Thursday, November 16, 2006

Vatican reaffirms priestly celibacy - Yahoo! News

Vatican reaffirms priestly celibacy - Yahoo! News


assiniboine said...

But what, precisely, is the rationale for allowing married clergy in the Eastern-rite Catholic churches which are in communion with Rome, much less the increasingly attractive (or at least decreasingly unattractive, it seems) Eastern Orthodox churches, which seem not quite to be in communion with Rome (the complexities are somewhat bewildering) much less the Oriental Orthodox churches, which are somewhat farther afield in terms of mutuality but which are no longer in the outer darkness where there is wailing and gnashing of teeth, anyway.

My favourite Jesuit English professor (his academic specialty was Milton, an odd sort of preference for a Catholic priest, one would have thought*) was the Dean** of the Jesuit College at the university where I was an undergraduate, and hilariously forthright in his contempt for the Ukrainian Catholic bishop, who demanded a substantial fee for giving his licence for Ukrainian students to be married in the Roman Catholic chapel at the university. We privately somewhat chortled at this (I was often the musician when the weddings were ultimately sanctioned, you see) -- though never when being invited for sherry in Father Burke-Gaffney's rooms -- at the proposition that in fact it was mild bitterness at the fact that Eastern-rite clergy had wives, though in fact Eastern-rite bishops of course did not.

*He considered my undergraduate paper on Book 8 of "Paradise Lost" excessively "Protestant" and threw it back at me with the offer of a re-reading if I would recant my heresy. In a rare moment of sophistication (like many undergraduates of the '70s I wasn't always free of being a provincial jerk) I figured he was paying me a compliment and being funny, as he undoubtedly was, and I re-submitted the paper with a few not entirely apt quotations from St Thomas à Kempis, which he noted with chaste red marginal ticks: he then awarded me an A+. Alas, he died of brain cancer when I was teaching in Papua New Guinea; I didn't get word of his death till months later -- from a cousin, also a priest, in fact, who was responsible for my having been sent to PNG, who was my boss when I was there -- and I never got a chance to visit him as a graduate and chortle with him over our little joke over sherry.

**What did one call a Dean who was also a Jesuit Priest and also -- like all Jesuits -- a PhD and an academic dean? Socially in Canada (though not in Australia, where all PhDs, however menial their doctorate, are "Doctor") PhDs are Mr, so obviously outside the university classroom and common room "Father" was appropriate. We settled on "Dean Burke-Gaffney in the third person and "Father" in person. But what, nowadays, of the increasing numbers of nuns who are "doctor" as well as "sister"?

Gashwin said...

Well, I think that a married clergy is the older tradition. The New Testament after all envisions a married episcopate. How long that was in existence, I'm not sure. But the earliest recorded traditions in the East (which still continue) are of a married diaconate and presbyterate and a celibate episcopate. The discipline of general celibacy for the presbyterate is a Western "innovation" so to speak, becoming universal by the 11th century I believe.

In the United States, as more and more Eastern Christians arrived in the 20th century as immigrants, there was a decree issued (I forget when and by whom) that pretty much forbade married Eastern Catholic clergy from functioning or being ordained in the US, presumably to avoid problems (envy perhaps?) with their celibate Western counterparts. The decree is still in effect, though I'm not sure how widely or strictly it is observed.

The more immediate issue is the lifting of the discipline for former Episcopal (and Protestant) clergy who are married, who convert and who are then ordained as Catholic priests. There are two (soon to be three) such priests in the Diocese of Charleston and I have a feeling that it is a source (understandbly so) of some frisson with their celibate brothers.

And what this meeting seems to have been about has been contemplating some sort of return to an active ministry of those priests who left to get married. Obviously, if they do return as active ministers, the church will not suggest that they abandon their wives, so it would mean a waiver of the discipline of celibacy for them too.