Monday, July 11, 2011

Monday, Monday

 Take a look at this photo of a pontifical Divine Liturgy. Was the photo taken yesterday- or perhaps 1,700+ years ago? It is difficult to say. It looks beautiful and ancient and mystic and reverent and very different from the Roman-rite Mass. certainly it doesn't look 'liberal'- even though they have married priests.

I probably shouldn't peruse blogs at 6:45 in the morning Monday morning when Saturday and Sunday's cortisol is still surging in my veins. But I did, and I came upon this comment at Fr Z's blog- "What’s deplorable about this all too common tactic is that the Church didn’t have a pedophilia problem – it had a homosexual problem. Acceptance of homosexuality is on the agenda of the modernist/liberal element along with female ordination, married priests, universal salvation, social justice, etc." I understand where this man is coming from; he is afraid of the negative moderization of the Church, and he is coming from a Roman-rite perspective. He is not, however, a rare case who equates a possibility for a married man to be ordained priest with the acceptance of homosexual behavior and woman 'priests.' This comes up very frequently in the blogosphere and in casual conversation. 

What these commenters always seem to shy away from is the possibility for married men to be ordained priest and the history of the Church. While it would take logistical changes for it to be a common occurrence, a married priesthood in the Roman-rite (along with many celibate secular priests who chose not to be married and the monastic tradition) would not destroy the Church. It is a possibility, and it is a tradition that remains in the Eastern rites.  Although a married priesthood commonly occurring won't happen, it should not be spoken of in the same breath with accepting homosexual activity and women's 'ordination.' 

Yes, yes- he was speaking of the Roman-rite and one doesn't have to constantly qualify one's remarks with "in the Roman-rite." We Eastern rite-types- a minuscule percentage of the Catholic world- should remember to "mind our own business." But it pains me that it seems that this attitude is very common- thinking that a married priesthood is liberal and non-Catholic.  Perhaps a married priesthood would be done for modernist reasons. But the attitude of fear signals bad things for ecumenism. How can we pray for unity with the Orthodox when their traditions would be disrespected and perhaps made canonically impossible (as happened in the US 100 years ago through Bishop John Ireland and led to the formation of the OCA)?

 A photo of a Byzantine Catholic seminarian and his wife before his ordination to the diaconate and priesthood. In the old country, seminarians wear clerical garb, and this would have been his most formal suit to wear. In the old country, no one is confused between seminarian, deacon and priest- all wearing clerical garb. People simply ask "are you a priest?" before they ask for confession or the like.


  1. If you want to get my mother or me going all you have to do is mention married priests and women priests in the same breath. The one is a matter of discipline, the other doctrine.

  2. Actually... it is a pedophilia problem. Homosexuals as priests have nothing to do with it. (I'd say this on Fr. Z's blog but I fear the backlash.) It's an issue of poor administration. It's also not unique to the Roman-rite -- pretty much every Christian sect I know of except for the Orthodox have had to pay out settlements because of at least one instance of it. My seminary was named in a lawsuit over one ELCA pastor who molested kids because they didn't pay attention to reports from his internship site that he had a problem.

    Married priests are going to be tough issue for a long time -- it's been expressly forbidden by Rome for centuries and for many, it's akin to re-inventing the wheel. It's going to be people like you and your husband that are going to make the difference.

  3. Jen- I'm fine with the Roman-rite staying with their 'small t tradition' of mandatory celibacy, but like Alice commented- don't equate married priests with woman priests- for Catholics, the latter is not possible.

    I say, prayers and fasting all around!

  4. I'm actually chill with not having women priests -- I have female friends who are clergy but I can accept being in a church that wouldn't ordain me.

  5. I agree with Jen; homosexuality and pedophilia are not at all the same thing; in many instances married men with children are found to be pedophiles. I sometimes wonder if men become priests in order to try and gain the strength to fight those sinful tendencies..... or, perhaps they become priests (as many other pedophiles become teachers or scout leaders or ministers) in order to gain both access to children and the trust of parents and community.

    As far as married priests..... Well, having grown up Presbyterian, I so appreciate the dedication and focus of unmarried clergy. I know the priests are THERE for ME. I don't have to hesitate to call, envisioning him with his wife and children.... This is only underlined by my struggles to engage in ministry (I am a Director of Religious Education) as a married woman and mother. How often I've felt the pain and frustration that comes from knowing that I am failing either my church or my family - and often both!

  6. I don't know, I've known many unmarried priests (Roman & Byz rite) who aren't "there" for their flocks. I've also known unmarried priests who juggle their parishes and family obligations (elderly or sick parents). I don't think anyone can say that a married priest couldn't be there for his parish. Do Protestants feel like their married clergy are unavailable?

    I don't know what is taught in seminary about parish (and time!) management, but perhaps more seminarians need guidance in those areas. About how your parish is your first responsibility, even helping with the "business" end of things.

    Unfortunately in many areas, Byz Rite priests are the only one for miles. They don't have the support or fellowship of other priests or superiors. My priest's Bishop is 3-4 hours away. The Bishop of Roman parish I grew up in is only 45 mins away.

    I don't think this is an issue that can be painted with a broad brush. Like most things, how a priest/clergy does with his/her congregation depends on how well they can balance everything in their lives. Many other professions require as many or more hours than clergy, and they are married with families. Due to the shortage of religious in our country, our priests are not being mentored (and if you want, monitored) as well as they were even 50 years ago.

  7. I don't know, I've seen unmarried priests (both Roman & Byz) who aren't "there" for their parishioners. A former pastor told DH once "thank God for Caller ID, if I don't like who's calling, I don't pick up." NICE.

    I've also seen unmarried priests juggling to take care of other matters besides their parishes, especially when it comes to sick or elderly parents. Our pastor is caring for his 93 year old mother.

    Do Protestants feel this way about their married clergy? That they can't get a hold of them, or feel that their priests/ministers don't care about their flocks? There are many professions that require long hours and hard work, and married people fill their ranks. If they can juggle it, why can't we allow priests to be married?

    I think it all depends on the person, whether or not they can handle the demands of religious life. I don't know anything about the seminary process, but I would hope that there would be training about life as a pastor, especially how to be there for your parish, but also more practicalities such as managing your time and how to run the business end of things. From what I know, there isn’t much training in these regards. You get a lot of religious instruction, but very little in the practical matters. Thank God for our volunteers and parish staff!

    Another thing that would be helpful is to have a mentor for the newly ordained, but since there is such a shortage of religious, it's nearly impossible. It doesn't help that in the Byz Rite, many priests are HOURS from another priest or their Bishop. Meanwhile, Roman Rite priests can have other priests even in the same town and their Bishop can be an hour or less away. Honestly, I think that's where the problem lies. Not that priests need to have every movement monitored and reported back to the Bishop, but when you're left to your own devices (and vices!) that's where temptation can creep in. I've seen it first hand with the same former pastor I mentioned above. Our priests need support and fellowship, especially from each other.

    Looking at the scandals in the Roman Rite--they were occurring as entrance into the priesthood was dropping. I believe that’s really why nothing was done, besides moving the offenders to other parishes. They needed to keep numbers up. Had the leaders of seminaries done better jobs at screening out people, perhaps this would have been avoided in the first place. Additionally, more support and guidance over our newly ordained might have helped some to stay on track. If priests aren't getting the support they need, the problem is just being perpetuated, in a different form. On the other hand, the crimes that priests have been accused and convicted of are no different than the crimes going on in the rest of the world. It’s only because it’s a group of men who are supposed to be celibate and working for God that they are held up as they are. There are pedophiles, embezzlers, abusers, and adulterers in everyday life, too.

  8. Even though our Byz. Cath. priest is not married, I think the issue of married priests in the Eastern Catholic tradition is a stumbling block for many of my Roman Catholic friends who are leery about attending the Divine Liturgy at our parish. Amen to what Alice said is a matter of discipline, not doctrine. When I first heard about married priests in the Eastern Catholic tradition (I grew up Roman Catholic), my initial reaction was, "Huh? Really...?" Before even learning about it, I figured that if it was ok with the Holy Father, it was ok by me. God bless! ICXC+NIKA

  9. \\We Eastern rite-types- a minuscule percentage of the Catholic world- should remember to "mind our own business."\\

    Basically I've been told this on several Catholic blogs already, including Fr. Z's.

    This even when I mention Eastern practice as a way of reconciling two seemingly opposed views.

  10. I'm kind of an oddball here because I have no intention on leaving the Latin Church. Both my husband and I feel that leaving our rite would be giving up a part of our culture that we prefer to keep and pass on to our children. While I wouldn't mind married clergy, I think having married clergy be anything but an exception would really shake a lot of Catholics' faith.

    Disclaimer out of the way, I get very upset when people claim that Catholics don't have married priests because the priest wouldn't want to go on sick calls, etc. My husband is a sysadmin and believe me, his machines don't care if his wife is in labor or if he's on paternity leave or whatever. Should sysadmins be vowed to celibacy? Should I be vowed to celibacy because as an organist sometimes I have to find a sitter and play for a funeral on short notice? What about farmers, lawyers, police officers, fire fighters, doctors, and just about every other non-factory job I can think of? Is my husband a bad father because he is on call 24/7? Granted, he's free to change professions in a way that a priest is not, but still, I just wonder what world these people live in where fathers work only 9-5 jobs.

    Also, just because a priest is celibate does not mean he's going to be available. My in-laws are registered at a Byzantine Catholic parish (with married priests), at least in part, because they trust that priests to come when they are dying. They are very surprised that the Latin priests where we live actually know their parishioners, spend hours in the confessional, and visit the sick because that has not been their experience of the Latin Church in the past 20 or 30 years. Maybe the Latin parishes around them wouldn't be so short staffed if the Latin Church ordained married men, but I kind of doubt it.

  11. Jack- it sort of reminds me of when I might share with a non-homeschooling friend something about what my kids are doing. Homeschoolers are really in the minority-but it is different and some people take my words like I am saying what they should do- nope...just giving my own experience and since it isn't illegal or evil or dangerous, please don't judge me- I'm not judging them!

  12. Alice- Thanks for commenting!

    Just to clarify yet again I am not saying that the discipline of priestly celibacy should be abandoned in the Roman rite- but like Alice, using the 'time for the people' argument is a straw man because we all have anecdotes where a priest was amazingly generous with time or he takes off and flies his plane or he is so involved and comes to the hospital or he only goes to the hospital for a VIP

    once again- have a strong preference for a celibate clergy- but PLEASE don't put the married priesthood in the same train of thought as sage burning nuns with perms and pant suits. Yup- I am probably preaching to the choir ;)

  13. Thanks Priest's Wife, for posting both of my comments, even though they say similar things. There was an error after I submitted the first--thought all was lost, so I wrote another.

    THE JOHNSONS--re: your RC friends--are they very conservative RC? Because many RCs that I know who are more liberal think that married priests in the Eastern Rites are great, and think they should be in the RC too. By the way, I'm also cradle RC, married to a Byz Cath, and I've always thought there should be married RC priests. Probably because I grew up knowing Protestant minsters, married with families.

    JACK--yeah, that attitude from others towards "us" will really help the church grow and get along. We're two lungs...hahaha, I don't know about that... They seem to want very little to do with us. But hey, JPII never said the lungs were of equal size! :D

  14. I often find that any time you do anything different than the norm, people look at you as if you are weird, crazy, etc.

    "You DRIVE 30 miles to a church when there is one THREE MINUTES from your house?????" is a great example. ;-)

  15. Let me say something in defense of Traditionalists who don't want to hear the "argument from the East." Although I have never attended a Catholic university, I have been blessed with professors who were very open to letting me write about liturgy and an extremely good library. In books/pamphlets written under the "spirit of Vatican II" I've seen the "argument from the East" used to justify married priests (and I did not say the ordination of married men), Communion in the hand (despite the fact that this is NOT practiced in the East), blue vestments (with no mention that the liturgical colors are different otherwise), vernacular liturgy (although it doesn't always play out that way in the East), and other hot button issues. Naturally this makes it seem like the East is just another facet of the enemy. (Now I need to stop, or I'll tempted to find a voodoo doll and poke it right through the heart while thinking of the agenda driven folks who tell half truths about the East. Yeah, I'm not a saint.)

  16. Alice- I hear you! I wouldn't want the West to ordain married men for 'liberal' reasons by using the East as an example

  17. Rabbit,
    My RC friends are all pretty traditional (some prefer the Latin Mass, others the Novus Ordo Mass). My guess is that, for some reason, they are unable to discriminate between married men being ordained in the East (which is allowed) & priest getting married (NOT allowed). I may be biased, but I honestly do think our Byz. Cath. parish has the most reverent liturgy & solid preaching in town (we live in a liberal university town). My Catholic friends constantly lament the liturgical quackery & sugar-coated Catholicism being preached from the pulpits in the 4 RC parishes in town, yet they don't come East because I think they doubt the validity/Catholicity of the Divine Liturgy ("It is just...SO different" they say. To which I reply, "Yes it is & thank the Lord for that!"). If one has attended the DL, I think you'll agree that I'm not sure how it could be any more Catholic!

  18. The Johnsons,
    Are your friends convinced that nobody who is not celibate or at least practicing perpetual continence should be in the sanctuary? Some more traditionally minded Latin-rite Catholics have this idea, although if it was ever a practice of the Latin Church Pope St. Pius X put the nail in its coffin when he called for scholas of lay men and boys in every parish. (I believe his call for frequent, even daily Communion was the final blow to the tradition of abstaining before the reception of Holy Communion in the West.) Oddly enough, I've never seen anyone calling for the Latin Church to reinstate the old Communion (or Lenten) fast for married couples.

  19. I don't think Fr. Z adds much to the conversation. He seems to have a bug-a-boo about "liberal" Catholics. Rather than consider the pastoral and other benefits over a particular idea, he seems more interested in "beating the liberals." Trying to put down peoople rather than raise up Christ is never a good course and his comment against social justice is even more offensive than his slap at Catholic married priests.

    Yes, many of the practices considered by Latin Church's liturgical renewal match the practices of the East -- free standing altars, concelbration, sharing the chalice with the lay faithful, deacons at the liturgy (rather than the priests dressed as deacons formerly used in the Latin Rite), vernacular liturgy.

    When I conser all of these points, liberalism learned from the East is looking pretty good!!!! :)


  20. Anonymous Katherine- what is amusing to me is that Byzantine Catholics are pretty darn conservative (if we want to slap a label on stuff)

  21. Priest's Wife -

    You got it right! Slapping labels doesn't add much to discerning pastoral good.

    I don't mind being called a liberal. That's certainly what everyone called me in the 1950s when I was involved in efforts to end race segregation in my Roman rite parish (I was called some other things besides "liberal" by some of my brother and sister Catholics but I'm doubtful you would allow them on your website!).

    But the Christian East did show to us in the Roman rite that many reforms proposed by those called liberals were at least possible and maybe even valuable --- as I mentioned, vernacular liturgy, sharing the chalice, concelebration, freestanding altars, reception while standing, liturgical deacons, etc. etc.

    The Melkite Patriarch of Anitoch was most helpful during the Council in helping the Latin Church promote liturgical renewal. There is a great debt owed to him.


  22. \\Actually... it is a pedophilia problem. Homosexuals as priests have nothing to do with it. (I'd say this on Fr. Z's blog but I fear the backlash.)\\

    I think pointing this out got me banned from Fr. Z's blog.

    Alice, Byzantine St. James and the Assyrian Church of the East, as well as their Chaldean Catholic counterpart, have called for communion in the hand BY RUBRIC. But the only time I receive in my hand is at these two liturgies, because it's part of the tradition. I NEVER do it in a Latin Church.

  23. I'm a little late to the party, but this is a very interesting discussion! I'm a plain ol' Latin rite revert with a convert husband and we have many Eastern rite friends in various churches. We love the Eastern liturgy, and when we're traveling we try very hard to find the Eastern rite church (or the Anglican Use) instead of risking it at the Latin church. In the Ukrainian Catholic churches I've attended I've received communion by the little spoon (which probably has a lovely name, but I have no idea what it is)! I've met wonderful married priests in the Eastern rite, the Anglican Use, the soon-to-be-Catholic Anglican Ordinariate and even in the Latin rite, courtesy of the pastoral provision. It's EXTREMELY hard to explain the rules and subtleties of church-speak to Catholics who don't know the inner workings of the Church. For good or ill, we've worked for the Church, so we know all of that stuff. Sigh. Anyway, it would be a shock to most RCs to suddenly have married clergy, and, in our current condition, and given our own history (because it shouldn't be "default Catholicism") and traditions, it's best that we keep our predominantly celibate clergy.

    I agree that the "time for parishioners" thing is a straw man. My grandmother was attended on her deathbed in a Catholic hospital by her Jewish doctor who offered to say kaddish, and our Eastern rite priest friend who gave her the last rites. Our own celibate pastor was unable to attend, and the Catholic hospital could only provide a protestant laywoman. I will say that while most priests worth their sacred oils are overworked, the married priests I've known are worked harder, generally speaking, than the unmarried ones.

  24. Preoteasa,

    your post further confirms avoidance of "Fr Z" and his blog. However, I would not throw stones at any other Rite or tradition within the Church. Most traditions are guilty of being intolerant towards other groups — one just has to mention the azymite and iconclast controversies.

    Unfortunately, commentators like Rev. Mr Zuhlsdorf (a.k.a. Fr Z.) take a very narrow view of the Church, and sometimes national cultural elements are taken to be Christian culture.

    That said, some people think that changes such as introducing the practice of ordaining married men in the Latin Church is a panacea for problems are deluding themselves. The problems in the Church are very complex, have many causes and will only really be resolved at the Second Coming. Moreover, they are not confined to the Latin Church.

    Married clergy come with their own challenges: just ask any Eastern bishop, or look at the problems in the Protestant ecclesial communities. The same problems have occurred — including a loss of vocations. Add to this the problem of marital breakdown.

    Few things are as destructive to a community than an acrimonious divorce of a priest and his wife. An example I know about, the clergy very unjustly supported the priest against his wife. She had recently come from the Mother Country, could not speak the language and found herself in a terrible situation, without family or wide community support. When the marriage collapsed she fortunately had some friends who were able to support her and to assist her through the legal proceedings.

    However, the collapse had a very destructive impact on the community.


  25. Bear- I TOTALLY hear you- and I pray that no one would think I am "throwing stones." I am not calling for a married priesthood possibility in any rite but my own (in the US in some jursidictions, ordained a married man is not easy)- and I even like Fr Z's blog most of the time- I was commenting about a comment that seems to be getting more common with its attitude of married men being ordained priest = sage burning woymn 'priests'

  26. I think the issue with priests is certainly a pedophile issue…some are. They must be removed. Thank God they are few. However, homosexual practice is a huge issue in the clerical ranks of the Catholic Church. I’m a Byzantine Catholic and know some ‘gay’ priests. So what? The issue here is NOT sexual orientation, but are you being faithful to your celibate vows and trying to live a holy life in conformity with the Gospel. I don’t know if these byzantine clerics are practicing. I hope not, but that is an issue between them and their confessor.
    It is a fact though that in the Roman Rite Diocese where I live, I know of many priests who are most certainly gay and many are practicing on the sly. I have full knowledge of one priest who just retired who had a gay partner for years and they even own a house together. Many parishioners knew of this ‘arrangement’. This was common knowledge even in institutions where this priest worked. Somehow he got away with it…Sad! What is even more sad is that the episcopal leadership (and they were pretty conservative) just ‘turned a blind eye’. TRAGIC!!
    The issue with married priests in the Eastern Churches has become a ‘cultural thing’ because the Eastern Churches in certain cultures never abolished the practice. Good. It’s a tradition (with a little t). Were the Roman Rite to re-introduce a married clergy (it’s already happening slowly with convert clergy from other traditions) it also will become a ‘cultural thing’ in a few generations.
    My concern is not for the married priest as it is for the married priest’s wife and family. In most instances both the wife and the children are abused by parishioners. Many feel ostracized, demoralized and marginalized. They often become the ‘whipping board’ for any issues arising in the community. Most bishops know of this situation but are powerless to do anything about it or just do not care to get involved. This is a crime that reaches to the heavens. Don’t believe me??? Then check out a very fine new site called “Good Men Wear Black”. It was created to promote vocations in the Eastern Churches (primarily Orthodox Churches). On this site there is a section called ‘Duties and Obligations of a Priest’s Wife’. Were I a woman dating a seminarian and read this…I WOULD RUN THE OTHER WAY!
    Currently in our culture within the Latin or Byzantine Church, married priesthood is difficult at best. I APPLAUD you for supporting your priest husband! You are a very RARE breed of the best of womanhood. I pray for you and others like you daily. Remember…we have canonized many bishops and priests…but in front of them all are some married priest’s wives who have yet to be given this honor. May you be among them.

  27. Anonymous- as what you have written is 'hear-say'- I can't agree- I don't know any homosexual priest- whether practicing or not- prayers for these priests you know- it is an extra burden

    about future sainthood- that is what we are all striving for- a life of heroic virute....I am VERY far from that

  28. dang- missed the controversy. I will say that your husband is one of the best priests that I know at dropping everything for the sake of a soul in a need. This has very little to do with married or unmarried. Also, I hesitate to call someone definitively "Gay or Homosexual"-- they are a person/priest with a "homosexual problem". Semantics semantics. Maybe a post on how Byzantines do indeed treasure celibacy in their rite? Love the photo!!!

  29. Anonymous faith- I think I have a post about monks somewhere- but maybe an interview with my favorite monk is in order...thanks for the idea


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