The last 100 years in the vast history of the Roman Church has likely not been the most scandalous or difficult, however, the massive exchange of information and speed at which it is capable of spreading has exposed its inner workings – the faithful have grown aware and accustomed to learning of child abuse, sex, and financial scandals.
It has not been uncommon for seminarians having gone through priestly formation to not reach ordination for sake of marriage. Since the Second Vatican Council, the age at which young men claim to have felt a calling to the priesthood has fallen from 30 to 16 (Georgetown). As most people meet their significant others between the ages of 18 and 30, having made such a major life choice at the age of 16 would mean that they had not had the opportunity to consider the possibility marriage.
Though some Church leaders blame other issues for the high dropout rate, others, such as Cardinal Timothy Dolan argue that the marriage of seminarians is the primary reason for their goals to be changed. He especially takes issue with seminarians who take the example of Eastern Catholic seminarians who are allowed to be married (McGarry), yet maintain the same rights, privileges, duties, and ministries as Roman Catholic priests do (Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches).
Why do I discuss this?Because I am the son of a Married Eastern Catholic Priest.In my father’s interview on Nightly News with Tom Brokaw…it strengtens his ministry and he believes he’s just as good, if not better than celibates.Various New Testament and Gospel figures set the precedent for the early Church’s priesthood, with deacons, priests, and bishops – including the Apostle Peter were all distinguished family men
The Eastern Catholic Churches, 22 other Churches in communion with Rome, maintain a Married priesthood for the reason that scholars agree that there is no scriptural basis for clerical celibacy, some early Church Councils such as the Spanish Council of Elvira or the First Council of Aries – both of which only held gravity in the West forbade priests’ marriage and producing children (Cholij). These councils take issue with the holiness and purity of marriage .
For comparison’s sake, holiness, according to the Holy Tradition of the Eastern Churches, is not something intrinsic to the nature of priests and the institution of priesthood alone. Instead, priests and the faithful alike are committed to the same level of holiness and strive to achieve a higher level of it (Harakas 55). That is not to say that Holiness is something that is void by marriage, as can sometimes be implied by Roman Catholic faithful; rather, it means that priests are called to the same mission and live similar lives as every other member of the Church, including having families.
Similarly, clerical piety in the East is meant to be exemplary, though very homogenous from that is expected of the laity. The fourth century Apostolic Canons, which were ecumenical in nature and applied to all Christians at the time, emphasized fasting and so-called “misrepresentation of God’s work of creation,” (Harakas 73) which includes using marriage as an example for religious life.
So why does the West not allow married priesthood today?The question of Cohabitation came up: Though clerical marriage has posed definitive challenges to those attempting to legislate it, cohabitation of a man and woman historically tended to be the hallmark of what marriage was seen as. According to Fr. Roman Cholij, Secretary of the Apostolic Exarch for Ukrainian Catholics in Great Britain, this was constantly a concept which was disagreed upon between East and West:Among many scholars, these are the defining centuries in the East-West divide on clerical marriage, and are arguably one of the issues of communication which ultimately led to the Great Schism in the eleventh century.
Though this canon may not explicitly disallow a married priesthood it sets a precedent for the bishop to decide.This canon was explained by Bishop Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, and the synod of German bishops in 1970 in the context of a modern Church:
The discussion of this subject is often avoided in the Roman West and is often dismissed as something intrinsically tied to its institution and cannot be changed. However, with bishops being the primary catalysts to this possibility it is important to consider that, similarly to the earliest arguments for a celibate priesthood:
Some scholars, church leaders, and canon lawyers, dismantle these claims, however. His Eminence Roger Cardinal Mahony of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles cited the balance approach of the Eastern Catholic married clergy in the wake of the priest child sex abuse scandal, “The Eastern Catholic Churches have always had a married priesthood…it should be discussed” (Nightly News). Cardinal Mahony’s approach is especially peculiar in light of the justification Pope Paul VI provided for a celibate priesthood to the Church’s bishops following the reforms of the Second Vatican Council:
According to Pope Paul the Sixth, the place setting for a spouse is, in theory, the bishop; this is supposed to compliment the Roman argument of keeping a priest’s heart undivided. However, the priest is still expected to answer to another person; whether that is his wife or his bishop, it discredits the possibility that a priest’s commitment to Christ and the Church may manifest itself in his family.
There is a vast difference between the priest’s realities if one is defined by his cordial agape-love relationship with a bishop and a eros/storge based love a priest could have for his family. As agape is believed to be the form of love Christ has for His Church, and thus a bishop for his clergy and people, it would be beneficial for a priest to actively experience other forms of love so that to better understand one form of it in comparison to the other forms of love.
Therefore, if a priest is expected to commit himself to the Gospels on the same level as all baptized Christians, it would be unfair on the part of married laypeople that do truly commit to Christ’s mission set forth in the Gospels while making time for their families and work, if the priest is only responsible to himself and his bishop in his commitment to the Gospel.
The Second Vatican Council had an opportunity, while…
There is nothing said by Pope Paul VI explaining the reasoning why a married priest’s life cannot be brought to the altar in the context of spiritual offering, even though the document from which it is taken deals exclusively with the reasoning the Church has for maintaining the custom of clerical celibacy.
Claims such as this arbitrarily widen the gap, both spiritually and experientially between a priest and his people. As priests are meant to act as spiritual advisers and role models for the laypeople in their common mission, it is simply more difficult to help them if there are not any common experiential bonds between the laypeople and the clergy.
Based on empirical evidence and arguments, it would be absolutely beneficial for the faithful, clergy, and Church to abolish mandatory clerical celibacy so that to better comply with its own laws and continue in fulfilling the mission is has been striving for since before this mandate was implemented. The Roman Catholic Church, or even individual bishops of it, have the opportunity anytime to take the example of the Eastern Catholic Churches in their switch to a married priesthood, using it as a template for successful management of the Church as a whole, faithful and clergy.
The Roman Catholic Church, or even individual bishops of it, have the opportunity anytime to take the example of the Eastern Catholic Churches in their switch to a married priesthood, using it as a template for successful management of the Church as a whole, faithful and clergy. The Church must be reminded why it maintains some traditions, and why it discards others. Mandatory clerical celibacy no longer has a place in the Roman Catholic Church.
EXAMININGMARRIEDPRIESTHOODIN THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCHJULIAN HAYDA
1 Perfect and perpetual continence forthe sake of the Kingdom of heaven. 2 Prudence required. 3 Bishop can make norms. Canon 277
In the position that the Churchteaching of Vatican II assigns thebishops, such a papal declarationcannot discharge the bishopsfrom their own responsibility tothemselves newly reassess thisquestion; the pope cannot takethis responsibility from them.
Celibate Priesthood1.Facilitates devotion to Christ byleaving the heart undivided2. Increases availability of the priestfor complete service of the Gospel3. enhances the spiritual fruitfulnessof the priests ministry
The Christian faithful since they arecalled by baptism to lead a life inconformity with the teaching of theGospel, have the right to a Christianeducation by which they will be properlyinstructed so as to develop the maturityof a human person and at the same timecome to know and live the mystery ofsalvation. Eastern Catholic Code of Canons
In fact, [the priest’s] individual effortsat his own sanctification find newincentives in the ministry of grace andin the ministry of the Eucharist, inwhich "the whole spiritual good of theChurch is contained": acting in theperson of Christ, the priest uniteshimself most intimately with theoffering, and places on the altar hisentire life, which bears the marks of theholocaust. Pope PaulVI
Works CitedCode of Canons of the Eastern Churches, Title 7. Print.Coniaris, Anthony M. "The Sacrament of Holy Orders." These Are the Sacraments. Minneapolis: Light and Life, 1981. 167-91. Print.Catholic Code of Canon Law, Book 2, Pt. 1, Title 3, Ch. 3. Print.Gallagher, Tom. "Casting the Net for Potential Priests." National Catholic Reporter., 19 Apr. 2010. Print.Georgetown University. Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate. Study Reveals Comprehensive Portrait of Those Serving U.S. Catholic Parishes. Washington. 2012. Print.Harakas, Stanley S. The Orthodox Church: 455 Questions and Answers. Minneapolis: Light and Life, 1987. Print.McGarry, Patsy. "Call for Substantial Reform of Irish College." Irish Times. N.p., 16 June 2012. Web. 25 Oct. 2012."Nightly News with Tom Brokaw." In Depth: Powerful Cardinal Calls For The Vatican To Look At Celibacy Rule. NBC. New York, 27 Mar. 2002. Television. Transcript.Paul VI. "Sacerdotalis Caelibatus." Feast of St. John the Baptist. St. Peters Basilica, Rome. 24 June 1967. Encyclical.Ratzinger, Joseph, and Karl Rahner. "A Reminder to the Signatories." 1970. Trans. Joseph Bolin. Pipeline 2 (2010). Print.Zimmerman, Anthony, S.T.D. "The Logic of Priestly Celibacy." Ewtn.com. Eternal Word Television Network, 2001. Web. 21 Oct. 2012.