Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Sad Days- replay

Here's a replay from one of my most commented-on blog posts (I'll write new material one of these days)

One of my favorite blog names is My Little Catholic Bubble- the writer seems to admit that her life is a bit insular, and she likes it that way. So, in a roundabout way, I admit that I am writing now from my experience and also from an Eastern perspective.

Do unmarried clergy really have more time to devote to the Church? This is the most common argument against married clergy- probably because people are trying to avoid the sex topic. Because of his bi-ritual faculties, my husband substitutes for Western-rite priests. As I have posted before, he is now a police chaplain volunteer for a department that has waited 18 years for help. He doesn't golf; if you see him fishing, his four kids will be with him. When he finishes his work and ministry obligations, he doesn't return to a rectory and peace and quiet; he has other family (the domestic church) to serve. Trying to be charitable here, fill in the blanks...but celibate or not- no priest can minister to 15,000 families.

Are unmarried clergymen bound to live vows of poverty, chastity and obedience like monks? My husband drives a 12-year old Chevy with 250,000 miles and dents galore. Our townhouse is 1200 square feet for 6 people. No cable (thank God!) and cell phones are month-to-month. No housekeeper, cook, babysitter- oh wait, is that me? Well, I homeschool and teach part-time at the college level, so the house is not rectory-level clean. We spend our own money to print bulletins. We changed to an HMO through his hospital job because the PPO went from $6000 to $12000 payroll deduction (!?thanks healthcare reform?!) But talking money is worse than talking sex! Trying to be charitable here, so fill in the blanks....

But I digress...the small little corner of the blogosphere I am referring to consists of What Does the Prayer Really Say, the Deacon's Bench and a canon lawyer named Ed Peters. Peters states that Canon 277 in the Western Code of Canon Law means that all clergymen in the Latin-rite must be continent (sexual relations with a lawful wife being forbidden). Fr Z seems to concur. Whether Peters believes that the canon should remain or it should be clarified for married clergy remains to be seen. The comments on all these blogs have been interesting however.
My first quibble is this:

WHY OH WHY do people think that by accepting the East's 2,000 year tradition of married men priests and their dignity and worthiness leads to....married men being ordained de facto in the West, altar girls, extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist, women 'priests,' clown masses, blessings with bubbles and sage, embracing divorce and remarriage, birth control, abortion, meat buffets on Fridays, abandoning Holy Days of Obligation, global warming, etc and etc...We just want our sui juris church to be respected. We love the Holy Father and the Catholic Church. Let me be a broken record for a bit; the Church is bigger than my microscopic rite and the Roman rite- no matter the majority the Roman rite has.

another thing to think about:

One question that has been posed a few times on various sites and which is not answered is- How does marital relations negatively effect an ordained married man's ministry? All married people are called to chastity and occasional continence. Ordained married men are no exception. Of course, discretion and dignity is key, but all married couples should be dignified in their public actions. I feel it is undignified to calculate conception dates and contemplate any person's sex life.

If the Church has allowed married men to be ordained as deacons in the Roman rite and are allowing a 'new wave' of married men to be ordained priests from the Anglican Church for the Roman rite, shouldn't there be new canons to address these issues?

one last thing...

a response to all this Eastern talk-defense of married deacons from about 25% of the responders at WDTPRS stated- "can't those Eastern rites just be influenced by us instead of always the other way around?" Reading that, I had to stifle a laugh/sob. "Subdeacon Joseph"-now an Orthodox priest- said it best:

"I would add to the priest’s wife comment that my diocese left the Byzantine Catholic Church officially in 1938 for Orthodoxy because the Vatican had betrayed the Union of Uzhorod which allowed for: 1) equal status with the Roman clergy socially and politically 2) retention of liturgical and ritual customs (including married clergy) 3) and the right to elect their own bishop. Sadly all three of these tenets were violated by certain American Catholic bishops and even the Vatican itself, and our people had enough. They would have been happy to remain Greek Catholic if they had only been respected by the Irish Catholic bishops in America. The most hostile of the Roman bishops was Archbishop John Ireland of Minneapolis, Minnesota. His outright hostility to the Greek Catholic married clergy is well documented historically."  

My husband is writing a history of our church (an ethnic division of the Byzantine rite) in America. It's a sad tale. In 1925, we had 150,000 believers (yes- always very small compared to the Roman-rite). Now we have 5,000. Many of the people went back to the old country right before World War II, just to be caught up in the evils of communism there. But we also lost parishes due to the disdain for our traditions. Married priests weren't allowed to come to America; the bishop's conference insisted on lending us bi-ritual Roman-rite priests. Families were told they would have to change rites in order to have their children go to Roman-rite Catholic schools. This Catholic bishop Ireland is commemorated by the OCA (Orthodox Church in America) as the 'founder' of the American Orthodox because of his hostility to a married clergy and its leading to the formation of a break-off church. 

So this is why my post title is called sad days. If we truly pray for unity, we need to respect the traditions of sui juris churches. So, I respect the 1,300 year old tradition of celibacy and, therefore, continence for Roman-rite clergy. But if we are to welcome more Anglicans back to the Church and if we are to pray for the full unity between true churches, the canons must be clarified by Rome. How can I dare pray and work for unity with the Orthodox when 'good, practicing orthodox Catholics' believe this (more from WDTPRS): 

"pfft, ..do what you want and force the Magisterium to back down..in saecula saeculorum. A Married Priesthood is coming to the Catholic Church. I know it. You know it." "If you think I am afraid of the emergence of an unofficial order of bossy “clergymen’s wives,” you are right." "a Trojan Horse to undermine the Consecrated Priesthood and give way to a form of Presbyterianism, complete with married ministers" 

...sad days, indeed...and yes, the Roman rite has the right to demand celibacy and continency of their clergy and since I am not Roman-rite, I have 'no say' in the matter. It is just sad when it comes to this...my solution? Let us learn from our respective traditions and also build up those men who have answered the call to ministry. Let us pray for the Holy Father to clarify this canon quickly for the sake of the dignity of married deacons in the Roman rite.


  1. It is early and I have 3 little ones (the baby is still asleep) asking for breakfast, so I'll be brief.

    Two thoughts:
    1. Often the petition for married clergy comes those seeking to change the church and not just with regard to celibate priests. It is not uncommon for the call for married priests to be accompanied by all the other causes you list. So I think it is very easy for the subject to be outright and completely rejected by faithful Roman Rite Catholics simply because it is often only one of many changes some people with a specific agenda would seek to make.

    2. That said, I think your skirt/pants post and this one have something in common. It is too common nowadays for people to condemn others for doing things differently in some sort of unabashed defense of the way they themselves do it. "I only wear skirts so if you wear pants you are the devil's servant." "My parish priests is celibate so any one who isn't must be neglecting his parish, etc." There seems to be no conception of any flexibility on things that are not intrinsically evil. I've been boggled for a while on why this is. I see it likewise on the subjects of homeschooling, having large families, etc. It only just occurs to me that maybe such stances have become so volatile and common because some thing that are intrinsically evil, like abortion, are confused by so many as good. Maybe calling good things bad and bad things good enough makes people adamant that they feel they have to defend their choices on everything, and so condemn any choice other than their own?

    Just thoughts. Okay, the baby is calling...

  2. In my parent's diocese, there is a married priest who converted from the Anglican church. He gives the best homilies on celibacy because he "understands the other side." As you said, it's completely acceptable for the Roman rite to require that their priests be celibate (with the convert exceptions). However, I agree that there is absolutely no reason to change the tradition of married priests in the Eastern rites. I wonder if these people who are so hung up on the issue (especially since it doesn't even concern their rite!) are the same people who quibble over "issues" like the exact length of skirts or height of necklines (well beyond simple modesty) as if the salvation of the world depended upon my collarbone/knees being completely hidden. I find it incredibly sad that people are feeling forced out of the Catholic Church when they were promised to be allowed their traditions in the first place.

  3. Katherine- I totally hear you on the fact that those with 'liberal' agendas mix the issues so that ...married priesthood leads to other stuff...sad but true...even though we are pretty darn 'conservative'

  4. My mother was baptized/confirmed in Byzantine rite. I'm not sure how she came to the Roman Rite - not sure if it was because of Catholic schools or because when my grandmother died my grandfather remarried an Italian woman


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