through (well, not since, maybe, the 4th century).

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  13. I find that Fr. Matthew Venuti's blog post  is very enlighting on the topic of married clergy. On another, important but unrelated topic his comment, "When I was ordained a Roman Catholic priest the part that of the service that struck me the most was the anointing of my hands by the Archbishop.", was most helpful to me.

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  14. This is from a Roman Catholic priest friend of mine that made a public comment on one of my sites thought I would share it: “I see this problem or contradiction the first time. In fact, can 277 CIC doesn't make a difference between permanent, married deacons and celibate deacons, between married priests and celibate priests.I agree with the article, that doesn't seem just to me, or not up to date with the present understanding of marriage in the Church.”

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  15. In Eastern Orthodoxy, and I had though in Eastern/Greek Catholic Churches, abstaining from the marital act is part of any "fasting" we do-- be it the Eucharistic Fast- from midnight until Eucharist, or during Fasting periods such as Dormition Fast, or Great Lent. In monasteries Divine Liturgy may be celebrated daily, and since "black clergy" monks are celibate this presents no problem. Parishes, typically served by "white clergy", married priests, celebrate Divine Liturgy on Sundays and on Feasts, and Vespers and Orthros/Matins, not requiring any fasting/abstaining, at other times. It seems like this get confused when one moves to the more common practice in the Latin Church of "daily Mass" in a parish setting, for clergy, and for laity who are under the same fasting expectations, apart from some economia/dispensation.

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  16. I appreciate Dr Peters so much and completely agree with him that observance of clerical continence is praiseworthy. Continence is appropriate to the clerical state, and being a priest is a higher state than being married, and continence is not only the tradition of the Church from ancient times but it is in fact what Canon Law still says for the Roman Rite. It is completely fitting that someone called to be a priest would have so profound a reverence for the Eucharist that he would observe perfect and perpetual continence, in closer imitation of Our Lord. The married deacon or priest can relate to his wife as Christ relates to the Church, which of course is a virginal love still more profoundly unitive. I completely disagree with those who think that "the theology of marriage as it has now developed" simply precludes living continence within marriage, even for so profound and transformative a reason as the husband receiving the Sacrament of Holy Orders.

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    1. But before he made vows to the Church as a priest he made vows to God while holding his wife's hands and promised to "have and to HOLD her... as long as we both shall live." And since he is still alive, he ought to continue holding her. No?

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    2. Elizabeth, where in the Catholic Church teaching are we taught that being a priest increases us to the realm of a higher state? If you are saying because he was ordained that the sacramental grace makes it so you would also have to conclude that a married priest would have double the increase because he utilizes two sacraments. I have yet to see in a church teaching that we are given greater states. It seems what are saying is smacked with clericalism, which happens to be a heresy.

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  17. (Sorry to be yet another "Anonymous" commenter! Just call me Annie...)

    So...I was pretty horrified when I first heard about this swirling controversy. I'm a married, thirty-something recent convert, and verifying the Church's position on the unsullied holiness of marriage was THE issue I really had to work through before I could swim the Tiber, as they say. To now be apparently hearing otherwise made me feel literally sick to my stomach. Thank you so very, very much for this post. I found it especially encouraging to read your thoughts echoing mine on how marriage IS a sexual relationship from which you can't simply "skip that part" and still have anything resembling marriage left (with the exception of the Josephites, as you say). I know this partly in my bones, so to speak, and partly from unhappy experience. For a short, wretched time my utterly beloved husband wanted us to live celibate (nothing to do with the priesthood or holiness or poor health) - and it destroyed, temporarily, ALL the intimacy and affection we had previously built up in a decade of happiness together. What remained was "pure charity", which some will doubtless praise, but the unique married-love was impossible to keep lit under those circumstances. It was ghastly.

    For obvious reasons, I've never discussed this with anybody else - but now, after your words, I feel like I'm not alone in my perception of the indivisibility of marriage and sex. Thank you... And God bless your own marriage, my sister!

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    1. Annie- Thank you for your prayers and kind words!

      I hope that the 'silver lining' in this controversy will be that there is a renewed level of simplicity on the parts of celibate priests and a deeper respect for all marriages

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    2. (Annie here again.) I do hope you will blog more on this subject! I think you bring a point of view that is very important to the discussion; for one thing, all too often the "priestly stuff" is discussed exclusively from the male perspective - and the single-male perspective, at that. What you've said elsewhere about celibate diocesan priests lapsing into "bachelor living" resonated with me...I suspect it's a temptation far more pernicious than the obvious one! Watching my devout husband give up his entire life - every waking moment, every sleeping moment (how many newborns have we had?) - for us, his large & beloved family, makes me question how a single man, simply by refusing marriage, can automatically be "closer to God". Like I said, I'm just a poor recent convert...so the whole celibacy thing is something I'm still working through anyway (partially by leaving way-too-long and way-too-initmate comments on your fascinating blog!). But the only (celibate) priests I know whom I really admire are the ones who are obviously as busy and trying-hard (and dare I say suffering?) with their priesthood as a devoted "real" father with his family...

      Enough rambling! Before I close, though, could I trouble you with several related questions? I've heard from reliable sources that our married, former-Anglican clergy (there are several in our Latin diocese) would not be permitted to remarry should they become widowed. Do you know why not? And, is that the case in your Tradition? What about single clergy marrying *after* ordination (which I think the former-Anglicans are not permitted either)? Lastly - sorry if this lacks in delicacy! - I've heard that married priests are required to abstain from marital relations for 24 hours prior to celebrating Mass. Is that so? Why? And...er...how could that work out if a parish has a married priest AND daily Mass? Sorry to be such an ignorant, pestering newbie...

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    3. Hi Annie- yes- there is no marriage after ordination to the Catholic priesthood- so no remarriage if the wife dies- St Paul says to 'stay how you are'- so there's that. The decision on celibacy needs to be made before ordination to the diaconate

      about fasting from marital relations for that long- sounds like old canon law (or guidelines) to me- any justification would again be because sex is seen as worldly- did you know that in the Roman rite, there used to be abstaining from sex during Lent for lay people (that's the point of Swift's short essay 'A Modest proposal')

      I think one reason why daily Mass is not as common with the Eastern rites is that our Divine Liturgy is much longer- at least 1.5 hours. You can't simplify it to 25 minutes- also we have a feast day of obligation once a month or more...in addition to Sundays

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  18. Traditionally the two states of life were marriage or monasticism. It isn't priesthood or marriage. Therefore, married men could be ordained priests. The East never lost sight of this. The West since the medieval era virtually makes priesthood and marriage opposed to each other, which they really aren't.

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  19. Preoteasa,

    I am entering this discussion rather late, but it seems to me that there is much confusion on the part of those canonists who insist upon clerical continence. I would comment that if we first at the question from a sacramental view, rather than a legal view, the position become untenable.

    Given that we have married clergy, and this tradition goes back to the apostles (St Peter had a mother-in-law, which is hard to acquire without being married), and accepted to this day by the Church. Given that we, as Catholics and Orthodox Christians accept the principle of "ex opere operato", the married or celibate priest will be able to dispense the sacraments by the appropriate actions and intentions, whether he has abstains from conjugal relations or not (or if he is in a state of grace or not &c.).

    The next is to consider marriage. I would point to St Thomas Aquinas and his writings on marriage. Thomas concludes that a married man is not morally permitted to pay the marriage debt to his wife when she demands, except when she is in menses. So it would appear that a married priest can not abstain from paying the marriage debt, since paying it will not impede his action as a priest.

    I am also surprised that a canonist would be advocating a sexless marriage, since the Church's understanding marriage is that the marriage act is necessary for the sacrament. This is clearly understood in the Latin Church's Code of Canon Law, it being one of the grounds for annulment of marriage. And more to Thomas' point, if the marriage act is necessary for the efficacy of the sacrament, then it is a bit bizarre to demand that some people are then required to abstain from it after marriage.

    So there does not seem to be a sacramental barrier. Thus, it is only a legal barrier, and there we will need have an argument why the demand for clerical continence outweighs the conjugal rights of a priest's wife.

    Just a few thoughts, Bear

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  20. Thanks for sharing this post. I actually read somewhere online about the story regarding Deacon John Cornelius and it honestly left me puzzled. I heard his wife was apparently happy with his decision, although I can't say I would be happy if my husband did that. I actually came across this blog because my cousin wants to get ordained online and I'll admit that I don't understand why so I started researching to better understand why. Thanks again for sharing this.

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thoughtful comments are welcome to the conversation! (moderation on posts older than a week...)

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