Opinion: Cardinal O'Brien, Chaste Celibacy, Chaste Marriage and Clerical Service
The Eastern Church, both Catholic and Orthodox, often assigns married priests to different types of ministry than celibate priests. Similarly, in the Latin rite, married men ordained to the priesthood serve in a manner that reflects and respects their state in life and offers its pastoral witness as a gift to the whole Church.
In the Eastern Catholic Church where there has been an unbroken tradition and practice of admitting both celibate and married men to the order of deacon and priest, the men must have married before ordination as deacons. In the Code of Canon Law for the Eastern Churches we read:
"Clerical celibacy chosen for the Kingdom of Heaven and suited to the priesthood is to be greatly esteemed everywhere, as supported by the tradition of the whole church; likewise, the hallowed practice of married clerics in the primitive church and in the tradition of the Eastern Churches throughout the ages is to be held in honor."
"Clerics, celibate or married, are to excel in the virtue of chastity; it is for the particular law to establish suitable means for pursuing this end. In leading family life and in educating children married clergy are to show an outstanding example to other Christian faithful." (Canons # 373-375)
For the Press who may be reading this opinion piece and looking for some news, Catholics already have married clergy, deacons and priests. For Catholic Christians, we must learn from this fact and trust that the Lord is behind it. We must also trust that his plan for its placement in the one mission of His One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Caththe Church is just that, His plan.He will unfold it through those whom he has chosen to lead His Church.
The prophetic witness of consecrated celibacy has endured beyond the ranks of celibate clergy. It is also preserved in the inspired vowed life of monastic orders, the sacrificial witness of religious men and women, and the increasing new ecclesial associations of lay men and woman, who have chosen it, not to avoid marriage, but to enter more fully into the very nuptial or spousal mystery that marriage also reveals, but in a unique and prophetic way.
When I was invited to Holy Orders as a deacon, I knew that it was a vocation. As a Married man I pledged to embrace celibacy if my wife should predecease me. My wife gave her consent. I soon came to understand the theology I had studied and have studied since; there truly is an ontological change which occurs at ordination. My life was turned upside down and has never been the same.
I personally believe there is room in the Catholic Church, East and West, for a both celibate and a married clergy, deacons and priests. Both consecrated celibacy and consecrated Christian marriage are a response to the universal call to holiness. They are also a gift to the whole Church because they both participate in the one nuptial or spousal mystery revealed in Jesus Christ.
However, what I personally believe is not the issue. It is what the Holy Spirit reveals in guiding the whole Catholic Church in this the Third Christian Millennium. For that, I look to the teaching office, the Magisterium of the Catholic Church.
Clearly, Cardinal Keith O'Brien was not the right man to raise the issues which a full, historic and proper discussion of the mandatory nature of this ancient and revered discipline of mandatory clerical celibacy for priests deserves.Given the challenges Christ's Church faces, and the necessary purification which she is undergoing, I doubt the question the question of mandatory celibacy in the Latin or Western Catholic Church is high on the agenda.
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Keywords: celibacy, mandatory celibacy, chastity, chaste marriage, priesthood, Cardinal Keith O'Brien, married clerics, ordinariate, byzantine, married priests, Deacon Keith Fournier
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