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Catholic Deacons and Celibacy: Conjugal Love and Charitable Disagreement Comments

A highly regarded Canon Lawyer claims that married men ordained to the diaconate or the priesthood in the Roman Catholic Church must practice continence. What does Canon #277 say and what does it mean? Will the discussion raised by Canon lawyer Edward Peters reach Rome? With the coming infusion of married men serving as Priests and deacons it is time for a clarification of Canon #277 which dispels confusion. Continue Reading

21 - 30 of 38 Comments

  1. J.T. Anthony
    3 years ago

    Episcopalian and Anglican haters-of-the-Ordinariate are crowing over this budding controversy! Forbidding marital intimacy within the sacramental marriages of converting Anglo-Catholic priests and deacons would be most unfortunate, and frankly, will certainly dramatically stunt the growth of the Ordinariate to a fraction of its potential size. .

  2. Stephen Foster
    3 years ago

    It looks to me like canon 277.3 gives the local bishop the authority to apply this law where needed. Also, since marriage is also a sacrament, canon 1055, 1134, and 1135 need to be observed.

  3. Deacon keith Fournier
    3 years ago

    TojpaYMCA: Thank you for your insightful contribution to this discussion. Yes, indeed, the Eucharist is the Sacrament of Love par excellence, the nuptial mystery made present, the summit and perfection of all worship....However, the use of the term "Sacrament of Love" for Christian Marriage is not opposed to that at all. In fact, it is the title of an extraordinary book by Paul Evdokimov, the great Orthodox theologian, on Marriage which I highly recommend. It is very much a part of the Tradition. For example, the Venerable John Paul II called Christian Marriage the Sacrament of Love and Life.

  4. Sue
    3 years ago

    Is anyone looking to 2054? Do we have to go through yet another 1,000 years of schism?

    While this article is wonderful and Deacon Keith expresses himself lyrically (and also concisely), Edward Peters is most unhelpful. He is putting up yet another Pharisaic obstacle to unity. Why?
    No one is for unity just for the sake of unity but this is typical of some who pick at gnats.

    Also, has anyone considered that marriage vows would have to be changed? A husband and wife would have to promise to allow for celibacy in their marriage at the time they make their vows; otherwise, there might be grounds for annulment, no? even if both DO agree to celibacy later in marriage.

    This truly is a "can of worms" as Kerstin said. This is demeaning to the sacrament of marriage. Are Holy Orders superior? What of a resurgence of clericalism? This raises too many issues and makes Catholics look legalistic.

  5. PhilipEdmund
    3 years ago

    Im confused. Surely these priests would not have converted if they were forbidden to have relations with their wives. So its probably a moot point. You cant turn back on them now and insist they do it. The real danger is that allowing married priests in at all will open the door to eliminating the requirement for celebacy at all, and that will be a catastrophe. In my opinion a married man's first issue every day is with his wife and family and everything else is shaded in it. IF she is happy, he can be happy, if not, then he is not...every married man knows that. Thats the real issue...split loyalty and commitment, except its a 95% / 05% split...95 to the wfe, and 5 to everything else. You know its true.

  6. David Williams
    3 years ago

    This quotation from the response of the deacon William Ditewig (Ph.D)
    http://pilgrimsfootsteps.blogspot.com/2011/01/so-i-leave-town-for-few-days-and-look.html
    hits what seems to me the heart of the matter, and it also articulates a proper sense of the relationship between theology and canon law. It is clear that the canon law requires clarification, but unless one wishes to posit an astonishing level of ignorance and malfeasance *on the part of every single bishop and congregation involved as well as the last two popes* whenever the topic of married men ordained to the permanent diaconate arose, I don't see how one can seriously say that the intention of the Church is that married men ordained to the diaconate should live in continence. The law fell behind practice; no more than that.

    **
    Finally, let me conclude with a final reflection. Law serves the Church. Law is to reflect the theology of the Church. As the Church and her theology changes, so too must the law. So, to interpret the law, it seems to me (a theologian) one must first look at the theological sources for the law. Such a theological hermeneutic seems to me quite obvious. So, when considering the permanent diaconate, what has the church had to say about all of this OUTSIDE of the law?

    At no point, in any conciliar or post-conciliar official document has there ever been a single statement that directed permanent deacons were to remain continent following ordination. It is not in any of the Council documents, it is not in any papal statements, nor is there any mention of it in any of the several documents promulgated by the Holy See concerning the nature and exercise of the permanent deacon. No pope, no dicastery, has ever exhorted their married deacons to observe continence; in fact, we have been encouraged to be completely faithful and diligent in carrying out all of the responsibilities, duties and dimensions of family life. Interestingly, for many deacons and their wives who have had children AFTER ordination, there has been no public outcry that some kind of canon has been violated, or has such a deacon been dealt with by means of loss of faculties or suspension from ministry. If such a connection as posited by Dr. Peters was of such importance to the Latin Church (it clearly is not in the Eastern Churches), you would think that SOMEONE in authority would have acted accordingly. In this case, theological and pastoral praxis seems to provide a powerful hermeneutic for approaching the law.

    Therefore, it seems to me that, clearly, the mind of the church is such that there is NO expectation of clerical continency by married deacons, despite Dr. Peters' claims. Perhaps he is correct that the law should be changed to prevent any similar misunderstanding in the future.

  7. Scott Audet
    3 years ago

    Dcn. Fournier,
    Thanks for the interesting article. The homily at mass this morning was focused on the gospel reading. Father brought up the point of viewing the law from the spirit of the law instead of strictly focusing on the letter of the law. I immediately thought of this article when he brought this up. It's definately worth pondering.

  8. Scott
    3 years ago

    As one studying for the permanant deaconate and married with children, this issue seemed settled as presented by the diocese. This coming weekend, we have a 3 day course on canon law. this willl be brought up. Thank you for your timeliness. There are 4 of us in the formation class that are all married. I am sure this will raise an eyebrow or two. I respect the celibate clergy to the utmost but still come back to St. Paul's words to Timothy where he states that a deacon or bishop or priest can be married. Being Catholic is at it's pinacle of scriptural understanding (w/ out "modern scholarship") a both/and not an either/or like protestants. There should be place for both married and unmarried clergy.

  9. Andy Holland
    3 years ago

    #1 St. Gregory the Theologian was born of a MARRIED BISHOP. #2. The Immaculate Conception of Mary is celebrated in the ancient Icon of the embrace of Saints Joachim and Anna who conceived the Holy Virgin Mother of God without sin - Immaculate. All things had occurred in the Garden but the knowing of Adam and Eve. With Saints Joachim and Anna the marriage act became Holy Immaculate and part of the Church in the Body of Christ. It is therefore sacramental - celebrated in matter, in the uncreated light of heaven in Holy Iconography, Tradition and Hagiography; the Gospel of the Holy Spirit in the Church Universal.

  10. jpaYMCA
    3 years ago

    One correction to the article: the Sacrament of Love, in spiritual and even in theological works, refers to the Holy Eucharist, for the Sacraments were all instituted by Christ and the Eucharist is the "greatest" of these (cf. Jn 15:13) in that it contains the Author of Grace, the highest sign of His love for men.

    A good article: in regard to previous comments - I haven't seen Dr. Peters or anyone else in recent memory claim that celibacy is "holier", whatever that would mean. The argument is, as one commentator put it, that of St. Paul and of Our Lord Himself: "if one would be perfect ..." That spiritual and theological writers EAST and WEST have always recognized celibacy as the "higher" way is well-known and easily substantiated; that such an affirmation "denigrates" Holy Matrimony in any way is absurd. A Bishop is "higher" than a priest or deacon - does this demean either of the latter two?

    Mr. Peters raises a question that needs clarification, something that should be clear to those on either side of this proverbial fence; unfortunately, his son's blog makes more of his case than does his father! Roma NONDUM locuta est, causa NONDUM finita est.


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