Friday, November 21, 2014

Married Men, The Byzantine Catholic Priesthood & Money

It always seems to come down to money, don't you think?

The personal reflections on this blog are completely anecdotal and are true only to my experience. Other Eastern Catholic clergy families might have a very different experience, and I am sure that celibate priests can be even more different.  How should I answer this:

"All these folks who want married priests
should be asked the following questions:
  • How much will you be increasing your weekly contributions to the Church to pay for the wife and kids, and their educations, and their medical and life insurance, and the large house and the second car and maybe third car? 
  • Will it be OK with you if your pastor gets four weeks vacation to be with his family?
  • Will he be able to charge overtime for sick calls and weddings on Saturdays, taking him away from his family?"
It always about money, isn't it? It is rather uncouth to discuss exact figures, so I will not share the exact amount that priests of my eparchy are supposed to be paid (my husband heads up two missions, so the guidelines don't apply to us in any case- he doesn't receive any compensation from the mission). The guidelines state that priests should receive an extra $100 monthly for each dependent that he has. That certainly wouldn't pay for four-week vacations, a third car (?!) and the children's educations. It covers groceries.

From our personal experience-
which is real and not some worst care scenario fantasy- there has never been a four-week vacation. The first time we were able to get the money together to visit the old country after five years of marriage, priest-husband stayed a week and the girls and I stayed for the summer. I will go with the kids to visit the US grandparents for two weeks between the summer semester and fall semester, and I don't see how he can fit it in. I am not throwing a pity party at all; this is the life we have chosen, but I am just gobsmacked by the attitude of so many people. As for the "second or third" car, we were just able to upgrade and donate our second small car- a Chevy with 250,000+ miles.

And since when has any priest "charged" for a sick call? That kind of activity would be worthy of Luther nailing his theses to the door of a cathedral. I suppose I was sensitive to this comment because as I was reading the post and following comments, my husband was going back to the hospital at night to anoint because no local priest was available....we do not live in a priest-lacking zone....Obviously certain liturgical activities will be private such as sick calls and confession. Does a surgeon bring his/her family into the operating room? But we participate in his life whenever it is appropriate. Weddings are family affairs and most clergy families will be helping as they can with whatever talents they have. Except for private counseling sessions, a wedding does not take time away from the family. I would say the problem is the opposite from what the commenter feared. The typical clergy family will be wedding coordinator, singer, florist if needed, and more- all for the 'price' of one- and that price is set by the bride and groom. They give nothing or a bit or a lot, depending on their ability and desire. But the priest and his family who have put multiple hours or days into the marriage preparation and wedding will never receive a stipend as large as the reception dj who is there for a few hours. It is what it is, but priests getting rich off of sacraments is a long-standing, false stereotype.

I just wonder, is 'time way from family' ever a common argument against a man becoming a doctor or a lawyer? I didn't think so, because he brings home a lot of money- after a few years of making virtually nothing as a resident or first-second year non-partner. But MD or Esq looks good after a last name, so the family can do without Dad as he works to bring home lots of bacon.

I just wonder, do Protestants or Orthodox look at their pastor's new baby and mutter under their breath that this baby is going to cost them money? Or is his family just part of 'doing (church) business' - also realizing that in his wife, they might have a 'free' secretary, cantor, wedding coordinator, lunch maker, coffee brewer, kid wrangler- as long as a different parishioner doesn't want to do those things? They might realize- he either needs to make more money (the worker is worth the wage) or the parishioners needs to be tolerant of time away from church  and help him with non-liturgical chores so he can make the 'big money' at a supplemental job.

I just wonder,
do Roman-rite parishioners fret over the cost of repaving the blacktop or taking care of the roof? Do they argue with the finance committee over the cost of weekly flowers and buying new banners? Could the money sent producing four-color brochures announcing a  new stewardship campaign and the subsequent mailings and four color outdoor banners on every Roman-rite parish be put to wiser use?

In my opinion, the only arguments to retain priestly celibacy in the Roman rite are theological and traditional. I am not here to disrespect celibacy. I do disrespect using money as an argument to retain celibacy. I could remind everyone that Fr John Corapi took a specific vow of poverty as a religious (not just a promise to live simply like a secular priest does) yet he owns two houses and had control over his ministry's financial dealings. Another worst case scenario- what happens when a celibate priest gets ill? The Church provides for him (as they should)! One person can become as expensive as many. At the wonderful Latin-rite parish where I  was the night phone and door person as a highschooler, the priests had  secretaries, cooks, housekeepers, cars provided, insurance provided, lay youth ministers, choir directors and more. Basically, everything was set up for them to do their priestly work. I do not discount their hard work and struggles, but I don't remember ever hearing comments like the ones above... just saying....

and another
"Dear Panyi Matka, As a Roman Catholic with an unending love and passion for Eastern Christianity, the Priesthood, and my girlfriend, I want to know if you could provide me with some guidance as to the possibility of moving into the Byzantine Rite of the Catholic Church and becoming a married priest. Thank you and may God be with you and your family always. In Christ, S---."
My first interior response was along the lines of- here is another Latin-rite Catholic 'using' us Byzantines for our traditional Liturgy/married priesthood possibility/opportunity to be a big fish in a very small pond instead of one in five thousand at the local Roman-rite church. He would put up with our smallness and different-ness for a year or two and then go back to his Latin roots (literally- I think the writer is Latino or Italian in origin) But then I got a hold of myself and re-read his question.
Father Maximos of Holy Resurrection Monastery has stated that a person's primary vocation is either celibacy or marriage. This might seem counter-intuitive because the priesthood is an eternal mark on the soul while marriage is not, but one should begin with discerning whether celibacy or marriage is God's plan for their life. The priesthood is a possibility with both a vocation to celibacy (a vocation to celibacy makes being a monk or priest monk possible) and marriage for a man.
But the Roman-rite has not had a married priesthood as a normal matter of course for hundreds of years. So what does this mean for a Latin-rite man's discernment process? Even if he likes Liturgy and theology and the Church and the idea of becoming a priest, if he has discerned marriage, the priesthood should be off the table. The diaconate is a distant possibility, but diocesan policies usually limit study for the diaconate to a man who has been married for many years. So as heartless as it sounds, a Latin-rite man who has discerned marriage (yes- even before he has found a future wife-possibility) should realize that the priesthood is not available to him. He should not attempt to finagle a way such as become Anglican and then attempt a change to Roman-rite Catholicism  or become Byzantine-rite and then really be Roman-rite with bi-ritual faculties. This is just not right or holy.
My husband- from the old country where most priests are married with children- discerned both marriage and a hoped-for call to the priesthood when he was seventeen. Everything education-wise and professionally has a connection to his priesthood and his obligation to support his family. When he was in seminary in his country, his bishop invited those seminarians who planned on remaining celibate to study for their Master's degree in Rome. He knew that he planned on getting married, so he declined the invitation. His integrity was more important than that. And I believe that God has rewarded his honorable interactions with his bishop. He was able to study in France for two summers and in Austria for a year. He was given permission to start a ministry in the United States. But he has never been to Rome.
So in a very roundabout way, I am advising the writer to be honorable. If you have discerned marriage, then that is what you must do. If you feel the Byzantine rite truly calling your heart, then  become involved with the closest church and begin the process to officially change your rite. I would hope that your girlfriend would change as well. You should change your rite with no thought to a future priesthood. You need to live about two years of being only Byzantine before you should contact the bishop. Practically, the Romanian and Ukrainian eparchies are more open to married men working towards the priesthood, but the Ruthenian eparchies are more pan-cultural and American. 

Be honorable and be honest with yourself. If your dream as a priest involves Ash Wednesday ash distribution, not singing Alleluia during Lent, preaching in front of a thousand people, rosaries and adoration, the Byzantine-rite will not fulfill the dream. This is why living a Byzantine life for about two years is important for you to discern if this is the life you want. In addition, every pre-seminarian and seminarian (of all rites) must realize that they will or won't be ordained at the bishop's pleasure. The priesthood is not a right even when one has all the education. In the Byzantine rite of ordination, the bishop asks the people- Is he worthy? and the candidate hopes and prays that the people will sing, "Axios!"
on a very practical note: a married man hoping to be ordained a (Byzantine-rite) priest should figure out how he will support himself and his family. Byzantine-Catholic churches are generally small and poor. If it is very small (like our two missions), he can plan to work an outside job. If grandma or auntie live close by and are willing and the church is too big to be away from, the wife might work outside the home. Different families have different solutions. The writer needs to prepare himself for a future with or without the priesthood.
....And maybe most importantly- the wife needs to be enthusiastic about a possible priesthood. She doesn't need to delude herself into thinking that all will be sunshine and roses. I knew that the day of my husband's priestly ordination was the day that satan really had the desire to destroy him and his family. But I was still game for the adventure. But if the girlfriend/wife is not hopeful and positive about it, stop. This may mean that he should not pursue this path. He was married first. As painful as it might be, he is called to be married first and then find a way to serve our Lord in His Church- just not with the priesthood.


  1. There are pastors who get overtime for sick calls and weddings on Saturdays?!?!?!?!?!?

    Yeah... no.

    We get stipends for weddings but it isn't lucrative. Pastor Husband does the sick calls as part of his job requirement and believe me, he doesn't get paid overtime for doing it if it doesn't fall into the "9-5" hours for most secular jobs. There are also people convinced that he only works on Sundays... which leads me to comment on how that's interesting considering that Tuesdays were the busy days in which I didn't see him for 12-13 hours.

    Why don't they ever ask those of us living the life to weigh in with our thoughts?

    1. yes- why don't they ask married clergy (from the East- not a Fr Cutie kind of thing...)

      I posted this on facebook:
      so...the New York Times has a little series exploring priestly celibacy (inspired by Pope Francis' recent decree for EASTERN Catholics, no doubt)- who writes articles?

      Fr Dwight Longenecker (a married Anglican priest turned Roman-rite priest), Fr Cutie( a celibate Roman-rite priest turned married Episcopalian priest), Carmen Aginano (Roman-rite lay woman), Fr William Dailey (celibate Roman-rite Notre Dame priest), Theresa Delsion (Protestant woman academic), Daniel Maguire (laicized and married former Marquette Roman-rite priest) and Anthony Dragani (possibly Byzantine-rite layman)

      This decree of Pope Francis' is to show respect and love for the venerable traditions of the Eastern Churches united with Rome. But it is clear that the NYTimes and the Roman-rite think of the persecuted Eastern Churches as nothing, too small to be bothered with.

      For example- in Father Longenecker's personal patheos blog, directing readers to his NYT article, he posts a photo, no source with the title 'Eastern Catholic priest and family'. No- it is a Russian Orthodox deacon and family. Pish, doesn't matter....

  2. Thanks for posting this… With my husband being a deacon this kind of summarizes my concerns if he were be called to discern ordination to the priesthood. I think he'd have to keep his day job. Where we are it is all mission churches. Our pastor is married with 5 kids and he still works (a lot) outside of the church to support his family.

    However, I think wives of married men have to sign a letter stating they consent to their husband's ordination, no? I specifically remember signing one before my husband was ordained a deacon. If it were to happen that he be called to ordination of the priesthood - I think I request our bishop's ear for few minutes before : )

  3. I think a married priesthood model would not follow the Orthodox model. It would be closer to the Baptists and Pentecostals and that I do not want. The preacher's kids are almost always the worst in the congregation and anyone who says so gets kicked out, and the only First Lady of the parish I will stand for is Our Lady. It just won't work here and the women who look longingly at Father Celibate now won't hesitate to strike if they see Father Married. After all, if he can have one woman, why not divorce and take another? The Protestants have been doing it since the 50s.

    1. Dymphna-
      I disagree with your first sentence- in the east (which is my only concern- I hesitate to give any advice to the Roman-rite which has its own traditions), our married priesthood model is from our eastern tradition. A man discerns celibacy or marriage first, and then discerns if he is called to diaconate and/or priesthood. Celibacy is a complete gift because an eastern Catholic man has discerned that even before praying over the diaconate and/or priesthood.

    2. as for the rest of your comment- there will always be evil in the world. I have not seen what you fear, but please don't denigrate our Eastern traditions through your fear.

    3. I think what Dymphna may be thinking is that the practice of Catholicism in the US (at least in the Roman rite) is greatly influenced by Protestantism. Many have characterized US Catholics as "protestants with rosaries." It's really quite perverse at how protestant most US Catholics' thought and culture is. So perhaps if the Roman rite did have a married clergy it would indeed look like the protestant married clergy. The Eastern churches have their own long-established traditions, but I think in the US they would always have to fight against the protestant ethos infecting the rest of religion (and perhaps that is the root of the problem in the negative attitudes you described in your post).

      I think another problem is that by and large, among Catholic men, religion is not taken seriously or it is consider "women's stuff." That was so different from my experience growing up since my father was a convert and was a strong leader in our upbringing. In my Catholic high school most of the teachers were men, so I knew other men who took religion seriously. I went to a small, orthodox Catholic college where almost all the professors were men and I knew them to be men of integrity, intelligence and strong faith. I then married a convert who was (and still is) zealous and who has devoted himself to working for Catholic organizations (despite the poor financial returns) throughout our married life. So imagine my surprise, when getting to know more and more Catholic families, I found that it was mostly the women who were the faith leaders/decision makers/educators in the family. And the women complain about it, but don't know what to do. My husband thinks it is a result of religion being relegated to the merely private, which makes it not "really important" (and thus not worthy of a man's attention). So, I think in this country there is a subtle, insidious attitude that married clergy don't have "real jobs" and aren't doing the "manly thing." If money is the god (which it is in the US) then everything is critiqued and valued based on that. That's the real problem.

    4. Kate- very true! I'm afraid that many people are perplexed when it is said that men are the spiritual head of household

    5. Dymphna, I am actually a Protestant pastor's wife and I can tell you straightforwardly that the only constant from parish to parish is that people seem to have a free reign in criticizing anything I do and criticizing the behavior of my son. I am also married to a 4th generation pastor who has horror stories of having to be perfectly well-behaved so that people would stop criticizing his parents.

      As for the "first lady" of the parish thing, I will never claim that title for myself and none of my fellow pastor's wives in my denomination will either. It's unique to a very small section of Pentecostalism, not the status quo of Protestantism.

      Truthfully, I think the model of the Episcopal church or Lutheran churches would be more applicable to Latin-rite priests who are married if not the Orthodox model.

    6. Sorry Dymphna,

      The priest's wife IS the first lady of the parish, whether you like it or not.

      Get used to it, that's what Christ willed.

      Albrecht von Brandenburg

  4. "I just wonder, do Protestants or Orthodox look at their pastor's new baby and mutter under their breath that this baby is going to cost them money?"

    Sadly, yes.

  5. Priest's Wife, a few comments:

    1.) Father Longneker states: "Aside from the practical challenges, a married priesthood alters one of the underlying symbolic systems of the Catholic priesthood. The Catholic priest is “married to the Church.” Having a wife undermines that essential and traditional symbolism. Jesus said “some will be single for the sake of the kingdom.” The celibate priest pictures that total commitment. Marriage for priests erodes that admirable tradition." I disagree with him. Through marriage the priest's wife symbolizes Christ's bride, the Church. The married priests devotion to his wife and family is another way of showing Christ's love and devotion to the Church.

    2.) No Latin Catholic should enter the Byzantine Churches in order to become a married priest. A Latin should only become a Byzantine if it is their spiritual calling.

    3.) When thinking of getting your married priest a gift for Christmas, think of giving him something useful or practical, such as a gift card to Wal-Mart, Target, or to his wife's (presbytera's) favorite restaurant.

    4.) "[D]o Roman-rite parishioners fret over the cost of repaving the blacktop or taking care of the roof? Do they argue with the finance committee over the cost of weekly flowers and buying new banners?" YES!

    5.) "Could the money sent producing four-color brochures announcing a new stewardship campaign and the subsequent mailings and four color outdoor banners on every Roman-rite parish be put to wiser use?" Without a doubt!

    6.) It is a red herring, but my own personal experience with protestant minister's children was that they were pious frauds or bad kids. But that is merely my subjective experience and I will not take that as a general rule, plus, their fathers are not priests, so, strictly speaking, this is not a proper analogy.

    7.) "[D]o Protestants or Orthodox look at their pastor's new baby and mutter under their breath that this baby is going to cost them money?" Flavius Josephus, son of Vespasianus, is correct. They do. But even Byzantine Catholic do. Our beloved Father Moreno has had eight (8) children - but, like their mom, they help out a lot in the parish. When we did not have a reader two weeks ago, his youngest stepped up and chanted the readings at the Divine Liturgy.

    8.) "[I]s 'time way from family' ever a common argument against a man becoming a doctor or a lawyer? I didn't think so, because he brings home a lot of money- after a few years of making virtually nothing as a resident or first-second year non-partner. But MD or Esq looks good after a last name, so the family can do without Dad as he works to bring home lots of bacon?" As an attorney, I can tell you, most of us are not rich, and if we run our own practices as solos, some days, like today, no money comes in and it seems to only go out. The big firm lawyers are another matter.

    9.) "[P]riests getting rich off of sacraments is a long-standing, false stereotype." So true! The Roman Catholic Diocese of Buffalo raised the reqruied rates for stipends as they had been the same for over 50 years!

    10.) I would suggest one thing for any Latin who is called to become Byzantine and believes he is called to be a priest or a deacon -- Say the Horologion with the kathismata daily, in the same way as the Roman priests have to say the Roman Breviary or the Liturgy of the Hours. It will make you think Byzantine, but also disabuse you of any silly romantic notions. Small Compline is a lot longer than Compline in the LOTH!

    Your, Father and your children have a wonderful, blessed Thanksgiving!

    1. James,

      Fr L's point about the proest being married to the church is false. The church is the bride of Christ, not of the bishop (much less that of a simple priest!). Poor father doesn't realise it - and neither do you - but this position is an implied attack on the divinity of Christ. This is because Christ, being God, did nothing in vain (whether excluding women from the last supper and therefore from the priesthood, or allowing his ministers to marry or having been married, to allow their wives to "go around with them" [cf. I Cor 9:5]). He allowed married bishops (his apostles and their successors) and priests because he positively willed that things be so. To deny it is to implicitly deny the omniscience of Christ.

      Albrecht von Brandenburg

      P.S. No priest, not even a celibate one, is "totally" committed to their ministry. They have personal concents, holidays, play sport, have parents, siblings and others to whom they have responsibilities, etc. The problem is some people wish that Christ had made angels, rather than human beings, his ministers.

      Then when these mere humans do not live up to their exaggerated expectations, they become upset...

    2. "2.) No Latin Catholic should enter the Byzantine Churches in order to become a married priest. A Latin should only become a Byzantine if it is their spiritual calling."

      I would take it a step further. I have trouble accepting the Spirit calls baptized Christians to be transritual. I can accept that some switch from one patrimony to another because of marriage or other factors. There could be pastoral situations that recommend transritualism. But not a calling from the Spirit.

  6. Thank you for posting on this topic, Priest's Wife!
    Speaking as a Roman/Latin-rite Catholic, it's sad there are those who don't "get" Eastern-rite Catholic tradition and practice. If the Eastern-rite churches followed Latizination practices, it would be a horrible (to say the least) loss to the entire church!

  7. James Ignatius McAuleyNovember 24, 2014 at 6:57 PM

    Priest's wife, the response of the alleged Albrect von Brandenburg is not on point to your topic. Nonetheless, because it is so patronizingly silly, I have to have some fun. If he responds, oh well, someone has to have the last word, so let him. Of all the non de plumes to use, well, it opens him up to a lot of fun.

    Dear Long Dead German Cardinal,

    Your argument makes no sense. But perhaps, since you been dead since September 24, 1545, you have received a special spiritual enlightenment from our Lord. Certainly, in your lifetime, you opposed a married priesthood, so why are you commenting here? Looking at your life, you were quite upset with Luther and company for wanting a married priesthood.

    In any event, since you make patronizingly call me and Father Longnecker "poor" as if we were some deluded peasant buying indulgences from your pal Johann Tetzel, O.P., we could also construe, by the same tortuous logic you use, that by your failure to love your neighbor you are also attacking the Divinity of Christ. Hmm - how much for an indulgence these days, Cardinal? Do you take credit cards?

    If you were a true Byzantine, you would know that Byzantines traditionally see the Bishop as Christ, the priest as one of the apostles and the deacons as the ministering angels. But, of course, you do not know that as a poor, long dead, deluded Latin Cardinal. who is too busy pushing Tetzel to sell indulgences. By the way, how is your pal Pope Leo X these days?

    Well, so I and Father Longnecker are Arians. Good thing I am alive and can recant and repent. You are dead, dude. So I suppose in death, not having any distractions, you are totally committed to your priestly ministry to Christ. I would ask you how to resolve the schism between Rome and Constantinople, but I realize you are too committed to your ministry at the heavenly altar to enlighten us who are not privileged to know the eternal mysteries beyond the grave.

    I would note that it is implied in your argument Catholics and Orthodox deny the Divinity of Christ when they do not allow married Bishops. Oh my, do you feel cheated as you did not have a wife in your life as a Bishop?

  8. Hugely amusing but irrelevant and irrational reply - thanks for the entertainment! You've missed your vocation - you should be a stand-up comic.

    You also need to study church history a lot more closely than you have (I hope your legal research is of a higher standard, for the sake of your clients - I recommend Westlaw, personally). Your reply fails to get to grips with the reality that the church is not the bride of the priest. This was something drummed up (after Gregory VII, I think) to provide post-factum justification for the novel law in the west. So, merely asserting the alleged bridal relationship of the church to the priest or bishop does not cause such a relationship to exist, however mightily you desire such a relationship's existence. However, despite such weakness of thought on your part, your last paragraph shows that you at least are able to draw implications correctly - a useful trait in an attorney-at-law.

    Given your surname, it could be that you have some lingering latinate difficulty with the idea of married clerics, couldn't it?


  9. Sorry to all- I am away with family for Thanksgiving and not on-line....I'll reply to all when I can reflect properly!


  10. *** The painfully slow process of uncovering the child abuse that happened within the Catholic Church continues. The members of the church continue to try and protect the wrong people, at the expense of victims, their families and the American public. ***

    The Archdiocese of Chicago has voluntarily released documents related to 36 Archdiocesan priests who have at least one substantiated allegation of sexual misconduct with a minor. These documents are in addition to those released in January on 30 other priests. This release, together with the January release, covers priests who have substantiated allegations of sexual misconduct with minors identified on the Archdiocese's website as of November 2014. Documents pertaining to two priests, former Rev. Daniel J. McCormack and Rev. Edward J. Maloney, are not included, due to ongoing processes that do not permit release.

    Inquiries may be directed to the Office of the Protection of Children and Youth, Archdiocese of Chicago, PO Box 1979, Chicago, IL 60690.


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