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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

31 - 38 of 38 Comments

  1. Kerstin
    3 years ago

    Oh what a can of worms!! There is so much wrong here I don't know where to start. First and foremost: God instituted marriage. Is the Church truthful to God's Word when it requires continence within marriage of a man and woman called to its vocation? How can marriage fulfill its complete purpose and be open to life when you de-facto stipulate the "contraceptive" of continence? Second, what is not addressed in this article is the impact and violation to the innate dignity to the wife if she is suddenly forced to live a continent life only because her husband became a deacon during the course of their marriage. In fact, not only is the innate dignity of both violated, it is nothing short of cruel. I cannot possibly fathom the strain that would put on even the best of marriages when intimacy is forbidden. Can such emotional pain and suffering truly be God's Will when He intended the sole place for physical intimacy to be within marriage? Unlike the single person being called to the religious life where celibacy is the decision of this one person, you are dealing here with two people - bound in holy matrimony - and only one of them is ordained.

  2. Ehum
    3 years ago

    I am pretty shocked to see that Catholic.org is selling advertising to Botox! Wow, seems so "un"Catholic. Can someone help me see how this practice is respectful of our "body as our temple?"

  3. Hidden One
    3 years ago

    It has been made apparent that there is an explicit exception for Ordinariate priests in regard to their obligation to clerical continence, namely, that they are dispensed from it. THAT, at least, is not an issue.

    No one, anywhere, has been able to offer much of anything of an argument, up to this point, against Dr. Peters' position as to what Canon Law says at the present time. If Dr. Peters is right, then Canon Law as it stands at the present time is must be followed (viz. is binding) at the present time. Even the parts we may not like. The merits of the law notwithstanding, given its authority.

    Arguments as to the merit or demerit of the present state of Canon Law as articulated by Dr. Peters are immaterial to his argument.

  4. david seraphion
    3 years ago

    something i don't understand about Catholicism (the Latin/Roman one) is : they are so strict and rigid when dealing with the celibacy issue.. but they are too too tolerant when dealing with liturgy.. which one actually is more essential and important, the celibacy or the liturgy??.. the Latins (Roman Caths) see too highly on celibacy

  5. Deacon Kranz
    3 years ago

    Beautifully argued, Deacon Fournier.

  6. Joe
    3 years ago

    Deacon Keith has taken a reasonable approach here and he understands well the complexity of all the underlying issues. But I think the canon lawyers and other theologians (respectable as they may be) who have sparked this issue are walking out on a flimsy limb here. As an Eastern Catholic, I respect and appreciate the practicality and theology behind a celibate clergy and do not think that the Latin Church should ever immediately change its discipline for celibate clergy without proper discernment with the Holy Spirit. After all, chastity and celibacy are not commanded, but nevertheless recommended for ministers by both Christ and St. Paul in the Bible; Christ and His Blessed Mother were celibate for many valid reasons and it is indeed a Christian virtue. However, I tend to be a bit of an alarmist whenever I hear about Latin theologians and scholars who assert that Western or even Oriental canon law should push for more mandatory celibacy among clergy, as if such a celibate state in life made one's vocation holier than the married life. Unfortunately, this was the thinking of some monks in the early church up through the middle ages, especially in the West. Some even argued that conjugal love was a punishment for original sin, which of course is ridiculous and contrary to Magisterial teaching. Some of these early church thinkers were being reactionary to the indulgence and hedonism they witnessed in the derogatory and base acts of Roman citizens, such as the public orgies in the circuses. Later Pope Damasus I in the 4th century encouraged celibacy for priests in the Roman diocese because he felt it preserved the "cultic purity" of Christian priests just as married Levites remained continent when serving the altar in the Old testament age. Indeed the Church battled during this time with groups like the Gnostics who looked down upon creation's goodness and the holiness of marriage, sex, and children. Eventually celibacy became more common after the turn of the first millennia to battle lay investiture. But we are not Jews who are afraid to approach the holy of Holies or to speak God's name. We are not Gnostics who look at the body or marriage as though it is a prison or dirty rag. We are Catholics, redeemed by the Incarnation, who appreciate the paradoxes of body and spirit, fasting and feasting, marriage and celibacy, transcendence and immanence, infinite God dwelling as finite man, etc. We are the Body of Christ not just the Spirit of Christ. There are many paths to holiness in the Body whether it is celibacy or marriage. It is what God call us to that counts. When the philosophy of Jansenism infected the Church after the 1600's especially in Ireland and France many faithful and clergy took a puritanical approach to holiness not much different from the Calvinists despite condemnation of the heresy from the teaching office of the Church. Indeed, the old Vatican ruling (which I believe is not enforced anymore) stating that Eastern priests in America should not have wives was due in part to the campaigning of Irish bishops from the 19th century onward who thought such a practice was unapostolic and contrary to "purity". But of course this is nonsense and discrimination within the Body of Christ itself. Continence has its place in any marriage, but the marital embrace is an occasion for renewing one's vows and increasing marital grace as John Paul II has stated in Theology of the Body. It is not less holy than the celibate state, just a different way. Married love is also a prophetic sign of Christ's nuptial love. We are "baptized" into our spouse and consummate that love in physical "communion" with the beloved. Perhaps this is all a way in which the Holy Spirit is helping the Church to finally settle and clarify the issue. But I don't understand Western theologians who constantly try to Latinized everything in sight. Continence in marriage for deacons or Eastern priests would definitely squelch the call in the hearts many men. Such men are, as Deacon Keith said, called to ministry but in a different manner. Let's not run a cold shower on married men's passion for the priesthood or deaconate either if God is calling them to that dual vocation.

  7. john baysson
    3 years ago

    why can't people just stick with one vocation? if you feel that you want to help out in the church, be a theologian or an apologist. It feels like needless complication of things because of some need to try and have both.

  8. Douglas L. Turner
    3 years ago

    This whole argument is unhelpful. They just ordained 16 permanent deacons on Saturday in the Diocese of Arlington, and most of them are married. We had a mass for one of our own at our northern virginia parish. He had his wife and four children, his inlaws and cousins and the like in the congregation, It was very sweet. This article is a jarring reminder that we still have among us those who would make these robust men, and those former priests from the Anglican community feel unwelcome in our midst. It is chilling reading. Let's leave this up to the Holy Father. OK?


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