Sunday, December 03, 2023

Serious Misinformation in Journal-Sentinel Priest News

The Journal-Sentinel finally catches up with the Father Payne story--and gets a major fact wrong.

Two Catholic churches on Milwaukee's north shore will be without their pastor just as Advent begins while an investigation is launched into whether he broke his priestly vows....

Yada Yada Yada....then comes this:

 ...Catholic priests take a vow of celibacy, a tradition dating back to the Middle Ages....

Where to begin?

First off, it is not a "tradition."  It is a discipline.  That's a minor point; the two are easily confused.

Second, and FAR more serious:  the discipline of priestly celibacy began with the Apostles and continues through today.   This is the long-story link which I sent to another J-S scribbler 20 years ago following his similar error.  Naturally, he never corrected it.

A few excerpts from that link should suffice.

 ...“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....

(Yes, I know that today's "permanent deacons" are not required to give up marital relations.  That's a problem.)

After defining the difference between "jus" and "lex", ("lex" is the written law, "jus" is the total law including unwritten), the author continues:

 ...“The juridical constitution of the nascent Church consisted largely of provisions and obligations which were transmitted orally; all the more so since, during the first three centuries of persecution, it would have been difficult to have put any laws in writing. Certainly some elements of the primitive law of the Church were written down, yet St Paul also encouraged the Thessalonians to keep to the traditions which had been passed on orally (cf. 2 Thess 2:15). 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. This is our starting point for a review of the significant developments in the Latin rite legislation up to the seventh century....

Aside from the argument from jus, we have the theology:

...“Theologically, in the first four centuries of the Church's history, the validation of clerical continence is grounded on the Pauline teaching, linking it to availability for service at the altar and a greater freedom for prayer. Being permanently in God's presence, and because of the importance given to prayer, praise and adoration, the minister of the New Covenant does not have the leisure needed to fulfill the responsibilities of married life. [15]

“Nevertheless, 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. [16]

“It is also significant that Jerome in his defence of the traditional discipline does not feel called on to make any distinction between the witness of the Western, Egyptian, or Eastern Churches in this matter. In his polemic with one Vigilantius from Gaul (406), who saw continence as nothing but heresy and an occasion for sin,
Jerome reaffirms the practice which he knows to be traditional: the Church of Egypt, the East and the Apostolic See never accept clerics unless they are virgins or continent men, or, if they were clerics who had a wife, accept them only if they give up matrimonial life. In affirming this discipline he is offering as testimony the experience of the greater part of the Church of which he, through his many travels, had firsthand experience. [18] He also gives testimony to the apostolic origin of this discipline: 'The Apostles were either virgins or continent after having been married. Bishops, priests, and deacons are chosen among virgins and widowers; in any case once they are ordained, they live in perfect chastity'. [20]...

Now you can understand that the written law (lex) promulgated around 300 AD at Elvira (and again, in different form, the Gregorian reforms, in ~600 AD) was put out because a lot of priests were not living up to the un-written law (jus).  (As we know today, violations of celibacy are not unusual.)

We don't expect simple J-S reporters to know much about any religion.  This post is written to help them in the future.  Of course, the reporter could have asked Fr. Reesman about it, but she was certain that she knew "the story".

She didn't.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for this post


A.A. Cunningham said...

I would recommend sending a copy of Christian Cochini's "The Apostolic Origins Of Priestly Celibacy" to the J-S reporters masquerading as journalists but at 492 pages, lots of big words and no glossy pictures it would be well beyond their level of comprehension.

Dad29 said...

Yah, well, "Calvin & Hobbes" is beyond their level, too.