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.