WADE ST. ONGE

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Saturday, November 3, 2012

Eastern Contradiction re: Clerical Celibacy

After a lengthy absence from the "blogosphere", an online acquaintance directed me to a new article by Dr. Peters about Canon 277. So my first post in months is about, well, what has apparently become my pet topic (and his as well, or so it would seem). Perhaps we have bigger fish to fry, but I tend to think clerical celibacy, and preserving it, is a pretty big fish. Make no mistake - it is being threatened.
 

Here are my thoughts in response to his article (which I would also encourage everyone to read) ... 



I would go a step further than Cardinal Burke and say, "The implementation of a practice in contradiction to a clear and solid theoretical foundation" which I believe is already there (and has long been) in the Catholic Tradition regarding the connection between orders and celibacy.

The bottom line is this: the current Western practice is in contradiction to the Western theology of orders, which is why the application of the Eastern practice to the permanent diaconate and presbyterate (which was the justification used to allow a married diaconate and implement the pastoral provision) was wrongheaded.

In fact, the Eastern practice itself is in contradiction to its own theology, which I have written about on my blog. I have had 3 readers direct me to the same article from an Eastern monk, which argues that according to Eastern theology, it is not good to have someone living alone, without a community, which is why secular priests are generally married. I responded to two of them, "but what about Eastern bishops - don't they live alone?" Their (cop out) response was always, "we don't know what the Eastern practice is". Well, just today, I was reading an article in the diocesan paper called "Two Lungs" written by a Ukrainian Catholic (there is a large population of them in these parts) who was talking about the life of an Eastern bishop - six of whom he had got to know and befriended in his life. He was talking about how bishops, like Western priests, live alone. So the Eastern argument is that all should live in community, which is why secular priests should marry, but then in the same breath they defend their practice of bishops living alone, without a community? This is a contradiction.

I am also friends with a Ukrainian Orthodox subdeacon who plans on becoming a priest but has delayed his seminary studies so far because, well, none of his romantic relationships have worked out yet. In one of our conversations, he was telling me that the problem with celibate priests is they cannot relate to married couples and thus give them counsel (taken straight out of the Protestant apologetic manual). I said, "is the Eastern bishop the Chief Teacher and Shepherd of his flock?" He said, "Yes". I said, "then how can he teach and guide the faithful with regards to marriage?" He chuckled at first, and then composed himself and said, "Well, he has studied a lot and has a special charism to do so". I said, "so why can't we say the same of celibate priests?" He did not have a response. He also said, "St. Peter was a priest and he was married" (also from the Protestant apologetic manual). I responded, "St. Peter was a bishop - why do you Easterners, who are always telling us we have departed from the apostolic practice, go against the apostolic practice concerning this?" Once again, silence.

This proves that the Eastern practice, or more to the point, the Eastern criticism of the Western practice, backfires because the arguments they use against the Western practice of a celibate priesthood also undercut the Eastern practice of a celibate episcopate.

This was generally understood in the West until Vatican II, when false ecumenism led us to abandon our theology (and common sense) in order to minimize the areas of disagreement we had with the East - one of which was to declare that clerical celibacy was merely a practice and thus the respective disciplines of "both lungs" (another term and concept that has been applied too broadly thanks to that same false ecumenism) were both legitimate and thus complementary rather than contradictory.

Most of the disagreements I have had about this issue have not been with Eastern Catholics (many of whom see the contradiction too - they just happen to fall on the other side of the debate as I do) but with Western Catholics - orthodox ones at that. False ecumenism may have been pushed by "liberals", but for some reason, somehow, orthodox Catholics (including Cardinal Coccopalmerio) were influenced and picked up some of their errors.

Clearly, the Church needs to have this debate. Deliberately leaving the impression that they are equally good and complementary is the dam that is already beginning to burst, though the impression has kept obedient and trusting orthodox Catholics from thinking too deeply about it and therefore continuing to see complementarity in the contradiction.

11 comments:

  1. I think you "abandon" your "theology" when you require a sacrament to rely on the state of a man. When will Catholics learn that the sacrament of ordination gives a man all the power of the kingdom for ministry. Celibacy or being married has nothing to do with it. In fact, there is nothing in scripture that supports your claims. Whenever qualifications for ordination is mentioned in scripture it always mentions marriage. Celibacy in never mentioned with ordination. However, it is referenced to as the best way a Christian can live by the Apostle Paul. The apostle even encourages married people to practice it. As far as married priests being able to minister better to other couples it a sociological fact. Your argument about a bishop being able to teach makes no sense when compared to people being able to help others in their common shared experience. It's also a fact that because a married man participates in the sacrament of matrimony he out of this sacrament can add to his own ministry to others. This does not mean a celibate man has nothing to draw from their own experience of Christian life. It means that both a married man and celibate priest can both contribute differently without conflict to their priestly ministry to others. A careful survey of history will teach you that the adoption of celibacy for the clergy was a matter of need and a good thing in some cases. It has nothing to do with theology. As far as married bishops are concerned we had married bishops for a few centuries in the Byzantine tradition, such as Gregory of Nyssa. Our Fathers eventually thought it would be right to avoid corruption to take our bishops from the ranks of monks, who for us represent the fullness of Christian life. For a time there was often abuse with bishops passing on the ranks to their own family members and often personaly benefiting from their office. Ehat our Fathers did was not theological at all but a practical need. There were many abuses taking place and the fathers provided the best answer to this.

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  2. Whoa...not a fan of this post. The last thing we need right now is more misunderstanding between east and west.
    Clerical celibacy is a small t tradition in the Latin West, not a dogma.

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  3. Ric, all of your arguments were dealt with by Pope Paul VI in his 1967 encyclical, "Sacerdotalis Caelibatus".

    The Idler, you just helped prove my point about false ecumenism. As one Council Father said in response to those who wanted to leave out certain teachings on Mary because it would lead to "more misunderstanding" between Catholics and Protestants, from "The Rhine Flows Into the Tiber": "Numerous Council Fathers … asked in a written intervention whether the schema [on Mary, which was later added to the end of the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church] could pass over in silence titles like Coredemptrix, Reparatrix, and others used by the Supreme Pontiffs, simply ‘because they would be rather difficult for Protestants to **understand**’ … [However] Servite Bishop Giocondo Grotti of Brazil [objected]: 'Does ecumenism consist in confessing or in hiding the truth? Ought the Council to explain Catholic doctrine, or the doctrine of our separated brethren? … Hiding the truth hurts both us and those separated from us. It hurts us, because we appear as hypocrites. It hurts those who are separated from us because it makes them appear weak and capable of being offended by the truth … Let us profess our faith openly. Let us be the teachers we are in the Church by teaching with clarity, and not hiding what is true." [pages 94-95] There is doctrine underlying the respective practices of each, meaning the conflict is theological, not practical.

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  4. "Whenever qualifications for ordination is mentioned in scripture it always mentions marriage".

    Including the episcopate, which is why the Orthodox position is a contradiction, as I pointed out in my blog (which you perhaps glazed over).

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    1. Anonymous posts are not allowed on this site, so I deleted two of them.

      One Anonymous said, "Mr. Ballard ... demonstrates that the Church had married bishops for a few centuries and why they don't have them now".

      My response: It was an arbitrary decision and we can just as arbitrarily make other changes, but the bottom line is: you can't claim apostolicity to show why East is right and West is wrong and then come up with justifications to go against the apostolic practice for some things and say these and not those should depart from the apostolic practice, because the West has as much right to declare the same (and have). Another contradiction.

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  7. "As far as married bishops are concerned we had married bishops for a few centuries in the Byzantine tradition, such as Gregory of Nyssa. Our Fathers eventually thought it would be right to avoid corruption to take our bishops from the ranks of monks, who for us represent the fullness of Christian life. For a time there was often abuse with bishops passing on the ranks to their own family members and often personaly benefiting from their office. Ehat our Fathers did was not theological at all but a practical need. There were many abuses taking place and the fathers provided the best answer to this"

    1. Are these reasons still applicable? I would argue clearly no, at least in some places (i.e. United States). If not, married bishops should once again be allowed, because the "practical need" reasons no longer apply.

    2. Are you saying celibate monk-priests are not as prone to "corruption" as married priests?

    3. Whatever "benefits" come from the office of the episcopate and whatever "corruption" they are prone to, the same could be said of the presbyterate.

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  8. Five more followers and you can call your own Council of Elvira...

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    1. Pity I recently lost one - now I'm that much further away [sigh]

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