Saturday, November 4, 2017

Pope Wants Valid Proposals for Married Priests

There are conflicting reports circulating around the media regarding celibacy and Pope Francis.  Some articles claim that Pope Francis is going to allow married men to become priests in Brazil while others state that Cardinal Cludio Hummes, president of the Episcopal Commission made the request.

It is not new that Pope Francis has been open about having a discussion regarding celibacy, female deacons and so on.  However, this does not mean that he wants to make any change.  If he wanted to make such a change, he would have done it by now.  In previous statements, the pope has reaffirmed the beauty of celibacy. 

It is no wonder that there is a shortage of priests in the world.  There are many reasons for this which I will not go into now. However, we must be realistic. Our Catholic population is going faster than it can get priests to care for them. This is a problem.  People are hungry for God.  This is good. However, without priests, who will pastor those people?  Who will feed them via the Sacraments?  I have always theorized that eventually, the Church will have to create a sort of "sub-orders" under the umbrella of Holy Orders that will allow for married men to be ordained priests just as there is the permanent diaconate.

This seems to be the topic now, according to the media outlets reporting. Cardinal Cludio Hummes and Pope Francis seem to have in mind the creation of such a "viri probati" or "sub-order." The creation of such a thing will possibly scandalize those who call themselves "conservative" or "traditionalist." However, any Catholic who knows his or her history will know that married priests are nothing new.  Clergy from the early Catholic Church were married. We read in Matthew 8:14 that even St. Peter, the first pope was married.  Jesus healed his mother-in-law. Jesus never endorsed celibacy, but never condemned it either.  In fact, He said that there are those who become eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven and leaves it open to those who can receive it (Matthew 19:11-12).  Eunuchs were men who were castrated, were born with damaged reproductive organs or simply chose to remain celibate. 

The strongest evidence for the endorsement of celibacy comes from St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 7.  St. Paul gives a long discourse on relationships and how they may affect service to the Lord.  Those men who are single can focus on the Lord more, as opposed to, those men who are married and have to care for their wives and families. He describes himself as the former and encourages it.  The earliest mandate for celibacy comes from Canon 33 from the Council of Elvira written in AD 303 which stated that all "bishops, presbyters, and deacons and all other clerics are to abstain completely from their wives and not to have children."  However, this mandate was not universal.  Nevertheless, we see how celibacy was developing throughout the life of the Church. It was not until the 12th century in 1139 during the Second Lateran Council that priests were mandated into celibacy.  The Council of Trent in 1563, later on, reaffirmed celibacy.

It is interesting to note that the mandate of celibacy was mostly instituted in order to restore some morality among the clergy and protect Church assets and properties. Priests who died often left widows who sought Church assets and property as an inheritance.  The Catholic Church had to intervene, for obvious reasons.

Allowing priests to marry has its positives and negatives. It may increase the number of priests. However, it may also bring problems regarding assets and property as in the past. If a priest dies, where will his family live?  Surely, they will not be allowed to live in a rectory for life. Moreover, parishioners may not like the idea of supporting multiple clergy-families living in rectories. Space itself is a problem. Rectories would have to be updated to allow priests with large families. As you can see, there are many problems that may arise with the allowance of married priests.  However, if a "sub-order" of married priests is created, there may be fewer problems.  These priests may be allowed to live in their own homes or apartments just like permanent deacons who do not live on Church properties. Moreover, these priests can hold secular jobs just like permanent deacons and can assist only at parishes who cannot have a full-time priest.  There are many possibilities that can come about if such a "sub-order" is created within the Latin Rite. Only time will tell if such a "sub-order" will be created that will function alongside permanent deacons, celibate priests etc.

I think a "viri probati" sort of order of priests is tangible who work alongside celibate clergy. 


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