Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Deacon Keith Fournier

1/21/2011 (4 years ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

We need a clarification of Canon #277 which dispels confusion

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.

The wives of the first three priests of the Anglican ordinariate in the Catholic Church bring forth their priestly vestments during the Rite of ordination in Westminster Cathedral.

The wives of the first three priests of the Anglican ordinariate in the Catholic Church bring forth their priestly vestments during the Rite of ordination in Westminster Cathedral.

Highlights

By Deacon Keith Fournier

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

1/21/2011 (4 years ago)

Published in U.S.

Keywords: Celibacy, Chastity, Deacons, Priests, Marriage, Edward Peters, Deacon Keith Fournier, Orthodox, Catholic, Deacon Greg Kandra


CHESAPEAKE, Va. (Catholic Online) - After my morning prayer on the Feast of St Anthony I reflected on the excerpt on the Life of Anthony by St. Athanasius in the Office of Readings entitled "St. Anthony receives his vocation". I was moved by the naturally supernatural way in which this great ascetic and disciple of Christ lived his calling in the ordinary day to day world in which he found himself.

After receiving his call to the monastic life, and before he went into the desert, he began to live his vocation in the exigencies of real life. He cared for his sister who was orphaned when both parents died. In doing so he allowed his vocation to be forged and formed in the fire of daily experience and it took shape. I resolved in prayer to try even harder to do the same as a husband, father, grandfather and deacon of the Church.

I then opened my E mail and found a letter from Deacon Greg Kandra, a man whom I respect. It was sent to a list of deacons and concerned an article written by a Canon lawyer, Edward Peters, a man whom I also respect. Edward Peters has reintroduced the discussion of Canon #277 of the Code of Canon Law and the practice of clerical celibacy in the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church in a post entitled "Canon 277 and clerical continence in the Roman Church."   

His claim is not new. He joins others such as Father Ray Ryland in asserting that married men who enter the clerical state should practice continence, including married deacons and priests. I often visit Ed's excellent blog on Canon Law. I am also a fan of his son, Thomas Peters, of the American Papist/ Catholic Vote. Thomas also posted a piece entitled "Church Law says Permanent Deacons (and all clerics) are obliged to abstain from sex, notes Canonist Edward Peters {updated}" 

I am not a Canon Lawyer but a Civil lawyer. However, I have studied Church history and theology and have served as a member of the Catholic Clergy, a deacon, for fifteen years. I am familiar with the ongoing dialogue and debate concerning Canon #277 and the underlying issues involved. They lead us back to the earliest centuries of Church history and the early pronouncements of Church Councils  concerning clerical celibacy.

I found it intriguing that this discussion began on the weekend on which the announcement was made that the Venerable John Paul II will be raised to the altar. There is no doubt that his work, popularly called the "Theology of the Body", is at the epicenter of the resurgence of important theological work on nuptiality,  conjugal love, marriage, and the complimentarity of consecrated celibacy and marital chastity. 

It also came on the weekend when the first three priests of the Anglican Ordinariate were ordained. Former Bishops of the Anglican Church, these married men laid aside Episcopal office. They did so out of love for the Catholic Church, a hunger for full communion, and respect for the ancient practice, even in the Eastern Churches, that Bishops must be chosen from among the celibate clergy. However, they did not - nor were they asked to - pledge to remain continent within their marriages. In a beautiful part of the Ordination Liturgy, their wives actually brought forward their priestly vestments.

Perhaps it is also not accidental that this is the Feast of St. Anthony. The Egyptian Saint Paphnutius, his disciple and student, is often raised in discussions on the admission of married men to the diaconate and priesthood. Many scholars say the saint was a legend; others disagree. Eastern Christians, both Orthodox and Catholic, point to his purported intervention at the Council of Nicea opposing mandatory continence for married clerics. Some others claim that even if he was a legend, his position was confirmed at local Church Councils such as the Fourth Century Council of Gangra.

I write with deep appreciation for the celibate vocation among the ordained ministers of the Church, the religious orders and the growing lay ecclesial movements. I have had the privilege of knowing some profoundly holy consecrated celibates. Consecrated celibacy "for the kingdom" is a prophetic witness in every age. It is a particularly poignant and effective one in an age which is losing its soul, partly because it has followed the path of nihilism and utilitarianism on many fronts, including its view of human sexuality.

The fact that the issue of continence for married men who serve as deacons is now being raised by someone as credible as Edward Peters invites us to reflect on consecrated celibacy as well as chaste Christian marriage. Deacon Greg Kandra's E-Mail message to me was captioned "Off to the cold showers, men". I presumed the caption was meant to be humorous. However, I found it to be unfortunate. It minimized the issues raised by the interpretation of Canon #277 offered by Edward Peters and did not really affirm the dignity of Christian marriage.  

The Marital embrace is an expression of the gift at the heart of the Sacrament of Love, Christian Marriage. It is not some concession to disordered passions but rather about those passions transfigured by grace.  Marriage in Christ is a vocational call to the evangelical counsels. Chastity is binding on all the faithful and practiced in accordance with one's state in life, including marriage. The vocation of a chaste Christian marriage - and the family built upon it - is a prophetic witness in an age that is hostile to fidelity.

To use an old cliché "some of my best friends" are priests and deacons, both celibate and married. They are all living their vocation with dignity and holiness. Within that community of celibate and married priests, there are different kinds of ministry, in the one priesthood of Jesus Christ. The Eastern Church, both Catholic and Orthodox, 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 there is an unbroken tradition of admitting both celibate and married men to candidacy for 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)

We now have married men within the body of Catholic clergy, deacons and priests.  We must learn from this fact and trust that the Lord is behind it. At the foundation of both consecrated celibacy and sacramental marriage is a call to live the nuptial mystery. The consecrated celibate does so in an immediate and prophetic way, while the married man does so in a mediated way, through their chaste love with one woman and the couple's openness to life. Both responses have a prophetic dimension as well as a pastoral one.

If, as Edward Peters and others including Fr. Ray Ryland assert, the Latin Code of Canon Law raises impediments to this lived experience of a married diaconate or a married priesthood which allows for the sexual expression of married love, there is a serious need for a clarification of Canon #277. 

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; there truly is an "ontological" change that occurs at ordination. My life was turned upside down and has never been the same. I believe there is room in the Catholic Church, East and West, for a celibate and a married clergy, deacons and priests. Both consecrated celibacy and consecrated Christian marriage are a response to the invitation to holiness and a gift to the whole Church because they both participate in the one nuptial mystery revealed in Jesus Christ.

The prophetic witness of 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 mystery that marriage also reveals, but in a unique and prophetic way.

I hope that the discussion raised by Canon lawyer Edward Peters reaches Rome. With the coming infusion of married men serving as Priests it is time for a clarification of Canon #277 which dispels confusion. If that clarification were to result in a direction from the Magisterium of the Church asking married men serving as Deacons to embrace marital continence, my wife and I would prayerfully follow the Church. In so doing we would have the witness of many couples who have done the same to follow. One of the recent examples was Fr Eddie Doherty and Catherine de Hueck Doherty, co-founders of the Madonna House Apostolate. Their story, contained in "The Life of Eddie Doherty" is well worth reading. 

However, I expect that the continued work of the Holy Spirit in bringing about the full communion of the One Church will lead to something else, the recovery of the ancient practice of allowing both celibate and married men to discern whether they are called to ordered service as deacons or priests. As the witness of the Eastern Church has confirmed, such an approach has not lessened the respect for and embrace of consecrated celibacy among the clergy. It has, in fact, enhanced the whole Church.

Finally, this recent discussion on Catholic Deacons, celibacy, conjugal love, continence and chastity calls for a recognition and application of the principles of charitable disagreement among Christians. Edward Peter's article is a credible and scholarly work which deserves a serious and respectful response.

---


Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'


Copywriter 2015 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for March 2015
Universal:
Scientists: That those involved in scientific research may serve the well-being of the whole human person.
Evangelization: Contribution of women: That the unique contribution of women to the life of the Church may be recognized always.


Rosaries, Crosses, Prayer Cards and more... by Catholic Shopping .com


Comments


More U.S.

California chef creates unique way to save water during record drought Watch

Image of California chef creates unique way for

By Nikky Andres (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

In drought-stricken California, Chef John Cox of Sierra Mar eatery, came up with a new method for saving water. MUNTINLUPA, PHILIPPINES (Catholic Online) - On a remote location off Highway 1, where people can see the Pacific in Big Sur, at the top of the cliff, is the ... continue reading


Strange new desks promise to help students focus Watch

Image of Standing desks replace traditional seating desks.

By Nikky Andres (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Sedentary education is now being dismissed at Vallecito Elementary in San Rafael. MUNTINLUPA, PHILIPPINES (Catholic Online) - The elementary school's students are now standing in class, as the chairs were removed in four of their classrooms. According to one of the ... continue reading


Infant Exposure: Newborn Baby Rescued from a Dumpster Reunited with Hero Who Saved Him

Image of Officer Michael Buelna reunited with the baby he had saved from the trash, twenty five year old Robin Barton.

By Deacon Keith Fournier

Michael Buelna is a Police Officer in Santa Ana, California. In 1989 he heard a sound coming from a trash bin. When he looked closely, he discovered a newborn baby boy with his umbilical cord still attached. The child was only four hours old. He weighed four ... continue reading


Personal assistant to Mississippi Senator arrested for trafficking meth and date rape drugs Watch

Image of Assistant Fred Pagan was paid $160,000 in his Senate role last year, according to newspaper reports. The 49-year-old Pagan has worked for Cochran since he was 16 years old.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

A Mississippi Senator's personal assistant has been charged with trafficking drugs from China to use as payment for sexual favors. An investigation was launched after police seized a package on April 9 with over a kilo of the date rape drug GBL addressed to ... continue reading


Oregon bakers who refused to make lesbian wedding cake get $100K from online fundraiser Watch

Image of Melissa Klein and her husband Aaron disapprove of gay marriage for religious reasons. They refused to  make the cake for a commitment ceremony in June of 2013.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The bakery Sweet Cakes by Melissa, in the Portland suburb of Gresham, made international headlines when they refused to make a wedding cake for a lesbian couple two years ago. The bakery was fined $135,000 -- $100,000 was raised on an online fundraising page ... continue reading


The Obama Administration to bring waves of immigrants to refugee settlements in the United States Watch

Image of You could look for clues if you're community is selected for immigration settlements, says WND.

By Talia Ramos (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The Obama administration is no less than discreet. From the "Strengthening Communities by Welcoming All Residents: A Federal Strategic Action Plan on Immigrant and Refugee Immigration" report from the White House Task Force on New Americans, certain clues and signs ... continue reading


Lifting the Christian flag on Georgian government grounds raises concerns Watch

Image of

By Talia Ramos (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

After seeking legal recommendations, Cochran, Georgia was advised not to raise the traditional Christian flag outside City Hall. However, the city council decided to determine this through votes that eventually turned in favor of lifting the flag. The flag raising is ... continue reading


California's extreme drought causes rodents to raid homes Watch

Image of

By Talia Ramos (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Rodents are being forced to forage into houses and residences for water to survive during the high temperature in California causing an extreme drought. The rats are going through various lengths and pushing themselves into small holes just to get some food and water. ... continue reading


It just might be the largest eruption ever! Fire in the belly - much more magma underneath Yellowstone volcano than thought Watch

Image of The recently discovered magma reservoir alone has a volume 2.5 times that of the Grand Canyon. However, these new expanses do not mean that the two hellish hollows could overflow the Grand Canyon with molten rock.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

A research group, using seismic technology to scan Yellowstone National Park's depths has made a literally earth-shaking discovery. Yellowstone's magma reserves are many magnitudes greater than previously thought, making the notion of an eruption far more ... continue reading


Islamic State's seduction, recruitment of Americans under scrutiny Watch

Image of At least 25 Probable American recruits have been detained since January.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

U.S. prosecutions of would-be recruits to Islamic State has grown exponentially. ISIS has used both brutality and perceptive propaganda to attract members worldwide, in ways that are far more sophisticated than al-Qaeda and other jihadist adherents. LOS ... continue reading


All U.S. News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Acts 11:19-26
19 Those who had scattered because of the persecution ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 87:1-3, 4-5, 6-7
1 [Of the sons of Korah Psalm Song] With its ... Read More

Gospel, John 10:22-30
22 It was the time of the feast of Dedication in ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for April 28th, 2015 Image

St. Peter Chanel
April 28: In St. Peter Chanel, Priest and Martyr (Feast day - April 28) ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter