Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Deacon Keith Fournier

1/21/2011 (3 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 (3 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'


© 2014 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for November 2014
Lonely people:
That all who suffer loneliness may experience the closeness of God and the support of others.
Mentors of seminarians and religious: That young seminarians and religious may have wise and well-formed mentors.



Comments


More U.S.

Fr. Randy Sly on Thanksgiving and Our Roots of Faith

Image of Ceremonies and periods of thanksgiving are woven through the entire tapestry of history. We find them in the Jewish Calendar of Feasts, in other world religions, in European cultures and native practices of North America, South America, Asia and Africa.

By Fr. Randy Sly

Thanksgiving Day has become a time when we watch parades and then take in large amounts of food and football. According to some calculations, 46 million turkeys-around 550 million pounds-will be consumed during Thanksgiving this year. But that's not how it began! ... continue reading


Thanksgiving Day: We are Still One Nation - Under God Watch

Image of The sincere sentiments expressed by this extraordinary leader, George Washington, should inform our response to all of the challenges we face today in the United States of America. We are still one Nation - under God. They should also inspire us to pray for great leaders to emerge in this our great hour of need. Leaders who can help us see this as an hour of opportunity and an invitation to reaffirm our reliance on God.

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

This week the people of the United States of America struggle to find a way through the trauma we are experiencing in the wake of the riots in Ferguson, Missouri. Too many self-appointed "experts" seem all too eager to tell us what divides us. However, even in ... continue reading


Following Ferguson shooting, police departments rush to adopt body cameras Watch

Image of The purchasing of body cameras by police departments nationwide has increased dramatically following the shooting of Michael Brown.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Whether you believe the story told by Ferguson police officer Daren Wilson, or by the family of Michael Brown, it is certain that the case has changed the face of law enforcement in America. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The use of body cameras by police ... continue reading


Catholic Shopping .com is about to have its biggest sale ever for Black Friday weekend!

Image of Sign up so you don't miss any deals during this special Black Friday weekend sale!

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

This weekend, Catholic Shopping .com is having an amazing sale with up to 70% off of selected items. These deep discounts will help you finish your shopping early, but be prepared, many of these sales will last just an hour or two and then the specials will be gone! ... continue reading


A Boston man has something new to be thankful for after he received a double arm transplant Watch

Image of Will Lautzenheiser, a professor of film production and screenwriting at Boston University had to undergo surgery to remove his arms and legs in 2011 after he came down with a life-threatening streptococcal infection.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

A Boston man who received a double arm transplant in October is making remarkable recovery, just in time for Thanksgiving. The best part, he says, is that he is able to hug his loved ones again. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Will Lautzenheiser became infected ... continue reading


Dreaded cartel overlord Alfredo Vasquez-Hernandez sentenced to 22 years in prison in U.S. Watch

Image of Top Sinaloa cartel thug Alfredo Vasquez-Hernandez has been sentenced to 22 years in prison in the U.S. for planning the delivery of more than 600 pounds of cocaine.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Top Sinaloa cartel thug Alfredo Vasquez-Hernandez has been sentenced to 22 years in prison in the U.S. for planning the delivery of more than 600 pounds of cocaine. Some of the damning evidence against him was provided by twin brothers Pedro and Margarito ... continue reading


Here's 3,000 reasons why Obama just made illegal immigrants more attractive to your employer Watch

Image of Due to a loophole in Obamacare, the president's new amnesty plans mean that employers who hire illegals don't have to cover them with insurance, and won't be fined for doing so.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

President Obama's new amnesty plan is going to have some drastic effects that most American's aren't aware of, one that may just get you kicked out of a job because of all things, Obamacare. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Under the Affordable Care Act, ... continue reading


Acknowledging Unknown Soldier over known soldiers: Over 1.2 million veterans lack health insurance Watch

Image of As a culture, many of us feel more comfortable honoring the tomb of the Unknown Soldier --

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

As many leave laurels at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier, the United States refuses to acknowledge the health and benefits of known soldiers. While most people assume that veterans automatically receive health care coverage through the Veterans Health ... continue reading


Ferguson in flames as policeman who shot, killed teenager found not guilty Watch

Image of Police claimed they came under heavy automatic weapon fire. Some buildings were left to burn because of the danger.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

People have responded to violence - with violence. After Police Officer Darren Wilson was been cleared of all charges in the shooting death of black teenager Michael Brown in August. His surrounding community of Ferguson, Missouri has responded with widespread ... continue reading


Priest in Ferguson reports deep mistrust between groups fueling tension Watch

Image of Police in Ferguson move detain a protester.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

A Catholic priest assigned to Ferguson, MO, spoke with Vatican Radio about the "festering" mistrust between the populace and police. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Vatican Radio shared an interview with Fr. Arthur Cavitt, a parish priest who was asked about the ... 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, Revelation 18:1-2, 21-23; 19:1-3, 9
1 After this, I saw another angel come down from ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 100:2, 3, 4, 5
2 serve Yahweh with gladness, come into his presence ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 21:20-28
20 'When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for November 27th, 2014 Image

St. James Intercisus
November 27: James was a favorite of King Yezdigerd I of Persia and a ... 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