QUAERITUR: getting around celibacy by leaving Church and coming back

From a reader:

For the sake of argument, couldn’t a married Catholic man, who wanted
to become a priest, simply get around the un-married rule by seeking
ordination in an Episcopalian/Anglican seminary and after ordination simply take advantage of John Paul II’s provision to Anglican clergy and be ordained as a Catholic priest?

Holy Church has already thought of that eventuality.

A Catholic who apostacizes and becomes a minister of some other group, and comes back into communion of the Church is brought back by the Church “ut laicus“, as a layman.  He will not be permitted to exercise even valid orders.

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39 Responses to QUAERITUR: getting around celibacy by leaving Church and coming back

  1. catholicmidwest says:

    I only have one word for this: SCUM.
    Okay, two words: CONNIVING SCUM.

    [Some people make mistakes and then repent of them later. But the Church has a practice in this regard which seems wise.]

  2. catholicmidwest says:

    I think it’s very wise that the church has made this law that a man cannot go out by means of Anglicanism and then migrate back married. And my first impression stands. Anybody who would try this despicable maneuver is nothing but SCUM.

  3. Sliwka says:

    In a simialr vein, what would be the state of one who was canonically a part of the Latin Rite, denied for a “switch” to the Byzantine Rite, aposticises to the Orthodox Church, and then re-enters into the Catholic Church— would their obligations and laws fall under the Latin or Byzantine jurisdictions?

    (pardon any ignorance of terms)

  4. TJerome says:

    I don’t if this person is “scum” since wanting to be a Catholic priest is laudable. However, conniving I would buy. I can fully understand why the Church would never want to reward an individual for doing so since it would undermine the discipline of celibacy in the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church.

    I wonder what would happen if an Eastern Rite priest of the Catholic Church was married and wanted to be granted the privilege of binating?

  5. Andrew says:

    wanting to be a Catholic priest is laudable

    Not always, not for everyone, and never if it is desired for the wrong reason.

  6. Tina in Ashburn says:

    Sliwka:
    I dunno…I’m guessing that being Orthodox is irrelevant since they are schismatics not in union with Rome. Any paperwork or sacraments etc done in union with Rome is what counts. My guess is they never stopped being under the Latin jurisdiction.

    As to the reader’s question posted by Father, are you kidding me? Isn’t that like betting on the mercy of God? Presumption? Like leaving the Church to marry someone, and putting oneself at risk of death in mortal sin, hoping ‘it will work out and we can get an annulment later…or maybe the divorced spouse will die..”.

    I mean really, do people think God can be fooled with these kinds of intentions?

  7. JARay says:

    I knew someone who thought of doing this.
    He died outside the Church!

  8. TJerome says:

    andrew, why is it not laudable? What could the wrong reason be that would make it not laudable? Celibacy is a discipline in the Latin Rite. The Eastern Rite of the Catholic Church permits married clergy. The Latin Rite permitted it for centuries. Look at the question I posed with regard to an already validly ordained Catholic priest in the Eastern Rite of the Catholic Church who is married. Is it “unlaudable” if he seeks to be allowed to celebrate the Latin Rites of the Catholic Church?

  9. “The Ents pay attention to every detail!” –Gandalf

  10. Trevor says:

    “In a simialr vein, what would be the state of one who was canonically a part of the Latin Rite, denied for a “switch” to the Byzantine Rite, aposticises to the Orthodox Church, and then re-enters into the Catholic Church— would their obligations and laws fall under the Latin or Byzantine jurisdictions?”

    You have to provide your baptismal certificate if you want to be accepted as a seminarian. If a Orthodox priest or any other minister comes goes to a Catholic vocations office, and shows them a Catholic baptismal certificate, then that’s going to raise some questions. If it can be shown that he abandoned the Catholic faith freely and as an adult, its an automatic impediment to Orders.

    And as a side note, sinfulness of this whole scheme. First, if you want to become a Catholic priest, then you probably believe that the Catholic Church is the true Church. So for you to undergo this scheme, you’d have to: 1) Abandon the faith you believe to be correct, 2) Receive Sacraments that you know to be invalid or at least illict, 3) Receive non-Catholic seminary instruction even that you know to be false.

    Either way, the amount of deception (both to yourself and others) is unbelievable. Such a man certainly lacks the maturity and character to be a priest (in any denomination). If there has been the case where one such individual slipped through the cracks (although I doubt it), then I think the Lord will have a few things to say to him on Judgment Day.

  11. Maltese says:

    And then there are those who were once Catholic, but left it because it was “inconvenient” for them. Indeed, to be a Catholic in today’s world can be hard. Contraception (a mortal sin) is a major hurdle for many, as is Chastity for some Priests. But, it is worth the struggle, because, in the end, we will finish the race, and have the Beautific Vision for eternity; which, in comparison, will make all the little struggles pale by way of comparison.

  12. Subdeacon Joseph says:

    For the record I know married men who have switched to the Byzantine Catholic Rite from the Latin Rite, and after a few years they went to seminary and were ordained deacons, then quietly ordained priests. Many Ukrainian and several Ruthenian bishops will ordain married men to the priesthood in America because the Latin discipline of celibacy is foreign to our beloved rite. Other times the bihop will ship the man to the old country, have him married, then ordained, and bring him back to the states.
    While I love and respect the Latin Rite its discipline of priestly celibacy is the ONLY rite in the Catholic Church that makes such demands. The Latin Rite stands outside of the greater tradition of the Church.

  13. Fr. Basil says:

    \\He will not be permitted to exercise even valid orders.\\

    I know at least one man who was a Latin seminarian, converted to Orthodoxy, was ordained a priest there, and is now an Eastern Catholic priest.

    There are others who were ordained as Eastern Catholic clergy, became Orthodox priests, and returned as Eastern Catholic clergy.

    I also know someone who was born, baptized, and raised in the Latin Church, became a Pentecostal along with the rest of his family (where they were rebaptized) and is now an Eastern Catholic deacon.

    \\2) Receive Sacraments that you know to be invalid or at least illict,\\

    The Catholic Church has NEVER said that Orthodox or non-Chalcedonian sacraments are either invalid or illicit, so why do you Trevor? In fact, there are mutually approved guidelines where Catholics of any sui juris church may receive the sacraments from a priest of a Non-Chalcedonian Eastern Church. (The Orthodox are a bit more persnickety in this regard.)

  14. Nan says:

    Subdeacon Joseph, Latin Rite Catholics have a greater freedom to change rites than do Eastern Catholics, at least according to a canon lawyer at my archdiocesan chancery.

    Fr. Basil, the question I would have re: the Pentecostal person is whether he was actually in the Latin Rite to begin with. How you’re raised and where you receive sacraments is immaterial to your sui juris church; by your logic (and that of my pastor), I’m a Latin Rite Catholic, thus the conversation with the canon lawyer. Canon law, however, makes me Ruthenian.

  15. Random Friar says:

    Someone asked about an Eastern-rite priest offering Mass as a bi-ritual priest in the Latin Rite. My understanding is that Rome and the Eastern Churches tend to be more protective from East to Rome than the other way around nowadays, to preclude undue Latinization, or even temptation to become more Latin than Eastern by numbers in fact, if not in law. As you can imagine, the Eastern Catholics in many places could easily celebrate a lot more Latin Rite Masses than native Church liturgies. In pursuing the good of more Latin Rite Masses, one could expose the Eastern Catholics to even more of a minority status.

    That said, there should be no problem with the Eastern Catholic priest offering Mass (Liturgy), and instructing the Latin faithful in the beauty of his own tradition. I think he could offer Latin Rite Mass, but there would have to be dispensations. I could be wrong (this is off the top of my head about a conversation long ago), so corrections, as always, welcome.

  16. Andrew says:

    TJerome:
    andrew, why is it not laudable?
    I said that it is not always laudable. For example if someone wanted to be a priest because he looked at it as an easy way of making a decent living. That would not be laudable. Or if he just wanted to be admired by his parents. One could think of thousands of reasons that would make the desire for priesthood not laudable at all.

  17. raitchi2 says:

    I do love that the Latin Church needs to put rules in place to protect itself from loosing vocations over celibacy . How much longer are we going to hold onto mandatory celibacy?

  18. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all of these dear and good people would do a bit of study before commenting? Here’s a nice reading list for starters:
    The Apostolic Origins of Priestly Celibacy by Christian Cochini SJ
    Celibacy in the Early Church by Stefan Heid
    Clerical Celibacy in East and West by Roman Cholij
    Priestly Celibacy Today by Thomas McGovern
    The Case for Clerical Celibacy by Alfons Maria Cardinal Stickler
    The Theology of Priestly Celibacy by Stanley L. Jaki
    and
    http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cclergy/documents/rc_con_cclergy_doc_01011993_chisto_en.html

  19. Dear Subdeacon Joseph,
    The Syro-Malabar, Syro-Malankara, and Ethiopian Catholic Churches sui iuris also have celibate clergy.
    The Latin tradition of celibacy — or rather continence — for major clerics, single or married, is the older discipline. The recognition of temporary continence for married clerics in the East is later (the second Trullan council, 691-692).

  20. Prof. Basto says:

    I think the question of one becoming Eastern Catholic is different from the original question, because there is no mandatory celibacy for priests in the Eastern Catholic Churches.

    The original question had to do with a (presumably Latin Rite) Catholic that becomes Anglican, then becomes an Anglican “priest”, then converts back to the Catholic Church (presumably re-entering the Latin Church). In that scenario, the person returning to the true Church wouldn’t be able to benefit from the norm in the Pastoral Provision that allows for Anglican “priests” converting to Catholicism to be ordained as Catholic Priests.

    The same rationale will probably apply to group conversions expected to take place under Anglicanorum coetibus.

    Priests of the “Anglican Use” that benefit from the Pastoral Provision are still Latin Church priests, bound by the Latin Code of Canon Law. In the Latin Church, there is an ancient, stable, laudable and vererable discipline of celibacy that developed over the centuries until its consolidation, that is praised by the magisterium of Popes and Councils (while the Eastern Catholics are allowed to retain their less demanding praxis). In the Latin Church, exceptions to the rule of celibacy (such as the exceptions made by the Pastoral Provision), are absolutely extraordinary and thus it is only right that strict conditions need to be imposed.

    Thus, anyone who before joining Anglicanism was already juridically incorporated into the Catholic Church (i.e., anyone that was at any point in the life baptized in the Catholic Church or received into it by proper Church authority), when he returns from Anglicanism to the Church (specifically returing to the communion of the Latin Church), cannot attempt to benefit from a norm that is totally exceptional and that is intended for Anglicans who, never before having been bound by the Church’s canon law in purely ecclesiastical matters (i.e., those not of divine law), join “for the first time”, so to speak, the Catholic Church.

    The Catholic who joins Anglicanism and then returns to the Church is not an Anglican joining the Church. He is a Catholic repenting from sin, from schism and from heresy and being restored to full communion. The Pastoral Provision, on the other hand, was intended to benefit people who were not Catholics until the point of leaving Anglicanism.

  21. Fr. Basil says:

    \\Fr. Basil, the question I would have re: the Pentecostal person is whether he was actually in the Latin Rite to begin with. How you’re raised and where you receive sacraments is immaterial to your sui juris church; by your logic (and that of my pastor), I’m a Latin Rite Catholic, thus the conversation with the canon lawyer. Canon law, however, makes me Ruthenian\\

    If canon law makes you a Ruthenian, then you are a Ruthenian. Period.

    The Deacon I’m thinking about has a Latino surname. It’s very doubtful he was ever Eastern to start with.

    My point is that, contrary to what Fr. Z said, people have been raised Catholic, left for whatever reason, been ordained in a Non-Catholic Eastern Church, and been received back into the Catholic Church in their orders. (The issue of celibacy was not being discussed here.)

  22. Trevor says:

    “The Catholic Church has NEVER said that Orthodox or non-Chalcedonian sacraments are either invalid or illicit, so why do you Trevor? In fact, there are mutually approved guidelines where Catholics of any sui juris church may receive the sacraments from a priest of a Non-Chalcedonian Eastern Church.”

    Father Basil,

    I went back to my post, and realized that I was not entirely clear. When I gave this hypothetical scenario, I mostly had the Anglican Church in mind (and in this case a man leaves the Catholic Church for an Anglican Church). In that case, the man could certainly be receiving dubiously valid Sacraments. I was certainly not insinuating that the Orthodox sacraments are invalid. As for the licitness part, I’ll also concede that I forgot about Canon 844. Although in the scenario I posited, where a Latin rite Catholic does this to get by celibacy, do you really think the conditions given in Can. 844 for licit reception of the sacraments would apply?

    And since you know of instances where men have skirted the celibacy rules, I’ll admit I was wrong in assuming this doesn’t happen. However, I stand by my final statement. I do think its despicable for someone to commit apostasy for the sole purpose of marrying and becoming a priest. Now you’ve mentioned cases where Latin Rite men switch rites and become Eastern Catholics. I don’t have a problem with this. Although I think its regrettable that the bishops who ordained these men to Orders didn’t respect the Latin rules on this matter. But for a man to abandon the Catholic Church for a non-Catholic group with full intention to return later as a priest…that says a lot about his character, and whether he’s a worthy candidate to receive Our Lord’s priesthood (which should never be based on lies).

  23. FWguy says:

    http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cclergy/documents/rc_con_cclergy_doc_01011993_bfoun_en.html

    Excellent essay which treats that even from the earliest days of the Church, the discipline of continence for married priests.

    Let us not forget the practice in the East of refraining from the conjugal act before offering the Holy Sacrifice. And be grateful that as Latin Catholics, with unmarried priests, we are able to approach the altar each and every day.

    Don’t forget about the profound spiritual significance and its relationship to the purity of the Sacrifice. Any priest, married or otherwise, open to this will certainly, by virtue of the grace of Orders, be beautifully enriched and experience an even greater closeness to the Lord. And any man aspiring to the priesthood ought to spend a lot of time in prayer and study if he finds this as a mere discipline, worthy of circumventing.

    Now the real discussion should be regarding whether or not Latin permanent deacons ought to be practicing continence before the Holy Sacrifice. (Makes the practice of involvement of the wife in the formation process a bit more significant…)

  24. visigrad says:

    It saddens me that so many seem to forget the GIFT OF CELIBACY. It is for the sake of the Kingdom!!! We often seem to fall back into focusing on self rather than sacifice of self. ( Which is called for in both sacraments). How about all of those men who want both orders and matrimony stay in the Eastern Church. And those who prefer to sacrifice family for the sake of the Kingdom stay in the Latin Church.

  25. Fr. Basil says:

    \\It saddens me that so many seem to forget the GIFT OF CELIBACY\\

    Not all are give this. It would not be imposed in the Latin Church were it a gift.

    \\ But for a man to abandon the Catholic Church for a non-Catholic group with full intention to return later as a priest…that says a lot about his character, and whether he’s a worthy candidate to receive Our Lord’s priesthood (which should never be based on lies).\\

    But this was not the case in the examples I gave.

  26. Sliwka says:

    I did not mean to open up a bag of worms with my East/West questions. I didn’t mean for the intent to receive the Holy Orders, but just as a lay person who wished to change his/her sui juris Church.

    Although it appears from the comments above that you would re-enter the Church in the Rite from which you left.

  27. visigrad says:

    \\It saddens me that so many seem to forget the GIFT OF CELIBACY\\

    “Not all are give this. It would not be imposed in the Latin Church were it a gift.”

    The vocation is not imposed…..gifts are not imposed….all we receive from God is GIFT but we must choose to accept the gift…as HE gives it. I do not see the difference between monogamous marriage and celibate priesthood.

    Can anyone explain to me why the Eastern Church maintains celibacy for their Bishops if celibacy is such a problem ?

    I also would like to hear from some of thosee joyously celibate priests out there >>>>

  28. digdigby says:

    My priest doesn’t go home at the end of the day to his ‘real’ family.

  29. Visigrad,
    There are many people in the world who are single, by choice or not by choice, who are also called to live a life of chastity in complete continence. It may be someone who never found a suitable husband or wife, or someone who suddenly loses a spouse, or a person in some other circumstances. GIFT or NO GIFT, such single persons are to live in continence according to the teachings of the Church. Yes, there are those who seem to have received a special gift from God to live in continence with serenity, but for others it remains simply a basic duty of one’s state in life.
    Most of the Latin diocesan priests I know live their vocation (which includes a voluntary commitment to life as a single person after many years of preparation) quite well, even joyously at times, with some who clearly have been blessed with a special grace of continence, and a small number of others who struggle along like the rest of the unmarried devout Catholics in the world — as best as they can. It is hard to say which is the more edifying!
    The answer to your question about bishops of the Eastern Catholic Churches will be found in the books I mentioned in a post above. It is a worthwhile area of study, since these issues seem of particular concern to you.

  30. visigrad says:

    “Most of the Latin diocesan priests I know live their vocation (which includes a voluntary commitment to life as a single person after many years of preparation) quite well, even joyously at times, with some who clearly have been blessed with a special grace of continence, and a small number of others who struggle along like the rest of the unmarried devout Catholics in the world — as best as they can. It is hard to say which is the more edifying!”

    I agree….all the priests I know live mostly joyous lives…..however that joy does not negate the struggle. We all struggle, some more than others, no matter the vocation to which He calls us. My point really is that these Roman priests made a free act of the will to remain celibate…..and God gives them the grace, as needed, to live that vocation just as He grants grace to the married couple to remain monogamous and the single person to remain chaste. Some of the comments herein would have one believe that these poor Roman priests have been forced to forego matrimony. I personally know many priest who have stated quite the contrary.
    I will check out your referrences…..Thanks

  31. priests wife says:

    YUCK- Some men really might feel called to both- but this is a lousy way of going about it. You can’t have everything- and LEAVING THE CHURCH to ‘get what I want’ is horrid.

    My husband (Byzantine Catholic and from the old country) always felt called to both- but he is from a country where celibate priests are in the minority. Here in the US especially, the married priesthood is so rare even with the Eastern Churches- it shouldn’t really even be on the wave length of a Roman rite man.

    In any case- there really aren’t that many convert Western-rite priests. In the Western rite archdiocese where my husband has bi-ritual faculties- there are 900+ priests and one convert priest.

    I’m afraid to read the middle comments- as I respect the discipline of centuries with Roman-rite priestly celibacy, I hope all of your readers can respect 2,000 years of our Eastern traditions as well

  32. priests wife says:

    Diddigby- about going home to his ‘real family’- usually, the priest’s family is in the church with him and the rest of the community- they are all family- while I appreciate the gift of celibacy (our minks are examples of amazing love)- many times- after all the theological debates- it just comes down to- “I want MY priest to MYSELF- I like that he depends on us and needs us. ”

    For example, the celibate priest before my husband was given a nice car by a group of the people. When we came on scene, with an old van and a chevy cavalier with 250,000 miles- no exaggeration- the same group of people specifically said- you don’t need a car- you’re married! (?????) So they didn’t feel like they NEEDED to support this independent guy.

    oh- and the married sex thing and babies saying ‘daddy’ to the priest- people get grossed out.

  33. priests wife says:

    yikes- monks- NOT minks

  34. catholicmidwest: I think you should repent of these comments…
    that is rash judgment as its best; it’s a horrible judgment at its worst.
    SCUM?
    Come on.
    Let’s get some perspective here.
    Married priests aren’t the worst thing in the world, yeah?
    We’ll never have women priests…so lighten up, please?

  35. digdigby says:

    The ‘married priest’s’ obedience is seriously impaired and confused – perhaps not in day to day duties but in extreme situations.

  36. Supertradmum says:

    It has been my belief and to some extent, for some counselors and spiritual directors, that if a young, Latin Rite man is considering the seminary, but has strong feelings that he should marry, that this is simply a sign that he does not, in fact, have a vocation. God does not contradict Himself, in our theology and in Revelation, and therefore, for a Latin Rite man to pursue the priesthood, he would most likely chose the discipline of celibacy. We in the LR have not the example of priest’s wives, as in the Byzantine Rite, and the difference is greater than one would think. How many single women out there in the Latin Rite have ever seen the type of dedication and sacrifice of one’s family a Byzantine priest must make?

  37. Subdeacon Joseph says:

    Dear Magdalene,

    As a married priest I support celibacy (I’m no longer a subdeacon). The East has a thriving monastic tradition, and the monastic tradition comes from the East originally. It has often been the monks who supported the married priesthood too. I lived as a monastic foe two years and decided to become a married parish priest. We too have celibate parish priests and recognize this gift. However, we also recognize that a priest having a sacramental relationship with a wife can enrich his priestly ministry.

  38. Mark R says:

    Is celibacy that big a deal?
    Hungary and Slovakia have Catholics of both the Roman and Greek rites. Very, very few Roman rite young men change to the Greek rite in the hopes of getting on the marriage track before orders. Why? Fasting restrictions are much more frequent and strenuous in the Greek rite.

  39. Dear Father Joseph,
    Yes, all of the married priests I know (Easterners or the small number of Latins) greatly appreciate priestly celibacy and are among its strongest advocates. The West also has (had…) a thriving monastic tradition, which, according to some scholars, arose independently and spontaneously — not merely “imported” from the East (or Egypt, technically “Eastern” for the Church). There are many ways a priest’s ministry can be enriched, but along with having a family come other issues, not the least of which is appropriate financial support. On the other hand, the present debate in some quarters about scrapping celibacy is a response to our times, in which a priest is all too often parked at a parish alone, more a clerical bachelor than the father of the Christian community. On Sundays the parishioners go home to their families after Mass and the lone priest of the parish…goes back to the rectory to fix himself a sandwich and watch television.