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Friday, November 11, 2011

Some news on married priests

Melkite Catholic Church to Ordain Married Men to the Priesthood in the US

[...] On first glance, some might view the Melkite Church as merely following in the same vein as that of the Anglican Ordinariate. However, the key difference with the Anglican Ordinariate in the Catholic Church, which allows for some former married Anglican priests to join the Catholic Church and be ordained to the Order of Deacon and then to the priesthood, is that it is viewed as an exception.

The Melkite Greek catholic Church is simply reaffirming the ancient practice in Eastern Christianity, Catholic and Orthodox, of choosing married AND celibate men for both the order of deacons and the Priesthood. Those chosen for the Episcopacy remain celibate. The practice had been curtailed in the United States.Bishop Nicholas is announcing his intention, after study and preparation, to make the practice normative in the United States.This is not an act of "dissent" of any sort. Rather, a resumption of an ancient practice.

Controversy is likely to arise over this announcement on a few counts. First, the Vatican's Congregation for Eastern Churches has not changed its approach to limiting the priesthood to celibate men as the norm, even in the Eastern Church, in the United States. There were a few past exceptions to the norm, but these have not been an indication of a new process for allowing married men to enter seminary formation on a normative basis. Whether or not this announcement will bring a reaction from the Congregation is unclear ..... As to a reaction from the Vatican regarding this announcement from the American Melkite Catholic Church, none has been heard yet.

I think this is a good thing - wish I could say I thought it would make the Vatican re-think its policy on married priests but that seems unlikely. Anyway,this story made me think of Vatican II, celibacy, and Maximos IV Sayegh, past Patriarch of the The Melkite Church at the Council. Celibacy was never really discussed at Vatican II ....

On October 13 [1965], François Marty, archbishop of Rheims, presented the text On the Ministry and Life of Presbyters .... Two days earlier, however, celibacy, the most explosive issue related to the subject, was authoritatively removed from the agenda by Paul VI.

The matter had come up in an oblique way in 1962 under Pope John XXIII. On June 16 the Central Preparatory Commission discussed a short schema On Lapsed Priests ... not about celibacy as such but about measures to be taken to address a situation every bishop had to face: priests walking out the door .... Should a post-factum dispensation from celibacy be granted to such men? If so, how and on what grounds was that to be done?

The overwhelming consensus in the commission was that the council should not address the issue .... The matter should be left to the discretion of the Holy See .... But three years later, in 1965, the situation had changed somewhat. Bishops, still a small minority, were talking about the advisability of a modification of the discipline, at least for some regions. When in October the discussion On the Ministry and Life of Priests drew near, some Brazilian bishops hoped to introduce the matter on the floor .... This is the situation that prompted Paul VI to intervene to withhold celibacy from the agenda .....

The clergy of the Eastern churches in communion with the Holy See lived under a different discipline, and their bishops tended to take a dim view of the Latin practice. Well before October 11 it became known that Maximos IV intended to deliver a speech on the matter, and he would surely do so in his usual forthright and forceful style. Because of the pope's order, Maximos did not deliver his speech, but along with a covering letter he sent a copy of it to Paul on October 13 .....
What Happened at Vatican II, John O'Malley SJ, pp. 270-272

You can read what Maximos had written about celibacy to the pope here in chapter 8 of The Melkite Church at the Council, Discourses and Memoranda of Patriarch Maximos IV and of the Hierarchs of His Church at the Second Vatican Council: Introduction by Archimandrite Robert F. Taft ( link). Here's how it begins ...

Neither Scripture nor Tradition, especially the Tradition of the first centuries, considers celibacy as an indispensable condition for the priesthood, a condition sine qua non. The early text of the schema affirmed that “even among the first Apostles, a few were married.” The new text preferred to omit this mention, as if by omitting it we could change the truth of history. It is unnecessary to recall that Saint Peter and most of the Apostles and the first disciples were married. Those who today in the Eastern Church are likewise married deserve all our support ...


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