WADE ST. ONGE

.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Debate on Clerical Celibacy: East vs. West



This article: "Pope Francis has given permission for a St. Louis deacon, who is married, to be ordained into the priesthood. Deacon Wissam Akiki will be ordained this week at St. Raymond's Maronite Cathedral. He will be the first married man to be ordained into priesthood under the U.S. Maronite Catholic Church"


On came the usual and therefore expected onslaught of support from Eastern Catholic readers, with the typical concomitant denegration and critique of the Western practice of a mandatory clerical celibacy and the hopeful expectation that it should change, and/or eventually will change.


The most vocal was Tony Paraskevas, who stated: "It is universal tradition, obscured through unfortunate historical circumstances in the West. Actually, I would hesitate to even call it a tradition, unless priests with hands and feet and a brain is also a tradition ... Bootstrapping celibacy to holy orders is abusive. There are talents and passion in married men, who could minister to the People. Its just a damn shame that we have to choose marriage or the priesthood. Its unnecessary. Mother Church knows (its in her blood) but her Servants seem to lack awareness of what is truly just and true. ... The pastoral benefits of having a 'two-tiered' priesthood seem too good to delay. All too often I hear and read the advise and pulpit teaching from celibates who have little knowledge of the intimate lives of married couples. It would be an immense evangelical asset if married priests in the Tiber weren't seen as an aberration, something bizarre and newsworthy. ... We just want what is fair, what allows for a variety of possible welcome developments on the parish level. We just want what is the most balanced system, which worked for nearly the first half of the Church's history (west). It would take absolutely nothing from the vocations of the current priesthood, and their manifestation of the theology of celibacy would remain intact."


Jonathan Alfaro added some others, "1) The "absorption" of the monastic vocation to celibacy into the secular celibate Diocesan priesthood within the Latin church; 2) The conflation of the vocation to celibacy, with that of the priesthood; 3) The decline, and displacement of monasticism proper in the West, with the rise of mendicant religious Orders; 4) Ad hoc theologizations pertaining to "ritual purity" which whilst not officially espoused by the church, has entered her consciousness; 5) The unnecessary dichotomy between a vocation to marriage, and the celibate life. The celibate vocation is objectively higher than that of the priesthood, and the vocation to marriage. The priesthood is only subjectively higher in so far as it being ministerial. However, given that the dual discipline exists, a vocation to the priesthood need not be conflated with the objectively superior vocation to the celibate life."


But, as usually happens when there are reports of a married man being elevated to the ranks of the presbyterate, either in the Eastern Churches or in the West through the pastoral provision, there was also a barrage of Western Catholics calling for the end to mandatory celibacy. Brandon Wainscott opines: "I'm kind of on Tony's side. I guess looking east I am quite in favour of married clergy, though I understand the benefit of celibacy. But as a rule for all priests, especially in the modern age, seems problematic. The biggest problem, other than certain stubborn Latins who can't think of anything other than Father O'Bryan without wife and kids, is the cost of course of paying a priest with a family. But the Byzantines manage so it can be done."


Roman Catholic, Brad Lindseth, talks rather unflatteringly about how his church is the exception: "One does have to point out that outside of the 'Latin Church' having a mixture of Married and Celibate clergy has worked well for: The Russians, The Ukrainians, The Copts, The Ethiopians, The Christians in modern-day Egypt, The Chaldeans, The Assyrians, The Greeks, The Romanians, The Bulgarians, The Serbs, and The Arabs. And, I'm not even going into Protestants."


The few dissenting (or should I say "assenting" to the Roman discipline) voices were getting hammered pretty hard. That's when I stepped in.


I linked to the following blog articles: 


East vs West: Celibate or Married Priesthood? 


Eastern Contradiction - Re: Clerical Celibacy


Priesthood: Marriage or Celibacy? Eastern Canon 373


Superiority of Celibacy to Marriage: Response to Deacon Scott Dodge


Discerning Vocations: Another Response to Deacon Scott Dodge


Responses from Deacon Scott Dodge


Clark McNabb was the first responder, and as far as I could tell, he was a neutral voice. He began with a bit of an insult, saying, "Nice self promotion there" -- which, of course, I clicked "like" on. Then he gave his opinion: "Any appeal to the Latin Code of Canon law is going to be pointless as to determine the legitimacy of the Eastern practice. Nor does it make sense to create conflict between theologies where the Church has not seen one. If there really was a problem between the two practices on the level of theology, than why would Rome have ever approved married clergy in any circumstance? ... Further you are stretching the meaning of the text to suggest that the use of 'held in honor' to describe the practice of the primitive church and the Eastern Churches is in anyway suggesting that clerical celibacy and married clergy are theologically inconsistent with each other. Adding words into the text (such as 'merely') does nothing to further your argument, rather it just shows how intellectually dishonest your position is that you can not just rest on the Church documents themselves."


I replied by reprinting certain quotes of his and responding to them: "'You are stretching the meaning of the text to suggest that the use of 'held in honor' to describe the practice of the primitive church and the Eastern Churches is in anyway suggesting that clerical celibacy and married clergy are theologically inconsistent with each other.' I didn't imply that Clark nor do I hold that position. ... 'Adding words into the text (such as 'merely') does nothing to further your argument, rather it just shows how intellectually dishonest your position is'. Granted, that was perhaps a somewhat biased interjection; however, I did that to show that the language used in the documents certainly place the Western practice on a higher plane than the Eastern practice. And although the interjection may have been somewhat 'intellectually dishonest', my arguments on the whole are not; rather, it is a result of taking the logical implications to their ends, which I believe I did so compellingly. ... 'Any appeal to the Latin Code of Canon law is going to be pointless as to determine the legitimacy of the Eastern practice.' That is true as far as it goes. However, my point in citing this is to demonstrate that the highest teaching authority in the Church favours the Western practice, even though that same authority attempts ever so delicately to avoid stating it unequivocally or without qualifications -- something that previous Popes had no problem doing (I will cite encyclicals if you wish), and that recent Popes have done which leads to contradictions that require clarification (as I demonstrated in the first link I posted)."


Clark responded, "The Church doesn't 'favor' one regional expression of the Faith over the other." I said, however, that "It is more than just a 'regional expression' -- with liturgy and the like, no, the Church does not 'favour' one or the other. However, the Church does favour certain practices over others, especially when certain practices (i.e. clerical celibacy) are more in line with the Church's teachings and the theology underlying it.


That is when Jonathan Alfaro, an Eastern (Russian) Catholic, began what would be a lengthy exchange with me. Following up on my thought but taking it in a different direction, he challenged:


Jonathan (Eastern): "Of one particular sui iuris church, which for all intents, and purposes seems to be the exception to the general rule when compared to the other 22 sui iuris churches..."


Wade (Western): "[Btw,] This is the encyclical I was talking about: Allatae Sunt, Pope Benedict XIV, 1755, paragraph 22: '[Regarding] the freedom enjoyed by priests of the Oriental and Greek church to remain married to their wives after their ordination ... Considering that this practice was at variance neither with divine nor natural law, but only with Church discipline, the popes judged it right to tolerate this custom, which flourished among Greeks and Orientals, rather than to forbid it by their apostolic authority, to avoid giving them a pretext to abandon unity.' Notice the word 'tolerate' and the reasons given for doing so -- this explains why the Holy See has permitted married priests in the Eastern Churches."


Wade (Western): "'Of one particular sui iuris church, which for all intents, and purposes seems to be the exception to the general rule when compared to the other 22 sui iuris churches...' But if you compare the actual number of souls in that 'one particular sui iuris church' to the 'other 22 sui iuris churches' it is not so lopsided. Furthermore, the Roman Rite comprises the entire historical Western Church, whereas the other 22 are smaller expressions of the Eastern Church, so it is more like half of the Church practices one way, the other half another. It is disingenuous to use numbers such as these in the manner that you have. I could use numbers too, but in the other way -- I could say that 90 percent of Catholics have a celibate clergy, while the other 10 percent do not, but that too would be disingenuous and a smokescreen taking us away from the real issue, which is the unresolved contradiction I spoke of in my blogs."


Jonathan (Eastern): "Thankfully that isn't how the church operates..."


Wade (Western): "Yes, thankfully it doesn't operate in either direction -- by crunching the numbers the way I did, or by considering them in the way you did."


Jonathan (Eastern): "Yay for reductio ad absurdums ! :D" [to which I hit "like"]


Jonathan (Eastern): "You will all enjoy these goodies!" [link to the Amazon listing of the book, "Vested in Grace: Marriage and Priesthood in the Christian East"]


Wade (Western): "Not all of us"


Jonathan (Eastern): "The testimony of the Fathers, and the Early Church can do that sometimes ! :D" 


Wade (Western): "So can the consistent teachings of the Roman Pontiffs."


Jonathan (Eastern): "Citing their words out of context in light of the received tradition of the church does no one any favours."


Wade (Western): "Neither does considering the Fathers to be infallible, especially when there was not unanimous consent."


Jonathan (Eastern): "Yet this isn't a matter of dogma, but rather of testimony to the received tradition of their day."


Wade (Western): "And that is where the East and West diverge -- the West is more open to developments, while the East doesn't believe in any developments after the year 800. Interesting to note, as I did in my blog, that in the age of the early fathers, bishops also married. The East has to explain exactly when the cutoff date is for legitimate developments and modifications. That, I say, is the rub."


Jonathan (Eastern): "Somewhat like the rather unfortunate position you've placed yourself in now, wherein to defend the position of your particular sui iuris church, you have to make an appeal to authority, and engage in special pleading by moving the goalposts, for the ad hominem attack you just hurled at the praxis of the other 22 sui iuris churches ? I mean really man, can the discipline of your sui iuris church SOLELY be defended on those grounds alone ?"


Wade (Western): "And that gets to the crux of the issue and to what led to the schism - the West appeals to papal authority (Roman locuta est) and the East appeals ultimately to the Fathers and the early councils regardless of what the Popes have to say about how to understand and apply that Tradition. It really is the same issue that the Catholic-Protestant debate comes down to: 'Where does authority lie?'"


Wade (Western): "Keep in mind also that the patriarch of my sui iuris church is also the Pope -- which does come to bear heavily on the issue we have been debating. To wit: Allatae Sunt, paragraph 20: 'Since the Latin rite is the rite of the holy Roman church and this church is mother and teacher of the other churches, the Latin rite should be preferred to all other rites.' And if you want to say again that I am citing the Popes out of context, a read of the entire document makes it quite clear that a plain reading of this passage is perfectly in line with the tenor of the whole."

In an earlier comment, Clark stated: "Nor does it make sense to create conflict between theologies where the Church has not seen one." But this debate proves clearly that there is a conflict of theologies, and the only reason the Church does not appear to have seen one is because they will not admit it and avoid getting into the finer points of the debate -- with the exception of Paul VI in Sacerdotalis Caelibatus, and as I pointed out, he gives mere lip service to the Eastern practice after spending the first forty paragraphs explaining to us why the Western practice is superior and why it is therefore not going to change.



If the debate continues, I will update this post accordingly.

3 comments:

  1. I didn't read all the back and forth, which is just as well because I'm not a student of theology, but is his argument anything other than "It's theoretically possible, therefore we should do it,"?

    ReplyDelete
  2. Wow, I tried to click on the story. That advertisement overload was brutal. Hopefully the story was worth reading. I checked out after waiting about 30 seconds for all of the ads and videos to play.

    This is why the internet sucks.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I figured this was the kind of thing that would pull you out of retirement.

    ReplyDelete