See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. - James 5:7

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Married priests... there is always a way.



Yes but no... err, no but yes... well maybe.
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While reading a news item regarding the possibility of permitting married priests in North American Eastern rite Churches, (discussed at the Middle East Synod currently in Rome), I was surprised to learn there had been a prohibition against the practice.  I was surprised because I know of Melkite priests who are married right here in River City.  And of course I remember the famous case of the Baroness's husband, Eddie Doherty - I'll get to him in a minute, but first the story from Rome:
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Speaking from Rome, where they are participating in the Middle East Synod, the archbishops of Detroit and Toronto said that they would not object if the Eastern Catholic churches chose to ordain married men in North America.
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Although the Eastern Catholic churches allow for married priests, they have generally adhered to a longstanding agreement not to ordain married men in North America, in order to avoid conflicts with their Roman Catholic neighbors. Archbishops Allen Vigneron of Detroit and Archbishop Thomas Collins of Toronto agreed that the ordination of married men for the Eastern churches would not cause such conflicts today. However, the two North American prelates reported that their colleagues from the Eastern churches were divided on the advisability of ordaining married men in America. - Catholic Culture   Full story here: NCR
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Where there's a will, there's a way.
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Obviously exceptions (dispensations) have been made to the rule over the years, and the bishops are correct - there should be no conflict today either.  That said, I do think where there is a will there is always a way.  A married man could find a way to be ordained if he set his mind to it, by becoming bi-ritual.  It works the same for ordaining men with homosexual attraction, find the right archbishop or bishop who will sponsor you through seminary.  Or just find the right seminary.  Works exactly the same with monasteries... enter, get ordained, get ex-claustrated.  As they like to repeat, 'nothing is impossible with God".
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Fr. Eddie.
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I know I'm risking being called a heretic here, but Catherine de Hueck and Eddie Doherty and Madonna House always impressed me as being rather weird - not quite a cult - but weird.  Fundamentally the spirituality and apostolate was quite good - I have no idea how that is going these days, and please remember this is just my personal opinion.  I believe the Baroness is actually a 'servant of God' now - the first step in the beatification process.  Her clinging to the title of baroness always seemed a bit ostentatious to me, but she was Russian and I think somewhat eccentric.  She was also in the Catholic avante garde in her day - along with Merton, Dorothy Day, and so on.  I think Henri Nouwen came along later as well.
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Both Catherine and Eddie had been married before - Eddie more times than Catherine.  The original community at Friendship House in Harlem felt Catherine departed from the rules by getting married again.  Celibacy was a discipline observed by the lay community, therefore the marriage became an issue.  The Doherty's subsequently moved to Canada to found a new house - you may have noted such accommodations happen frequently today with new communities.
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Anyway - to make a long story short, Eddie got himself ordained in 1969 as a priest in the Byzantine Melkite Greek Catholic Church - at the age of seventy eight.  No big deal.
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Today we accept married Anglican priests, married Eastern rite priests; and the Latin rite remains celibates only... but you can switch rites.  People say, "not so fast, it isn't that easy" and, "that's not how it's done".  I know.  And they do not ordain homosexuals either.
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Just saying - it happens.
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Photo credit

9 comments:

  1. I know of a similar situation where a Latin Rite Catholic married man became a priest in the Middle East, under a certain Eastern Rite Bishop, came back to the States, tried to live as a priest (I actually went to confession to him before our Diocese actually rescinded his faculties!)...a man with six children, trying to live out his vocation; I don't know what actually happened (although I have heard he is now with the Romanian Orthodox)...
    it's a very confusing and funny world we live in.
    Per se, I have no problem with married Catholic priests (gasp!)...
    as long as it's within the permission of the Church; it's the ones who left, married, and now want to "re-enter" that bother me; they're all probably dissenters and modernists. And we DON'T need that, thank you very much!

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  2. Most people don't understand that Eastern Rite Catholics are Catholic so it's a moot point anyway! A local Byzantine Rite church has a married priest who was ordained in another country...they can serve here if married.

    Many people who think priests should be able to get married, generally, cite the "fact" that Orthodox priests get married. They don't realize that the Orthodox ordain married men but that after ordination to the diaconate, marriage is impossible.

    np, my understanding is that the Eastern Rites are subordinate to their own bishops, how can your diocese rescind faculties? Wouldn't that be up to the priests own bishop? That was one of the problems in this country to begin with, which was changed in the 30s so that rather than operating under the auspices of the Latin Rite Bishop, a separate structure was put in place so Eastern Rite priests were subordinate to their own bishops rather than bishops who were clueless about their rites and the fact that they were actually in communion with Rome.

    In re: priests who were laicized and married, since ordination is forever and pre-dated those marriages, no way can they become active priests. And why would anyone take them back? I've been told that they only quite because they'd been told that the church would change the rules and they'd be able to get married, but that has to have been wishful thinking; the canons still called for Catholic priests to be celibate when those guys were ordained, so why would they believe that?

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  3. So how's it working out for them? The married Catholic priests and their congregations, that is. I have been unable to find firm numbers of how many there actually are in the USA, but it appears that is in excess of 100. That should be enough for someone to put together a small statistical study.
    Like Nazareth Priest, I have nothing against married priests per se. But on a personal level my feelings are mixed. My husband is a deacon, and I'm fine with that, however I'm not sure how I'd feel if he could be a priest. Most deacons work on a part time and volunteer basis. Most of them aren't paid. They promise obedience to their bishop; but he doesn't move them from place to place, the relationship is different.

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  4. Did you know Catherine Doherty was never a baroness? Americans started calling her by that title when she came to the US, she never stopped them...read it in "They Called Her The Baroness" by Lorene Hanley Duquin.

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  5. SF - I do remember that - but I wasn't sure of the situation - however I knew she had no problem with the title. I think she was eccentric - and citing her Russian heritage I was thinking of the fool for Christ spirituality. LOL! She popularized 'pustinia' as you must know, and suddenly everyone wanted to be a hermit. She was a trend setter.

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  6. Nan - thanks for always explaining the Byzantine Catholic things for us. I'm grateful for your input.

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  7. Nan: I believe the problem arose when this particular priest was running a "retreat center" in our Diocese...his paperwork/faculties were in question; and rightly so...he had been kind of working both sides to get some kind of recognition (not with a proper Bishop in the Eastern Rite)...I don't remember all the particulars...his children actually were attending the parish school here for a while, until all hell broke loose...for whatever it's worth, he's now in the Romanian Orthodox Church and I have no idea what became of the retreat center he was involved in.
    A pity.
    He was a good man; working with the "Foyers of Charity", founded by Marthe Robin (a mystic from France) that was very akin to our charism (the Institute of Saint Joseph)...I liked him and his wife and his family very much.
    But, for whatever reason, things deteriorated.

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  8. In re: switching rites. Generally, the laity may change rites once in their life, depending; Latin Rite Catholics have the right, Eastern Rite Catholics in our archdiocese may not change rites. Formerly, women automatically changed to their husband's rite upon marriage; now a change is optional. It may be possible to change rites to join a religious order but guys who want to be priests, then find they're not actually Latin Rite Catholics are in a difficult position, so saith the canon lawyer at the Chancery.

    I'm told that our Chancery doesn't know what it's talking about; however, the trick is Bishop A must relinquish the person and Bishop B must be willing to accept the person. Here, since Abp. N won't accept changes, it doens't matter if the other Bishop is willing to relinquish the person. Note that rite follows the father and traces back through generations.

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  9. I was an ordained protestant minister working full time for most of those 18 years for most of which we were raising a young family. I am grateful for the graces God gave us. Somehow our family held together. I know many that didn't make it or that did but only on the outside. While I was very, very busy I do believe it's about more than just being busy, a priest's responsibilities are greater and the calling different and there is an intentional identification with Christ intended (I know I'm telling you nothing you don't know here) that protestants know little to nothing about. I'm not sure what your point is Terry, as in for or agin'it but I'll happily go on record as saying I support the idea of a celibate clergy.

    Not sure why I comment, seems I mostly arrive late to the discussion and it's done but for the record, there it was.

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