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Married Catholic priests? Yes and (mostly) no

It was a blow to Roman Catholic liberals when the Vatican announced last month that it would welcome, en masse, conservative Anglicans who share the pope's opposition to female clergy and traditional views about homosexuality. But there was a silver lining for liberals: The fact that in welcoming married Anglican priests to the fold, Pope Benedict XVI was perhaps opening the door to married priests within so-called Latin Rite Catholicism. (Eastern Rite Catholics, who recognize the pope's authority but follow rites similar to those of Eastern Orthodoxy, do ordain married men, though Eastern Catholics in the United States were pressured to conform to Western practice so as not to "scandalize" their Irish Catholic neighbors).

But the publication this week of the decree implementing the overture to Anglicans suggests that the slope to married Catholic priests isn't that slippery. After saying that married former Anglican priests could be ordained as Catholic priests, the "Apostolic Constitution" stops short of adopting the Anglican practice of routinely ordaining men who want to become priests.

While authorities of the new church-within-a-church will abide by "the discipline of celibate clergy in the Latin Church, as a rule," an "ordinary" (a bishop or former Anglican bishop) may also ask the pope for permission to ordain married men "on a case-by-case basis." This could be a face-saving way to perpetuate the Anglican tradition of a married clergy without saying so, or it could be a warning that married Anglican laymen will be ordained only rarely. Either way, the new Anglican body within Catholicism will not have the autonomy enjoyed by the Eastern Catholic churches.

The more stinging rebuff to Roman Catholic advocates of married priests is this rather mean-spirited provision of a companion document: "Those who have been previously ordained in the Catholic Church and subsequently have become Anglicans, may not exercise sacred ministry in the Ordinariate." In other words, if you left the Catholic Church and now want to return alongside other Anglican priests, you are treated worse than an Anglican priest who never belonged to the Catholic Church in the first place.

Perhaps the purpose of this provision is to prevent married Roman Catholics who want to be ordained as priests to pretend to convert to Anglicanism so that they can go back through the revolving church door and be accepted as married Catholic priests. But how likely is that? And if the church is willing to incorporate Anglican traditions that don't violate Catholic doctrine (as opposed to a mere regulation like mandatory celibacy), why not treat the new Anglican Rite exactly as the Eastern churches are treated? The only justification for that inconsistency is to stifle discussion about ending mandatory celibacy for Roman Catholic priests.

-- Michael McGough


Comments () | Archives (5)

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Sonny Ramirez

Mr. McGough, there is no such thing as conservative or liberal factions in the Catholic Church since there is only one Catholic CREED! What do you think you are talking about the White House? I understand that you probably do not believe that the foundation of the Catholic Church is of 'supernatural' origin, but if you wish to critique the Church's practices you should at least try to understand it on it's own terms,(not according to your own subjective views). In case anyone out there wants to know 'why' the Latin Rite upholds the discipline of celibicay, here's the reason why- coming straight from the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

“All the ordained ministers of the Latin Church, with the exception of permanent deacons, are normally chosen from among men of faith who live a celibate life and who intend to remain celibate ‘for the sake of the kingdom of heaven.’ Called to consecrate themselves with undivided heart to the Lord and to ‘the affairs of the Lord,’ they give themselves entirely to God and to men. Celibacy is a sign of this new life to the service of which the Church’s minister is consecrated; accepted with a joyous heart celibacy radiantly proclaims the Reign of God” (Paragraph 1579).

The Catholic Church does not see itself as a purely human enterprise, and the same is true about its conception of the Priesthood. I hope this is helpful for anyone who sincerely wants to understand the Vatican's insistence on the discipline of priestly celibacy as a general norm.

With that said, I just want to add that there is more to this story than the issue of celibacy, such as the fact that literally thousands of people will soon be entering into the doors of the Church of Rome after 500 years of historical estrangement. Say, I never hear of these types of numbers converting en masse to any other Churches... Why is that- if the Vatican really is so "mean"- Mr. McGough?

-Sonny Ramirez
Student of Philosophy and Sacred Theology, Franciscan University of Steubenville.


This church will always change its rules and dogma, for it is first and foremost a very successful business. Look at the absolute power of this sick entity. The very people who most serve this church had their ancestors brutally treated by its crusaders. This church has always abused and victimized. When will it ever end?


Anyone who believes that a Priest and/or Bishop cannot or should not be a married man should read 1 Timothy 3.

Also, can the Roman Catholic Church handle the 400,000 people who are the Traditional Anglican Communion. This group has already indicated its acceptance Rome's offer, and they will not entertain ideas like woman ordination. In some respects they are more "catholic" than many catholics.

Thomas Aquinas

"The very people who most serve this church had their ancestors brutally treated by its crusaders. This church has always abused and victimized. "

Bryan, the Crusades were an attempt to protect pilgrims who were being brutalized by the Muslims hordes that had stolen the Holy Land.

So, are you suggesting that Muslims now serve the Church?

Or are you just saying "crusades" without knowing what the frig you're talking about?


Thomas you are wrong if you knew anything about the church you would know that it victimsed and abused itself, the church has alot of power, i am a devoted catholic but i have to agree with BRIAN (with an "I") that that believers had thier ancestors brutally treated



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