Vatican Press Office issues clarification on Anglicans and celibacy

From the site of Holy See Press Office:

CLARIFICATION BY THE DIRECTOR OF THE HOLY SEE PRESS OFFICE, FR. FEDERICO LOMBARDI, S.I., ON SPECULATIONS ABOUT THE CELIBACY ISSUE IN THE ANNOUNCED APOSTOLIC CONSTITUTION REGARDING PERSONAL ORDINARIATES FOR ANGLICAN ENTERING INTO FULL COMMUNION WITH THE CATHOLIC CHURCH

There has been widespread speculation, based on supposedly knowledgeable remarks by an Italian correspondent Andrea Tornielli, [I find it interesting that they mention Tornielli by name.  Tornielli was also the vaticanista who spoke about the propositions made by the Cong. for Divine Worship to the Holy Father after their plenary session.] that the delay in publication of the Apostolic Constitution regarding Personal Ordinariates for Anglicans entering into full communion with the Catholic Church, announced on October 20, 2009, by Cardinal William Levada, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, is due to more than "technical" reasons. According to this speculation, there is a serious substantial issue at the basis of the delay, namely, disagreement about whether celibacy will be the norm for the future clergy of the Provision.

Cardinal Levada offered the following comments on this speculation: "Had I been asked I would happily have clarified any doubt about my remarks at the press conference. [You have got to see one of these press conferences, btw.  The reps chosen by the Holy See usually eat up most of the conference reading pre-distributed remarks leaving little time for questions.  Then many journalists make speeches instead of asking anything substantive.  And often direct questions are brushed off.  So... perhaps the culture of the press office needs to change a little.] There is no substance to such speculation. No one at the Vatican has mentioned any such issue to me. The delay is purely technical in the sense of ensuring consistency in canonical language and references. The translation issues are secondary; the decision not to delay publication in order to wait for the ‘official’ Latin text to be published in Acta Apostolicae Sedis was made some time ago.

The drafts prepared by the working group, and submitted for study and approval through the usual process followed by the Congregation, have all included the following statement, currently Article VI of the Constitution:

§1 Those who ministered as Anglican deacons, priests, or bishops, and who fulfill the requisites established by canon law and are not impeded by irregularities or other impediments may be accepted by the Ordinary as candidates for Holy Orders in the Catholic Church. In the case of married ministers, the norms established in the Encyclical Letter of Pope Paul VI Sacerdotalis coelibatus, n. 42 and in the Statement "In June" are to be observed. Unmarried ministers must submit to the norm of clerical celibacy of CIC can. 277, §1.

§2. The Ordinary, in full observance of the discipline of celibate clergy in the Latin Church, as a rule (pro regula) will admit only celibate men to the order of presbyter. He may also petition the Roman Pontiff, as a derogation from can. 277, §1, for the admission of married men to the order of presbyter on a case by case basis, according to objective criteria approved by the Holy See.

This article is to be understood as consistent with the current practice of the Church, in which married former Anglican ministers may be admitted to priestly ministry in the Catholic Church on a case by case basis. With regard to future seminarians, it was considered purely speculative whether there might be some cases in which a dispensation from the celibacy rule might be petitioned. For this reason, objective criteria about any such possibilities (e.g. married seminarians already in preparation) are to be developed jointly by the Personal Ordinariate and the Episcopal Conference, and submitted for approval of the Holy See."  [So... they are deciding not to decide until they have to decide?  It is only a matter of time before this question is raised in a concrete case.]

Cardinal Levada said he anticipates the technical work on the Constitution and Norms will be completed by the end of the first week of November.

So much to say… so little time and energy.

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33 Responses to Vatican Press Office issues clarification on Anglicans and celibacy

  1. Norah says:

    As someone said on another blog: Case by case basis – annulments – no one refused.

  2. becket1 says:

    Does all of these quick ecumenical actions by Pope Benedict, with the Anglicans, Orthodox, and SSPX have to do with the greater threat. The spread of Islam!. If it does, than he has his work cut out for him. Islam could be the final death blow to most liberal protestant denominations as we know it. Do the liberal Christian denominations really think they can combat Islam, with their liberal faith. Can they defend themselves?. We live in the 21st century, but most fanatical Islamists will literally “die” for their faith and beliefs. Will liberal Christians do the same. Or will they run and hide, and take up athieism. And what does Islam think of Athiests. Infidels!. Yes. I think there is a different side to this whole story than what we really think. Is Pope Benedict XVI trying to prepare the Christian world for something more threatening. What is the real threat?. I ask!. Islam or Athiesism. And which should we prepare for.

  3. Singing Mum says:

    Becket1, it is clear that Islam is on the move, and has always been a threat to Christians, indeed all non-Muslims.

    I agree that BXVI is moving also to strengthen Christianity through authentic ecumenism with stronger separated communities. And I hope this will latest act of generosity will serve to bolster Christianity in Britain and Africa, wherever Anglicans are in good number and struggling. It is no coincidence that where Christianity falters Islam makes advances.

    You are right, too, about the rise of secularism. The Church in our time is wrenched between Islam and secularism. Catholics need to regain their identity to withhold the pressure and advance the Gospel.

  4. Oneros says:

    “As someone said on another blog: Case by case basis – annulments – no one refused.”

    Yup. It’s sort of a way of “saving the appearances” it seems. The “theoretical” standard wont change, but in practice it will be a very different playing field when it comes to the possibility of married priests.

  5. Mark01 says:

    The fact that the press office didn’t anticipate this question being raised BEFORE they held the press conferences is very telling. What is the deal with the Vatican Press Office, this sort of thing seems to happen ALL THE TIME. Are they so isolated within their own knowledgable community that they think these sorts of things are just obvious to the rest of us and don’t need any explanation. They ALWAYS seem to be clarifying themselves on things that they should have made clear from the beginning. Am I wrong?

  6. Agnes says:

    “…admission of married men to the order of presbyter on a case by case basis, according to objective criteria approved by the Holy See.”

    And what might those be? Care to clarify a little more?

    With all of these ecumenical moves, the devil, they say, is in the details.

  7. robtbrown says:

    “As someone said on another blog: Case by case basis – annulments – no one refused.”

    Yup. It’s sort of a way of “saving the appearances” it seems. The “theoretical” standard wont change, but in practice it will be a very different playing field when it comes to the possibility of married priests.
    Comment by Oneros

    Disagree. The Catholic annulment mills have been a diocesan phenomenon, and mostly in the US.

    Consider this: Would a married man spend the time and money to study for the priesthood without knowing whether he would be turned down because he was married?

  8. Jacob says:

    The constitution is supposed to be released the first week or so of November. I suppose all will be clarified there.

  9. robtbrown says:

    The constitution is supposed to be released the first week or so of November. I suppose all will be clarified there.
    Comment by Jacob

    It already has been clarified in the statement by the press office: Celibacy will be the rule in an Anglican ordinariate.

  10. Lee says:

    “Are they so isolated within their own knowledgable community that they think these sorts of things are just obvious to the rest of us and don’t need any explanation. They ALWAYS seem to be clarifying themselves on things that they should have made clear from the beginning. Am I wrong?”

    This reminds me of Robt Begnini’s comments about his time in the seminary: “Some people know everything. But that’s all they know.”

  11. Rien says:

    Celibacy is a discipline not a dogma. Many early bishops were married so that too is a discipline that could change someday.

    As some pointed out, this is turning into less the pivotal event than some initially expected. It looks like few will come over and, in time, this could fade as the AU has faded in the US. being stillborn with just 5 or 6 parish groups after more than 20 years.

    It is a shame Rome did not agree to relax the celibacy discipline for the Ordinate. This clarification should have been clear up front. It got hopes up by some Anglicans that are now dashed and some of these are resentful now about the whole process.

  12. How Benedict’s initiative of offering Personal Ordinariates to Anglicans is accepted is not obvious at all, despite Rien’s pessimism. That American Anglicans haven’t, for the most part, acclaimed this move is no surprise at all to anyone who knows about the Continuing Anglican Church or the make up of the new ACNA; but as has been noted repeatedly, this initiative is a response to many Anglicans requests, and those were primarily from the Traditional Anglican Communion and Forward in Faith-UK.

    AS for the Anglican Use in the U.S. being still born, that’s hardly true, though it is small. In the beginning (early 80s) there were six parishes (SC, 4 in TX, NV), two of which did not last; but later in the 80s another was raised in TX. In the mid 90s we had one set up in Boston; in 2005 one in PA; in 2008 one in MO; in 2009 we have had an order of sisters received in MD; and another will likely be set up in 2010 in AZ. All along, priests have been received via the Pastoral Provision, and while they have not brought along communities, they are ministering in the Church; in addition, there have been Episcopalians coming into the church who have not set up Anglican Use congregations, but there has been a steady stream.

    This new concept of Personal Ordinariate, should the current AU parishes become part of it, would revitalize that, as AU parishes could not be kept out at the whim of a diocesan bishop as is now the case. Plus, the slow growth of the AU in the US has at least allowed those bishops who have become familiar with the parishes the chance to become suitably impressed with the contributions such parishes make to the local church. Anglicans receive much when they enter the communion of the Church, but they do not come empty-handed.

    The “clarification” says celibacy will be the norm; but that there can be exceptions. How it will work in practice is to be seen.

  13. robtbrown says:

    Celibacy is a discipline not a dogma. Many early bishops were married so that too is a discipline that could change someday.

    You’re right that it is a discipline, but it has been found to be very spiritually useful for priests in particular and the Church in general. And so I wouldn’t bet the farm on it changing.

    As some pointed out, this is turning into less the pivotal event than some initially expected.

    Mostly, it is pivotal for England.

    It looks like few will come over and, in time, this could fade as the AU has faded in the US. being stillborn with just 5 or 6 parish groups after more than 20 years.

    Those who want to become Catholics will become Catholics. IMHO, this is only happening because the liturgical state of the Church is so pathetic that it is an impediment for High Church Anglicans.

    It is a shame Rome did not agree to relax the celibacy discipline for the Ordinate.

    Why is it a shame? Celibacy is a valuable discipline.

    This clarification should have been clear up front. It got hopes up by some Anglicans that are now dashed and some of these are resentful now about the whole process.
    Comment by Rien

    If anyone’s hopes were raised that an Anglican ordinate would be exempt from the clerical discipline, then I’m afraid those hopes were the product of their own fantasies.

    BTW, I grew up an Episcopalian, and our pastor was celibate.

  14. stephenocist says:

    Friends,

    Obviously, having the press conference before the text of the apostolic constitution could be released was less than ideal, but we should ask ourselves whether the Vatican was ever unclear. Anglicans, particularly Archbishop Hepworth of the Traditional Anglican Communion, said that there would be ongoing dispensations and this was picked up in places like America, Commonweal, and the New York Times and, in some places used as an argument for a married priesthood in the entire church, but did anyone from the Holy See ever imply that there would be an ongoing provision for married clergy?

    Here’s what Fr. Stetson, Delegate for the Pastoral Provision, said to Zenit earlier in the week after the speculation began:

    “The specifics have not yet been made known on this question. At the very least I would assume that the seminarians would have to be both married and studying in an Anglican seminary at the time they sought to enter into full communion, and then continue studying for the priesthood in a Catholic seminary. They would have to be dispensed from the norm of celibacy on a case-by-case basis by the Holy See. Future seminarians would have to be celibate.”

    I’d read the ample Romanitas in the Vatican press statement as an attempt to allow those who’ve stated that there will be ongoing dispensations to back down gracefully.

  15. Jordanes says:

    Many early bishops were married so that too is a discipline that could change someday.

    Yes, they were married, but celibate — when they became bishops, they had to vow to cease marital relations with their wives.

    St. Gregory of Tours History of the Franks includes an anecdote about a bishop’s wife who succumbed to the Devil’s prompting and convinced her husband to have relations with her. Afterwards they were overcome by the guilt of what they had done and separated, she doing penance for her sin by becoming a nun.

  16. Rachel says:

    Thanks for that summary, Steve Cavanaugh– I’ve been wondering about AU parishes in the US.

  17. Rien says:

    Jordanes, Paul said that a bishop had to be “the husband of one wife” (1 Tim. 3:2, 4-5).

    He preferred celibacy for himself but recognized it a hard discipline and did not impose it de riquer on all presbyters and bishops.

    In the early church some bishops (as well as priests) were celibate, some were not.

    It wasn’t till hundreds of years later that celibacy was imposed totally on the Latin church.

    Clearly, according to Scripture and the early church, married non-celibate priests and bishops are well within the praxis of orthodox Christianity.

  18. Dave N. says:

    Now that the initial furor has passed, I think that those who had hoped for a dramatic ingathering of Anglicans will end up being disappointed. However, the Apostolic Constitution will, in the long term, reinforce what’s already happening in Anglican Use parishes. Those people who have stuck with he Anglican Use might object to its being characterized as “stillborn.”

    I think this all will be much more of a “brick by brick” thing than “Extreme Makeover: Home Addition” where everything gets worked out in less than an hour. Even Rome wasn’t built in a day.

  19. GOR says:

    “I find it interesting that they mention Tornielli by name…”

    Yes, that was a departure from previous practices – by Fr. Lombardi and the Vatican Press Office. Usually such references refrained from mentioning names. This may be evidence of the Vatican’s greater attention to what is being said, and who is saying it, outside of official Church circles – as Paolo Rodari noted some time ago.

    I have a lot of respect for Tornielli and Rodari. To give Tornielli his due, on his blog he merely reports what Lombardi said – without trying to defend himself or justify his assertions.

    I have no doubt that the celibacy discipline centered heavily in determining the wording of the Apostolic Constitution – both as regards married Anglican clergy and the thousands of married Catholic priests who left the ministry either through formal laicization or de facto excommunication. There would have been concern that the Apostolic Constitution not be an occasion for “opening the floodgates”. Time will tell.

  20. robtbrown says:

    Rien,

    One interpretation of the text from Tim is that the bishop would be a widower having had only one wife. Another was given above, that if the bishop elect was married, he would then have to separate from his wife and be celibate.

    It is important to remember that not all cultures have the Protestant notion that happiness is best secured by marriage.

    And I don’t buy Early Church arguments. In those days communication was not very good, which made it very difficult for the Church to enforce discipline.

  21. Jordanes says:

    Rien said: Jordanes, Paul said that a bishop had to be “the husband of one wife” (1 Tim. 3:2, 4-5).

    See Robert Brown’s comment — this was understood to mean that you could not have had more than one wife in your lifetime (“the husband of one wife” = “married no more than once”), not that you had to be married in order to be a bishop, or that you could be a bishop as long as you weren’t a polygamist.

    He preferred celibacy for himself but recognized it a hard discipline and did not impose it de riquer on all presbyters and bishops.

    How do you know that?

    In the early church some bishops (as well as priests) were celibate, some were not.

    How do you know that?

    It wasn’t till hundreds of years later that celibacy was imposed totally on the Latin church.

    We are talking about bishops, not the priesthood.

    Clearly, according to Scripture and the early church, married non-celibate priests and bishops are well within the praxis of orthodox Christianity.

    Sorry, that’s not clear at all.

  22. robtbrown says:

    Jordanes,

    I didn’t say that the text from Tim was understood . . . I said that it COULD be interpreted . . . That is all that is necessarily to undermine rien’s argument.

    I mostly agree with your other comments, and let me add that the early Church wasn’t necessarily lily white. There was a lot going on then, and not all of it was good. I don’t deny the possibility of married bishops or clergy. On the other hand, IMHO, it would indicate not so much what the Church wanted but rather what could not be controlled.

  23. robtbrown says:

    One other point: A friend who had been Dean of the Law Faculty at the Angelicum and taught the course on the priesthood once told me that there were documents in the 5th or 6th century (I cannot remember which) that referred to the obligation to celibacy.

  24. Subdeacon Joseph says:

    The Latin Rite Church is the only Catholic Church where celibacy is mandatory for its priests. In all other Catholic Churches it is optional. It would be a shame to force Anglican Uniates to go against the greater tradition of having married priests in the Church. The Catholic Church outside of the Latin Rite has celibate priests but it is optional and not mandatory. There are pros and cons to having married and unmarried priests. There is no right or wrong way here. This is why all but one rite in the totality of the Catholic Church has celibacy optional for priests. You get balance this way. The call to celibacy and priesthood are distinct calls. One can have both and that is fine, but, usually not the norm in the Church.

  25. mpm says:

    Subdeacon Joseph,

    Fine, but the Anglicans broke with the Latin Church, and are a chip-off-the-old-block. The Eastern “Uniates” (with apologies to my Eastern Catholic friends) returned from the Greek Orthodox Churches, so have naturally retained their customs.

    Not that I have a dog in this hunt, I’m just saying….

  26. MichaelJ says:

    Subdeacon Joseph,

    I would be interested in an expansion of your statement that “There are pros and cons to having married and unmarried priests”.

    As a latin Catholic layman, perhaps I just do not see what seems to be obvious, but I quite honestly cannot think of one “pro” of a married priest nor one “con” of a celibate one.

  27. Subdeacon Joseph says:

    The pros of married clergy are: 1)It is the greater tradition of the Church which the Latin Rite currently stands outside of. 2)Increase of priestly vocations. 3)Priests having a sexual and sacramental life in matrimony. Marriage is a sacrament which aids in the process of theosis. 4)Understanding marriages and family life by being married. I know the arguments the Latin Rite espouses about how priests grew up in families…etc,and while this is true, it is not first hand knowledge. One can even study marriage in seminary like I have but it is never the same as living it. We can talk of the Eucharist but it can only truly be comprehended when it is consumed. Married clergy have always been better in the east in dealing with married people issues.

    The Anglican Church should have married clergy as should Rome. Rome stands apart from the rest of the Catholic Church here.

  28. Jordanes says:

    “This is why all but one rite in the totality of the Catholic Church has celibacy optional for priests.”

    And, it should also be mentioned, it is the largest rite, with by far the greatest number of priests, in which priests must be celibate and unmarried.

  29. Subdeacon Joseph says:

    Jordanes

    Size has nothing to do with this issue. Does Church Tradition and dogma depend on size? If it did then the Church should have been Arian if we follow a bigger is better logic. Celibacy and Priesthood have always been considered two distinct vocations. The Church at one time tried to enforce universal celibacy. The first to reject this discipline were the monastics! I can cite the counsel later if you wish. What God has made optional man should leave optional. One issue the protestants rightly criticize us for is that Holy Scripture allows for a married priesthood. In the east married bishops were done away with because a man could not be as effective of a husband and father as he should be and be a bishop. This is still the case today, and, it is now part of canonical interpretation that bishops should be monks. However the parish priest is not a bishop and never has been.

  30. Tom Ryan says:

    I can’t help but thing of the story of the Trojan Horse or the analogy with the Mariel boat lift from Cuba.

    From the Catholic Herald:

    http://www.catholicherald.co.uk/features/f0000489.shtml