THE POPE AND CELIBACY

Today Pope Benedict is presiding over a high level conference in Rome on priestly celibacy. It is being called a “reflection” on the traditional Catholic ban on priestly marriage.  But how much more “reflection” is needed on this matter?  Thousands of parishes lack a full time priest because of the restrictions on married clergy.  This can only mean that Rome values mandatory celibacy more highly than it does the Blessed Eucharist.         And there’s more.  Rome allows married clergy from the Anglican, Lutheran and other churches to convert  and become Catholic priests without giving up their wives and families, an experimentthat has worked extremely well.   Many Catholic priests who left and married would now like to return and exercise their ministry.  If the Pope allows married Anglican priests to do so, why not married Catholic priests?  All it would take is the stroke of a papal pen.

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9 Comments »

  1. 1
    SUZANNE Says:

    Allowing married priests wouldn’t solve the problem. They have to turn men away from the seminary in Africa because there are too many vocations. In Canada, rites and churches that allow married priests still have vocation shortages.

    What we need are people to teach the traditional faith. Indoctrinate kids, bring them up in the faith, give them a sense of tradition, and real Catholic spirituality, and you will develop vocations. It’s being done in orthodox dioceses in the US.

    The pope can consecrate a gazillion hosts. But only a man can be a priest, that is, a father to the parish. The quality of priests is a huge issue. The Church chooses priests from among those who have a vocation to celibacy (and if you have none, you can’t be a priest!) because those who have no families can dedicate themselves entirely to prayer, salvation of souls and the administration of the parish. You can’t have a family and be a priest 24/7.

  2. 2
    Barbara Says:

    Rome has decided, so it will have to live with the consequences. And so will we, alas. As Suzanne pointed out, the Church is not a democracy.

    Fortunately, the Church is not God. God’s actions cannot be constrained by the will of any human being. God has a way of poking holes into all the alleged wisdom of humankind.

  3. 3
    Barbara Says:

    Let’s hope all those priests in Africa have a vocation to celibacy. Let’s hope the Church in Africa is circumspect in whom it ordains. That has not always been the case.

  4. 4
    Matthew Cope Says:

    Neil says:

    “And there’s more. Rome allows married clergy from the Anglican, Lutheran and other churches to convert and become Catholic priests without giving up their wives and families, an experimentthat has worked extremely well. Many Catholic priests who left and married would now like to return and exercise their ministry. If the Pope allows married Anglican priests to do so, why not married Catholic priests? All it would take is the stroke of a papal pen.”

    Forgive me if I don’t quite get this, but what you *seem* to be saying is, “I think I’ve found a loophole. If a Catholic priest wants to marry maybe all he has to do is leave the priesthood, marry, and then get reinstated.”

    I’m not a Catholic so there’s a lot I don’t quite get, but isn’t the idea of a celibate priesthood itself a kind of “experiment” that was introduced after several centuries of church history without that rquirement? There’s nothing in the Bible about it, beyond a few comments on the general desirability of celibacy, and (unless I’m greatly mistaken) I think it was introduced for largely political reasons.

    And… if all it takes a loophole to sidestep the celibacy issue, where does loophole end and hypocrisy begin?

    And… if it takes a stroke of the papal pen to enable the loophole, why not a stroke of the papal pen to simply make celibacy as a matter of personal conscience?

    By the way, there may be plenty of candidates for the priesthood in Africa but the opposite obtains in Europe and North America.

  5. 5
    Barbara Says:

    From what I have read, celibacy was optional for centuries. It is clear in the Gospel that Peter was married, after all. The introduction of celibacy had to do with claims on church properties by the children of priests and with the growing popularity of desert asceticism that seemed to cast the Western clergy in a poor light.

  6. 6
    SUZANNE Says:

    Matthew wrote:
    If a Catholic priest wants to marry maybe all he has to do is leave the priesthood, marry, and then get reinstated.”

    He’d have to leave his wife.

    I’m not a Catholic so there’s a lot I don’t quite get, but isn’t the idea of a celibate priesthood itself a kind of “experiment” that was introduced after several centuries of church history without that rquirement? There’s nothing in the Bible about it, beyond a few comments on the general desirability of celibacy, and (unless I’m greatly mistaken) I think it was introduced for largely political reasons.

    No, it wasn’t an experiment.

    Celibacy in the Church has a long history, but there are many distinctions to be made as regards to how it was practiced throughout the centuries. When you don’t make the distinctions, you get the impression that it was only made mandatory in the 12th century, but that’s not exactly the case.

    Priestly celibacy was so widely practiced in the Western Church in the second century that it practically came to be expected of an ordinand. He may have been married before ordination, but he was informally expected to leave his wife or at least not sleep with her. And when I speak of the “western Church”, I’m talking about Italy, France, and other places that generally practice the Roman rite. The Eastern Church allowed and still allows married priests (though bishops must be celibate).

    Through a series of local council decisions, it became practically the universal rule by the fifth century for priests to be celibate although they could be married. They could live with their wives, but they couldn’t sleep with their wives. If they slept with their wives, they would be guilty of breaking their promise of celibacy, but they would not be guilty of fornication.

    Throughout the centuries, the restrictions on these practices became more pronounced: priests couldn’t sleep in the same room as their wives; they had to sleep in a room with people of the same sex (kind of like chaperones),priests couldn’t live with their wives, etc etc.

    All this time though, priests could be married, but couldn’t sleep with their wives.

    Finally, later in the Middle Ages (I can’t quite remember the dates and it’s late) there was a decree from the Vatican that priests could not attempt marriage. This would have happened somewhere along the lines of 1000 AD or so.

    This is when things start to get very thorny. Because before, priests could have wives, but now there were universal canonical rules about actually forbidding marriage to priests.

    The thing is, if the priest did attempt marriage– against the rules– the sacrament was still considered valid. He had a valid marriage, despite breaking the rules.

    And that’s when you start having the controversy over married priests in the 10th, 11th and 12th centuries.

    During this time, the feudal system became more systematized if you will, and men who were members of wealthy families wanting to start dynasties would become priests– get married against the rules– have kids and pass on church lands to their sons. That way the family could accumulate wealth.

    With this laicization of land, the priestly celibacy issue did become more urgent, but it was not the primary or only reason for celibacy.

    So in the 12th century, a Lateran Council finally decided that ordination to the priesthood was diriment impediment to marriage– meaning that an ordained person could in no way attempt marriage. If he tried to marry, he wouldn’t receive the marriage, ergo, his kids would be illegitamite, ergo, he couldn’t pass on church land. Plus there were other severe penalties, such as the illegitamite children of priests were to be ancillae– a kind of slave/servant– to the Vatican.

    And it’s since then that you can’t have married priests whatsoever.

  7. 7
    Barbara Says:

    Thank you, Suzanne, for all this information. You certainly know a great deal about the subject.
    From reading what you wrote, it would seem that celibacy was enforced to maintain good order and consistency in the Church and not founded on Gospel imperative — analogous to the format of Eucharistic liturgy.

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  9. 9
    bernie12 Says:

    Neil
    I agree with your ststement on the POPE AND CELIBICY . We have always had married clergy in our Eastern Rite . I was told by one of our northern bishops about ten years ago that they ask the Pope in each of their ad limina visits to Rome to allow them to ordain married men …..even though they knew they would be refused . At least it kept the topic open .
    Tim


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