Married Priests

Before I begin this post I would like to lay down the ground work and say that what I am about to discuss isnotdogma nor doctrine but merely discipline; and thus it is completely acceptable to engage in conversation. Archbishop Pietro Parolin supported this in an interview which got some coverage from NBCPatheosThe National Catholic Register, and other catholic websites. I found it funny that all of these Catholic websites swiftly came to the rescue to tell the world that the requirement for priestly celibacy in the Latin Church wasn’t changing any time soon. However, I am not here to talk about that.

Married Priesthood

Theology

To start this off, let me make something clear: A married man can be ordained a priest, but a priest can never get married . This is stated clearly in Canon 1087 that states: “Persons who are in holy orders invalidly attempt marriage.” It is a very important point, because priests are men that have received a permanent mark on their soul. They have the “the official powers of the priesthood and are intimately connected with the sacramental character, indelibly imprinted on their soul.” (Catholic Encyclopedia). However, marriage is different sacramentally. In marriage the sacrament is only temporary and upon the death the two, that became one, part (upon death do us part). Christ made this clear when he said, “For in the resurrection they shall neither marry nor be married; but shall be as the angels of God in heaven.” (Matthew 22:30).

The reason this is important is because after the eternal mark on the soul is made for a priest, a temporary vocational sacrament (marriage) can no longer be imprinted on the soul. It is just part of the spiritual make up of man and woman. It is this spiritual make up that also makes ordaining women as priests impossible, or marrying homosexual couples impossible. You can go through the words and the motions, but it won’t work due to the spiritual design.

Married Priests is a Discipline

“Priestly celibacy is a discipline, not a doctrine, and so there is room for diversity on the issue according to the customs of the respective rites and churches (on structure of the church see here). If celibacy were a doctrine, all rites would have to conform to the judgment of the Holy See on the matter because doctrines are true for everybody. But celibacy is a discipline (a practice that is legislated by proper ecclesial authority) that has been deemed to be spiritually beneficial. In the Latin rite, this spiritual discipline ordinarily is required of all men who seek priestly ordination. In the Eastern rites, it is practiced by the monks and by some secular priests, but it is not required of all men who seek ordination. Out of respect for the longstanding customs of the Eastern-rite churches, the Vatican allows the Eastern churches in communion with the Holy See to maintain their own properly constituted discipline on this issue.” – Michelle Arnold

The Married Priesthood is a VALID Vocation

This next point is very simple, but I think needs to be said in order to grasp a full understanding. The married priesthood is a valid vocation. It is a vocation that is in full communion with Rome, and completely expectable by the Holy See, the Magisterium, and Christ. Any man that belongs to one of the Catholic churches (see what I mean by churches) that allows for the ordination of married priests may be called to the vocation. However, if you do not belong to one of these churches things are slightly different. This is because because of what a discipline does. It binds things, as stated in Matthew 18:18 by Christ, “Amen I say to you, whatsoever you shall bind upon earth, shall be bound also in heaven; and whatsoever you shall loose upon earth, shall be loosed also in heaven.”. Ergo, the Holy Spirit will not call you to such a vocation as married priesthood. (However, you may be called to a different church/liturgical rite than the one you have been born into and thus possibly called to different vocations.. long stuff but fairly simple.. for more detail write in the forum or contact us on the contact page).

If it is Valid, why do people dislike the notion?

A lot of Western and even Eastern Catholics do not like the idea of allowing married men to become priests. They state many superficial reasons that pertain to finance, the married clergies time for his family and parish, their ability to make just judgements, and all these other criticisms. The problem, however, is all of these objections are frivolous concerns and show a lack of trust in God. We can clearly see that Christ calls men to the married priesthood (Eastern Catholic Tradition; St. Hormisdas, a married priest whose wife died before he eventually became a bishop *others sources say his wife died before he became a priest, but for the sake of this post). Hence, we can conclude that since all things are possible with God there would be no difference in the married priesthood.

So, why doesn’t the entirety of the Catholic Church ordain Married Men?

This is because of many many things. The best reason, in my opinion, is that is just a difference of cultural and spiritual meditation and leadership. In the west, restrictions on the married priesthood began fairly early starting in Spain with the Council of Elvira (between 295 and 302). This continued with an attempt to make it a universal discipline (instead of just a local one for Elvira) with Council of Nicaea. However, that failed. In addition, it wasn’t until the Council of Trent that the Latin Church as a whole began to enforce this discipline. In the East, the history is very different. Though it is part of the same holy, catholic Church, we are told by the church historian, Socrates, that in the Eastern Churches neither priests nor even bishops were bound to separate from their wives in the earliest centuries of Catholicism. We know the cause for celibacy was fought for in the East, but, due to the culture and spiritual attitude, today proves that the cause for married men to become priests prevailed.

What does our Pope Say?

In the book Pope Francis: Conversations with Jorge Bergoglio (an interview book done before he was pope), Cardinal Bergoglio said:

Let’s see . . . I’ll begin with the last question: whether or not the Church (Latin Church) is ever going to change its position with regard to celibacy. First, let me say I don’t like to play mind-reader. But assuming that the Church did change its position, I don’t believe it would be because of a lack of priests. Nor do I think celibacy would be a requirement for all who wanted to embrace priesthood. If it did, hypothetically, do so, it would be for cultural reasons, as is the case in the East, where married men can be ordained. There, at a particular time and in that particular culture, it was so, and it continues to be so today. I can’t stress enough that if the Church were to change its position at some point, it would be to confront a cultural problem in a particular place; it would not be a global issue or an issue of personal choice.

More History, Culture & Summary…

The married priesthood is not a new innovation – this practice hearkens back to the Old Testament wheretheLevitical priests of old were married (i.e., Aaron, Eli, Samuel, etc.).  Married clergy was a part of the ancient Church.  Mandatory celibacy was imposed on priests and bishops around the turn of the first millennium in the West, mainly due to abhorrent practices of nepotism and simony.  These sins resulted in many problems, such as certain priests and their families treating their diocese/parish as if they were their own little fiefdoms.  Thus, in abolishing the married priesthood, a whole theology of celibate priesthood arose in Western practice.  But in the East, the married priesthood was retained.  In the East, priests who were not married often came from a monastery; hence the practice of referring to a non-married priest as a “priest-monk” arose in many of the Eastern Churches, for he lived his life as a monk while attached to a parish, serving the faithful.  Today, celibate priests can either be monastic, or “secular” in the sense that they are not attached to a monastery or religious order, and are not under specific vows, except for the oath of fidelity to his Bishop that he takes on his ordination to the priesthood. Married and celibate priests are expected to be exemplars of chastity, fidelity, and love to the faithful, living their lives as the image of Christ in everything that they do.

Regarding All Priests

In short, the priest is a man who is called by God to be the image of Christ in everything that he does.  In the Byzantine tradition of churches priests, by tradition, often wear a pectoral cross. An inscription on the back of the cross in Old Church Slavonic reads, “Be the image in everything that you do in life.”  This is a reminder to the priest of what he is to be for the people.  He must be like Christ in everything that he does in life, setting a perfect example for the people who are striving to live good lives as Christians and sending a powerful message to those who do not know Christ or His Gospel.  Just as all baptized and confirmed Catholic Christians are called to put on Christ and live life according to His Word, even more so is the priest who is clothed with the Holy Spirit and mystically configured to Christ in a radical way to lead His Church ever closer to Christ.

God bless everyone. I hope you enjoyed the post. – The Hound

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2 comments

  1. Deacon Stephan Moffett · · Reply

    It is even impossible for a married permanent deacon to marry if his wife dies. The widower deacon must be celibate for life.

  2. A married priest would NOT associate abortion with women only, but also with men – a married man/ priest knows that abortion is the easy way out for a man who does not want his unborn child.

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