Monday, January 17, 2011

Can the new Anglican Catholic priests keep "doin' it"?

Celibates want to know...
Why?  Because if permanent deacons, normally married, are expected to observe continence once ordained, that means converts from Anglicanism - married priests and bishops - newly ordained as Roman priests must also observe continence as well.  Right?  Dr. Peters seems to think so. 
But I think there is more.  What about unmarried people - those who were divorced and remarried and live together, and or gay people who have a partner?  What if they renounce sex in order to return to the Church but continue to live together, albeit in continence?  Now the sex-police and puritanical Catholics insist these folks must separate and live apart because it is inconceivable that two people who care about one another would be able to live together without sex - in continence - chaste and celibate.  Really?  So if a deacon/priest and his wife can be expected/allowed to live together in continence - why can't other people?
Interestingly enough, on another forum, a commenter questioned how a deacon and his wife could live in the same house and remain chaste/continent?  Wondering if they shouldn't live apart?
The answer:  "It doesn't seem we would need to go that far... separate beds perhaps (at the very least). But moving out would seem to be an offense to the marriage... they should be able to live out the remainder of their married days in chaste abstinence-- still being a mutual help to the other, etc."
How generous.
1983 CIC 277. § 1. Clerics are obliged to observe perfect and perpetual continence for the sake of the kingdom of heaven and therefore are bound to celibacy which is a special gift of God by which sacred ministers can adhere more easily to Christ with an undivided heart and are able to dedicate themselves more freely to the service of God and humanity. § 2. Clerics are to behave with due prudence towards persons whose company can endanger their obligation to observe continence or give rise to scandal among the faithful. § 3. The diocesan bishop is competent to establish more specific norms concerning this matter and to pass judgment in particular cases concerning the observance of this obligation. - Dr. Peters
Church Law Says Permanent Deacons - All Clerics - Are To Abstain From Sex.
Anglican Bishops Ordained.
H/T Eponymous Flower 
NB:  I'm not at all sure that this theory or interpretation of Canon 277 is the official/promulgated/taught one, but if it were to be found correct, then I think my point is well taken.  Well-taken or not, I think I made my point.
Photo:  Cistercian sleeping arrangements:  Cubicles in a dormitory...  celibates sleeping together. 


  1. Dr. Peters does seem to be interpreting the canon correctly, but if that is the case then why would Rome have said NOTHING about the fact that NOWHERE do permanent deacons practice perpetual continence as a rule?

    It just seems odd that something like that could be going on and no one said anything 'til like 2005 or so, especially since the Vatican has cleared up all kinds of ambiguities in the wake of the Council.

    I still do not understand how the Church places continence in marriage so highly - it seems to be contrary to the vocation in the first place, and imply that normal marital relations are wrong or not holy enough. And yet, I accept it because of the Holy Family and other saintly couples. I just do not understand at all.

    How does it not lead to married couples NOT thinking there's something "unholy" about sex? I am not saying the Church should stop honoring continence, I am just clueless as to how this is supposed to be understood. Especially in the light of many Saints who believed sex itself was quite "not pure" indeed.

  2. HA, I just realized what you tagged this article as! I was wondering about him myself.

    I wanted to ask someone who knows: If the dogmatic position that the superiority of the celibate state over the married state and the tradition of continence, even within marriage, as superior to its "use" has not changed, hasn't the rationale for it changed?

    The Fathers, especially Jerome, seemed to think that although sex is in itself rather sordid, it's an impurity that had to be tolerated so incontinent, spiritually retarded people could produce children and avoid fornication. It seems that for many, celibacy was based on the idea that something so holy as serving at the altar should not be "tainted" by sex. Even in the Middle Ages, St.Peter Damian could write that a priest's hands should "never touch a woman's ... parts" (though the sores of lepers and the bodies of farm animals ere okay)

    Nowadays, I understand the superiority of the state to respect the fact that the marriage act is such an intimate giving of the self that someone so totally dedicated to God must commune with Him alone in such an intimate way. This make sense not just for priests, but consecrated virgins, etc. It's not that sex is "dirty", but that it ties one to another human being in a way that someone consecrated to God couldn't honestly do.

    Do I have that right?

  3. michael r.7:49 AM

    Hopefully this will be cleared up fast. I suspect Peters has this all wrong. I've certainly never heard of this interpretation, and don't have time to research this. I'm sure nearly everything on the web would have to be corrected. And it would mean that the Vatican is wrong, and it would affect thousands of deacons.

    Normally, permanent deacons who are married are exempt from continence, and unmarried ones are required to observe it for life, as with Latin priests. If a permant deacons wife dies, the man is then required to observe continence.

  4. The simple answer to the question at the top of your post is: 'Yes', if they are among those for whom a special derogation has been requested by the Ordinary in accordance with Anglicanorum Coetibus VI § 2: "The Ordinary, in full observance of the discipline of celibate clergy in the Latin Church, as a rule (pro regula) will admit only celibate men to the order of presbyter. He may also petition the Roman Pontiff, as a derogation from can. 277, §1, for the admission of married men to the order of presbyter on a case by case basis, according to objective criteria approved by the Holy See." This seems to imply a derogation from the whole of Canon 277 which is primarily about continence (describing celibacy as the consequence of the law concerning continence.)

    Otherwise it depends on the precise wording of the individual dispensations granted to those men who are married.

    (Of course the Church has been simply silent on the question of continence, as the article by Dr Peters points out.)

  5. Dear Fr. Boyle, thanks for clearing that up.

  6. There really are many things wrong with this.

    First, the whole discussion ignores the East. We still are treated as if we are not "the Church." So talking about canons in a universal sense for the Church itself is off.

    Second, the assumption that the way the canons ended up written they are not capable of being reformed when they lead to an end that was not intended. Just because one can make an argument they lead to a certain discipline does not then end up making the discipline worth keeping. This is where I really find something wrong here: the excitement of telling people "don't have sex" who are married. What?!

    Third, there seems to be something more behind this, and that makes me uneasy.

    But I would say the Eastern position really would be, stop the legalism.

  7. Henry, I think Cardinal Cochini's book made the point that clerical continence is an Apostolic tradition, an assertion that would certainly create shockwaves with the East. I'm just ondering how NO ONE noticed this, especially since Pope John Paul II spent so much time fighting dissent and defending clerical celibacy. You'd think someone would have said something.

  8. Mercury

    There have been many responses to many recent works written with the same theme from the East. And in many respects, they point out the cherry picking methodology involved in them. Here is one example for another, but similar, book, being reviewed:

  9. "...there seems to be something more behind this, and that makes me uneasy." Me too, Henry. This argument is a little bit personal for me, since I am a deacon's wife. It pretty much goes against anything we were taught in formation. It could be a matter of "Follow the agendas"; to figure out who may have a dog in this fight. Kind of peculiar that the issue is surfacing now; when apparently the ambiguous wording has been in existence since about 1983.

  10. Melody, I'm guessing that even IF Rome were to come down on the side of continence for married deacons, they would allow for some kind of dispensation for those who were ordained without being made fully aware of the obligation (if there is one).

    I want to see what Fr. Longnecker says ... and why has no one asked Fr. Z yet? :)

  11. Mercury, yes, I imagine there would be a "grandfather clause". However if continence does end up being the policy for married deacons, as you said above, "How does it not lead to married couples NOT thinking there's something "unholy" about sex?"

  12. I think IF it is seen in terms of dedication totally to God in a relational sense that precludes deep communion with another person, perhaps that makes some sense. It'd be hard to understand, but at least it would respect the dignity of marriage and marital sex in some way as a true and valid communion of persons.

    But if it's like "well, we can't have deacons with dirty hands" then I don't see how that does not imply that sex and women are dirty - indeed dirtier than the sores of lepers.

    The "problem" is the tradition of holy continence in marriage, which is a reality, as attested to by many saints. We can't just say "they were all dumb prudes who didn't understand real life". But how this does not impute some sort of impurity onto marital sex, I have yet to understand. It drives my scruples radar off the charts. :)

    It SEEMs that the theology of marriage jars with how it has historically been seen and lived in the Church. That may be the fault of the observer, though.

  13. I daresay it might be as difficult for a celibate priest to understand the misgivings of the married as for the latter to understand the position of the former. There is nothing dirty about sex in marriage. Yet Our Lord Himself suggested that there are some who would give up wives for the sake of the kingdom. It was in response to Peter who asked about himself and the apostles who had given up everything to follow him. He made the promise of an even deeper fulfillment, even in this life, for those who gave up wives for the sake of the kingdom. It is not unreasonable to conclude that those who are the successors of the apostles (strictly bishops and more broadly priests) and those intimately associated with the Sacred Mysteries should follow in the apostle's path: if they have wives, to give them up (in terms of their sexual relations) and if they haven't wives to forego the possibility of marrying. Plus the conditions St Paul gives concerning those to be appointed as elders, plus the legislation of the early Church, etc. etc.

    And then, on my own experience, the profound sense of an exclusive love (affair) with the Eucharistic Lord and with His people that only an undivided heart (married people, please do not misunderstand me) or, perhaps, unmediated love can experience. The love of a celibate/continent priest is truly a spousal love, and he renounces spousal love on this earth so that he can truly, sacramentally, live in spousal relationship to the Church.

    Not sure if that makes sense.

    More details on my thoughts here.

  14. Thank you, Fr. Boyle. I think the problem is understanding celibacy and continence as positive and not negative values. That is very hard indeed.

    But at the same time, it's hard to pass up the idea that in the history of the church there has been the idea that marital relations were dirty and unworthy. I have no illusions that Sts. Jerome, Gregory of Nyssa, or Gregory the Great would have agreed with Pope John Paul II, Dietrich von Hildebrand, John Kippley, or the others who write about the covenant of married love and its goodness.

    What I'm saying is that I think I see the superiority of celibacy to marriage in the same way you do. I just think that historically, celibacy was sometimes seen as freedom from "necessary impurity".

  15. And in this respect there can be true development of doctrine whilst retaining full fidelity to tradition. Development in appreciation of the beauty of God's plan for marriage and family, and development in appreciation of continence for the sake of the kingdom. And its inherent relationship to the sanctuary.

  16. That makes sense, Father. Thank you.

  17. Henry and Melody - yes I suspect there is something more to this whole thing - but it will never affect what already is.

    Thank you Father for your very good commentary.

  18. Mercury,
    Please, let's NOT ask Father Z. His answers sometimes mean nothing, and he is just one priest, after all. Hardly an authority. And besides, whatever he answers, his commbox crowd will surely pronouce the "right and proper" judgement on the subject, creating the usually false impression that they know it all.

  19. Charlotte - I would hope YOU would understand sarcasm :)

    Anyway, Fr. Ray Blake has a good take on the whole issue - he's not impressed with the argument, and says he talked to an Italian canonist who basically said "Uh, dose Americans-ah, dey don't-ah know what dey are ah-talkin' about"

  20. Why is it surfacing now? I think there are many reasons. One has to deal with our over-sexualized society, bringing more sexual politics into the Church. Another is the attempt to make one view of sexuality as the only one, while the Church has many traditions, none which have been seen as the only way to look at sex. The problem is some people think their view is it, and want to force it upon others. And I think there is a false understanding of the past, causing a kind of reform based upon that false view -- causing a strict legalism, which to me is not good.

    I still think the East has this issue mastered.

  21. Henry, I think there is a lot we can learn from the East.
    Here is an informative link:
    It includes some discussion of why the issue may be surfacing now.

  22. Melody,

    That is an interesting article.

    As a Byzantine, I still come looking at this with a bit of fear. Once again, a Western triumphalism is being put into play, with legalistic (Pharisaic) implications of canon law, ones clearly not intended, being brought forward as the new revolution which is necessary for the Church today. The whole "Josiah" connection also is troublesome. I think something really is off here. I know Thomas Peters; I hold no ill toward him (even if I disagree with much of what I says). But I think there is something of a farce going on with many in the American "conservative" tradition, and it is partly what creates this kind of thing. Of course, "liberals" create their own farces too. is still a good discussion on clerical celibacy and tradition

  23. Charlotte - you are right about Fr. Z's blog. Of course Fr. Z agrees with Dr. Peters, but his commenters are even more intense.

    One guy said that the acceptance of married deacons ill lead to the total destruction of celibacy and the acceptance of homosexuality and of women priests.

    Yes, because the Orthodox are all so accepting of "alternative lifestyles" and of female priests.

  24. Mercury,
    I honestly didn't think you were being sarcastic. I guess I need to read you differently! Ha!

    Quite honestly, my totally UN-high brow opinion of this subject leans toward ageeing that this is troubling and it does make it seem like sex is a sin.

  25. By the way, it seems lots of the commentators over at Fr. Z's blog and other places view the current situation of sexually-active married deacons through the lens of periods in Church history, clerics were notoriously unchaste and lived in sham, non-sacramental marriages with their "housekeepers". They see this a as sign of the clergy's needed purification.

    They do not seem to understand that regardless of how all this plays out, there is a HUGE difference between relations with one's lawful wife which is DE FACTO good, and fornication, which is DE FACTO evil and deserves condemnation whether done by clergy or laity.

    The implication by some (NOT Dr. Peters, I must add) is that the situation is one of rampant impurity and dereliction of chastity.

  26. michael r.8:54 AM

    Isn't it odd that the junior Peters feels a need at this time to reprint an article that the senior Peters penned more than six years ago??? It's not like the article was just written, as I would guess most people are assuming. As Henry and Melody point out, there is clearly something going on that should make us uneasy.

    I'm glad to see that Henry has taken up the topic over at Vox Nova. And, I would also like to point to a scholarly article & comments over at America.


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