Saturday, July 26, 2008

Archdiocese of Milwaukee Misrepresents on Celibacy?

The Archdiocese of Milwaukee has found a gift: a new priest. He's a former Lutheran minister who crossed the Tiber. He's also married and has children.

Abp. Dolan is looking for a position for the fellow who is coming here from Florida.

That's background.

Now the big problem.

Dolan says area Catholics will need catechesis, or religious education - especially in whatever parish Scheip is assigned - and he provides as an attachment a series of questions and answers that the archdiocesan chancery office prepared.

The first question is: "We were always taught that married men could not be ordained Catholic priests. How is it possible that we could have a married Catholic priest here in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee?"

The answer notes that celibacy has never been required of priests in the church's Eastern rite, though it is practiced universally in the West. [More on this below]

"Although it is highly valued, Pope Paul VI states that celibacy 'is not, of course, required by the nature of the priesthood itself.

That is not true.

Paul VI did, indeed, write an instruction on the topic. But here's what he actually said:

17. Virginity undoubtedly, as the Second Vatican Council declared, "is not, of course, required by the nature of the priesthood itself...

Frankly, this is serious. There is a VERY big difference between "virginity" and "celibacy," and this error will give rise to all sorts of problems in "catechesis" downtrack.

By the way, here's Paul VI's sentence following the Archdiocesan mis-quotation:

But at the same time the Council did not hesitate to confirm solemnly the ancient, sacred and providential present law of priestly celibacy

Just how "ancient" is another question entirely.

In an article found here, based on extensive and recent research by Fr. Conchini and Cdl. Stickler, there is an excellent discussion of the topic of celibacy.

Some excerpts:

“To understand the history of celibacy from today's perspective it is necessary to realise that in the West, during the first millennium of the Church, a large number of bishops and priests were married men, something which today is quite exceptional. However, a precondition for married men to receive orders as deacons, priests, or bishops was that after ordination they were required to live perpetual continence or the lex continentiae. They had, with the prior agreement of their spouses, to be prepared to forego conjugal life in the future.]

...Candidates for ordination could not commit themselves to live continence without the prior, express agreement of their spouses, since as a consequence of the sacramental bond they had an inalienable right to conjugal relations.

“Up to recently, the general historical perception held that it was not until the fourth century that the Church articulated a law of celibacy. This view was established by Franz X. Funk...Funk's judgment was erroneous because of basing it on a document that has since been proved to be spurious...Funk made the basic error of dating the origin of celibacy from the first known written law about it, that is from the Council of Elvira

In fact, the Elvira canon concerning celibacy was written in reaction to 'observation in the breach' of the oral tradition, which is described above.

Legislation promulgated by Pope Siricius (386 AD) gives the proper exegesis of the Pauline phrase "married only once..." which is consistent with the rule of celibacy. In addition, this letter and the Council of Carthage (390 AD) claim apostolic origin for the practice.


...the catechesis of St Cyril of Jerusalem (313- 86) had already affirmed that the discipline of clerical continence was anchored in the example of the Eternal High Priest, a living norm that was more convincing than all other justifications. By linking priestly continence closely to the virginal birth of Christ, in the mind of Cyril it is based on a foundation that goes far beyond mere historical conjecture

And the authors make clear, again, the reason for the 4th Century decrees:

“It is therefore true to say that, during those centuries of crisis for clerical morals, the Church never lost sight of the ancient tradition concerning the law of celibacy. From her memory she constantly affirmed the prohibition of marriage for clerics in major orders and the duty of a vow of perpetual continence for those married before ordination, even at times when these laws were being flagrantly violated.

There's more at the link.

It is also true that John Paul II's exception, cited by Abp. Dolan, is current law--that is, there is no licit objection to the situation of the priest who is the subject of Abp. Dolan's letter.

But there is simply NO WAY to reconcile the difference between "celibacy" and "virginity"--and this statement should be corrected immediately.


Anonymous said...

Hey, Daddy Zero -- This is a step in the right direction for the Catholic Church. When you get rid of the gay priests, you get heterosexuals in the pulpit. That's not what you have today, as you know.

Dad29 said...

Umnnnhhhh...the priests we have are the priests we have. Certainly, homosexuals are not supposed to graduate from the Seminary, much less be ordained.

But married priests do not represent the solution.

Better vocations directors, seminary rectors, and Bishops are the keys.

Anonymous said...

Check out your nearest seminary. A very high percentage of the priests being turned out are gay.

Anonymous said...

The whole celibacy thing is so medieval. I totally agree with the other anon...well grounded priests in the pulpit will alleviate a host of issues related to sexuality that the Church continues to grapple with, much to its detriment.

Dad29 said...

Anon 6:22----maybe. If that's the case, then the Rector and Archbishop will have to live with their decisions. And they will have to answer to very strict scrutiny.

Anony 7:18---actually, the "celibacy thing" is quite a bit older than "medieval."

It started right around the year Zero.

You are correct that well-grounded priests will alleviate a host of issues. But they don't have to be married to be well-grounded.

Mature would be sufficient.

Grim said...

Year one. :)

What's the rule on widowers? Are they able to be ordained?

Dad29 said...

Yes, so long as they do not re-marry.

In fact, there's a seminary in this area (Sacred Heart) which specializes in "late vocations." A goodly percentage of them are widowers.

Al said...

Just a reminder, the 1st known priest/bishop to be celebate was the Apostle Paul. & even though Peter was married, we don't know how many, if any, of the others were. So, yes celebacy as an accepted norm does go back to the start.

Al said...

PS The best arguement I ever heard for celebacy was given by a happily married Lutheran minister

Amy said...

Clearly, the anons are so certain of their position they're willing to put their name behind it.

"Alleviating" a host of issues has nothing to do with it. The Church's teaching is clear - sex is reserved for the sacrament of marriage, between a man and a woman, and open to the possibility of life.

No gay marriage. No birth control. No co-habitation. I don't think there's anything there that needs to be alleviated.

It's the culture that's got the issues, not us.

Steve Cavanaugh said...

al mentioned that St. Peter was married. The usual verse that supports this is the Gospel story of the healing of Peter's mother-in-law.
And immediately going out of the synagogue they came into the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. And Simon's wife's mother lay in a fit of a fever: and forthwith they tell him of her.
And coming to her, he lifted her up, taking her by the hand; and immediately the fever left her, and she ministered unto them. Mark 1:29-31

Funny that Simon's (i.e., Peter's) wife doesn't minister unto them. Peter might well have been a widower by then, and was caring for his mother-in-law.
The other passage that is often used to support Peter's marriage is 1 Corinthians 9:5:
Have we not power to carry about a woman, a sister, as well as the rest of the apostles, and the brethren of the Lord, and Cephas?
But this does not specifically say wife. This could well be the mother-in-law, who helped Peter much as Susanna, Mary Magdalene et al helped Jesus and the Twelve during Christ's earthly ministry.

Terrence Berres said...

If, as you say, "there is no licit objection to the situation of the priest who is the subject of Abp. Dolan's letter", then to what are you objecting?

Pertinacious Papist said...


The problem is not canonical, as long as the proper dispensations have been made. Even where this is the case, however, the problem is two-fold: (a) the priesthood has always been predicated upon the condition of celibacy, understood with a profundity that escapes most of us today; and (b) even where a married priesthood is permitted, as in the Eastern rites, it is predicated upon a condition of celibacy in a sense that escapes most of us today -- a day in which the emphasis on celibacy is the more needed because of our uncontrolled inclination to self-indulgence.

Dad29 said...

Terry, I object, strenuously, to the substitution of the word "celibacy" for "virginity."

That substitution significantly alters the meaning of Paul VI (and VatII's) statement on the matter.

Terrence Berres said...

Pertinacious Papist said "the priesthood has always been predicated upon the condition of celibacy".

"Always" and "predicated" are not what Pope Paul VI's Encyclical indicates, at paragraph 35. "In Christian antiquity the Fathers and ecclesiastical writers testify to the spread through the East and the West of the voluntary practice of celibacy by sacred ministers".

Dad29 said...

Subsequent research (the link in the post) tends to demonstrate that celibacy was required by oral Tradition, and that the practice was modeled on Christ. Fr Conchini's book was published early in the reign of JPII.

It was "voluntary" in the sense that being a priest is "voluntary." You don't have to be a priest--but when you accept that vocation, you have to be celibate, according to the Conchini analysis and the documentation he dug up.

Exceptions CAN be made. JPII offered one, and there are others. But it is an indult, not the rule.

Regardless, the Archbishop's letter was inaccurate.

Terrence Berres said...

"Subsequent research (the link in the post) tends to demonstrate that celibacy was required by oral Tradition, and that the practice was modeled on Christ. ...

"It was 'voluntary' in the sense that being a priest is 'voluntary.'"

That doesn't square with Pope Paul calling it a "practice" that "spread" through the Church.

Nor does it square with the Second Vatican Council's Decree on the Ministry and Life of Priests' paragraph 16, which says "Perfect and perpetual continence ... is not demanded by the very nature of the priesthood, as is apparent from the practice of the early Church and from the traditions of the Eastern Churches...."

Dad29 said...

The fact that it "spread" does not deny nor derogate the practice of celibacy which (per the research and Paul VI) was 'widespread' by the year 200 (or before.) Nor does it change the understanding that celibacy was (and remains) the ideal, as was mentioned by many in the linked research paper and by Paul VI. All that it means is that it "spread."

In other words, "So what"? Reductionism is not what the Church is all about. (Can you obtain heaven if you eat sausage on Fridays?)

There is an analogy in church music. The ideal, as expressed by Pius X (and preceding Popes, and Vatican II) is Chant and polyphony. Chant "spread" throughout the Church early on, and has spread and receded over the years since then.

Didn't change the ideal a whit. And as the research mentions, "[f]or St Jerome (347-419) continence is above all a matter of holiness. In his Letter to Pammachius he justifies continence on the authority of Scripture and the actual witness of priestly chastity. This latter is not offered as an ideal to be pursued but as a fact admitted by all. Chastity, he claims, is also the rule for selection of clerics: bishops, priests and deacons are all chosen from one of the following: virgins (that is single men), widowers, or married men who, after ordination, will observe perfect continence."

I do not deny that some early priests were married (nor does the research.) However, it is clear that celibacy was expected as a discipline for Orders (see, e.g., the current requirement that an ordained lay Deacon secure written permission from his wife.) This 'permission' is a vestige of the old requirement.

"Perfect and perpetual continence" is not 'demanded by the nature' of the priesthood because, were THAT to be the case, many, many priests would have been de-frocked. But nature and the ideal are different. The Church points to the ideal, celibacy, as did St. Jerome (above.)

But since continence/celibacy is not 'demanded by the nature...', JPII created exceptions. I suspect that he considered justice towards the (female) spouses as part of the decision-making process.

Terrence Berres said...

You said there should be a correction to Archbishop Dolan's "Although it is highly valued, Pope Paul VI states that celibacy 'is not, of course, required by the nature of the priesthood itself."

From what was said above, do I understand you to agree this could be corrected to say "Although it is highly valued, the Second Vatican Council states that celibacy 'is not, of course, required by the nature of the priesthood itself.'"

Dad29 said...

The Archbishop's statement clearly MISQUOTED Paul VI's statement of Para. 17.

I think you are aware of the differences between virginity, celibacy, and continence.

Paul VI had his reasons for using the term "virginity." AND he had his reasons for inserting the sentence that followed: "...But at the same time the Council did not hesitate to confirm solemnly the ancient, sacred and providential present law of priestly celibacy."

"Perfect AND perpetual continence" can easily be interpreted as "virginity." Paul's point was precisely that "virginity" is not required.

And with his phraseology, Paul VI did not deny the requirement of celibacy (which is NOT the same as "perfect and perpetual continence.") In fact, he specifically affirms celibacy.

Your argument would forget the possibility of sin. Thus, while 'virginity' is not required, "celibacy", after Ordination, IS, with few exceptions, per JPII. Sin happens, which does not erase the sacramental character of Ordination. Recall that Ordination's prerequisites are only "a baptized male." Thus, the Church recognized the possibility of sin, without prejudice to the ideal.

The exception does not obviate the rule. You would seem to argue that the exception DOES obviate the rule, which is not a valid interpretation.

VatII's teaching (not dogmatic, remember) was pre-Conchini's research and his book. So they used what was known at the time.

Had the Abp. quoted Paul VI correctly, the catechesis would be founded on a perfectly acceptable premise. As it is, he does not "begin at the beginning," which makes catechesis all the more difficult.

Terrence Berres said...

Are you contending that even if Archbishop Dolan had instead said "Although it is highly valued, the Second Vatican Council states that celibacy 'is not, of course, required by the nature of the priesthood itself'"? he would be mistaken?

Dad29 said...

Just for fun, start here: (Catholic Encyclopedia)

This edition of the C.E. predates Conchini's work (it approves Funk's, e.g., which was refuted by Conchini/Stickler.

To answer your question: no, he would not be mistaken.

However, I wrote that the Archbishop mis-quoted Paul VI. Do you dispute that?

As to the larger question, reading the C.E. article will provide both background and order of thinking.

The sacrament of Orders is NOT obviated by subsequent in-continence--which is the meaning of VatII's statement AND that of Paul VI. One remains an ordained priest despite sin. As you know, even "de-frocking" does not obviate the character--a "defrocked" priest retains the power to forgive sins in extremis.

The discipline of continence (not the fact of virginity) was requested (following the teaching of the Apostles) from the earliest times. But the "lex" followed later--around the late 300's. That did not "change" the discipline, which was already in place, but not observed uniformly. Even after the legislation, there was disobedience, to a greater or lesser degree until roughly the papacy of Gregory VII.

The Abp. could have better formulated the "catechesis" by accurately quoting Paul VI. Paul's formulation establishes the ground, and there is no good reason to skip over that statement. In fact, it is foundational to the VatII statement as well.

He could then quote VatII's statement that "celibacy was imposed by (written) law on all who were to be promoted to holy Orders. This sacred Council approves and confirms this legislation so far as it concerns those destined for the priesthood..." (also Para 16) and he could underline the sequence implicit--specifically, that one is 'destined' if he is not married, under the law of the Church. It is noteworthy and should be mentioned that matrimony was NEVER administered after Ordination, although Ordination may have been administered after matrimony. (Except in cases of "release from vows"--again, exceptions.)

He could then state, accurately, that the sacramental character of Orders is indelible even if celibacy is not observed--and in THAT sense, "celibacy is not required by the nature of priesthood...."

Finally, by virtue of an exception to the rule, granted by JPII, certain men are allowed to maintain marital life AND be ordained Roman Catholic priests; and that this exception is the OTHER sense in which 'celibacy is not required...'

It all begins with an accurate quotation.

Terrence Berres said...

If Archbishop Dolan could have said what the council said, then it would be reasonable for him to, in fact or in effect, interpret what Pope Paul VI said to have the same significance in this context.

"The sacrament of Orders is NOT obviated by subsequent incontinence--which is the meaning of VatII's statement AND that of Paul VI. One remains an ordained priest despite sin."

That would make sense if the effect of incontinence or sin on prior ordination was a bigger issue at that time than the issue of ordaining married men. I don't recall the former being an issue at all, while the latter certainly was, and is.

Dad29 said...

But he did not. He mis-quoted Paul VI. By putting the Pope's name on the quote, he raised the stakes, so to speak. To the common man, words of the Pope have far more authority than those of the Council.

"Incontinence" does not necessarily connote sin; but my mention of it was not necessary. In either case, the first two sentences are accurate.

By the way, are you denying that he mis-quoted the Pope?

Terrence Berres said...

"By putting the Pope's name on the quote, he raised the stakes, so to speak. To the common man, words of the Pope have far more authority than those of the Council."

Is that common man John Catholic of Erie, PA?

"By the way, are you denying that he mis-quoted the Pope?"

You can always email our Archbishop and see what he says. Given what the council said, and where he put the quotation marks, I wouldn't use that characterization.