The Canonical Defender responds to a claim about the ordination of deaconesses

The Canonical Defender, Dr. Ed Peters, has on his fine blog about canon law again drilled into an aspect of the question of women deacons.

Further re female ordination to diaconate
by Dr. Edward Peters

I saw the recent comments here and here of Msgr John Alesandro—an accomplished canonist—in support of ordaining women to the diaconate. I disagree with him on the prospects of women’s ordination but, because some of Alesandro’s comments were directed against a claim that sounds similar to mine, I write to make sure that his defeat of that claim is not parlayed by others into a refutation of mine.  [Well said.]

Alesandro responded to the following claim: “There is no possibility that women will ever be ordained to the diaconate because canon law forbids it” (emphasis added). Of course he responded negatively to that claim: the fact that canon law forbids women’s ordination is—I won’t say irrelevant, but—certainly one of the weakest arguments against women’s ordination available. Canonical history is replete with examples of actions illegal in one generation, but legal in another. [NB] Rejection of what amounts to a purely positivistic [rooted mainly in law, by "fiat"] argument against women’s ordination is sound.
But, three things need noting:
canon law does not determine, but rather, upholds doctrine and theology; I base my rejection of the possibility of women’s ordination, even to the diaconate, on my understanding of the theology of Orders; Alesandro and I apparently disagree about that theology, but we agree that theology is ultimately where this issue must be settled;
• many canonical institutes have changed dramatically over the centuries, but the more closely institutes are tied to doctrinal points touching, say, the nature of a sacrament, the less they change; the enduring, strongly negative, even penal, stance of canon law against women’s ordination tends far more against the radical possibility of women’s ordination than for it;
• the current norms against women’s ordination (chiefly in c. 1024) mean that any current attempts at ordaining women—irrespective of women’s (alleged) ontological capacity for Orders—are utterly null, that is, they are of no sacramental effect in the Church. [That is a very tall cliff to overcome.]
Thus, Alesandro and I agree on the first point, I think that he would grant the plausibility of my second, and I am sure we agree on the third.

Not. Going. To. Happen.

UPDATE

Peters follows up with a post about the reporter who had contacted him and then wrote the story to which the canonist mentioned above later responded.   Good reading!

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53 Responses to The Canonical Defender responds to a claim about the ordination of deaconesses

  1. Clinton R. says:

    So Father Alesandro is in favor of women deacons? For the good of the Church? What about priestly vocations?! We need to encourage faithful MEN to the priesthood. No priests, no Mass. No priests, no confessions. The modernists never quit, do they? Enough with the girl altar boys, EMOHC’s, and this ridiculous notion of women deacons. No wonder the Faith is dying outside of the traditional communities. The modernists desire to water down the Faith, and the teachings of the Holy Church just to make some people happy. After all, that is what is most important, making people happy.

  2. TNP says:

    “Not. Going. To. Happen.”

    Thanks be to God!

  3. Bryan Boyle says:

    Won’t stop the desperate grasping at straws and hyper-parsing of indefinite articles to try and justify, through linguistic gymnastics, that which can never be.

    You know, like debating what the meaning of the word “is” is.

  4. Phil_NL says:

    Academic discussion can sometimes move into territory that is highly unrealistic – but at least then people normaly realise it is unrealistic (or, in father’s words, “Not. Going. To. Happen.”)

    Just to make the comparison, just realise how realistic the prospects are that the Roman Rite will allow married priests (other than those married before conversion). Everyone with just an ounce of realism will have to admit that won’t happen either in our lifetimes. And that is an issue that is far, far less problematic, as there are no theological impediments to ordaining married men (as witnessed by the occasional exception when anglicans swim the Tiber, or the standard practice of the Eastern rites within the Catholic Church). There are only good reasons to stick to celibacy, but it is an obligation that could conceivably be set aside if there are better arguments that point in the other way. No new theology is needed. And even that kite isn’t going to fly, period. Then how on earth can some still think that female ordination has even the most remote bearing on reality?

  5. MikeJ9919 says:

    A question for those who know far more about canon law and theology than me: Can the Church make something invalid by declaring it illicit? Assuming that divine law and the nature of the sacrament of Holy Orders permit the ordination of women to the diaconate (a big assumption, I know, but necessary for the question), it seems that is what the Church would be accomplishing through canon 1024.

    Perhaps a shift in the nature of the question is necessary to illustrate. Orthodox ordinations have long been considered illicit but valid. (Correct me if I am wrong on this point. I know they are valid, but I don’t know if schism is fundamentally different than licity, due for example to the different legal systems of the Eastern Churches.) The theology on the fundamental validity of Orthodox ordinations seems fixed. Unless the Orthodox radically change the nature of the sacrament of Holy Orders, they will continue to validly consecrate bishops and ordain priests. But can the Catholic Church (being as it is the Universal Church) declare future Orthodox ordinations illicit and declare that – as a consequence – they will also be invalid? (I am not suggesting that the Church do so. I am simply asking whether it has the power to do so.)

    I am a lawyer (secular, not canon), and I am interested in this interplay between Church law and divine law. I ask this question solely from the standpoint of that curiosity. Please take it neither as an endorsement of women’s ordination to the priesthood or the diaconate, nor a criticism of current Church law on the subject.

  6. doodler says:

    I write as an ordained member of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham. It may be of interest for those of your readers who do not know it that all those married ex-Anglicans who have been ordained as Catholic priests have all had to make a solemn vow that, should their wife pre-decease them they will then be bound by the obligation to celibacy for the rest of their lives.

  7. frjim4321 says:

    • the current norms against women’s ordination (chiefly in c. 1024) mean that any current attempts at ordaining women—irrespective of women’s (alleged) ontological capacity for Orders—are utterly null, that is, they are of no sacramental effect in the Church. [That is a very tall cliff to overcome.]

    That seems to be taking things a bit too far. If ontologically a woman was capable of ordination to the diaconate (setting aside the issue of ordination to the presbyterate which to some here is a closed matter) and if she were to be ordained by a valid minister (bishop) it would seem that her ordination to the diaconate would be illicit but valid.

    For example, I don’t think we have an argument that the priesthood and other sacraments in the orthodox church are invalid; a man ordained to the priesthood in the orthodox church is validly ordained even though he is not subject to the code.

    Or, an ordained priest who has gone off the rails and founded his own breakaway church, even though his faculties have been revoked, celebrates mass validly but illicitly. It’s hard to believe that by itself the law has the power to invalidate a sacrament particularly if there is valid matter, proper form and a validly ordained minister.

  8. SonofMonica says:

    frjim4321: the issue of of women being ordained to the presbyterate is closed to all here, and all elsewhere, whether you and your so-called academic circles accept it or not.

  9. Dr. Edward Peters says:

    “Can the Church make something invalid by declaring it illicit?”

    No, but understand, those words reflect concepts that interact in some ways not available in the common law tradition. If you meant–and I think you did–can (not, always does, but can) the Church make sacramentally null an act by declaring it canonically invalid, the answer is Yes.

  10. Tim Ferguson says:

    If ontologically a woman was capable of ordination to the diaconate (setting aside the issue of ordination to the presbyterate which to some here is a closed matter)

    Fr. Jim, by “some here,” I presume you mean all of the Catholic readers of this blog, since the issue of the priestly ordination of women is a closed matter to all Catholics.

  11. Dr. Edward Peters says:

    Further to Tim Ferguson’s point, consider: A 15 year old Catholic boy is ontologically capable of marriage, but if he attempts marriage today, his marriage null per c. 1083. Thus my point that, irrespective of one’s ontological capacity for a sacrament, the Church can, and sometimes does, declare null the attempt to celebrate a sacrament in violation of her law. The Church does not do that with regard to, say, episcopal orders (c. 1382), but she does that with regard to ‘female ordination’.

  12. Suburbanbanshee says:

    The current state of theology is Pope John Paul II’s declaration that the Church was never granted by Jesus the power to ordain women. So it’s not so much that women are ontologically unable to receive ordination, as that the Church is (ontologically?) unable to ordain them, because she only has the powers that He granted her. So yeah, if people have issues with the Church’s powers to ordain, they need to take it up with her Bridegroom.

    They can also take up with Him His oppressive decision not to give men any of the more useful female body parts, such as the uterus, and instead sticking them with all this weird divergence of the sexes. It’s true that He also gave them some nice physical augmentations of strength, but no doubt these persons will not find it to be sufficient replacement for women’s ability to transform their bodies multiple times, etc.

  13. tonyfernandez says:

    What would be nice for the Church is some stability. We’ve already gone through a massive shift in the liturgy in the 60′s and 70′s. The shock from that has lasted quite a while. And it’s not just that. The Liturgy of the Hours was changed, deacons now can be married, EMHC’s are used way more, Communion in the Hand, ripping apart the altar rails, etc.

    Now I’m not saying that all of these things are bad. Some are obviously bad (the altar rails), and some have had ill effects but are not intrinsically bad (EMHC’s, CitH). The point is, the Church has been changing drastically for about 50 years now. It’s like a revolution occurred and it drove many people away from the church. The solution to bring people back isn’t to change things even more; the Church is to provide something different from the world. That something different is something sacred, something divine, something eternal. Instead of trying to finding something wrong with every little detail, can we just go back to our laws and do what we are supposed to do and celebrate the liturgy as the rubrics tell us to?

    Conservatism is great when upheld for the right reasons. Conservatism for its own sake is wrong, and much in the same way change for its own sake is wrong. Instead of agitating for women deacons, how about we agitate for bringing back altar rails and using incense? How about we agitate for more adoration? How about we agitate for the Rosary?

  14. MikeJ9919 says:

    Dr. Peters,

    That’s precisely what I meant. Your point about the 15 year and the sacrament of matrimony is a good one. So the Church cannot retroactively invalidate sacraments, but it can declare the conditions for their valid celebration in the first place. If those conditions are not met, the sacrament simply did not occur. Have I correctly summarized your argument?

    But if the Church had the authority to declare null – for example – Orthodox or other schismatic ordinations to the priesthood, why hasn’t it done so? It cannot invalidate past ordinations, but it could prevent a widening schism. If your response is that the Church may have the power to do so, but refrains because such an approach is impractical or unwise, that is an argument well taken. But the fact the Church has not taken such a step suggests that it may lack such power. I suggest that when a sacrament is celebrated by a minister with the proper capability (consecration of the Eucharist by a priest or ordination by a bishop) and in the proper form (wheat bread for the Eucharist and laying on of hands for ordination, etc.), that sacrament is inherently valid. That does not make it licit, and the act of celebrating it may in fact be a grave sin, but it is a sacrament nonetheless.

    There is some play in this analysis. Obviously the Church has the authority to declare what the proper form of the Sacrament is, though it must do so consistent with Scripture and Tradition. (The Church could not, for example, say that meat may be consecrated during the Eucharist.) And there are likely areas where the Church has broad authority to permit or to bar celebration of the sacraments. For example, with the example of the 15 year old boy, the Church has essentially declared that such a boy is not competent to consent. It is not that the Church has declared that only 16 year old boys are ontologically able to marry. Rather, it is proper consent that is required, and the Church acts as the gatekeeper for what is considered consent. But I don’t see how that applies here.

    Applying these considerations to the issue of deaconesses, if (and that is a BIG IF, about which I know little and take no position) women are ontologically capable of ordination to the diaconate, then it would seem the Church has no authority to declare null their ordination, so long as they are ordained by a proper minister using the form for any other deacon.

    I invite correction regarding any of my above assumptions or conclusions.

    On another topic entirely – I recently read your Q&A book on annulments and thought it was excellent.

  15. Oneros says:

    I agree with Mike and frjim.

    The fact that marriage is sometimes invalidated by a canonical defect is only because marriage is essentially a “contract,” and so we’re dealing with something whose very form is law, and thus certain types of fatal illicitity can also invalidate.

    But does ordination have the form of a contract, of an act of law?

    I have always been told that it does not, that marriage is unique among the sacraments in this regard.

    1024 nevertheless does say validity, but I wouldn’t think this could be taken as effecting a situation that doesn’t already exist. I doubt that was their intent. It could only represent a dogmatic “opinion” about what is already true enshrined in law. But if that opinion does not, in itself constitute an infallible decree, it could just be sloppy; perhaps by “sacred orders” they meant to say (as John Paul’s decree) “sacerdotal orders.” Or perhaps they just took the generalization to all three grades as granted.

    Either way, if this canon does not decide the dogmatic question in a totally irreformable way, I do not see how it could create invalidity de facto if it is not intrinsic.

  16. Oneros says:

    “I have always been told that it does not, that marriage is unique among the sacraments in this regard.”

    I should correct this statement. The same thing is true, in a sense, regarding confession and “faculties” too, because confession also has a “legal” form, that of a tribunal.

    But is ordination an act of the Keys? Of the “juridical” power that plays into confession and marriage? I’ve never heard that.

  17. Johnno says:

    Fr. Z: ““Not. Going. To. Happen.”

    - In reality, no. In make-believe-land, yes. And a sizable few are immigrating there.

    Clinton R.: “What about priestly vocations?! We need to encourage faithful MEN to the priesthood. No priests, no Mass. No priests, no confessions. The modernists never quit, do they?”

    - That’s okay. The modernists don’t believe priests are necessary anymore, so it’s no problem. See? All those women and laypeople are already doing everything anyway! The community (whatever’s left) can do everything. In any case, we didn’t need that superstitious medieval eucharistic thing… it was always just an obstacle to ecumenism and scientifially rational people anyway.

  18. The Masked Chicken says:

    The fact that marriage is sometimes invalidated by a canonical defect is only because marriage is essentially a “contract,” and so we’re dealing with something whose very form is law, and thus certain types of fatal illicitity can also invalidate.

    Marriage is not “essentially” a contract. The contract is the portal to an ontological change. The contract has certain parts and once they are fulfilled, the ontology changes and cannot be reversed. This is clear by what Jesus explained after talking about why Moses gave a grant of divorce (Matt 19:5 – 6):

    He answered, “Have you not read that he who made them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder.”

    Man and woman join together in the initial stages of the ” contractual portal” (and there can, of course, be defects in constructing the portal), but once they step through there is an ontological change. The defects in canonical prerequisites means that they failed to either build a correct portal to the ontology or they failed to step through. It is not because marriage is a contract, per se (that is a Protestant notion), but rather because it is a laboratory experiment in ontological change that requires certain reagents and reaction conditions. One can frame marriage questions equally well (at least some of them) in terms of theological “laboratory” reactions as in contractual analysis. Chemists (in some weird sense), should be just as useful in determining the lawfulness of marriages as lawyers – they do the same thing in this sacrament: determine whether a successful “reaction” occurred. The ontological change that defines the most common form of marriage (let’s leave Josephite problems aside) has specific teleological requirements. If those are not met, there is no change. The Church is the guardian of the teleology, not the ontology, so once a valid marriage is made, it can’t undo it. Most contracts can be abrogated; ontologies – not so much.

    The Chicken

  19. norancor says:

    It seems to me that Msgr. Alesandro is making his case within the prevailing conservative mindset of determinism and ultimately, ultramontanism. For those that might think this is crazy or that I do not know what I’m talking about, this is not a great doctrinal leap.

    The mindset by many laity and canonists that the Pope not just the supreme legislator but above canon law is a particular aspect of ultramontanism in the Church today, and the practical consequence is that canon law is implicitly seen as a product of determination of the will of the Holy Father. In one respect, because he is the final arbiter and author of the final product of canon law, this is true.

    Just because something is true does not mean it is unconditionally or absolutely true.

    Canon law reflects the moral and theological order which the Holy Father and all Catholics are bound to believe and comply with. As a consequence, it is my understanding that the Holy Father is at once above the law and liable to it. It is not for him, or anyone, to determine the law or the underlying moral and dogmatic theology of their own will and accord.

    I have known a canonist for many years, and even though I regard him a friend and practicing Catholic, his canonical opinion I do not trust because of his determinist philosophy about canon law. He would choose the Monsignor’s line of argument, but the problem is the underlying THEOLOGY.

    The Diaconate is a part of Major Orders within the Sacrament of Order. I do not like that some contemporary theologians are attempting to make the Diaconate separate from the Priesthood by giving it a latter day service orientation. That they are doing this is understandable because people have applied theology in such a poor fashion while explaining the reintroduction of the permanent Diaconate. It is merely a utilitarian servant role, or something more? I would argue from history that the Diaconate is more than that, and as part of the Sacrament of Order, it is theologically IMPOSSIBLE for a woman to be Ordained in any capacity, and INTRINSICALLY so.

    Just as Modernists make relative dogma and tradition, Catholics must resist the urge to make canon law an end to itself or an aspect of the will of the Holy Father or the Church in general. More important than canon law, it is not theologically possible for women to be Ordained, and all Catholics need to give soulful assent to the Church’s understanding of Order, along with understand the nature and function of canon law and how it is applied as a reflection of theology and morality, and not a method of personal determinism.

  20. Giuseppe says:

    @Phil_NL re. ordination of married men to priesthood

    There is a source of holy, devout, smart, savvy men out there to serve in the place of Christ at the altar at Mass. They are men who are married. The married priesthood seems to be fine in our sister Easter Christian churches and in our separated cousins’ Orthodox churches.

    I predict that the discipline of priestly celibacy will be ‘relaxed’ in the next 10-20 years. Young men will be welcome to continue the discipline. Several orders will still make this a requirement. (I suspect EF congregations will be especially attractive to men interested in continuing the discipline of celibacy.) But I really think that the married clergy is coming.

    Fear not, I’ve not been very successful with my predictions (as witnessed by my inability to predict each evening’s lottery numbers…)

  21. Dr. Edward Peters says:

    Counselor “Have I correctly summarized your argument?” Yes. As for the rest, I am leaving for the Synod and so cannot now parse the rest closely enough. Maybe next time? Best, edp.

  22. Phil_NL says:

    @guiseppe

    I thought that too 15-20 years ago. And others did so 20 years before that. And I can imagine that happening at some distant point in the future, should the vocation crisis become much worse still. (basically, outpace the possibilities for transport, or a much worse ratio between faithful and vocations) But as the above shows, it’s easy to predict such a thing way ahead of schedule. I’m now convinced that we’ll see no change on this front for at least another generation, and likely multiple generations. And again, that’s on an issue where there’s no real impediment. (and more in the way of necessity; we desperately lack priests, but no-one really needs deaconesses)

    If that doesn’t leave the deaconess-support-group scratching their heads, nothing will.

  23. Kurt Barragan says:

    There are many examples where a provision of canon law places a condition for the valid celebration of a sacrament. A few I can think of at the moment:

    - if a priest attempts to absolve an accomplice in a sin against the sixth commandment (except in danger of death), the law makes it clear that absolution will be invalid.

    - a priest can be the minister of the sacrament of confirmation if he possesses the faculty, granted either by the law itself or by the competent authority. If a priest attempts to confirm without that faculty, the confirmation will be invalid.

    - the law imposes certain obligations on Catholics (e.g. marrying according to canonical form) which, if not observed, will render the marriage invalid. The requirement of canonical form did not always apply and does not apply to a marriage between non-Catholics. [Marriage law offers plenty of other examples such as those diriment impediments which are not of divine law].

  24. robtbrown says:

    1. The ontological change that is an effect of ordination is the character that is imprinted on the soul. This character is the Sacramental power given to priests. It is not true of marriage–there is no character, thus no ontological change.

    2. The Church has not said that women are ontologically incapable of being ordained (as, say, a dog is ontologically incapable). Rather it says that the Church does not have the faculty to ordain them. For example, there is no ontological reason that bread and wine are valid matter for the Eucharist but that that popcorn or taco chips and saki are not. It is simply that Christ established the matter (Bread and Wine) at the Last Supper.

    3. Ordinatio Sacerdotalis does not exclude women from the diaconate. On the other hand, that ordination is predicated of the priesthood (which is limited to men) indicates that speaking of ordination of women to the diaconate makes no sense.

    4. I would urge those who think that celibacy will be relaxed not to bet the farm on their opinion.

    5. A few years ago I read an interview in a secular newspaper with a married ex Anglican clergyman who was now a Catholic priest. When he was asked about celibacy, he said: “A married priest is a bigamist.”

  25. joan ellen says:

    Women deacons and priests. It can’t happen in reality. In the La La land of today, yes. That word CHARACTER that RobtBrown just used is the reason, along with Church teaching and the example of Jesus. Women do not have the same character as men. Men are made in the image of Jesus the man. Women are not. So, it is, it seems, an intrinsic problem as norancor: “…and INTRINSICALLY so.” has said above. Forgive me, please, but we women have tried to be little men for so long in the temporal spere…well…it just doesn’t cut it in the spiritual sphere. Just as everything else is being adjusted to suit whims, so is this and we end up with upside down individuals, society, culture, and even Church…to some extent in our very midst. Women can be ordained till the cows come home. There will always be male Priests. The MOF and the MEF can be made into a hybrid, but their will always be a Tridentine Mass. Boys can marry boys and girls can marry girls, but marriage will always be between one man and one woman for the procreation that Jesus himself asked for when he said “increase and multiply.” The Church will always be there to give us “life in you”. That all seems like the stability we can all count on and need. LaLa land will end one day. God’s reality will not. Not to say that there can’t be a shortage of priests. “Japanese Catholics who had kept the Faith, hidden but vital, without priests, for over 200 years!” with the Japanese version of The Sinners Guide and the Rosary. We can also if need be. They set an example for us, perhaps.

  26. joan ellen says:

    Sorry for ranting Fr. The nonsense, on the whole earth, is, well, such nonsense. God’s reality should probably be God’s REALITY to impress on our souls the importance of Him.

  27. Giuseppe says:

    @robtbrown “A few years ago I read an interview in a secular newspaper with a married ex Anglican clergyman who was now a Catholic priest. When he was asked about celibacy, he said: ‘A married priest is a bigamist’.”

    HA! I don’t know how the Orthodox have managed it for the past millenium.

  28. robtbrown says:

    Giuseppe says:

    HA! I don’t know how the Orthodox have managed it for the past millenium.

    Not only Orthodox but also Eastern Rite Catholics.

    1. Orthodox priests don’t have the pastoral demands of Catholic priests. And by “pastoral demands” I don’t mean the bureaucratic falderol and never-ending counseling sessions that weigh down American parish priests.

    2. Only celibates can be bishops in the Orthodox Churches.

    3. I had a classmate who was a Ukrainian Catholic–good guy and good man. He took some time off before ordination and was married, after which he was ordained. His wife a doctor, they lived in Austria, and he was saying mass in various cities. A few years ago she left him for another doctor. Now he’s celibate.

    4. I don’t have big objections to relaxing celibacy obligations for the diocesan clergy, but I don’t think it’s going to happen. Further, one third of all the priests in the world are in religious institutes, and they would still be obligated to celibacy.

    I do, however, object to it being portrayed as a solution to the vocation shortage.

  29. The Masked Chicken says:

    Robtbrown,

    You wrote:

    .The ontological change that is an effect of ordination is the character that is imprinted on the soul. This character is the Sacramental power given to priests. It is not true of marriage–there is no character, thus no ontological change.

    Not, strictly speaking, true. There are different types and levels of ontology. The consummation within a marriage effects an ontological change on the flesh of the married couple (making them one – Jesus is clear about that – just as sodium and chlorine, when they unite to form sodium chloride no longer have the properties of either sodium or chlorine ), even though the accident of there being two spatially distinct people remains. The souls of a married couple, however, are not ontologically changed as are the souls of priests, deacons, etc., in the case of the sacrament of Ordination, so, in the case of marriage, at death, when the fleshly ontology is dissolved, the souls go their separate ways and are judged as separate entities.

    The Wikipedia article on ontology clarifies:

    Ontology (from onto-, from the Greek ??, ????? “being; that which is”, present participle of the verb ????, eimi “be”, and -?????, -logia: science, study, theory) is the philosophical study of the nature of being, existence, or reality, as well as the basic categories of being and their relations. Traditionally listed as a part of the major branch of philosophy known as metaphysics, ontology deals with questions concerning what entities exist or can be said to exist, and how such entities can be grouped, related within a hierarchy, and subdivided according to similarities and differences.

    Men are souls + bodies, so they have a composite ontology. Ordination changes the soul, marriage the body.

    That being said, my earlier point is that marriage is not “essentially” (i.e., ontologically) a contract. The contractual aspects of the marriage are a teleological precursor to the actual ontological change, which is the uniting of two flesh. The Church guards the teleology, but the ontology is safeguarded by God, who effects the ontological change.

    The Chicken

  30. The Masked Chicken says:

    Rats. My post got chewed up by the computer bear. Hope it is understandable.

    The Chicken

  31. VexillaRegis says:

    @robtbrown: Point 4 b is an often overlooked circumstance in the debate, even by catholics, who should know…
    There are a few married catholic priests around here, all of whom are lutheran converted clergymen. I must say I admire their wifes, because the husbands have the same work schedules as their single collegues, i e they work crazy hours. People also have the guts to ask them if they now are allowed to have relations with each other and so on!! Gaaahh! They would never ask anyone else such a thing.

  32. Giuseppe says:

    @Robtbrown “I don’t have big objections to relaxing celibacy obligations for the diocesan clergy, but I don’t think it’s going to happen. Further, one third of all the priests in the world are in religious institutes, and they would still be obligated to celibacy. I do, however, object to it being portrayed as a solution to the vocation shortage.”

    1. Would all priests in religious institutes be obligated to celibacy? Or could each institute decide how it wants to enforce the discipline of celibacy?

    2. I think about this at Mass often. I wonder where our future priests will be, and I each time I start to pray, I look around the church and see a good man who is strong, dynamic, charismatic, and good, (and who usually is there with his wife and children) and I think “can’t a man like that father be our Father X.” I worry that God is saying to the church: “open your eyes and let such men be your priests,” and the church, which is still recovering from Vatican II, is too afraid to make a change that will really revitalize it.

    I know this is in the lay press a lot, and outside criticism should never be the driving factor for institutional change, but I hear this all the time: “why are single men* preaching to us about marriage?” I do not in anyway agree with this sentiment — it is all snark and no substance, but it is common among many (I’ve even heard this from otherwise-not-unreasonable Roman Catholics.) But what would it say about the centrality of marriage and family to life on earth if men who are married and fathers could be priests?

    *actually, most of the times I hear it as ‘single men in dresses’ which brings up a whole other topic about the perception of the priesthood as a logical and socially acceptable vocation for homosexual men in the post-Vatican II but pre-pedophile-reform era, but that’s not the topic of this post.

  33. Johnno says:

    The celibate preist is a development and progress for the Faith.

    There was nothing against married priests technically and the Church states its discipline, and like so many other disciplines (kneeling for communion, women being veiled), it serves to emphasize a greater truth. Get rid of it, and like kneeling for communion, and veiling, you will undermine the follower’s beliefs and respect for a good many things, and realities inherent in those disciplines will no longer be acknowledged and forgotten.

    Men have always been ‘special’ in that they have always been ‘called’ from the moment of conception. Were a child to form naturally it would always likely be a girl. To get a boy requires an additional step of injection of testosterone. This is in a scientific sense ‘randomly determined’, but if you believe God is in control and all human life, the soul it’s gender it’s purpose comes from Him, even in cases of birth defects, due to our fallen world, then this means God is taking the additional step of choosing a boy. One is ‘called’ by God into being to be a boy. And furthermore that boy could one day again be called by God to become a priest.

    There has also been a trend of exclusivity in the development of the priest that God desires. In the Old Testament, for the Hebrews, the first born son was the ‘priest’ for each family. When a good many of them were unworthy, the priesthood was made exclusive to one tribe, the Levites. From there we have examples of celibates and God’s preferential treatment to those that fasted from sexual intercourse and also making it a discipline to serve at certain places of the Temple. For example, for a priest to serve in the holiest place, the Holy of Holies, requirements were ceremonial cleanliness, which included abstaining from sex for a long period of time. When DAvid and his men were in hiding and show up in front of the priest asking for food, the priest only had the sacred bread. If they wanted to eat it, which was forbidden under normal circumstances, the only condition they had was that they were chaste (abstained from sex for a long period of time). SInce David and his men were in a state of war and observed military discipline for abstaining from sex in preparation of battle, indeed they had. Even the example of Melchidezek, a priest who foreshadowed Christ, Melchidezek had no sons, he did not wed, he was single. So the prophecy “he shall be a priest of the order of Melchidezek” made no sense as back then the order of priests was determined by generational lineage. Of course Christ began the formation of a new exclusive priesthood, based not on genetics, but on the spiritual. So Inevitably down the road we have God calling specific individual men to the priesthood, so it gets more exclusive.

    All this goes to show that celibacy emphasizes a great line of Biblical truth that celibacy whether in men or women is greatly pleasing to God. Marriage is a creation of God to symbolize what will inevitably be after we die. We are to enter a new marriage convenant with God Himself. Heaven is a wedding banquet, of the Church to the Lamb. The priest and women religious, in consecrating themselves to God and taking a vow of celibacy are in their manner emphasizing that they are already joined to heaven and married to God and His Church. They are models of what we are all to become. They LIVE the faith in their example. It is in a sense no different from the Rabbanical teaching methods where prophets and even Christ, rather than just delivering a lecture on the faith or the state of the people, would go out and physically do something. Christ would destroy a fig tree, another prophet would marry a prostitute publicly. The people would then ask, “Why are you doing this?” And they’d explain, “This is what YOU ARE like Israel!”

    Why do we kneel for Communion? Because we are kneeling to God present there in reality, in His flesh, He is God, our King, and we humble and adore Him in this manner. Take it away and the significance of the Eucharist is demphasized for human conveniences. When they ask you, “Why are we doing this?” You can explain!

    Why do women veil themselves at Mass? Because we not the only ones present at Mass. For the Mass joins us to the same eternal Mass in Heaven where the lamb lies slain and the angels and saints are present. God made women to be glorious. but now there is something more glorious going on that we should pay attentiont to. A women veils herself in humility, as a sacred object being covered like the Tabernacle. It is a reminder to herself, to the men, and the angels present at the very Mass who are tempted to look upon the crowning jewel of God’s creation. Take this little practice away for human conveniences and you have lost this reality. When people ask, “Why are you doing this?” You can explain and show them these great truths!

    Likewise for the priesthood, when someone asks “Why only men?” Or “Why can’t they marry?” this is an opportunity! The same Rabbinical method! The same sort of disciplines God instituted at times like when they’d crossed the Red Sea and He asks them to build something in remembrance of the event, so that when their future sons would ask, “What mean these stones?” They can say, “It was here that the Lord delivered Israel from the Egyptians through great miracles and wonders!”

    You decide for youselves. Shall we cast all this away for human conveniences? What do you value more?

  34. Oneros says:

    1) To Kurt: I’m not sure about your confirmation example. Canon Law may also try to say this currently, but if confirmation does not essentially involve a juridical, I’m really not sure how canon law could ever invalidate it. Unless we want to go so far as to admit that the Church COULD invalidate, say, Mass said by an excommunicate priest or something like that (and if they could do that, why wouldn’t they? It would save a lot of headaches over renegade priests continuing to celebrate Sacraments). But then, doesn’t that bring up the whole re-baptism controversy that was settled 1500 years ago? Confession and marriage are different because they are essentially legal in form, so illicitity can equal invalidity. But is this true for confirmation or ordination? I have a hard time seeing how.

    2) The theology really needs to be thoroughly investigated and defined here. If different sacramental powers (ie, a priest can celebrate Mass, but a deacon can’t; a bishop can ordain but a simple presbyter can’t) do not destroy the unity of the sacrament, why would different sexes for the recipient necessarily? We know that females are incompatible with the higher two grades for sure, the question of whether they are incompatible with the lowest grade depends on WHY they are incompatible with the higher grades. If it is because the female sex is incompatible with the essential character itself, then the unity of the Sacrament would exclude them from the diaconate. If, however, what excludes them is simply that they are incompatible with the adjunct feature of Sacramental powers (especially that of acting in persona Christi at the eucharistic consecration) then female deacons would not necessarily threaten the essential unity of the Sacrament anymore than the fact that priests can celebrate Mass even though deacons can’t, or that bishops can ordain even though the lower two grades can’t. If the thing that excludes them is present only in the higher two orders, why would it necessarily apply to the lowest?

  35. Oneros says:

    Re: married priests; I think they’re coming, but it will have to involve a total re-imagining of the priesthood (more along Eastern lines, even I’ll say Ethiopic lines) whereby it will not necessarily be a full-time career and will instead be, for many, a part-time thing on a volunteer or unsalaried basis. Men who work it full-time as a salaried position will likely still be celibate for the foreseeable future, however.

    Though training could be reformed in either case; six-years (at many seminaries, unless you also did college seminary) is ridiculous given that no profession studies that long except medicine. But the priesthood isn’t brain surgery. You can say, “But they’re caring for souls!!” all day, but then I look at the actual priests I’ve met in practice; they’re not particularly more holy than other men. They’re not particularly more learned in theology. They’re mostly not great speakers. Many give terrible advice. It’s clear that the purpose of all that time spent is really the “human formation” (phrase creeps the hell out of me), in other words…”institutionalizing” the men in the system, into the clerical culture. It clearly serves as a filter, to be sure, but the parameters of a filter have to actually be demarcated; whom the seminaries are filtering out, and whom they’re attracting and keeping in…is not nearly so clear. A certain type of personality is certainly selected for by that atmosphere, but is it the type that makes the best leaders?

    But it’s not rocket science, and the time seems wasted on many of these men. A 5-year Bachelor+Masters program for undergrads, a 2 year Masters for post-grads, or a 2-3 year night/weekend school program ala Diaconate formation classes would probably be enough. Certainly (married or not), the live-in “adult boarding school” model is coddling and, instead, it could be more like a program at a regular university. The secular priesthood is not a monastery or consecrated religious life!

    In turn, however, the idea of priests as unsackable would need to be re-examined; it should not be so hard to fire and defrock a priest. Heck, I heard in some diocese even laicized priests get a sort of “alimony” from the Church. I understand the theoretical loyalty to the dignity of their indelible character blah blah blah, but c’mon!

    In the Ethiopian church, something like 1 in 10 men are priests, men from the parish, and they take the priestly duties in shifts, doing one week a year like the Old Testament priesthood. Imagine, in your typical parish of (true statistic) 1200 households, 90 of the men, 90 fathers or heads-of-household were made something like “priests simplex.” Perhaps they would be restricted from preaching anything but pre-written homilies (from the Fathers and Saints) and from giving any advice or penance in confession other than from general guidelines in a national Penitentiale. They would be unsalaried. Their training would stay mainly away from the “social work” aspect (left to deacons) and heavily emphasize liturgy and the basics of chant espeically. One day a month (2/7 of which are weekends, so it would mean only ~7 days taken off work a year) , 3 of them would take their “shift.” They could then provide the whole Office, starting in the morning with Matins, Lauds, and Prime, offer two Low Masses in the morning, Terce, then Sext and None followed a Solemn parish/”conventual” Mass around noon (with less priests needing to be salaried, more parishes could have a full-time cantor/music director to sing at least at one Mass a day) adoration after Mass, during which could be provided confessions and rosary and various private devotions, and then end the day with the evening service of Benediction, (Stations on Friday during Lent), [Patristic] Homily, Communion Distribution, Vespers+Compline. It would be a 15 hour day, likely, but it would be expected of them only once a month and, perhaps, boys would be raised simply with the expectation (as in Mormon families, etc) that this is something many of them will do one day a month, like their fathers.

    The salaried celibate pastors could then concentrate (assisted by deacons) on their administrative tasks, their glad-handing and fundraising, their visiting the sick or making emergency calls, giving spiritual direction, etc, but perhaps would even be able to oversee greater “ridings” of several parishes if the liturgy-availability question were taken care of.

    Of course, people don’t like this idea. “A priest has an indelible character, it’s supposed to be how he makes his living, it’s supposed to be a separate ‘caste’ in the Church, they aren’t supposed to be men working regular jobs 29 days a month.” But there’s a huge double standard, because we DO let deacons be married men, we do let deacons be part-time volunteers, we don’t make deacons go through 6 years of seminary hot-house, etc.

    But then, apparently, THESE obvious differences apparently don’t threaten the unity of Orders.

  36. chantgirl says:

    Ok, I have not talked about this before on this forum (in case I say something stupid) but there is a married priest in my family (former Lutheran) and whenever I hear someone say that they think all priests should be able to marry, I just want to sit down with them for a couple of hours with some alcohol and try to convince them why it is a terrible idea. A married priest has TWO WIVES, and they compete for his time, energy, and love. The priest has TWO FAMILIES and they compete for his time,energy, and love. Just ask the children of a married priest how many times they’ve moved, how many holidays and events their father has missed because of important Church business. Ask them how many times their father has come home from counseling someone who is suicidal or has cheated on their spouse or has abused a child or murdered someone, and the father is so emotionally drained that he has little left to give to his family. Ask the wife of the priest what will happen when the priest retires to the old priests’ home and she has nowhere to go. Children of married priests often become “preachers’ kids” and seriously rebel against the Church because they are too acquainted with their father’s faults. I cannot, cannot say it enough- ONE wife and ONE family is more than enough for one man to handle. I am grateful for the chance for this relative to serve as a priest, but it has not come without a huge cost to his family, and probably heartache on his part that he can’t be everything to everyone.

  37. chantgirl says:

    There is no such thing as a part-time priest.

  38. frjim4321 et al:

    There is a lot of misunderstanding, not only about the history of women as deaconesses in the Church (which are not the same as deacons, as will be shown), but the matter of “ordination” (in Greek, “chierotonia”) as implying the reception of Holy Orders, including in the Orthodox Church. These issues were dealt with some years ago, in an essay published in the Arlington Catholic Herald, which eventually found its way to the EWTN Online Library …

    http://www.ewtn.com/library/liturgy/aroseby.txt

    … if that’s enough of a “nihil obstat” for you.

    In light of developments in the Orthodox Church over the past decade, and the recent attention in the Catholic press, the essay is in the process of being revised and expanded (to include a section concerning ontology, among other things). It will be published in the next few days within my own venue …

    http://manwithblackhat.blogspot.com

    … after it is thoroughly reviewed by my assistant, a Third Order Carmelite with a masters in theology. Thus I can assure the reader that its contents will be in complete harmony with the mind of the Church.

    Which will not exclude the prospect of a few surprises. Stay tuned …

  39. Sissy says:

    chantgirl, thanks for that comment about married (or as someone said “bigamist”) priests and “part-time priests”. I was having a case of the vapors and couldn’t say anything. I agree with everything you said. Let’s just finally admit that borrowing solutions from protestants might not be the best idea.

  40. Giuseppe says:

    @chantgirl — I appreciate your candor and your willingness to share your own example of a married priest in your family. My roommate in college was a PK (Preacher’s Kid), although he was completely normal and healthy and loved his dad. But there are always exceptions…

    @Sissy — I must admit that I’d be happy to entertain the notion of a ‘part time priest’ or a ‘bigamist’ than my parents’ current priest (God reward him) who is married to 3 wives by covering 3 churches. We’d be borrowing solutions from our Eastern Christan brothers and our Orthodox cousins, not necessarily from our Protestant second-cousins once removed.

  41. robtbrown says:

    Giuseppe says:

    1. Would all priests in religious institutes be obligated to celibacy? Or could each institute decide how it wants to enforce the discipline of celibacy

    Just from a practical point of view, how could a man with a vow of poverty support a family? How could a man with a family live in a religious house?

    2. I think about this at Mass often. I wonder where our future priests will be, and I each time I start to pray, I look around the church and see a good man who is strong, dynamic, charismatic, and good, (and who usually is there with his wife and children) and I think “can’t a man like that father be our Father X.”

    Even if there were married priests, maybe he wouldn’t want to be one.

    I worry that God is saying to the church: “open your eyes and let such men be your priests,” and the church, which is still recovering from Vatican II, is too afraid to make a change that will really revitalize it.

    I think God is saying to the Church: Reform the liturgy, the priesthood, and the religious life, and there will be priestly vocations. The more Catholic a diocese or religious institute is, the more vocations there will be.

    Years ago the abbot of Fontgombault put it simply: Where there is Latin, there are vocations.

  42. Giuseppe says:

    @robtbrown — Thank you for the correction. I was not aware that all priests in religious institutes took a vow of poverty. If that is the case, of course, he could not support a wife. I do not think Latin and liturgy alone will substantially increase vocations, but I am happy to be proved wrong.

  43. Volanges says:

    Chantgirl, you don’t really believe that a married priest will retire to an ‘old priest home’ and leave his wife behind, do you? Secular priests usually don’t have an ‘old priest home’ to go to. Religious priests usually do but you won’t find married religious priests.

  44. Precentrix says:

    @ Giuseppe,

    Priests who are members of religious institutes would already be bound by their vows as religious. While celibacy isn’t necessarily explicit in those vows (e.g. Benedictines promise stability and ‘conversion of life’, Dominicans pronounce only obedience to the Rule and the Master of the Order) it is pretty much covered. We’re talking more or less about monks and friars here, and they would be celibate even were they not priests.

  45. Fr Kurt Barragan says:

    Oneros:

    I’m not sure about your confirmation example. Canon Law may also try to say this currently, but if confirmation does not essentially involve a juridical, I’m really not sure how canon law could ever invalidate it.

    The law certainly does indicate that a priest needs a faculty to validly administer the sacrament of confirmation (c. 882). In some circumstances, the law itself grants the faculty while in others we must receive it from the competent authority. A similar provision was in place under the 1917 Code (c. 782).

    In practice, the Church has been very insistent on the necessity of this faculty. The 18th century case of the Italian-Greeks (where the sacraments were sometimes administered in Italy by Eastern Priests) offers a clear example. Pope Benedict XIV made the following decision: “Let Latin bishops unconditionally confirm infants or others baptized in their dioceses and signed on the forehead with chrism by Greek priests, since neither by our predecessors nor by us has the faculty been granted, nor is it granted to Greek priests in Italy and the adjacent islands to confer the sacrament of confirmation on baptized infants. . . .” (Benedict XIV, Etsi Pastoralis, Denzinger 1458). This is a clear statement that, without the faculty, an attempted confirmation by a priest was invalid.

    Incidentally, under the present law, a priest of the Eastern Churches validly confirms any member of the faithful – including a Latin (CCEO c. 696).

    Though it is an interesting question, I don’t have the time to enter into a discussion about when and how far the Church can legislate to render an act sacramentally null by declaring it canonically invalid. The point I was trying to make is that there are cases where provisions of the law can affect the validity of the celebration of a sacrament.

    It is for the supreme authority of the Church to approve or define the requirements for validity (c. 841). In the case of the subject of sacred ordination, it has done so with abundant clarity. Canon Law is carefully drafted to distinguish between what is required for validity and liceity. When the law says that something is required for validity, it means it! There is no ambiguity in canon 1024: “A baptized male alone receives sacred ordination validly.” The law for the Eastern Churches says the same thing (CCEO c. 754). So did the 1917 code (c. 968).

  46. chantgirl says:

    Volanges- in one diocese where this priest was stationed, there is definitely an old priests’ home. Most priests do not own a home, due to the fact that they can be moved all over the place. Money is taken from the priests’ pay for retirement (in the home), but there is nothing set aside for the wife. If the married priest follows the Church’s laws about fertility, he will likely have a good size family that will consume most of his income. In our situation, the wife of this priest will most likely be taken in by one of her children when he retires or dies. Thankfully, God provides!

    Something else to consider are the likely divorce scenarios that would materialize if we had large numbers of married priests. Also, in some areas of the world where religious tensions are high, the wife or children of a priest would be ripe targets for violence or kidnapping, especially if terrorists thought they could access the Church’s money by kidnapping a priest’s family. A priest with a family is not as free to make decisions solely based on the good of the Church as he has a family depending on him as well. This is why Jesus speaks of celibacy for the sake of the kingdom. Celibate priests have a beautiful gift of freedom and they should cherish it.

  47. robtbrown says:

    Precentrix says:

    We’re talking more or less about monks and friars here, and they would be celibate even were they not priests.

    Also included are those religious institutes founded in the 16th cent or later, e.g., Jesuits, Marists, Redemptorists.

  48. robtbrown says:

    Giuseppe says:

    I do not think Latin and liturgy alone will substantially increase vocations, but I am happy to be proved wrong.

    1. Statistics say otherwise. The FSSP in the US is flourishing–25 new men entered in each of the past two years. Not all will be make it to ordination, but any diocese or religious province would love those numbers. Clear Creek Abbey is also flourishing–its growth limited by the not yet completed building program. And the SSPX, despite its juridical status, has over 500 priests, even though its main presence is only in 3 nations (France, US, and Argentina).

    2. I think you would agree that the more Catholic a diocese or religious institute, the more likely there will be vocations. Latin liturgy (which cannot be considered apart from the study of Latin by seminarians) is by definition more Catholic than vernacular liturgy (nb: Catholic means universal).

  49. Precentrix says:

    @RobTBrown:

    Yes, I was simplifying to make the point obvious ;-). Technically, in regards to poverty, there is (or at least was formerly) a subtle distinction between those in solemn vows and those in simple (although perpetual) vows – I say was formerly because I don’t think the current law recognises the difference anyway – but I don’t see how that could possibly apply in regards to continence.

  50. Precentrix says:
  51. robtbrown says:

    If I might reply to some of Oneros’ comments:

    1. One way of looking at the Keys, going back to the Middle Ages, is that one concerns potestas ordinis (Power of Order), the other potestas iurisdictionis (Power of Jurisdictionis). In that sense ordination is a act of the first key.

    2. The education of a priest is no longer than that of anyone else getting a MA. In the days of minor seminaries, univ education would begin with 2 years philosophy, followed by 4 years in major seminary (theology). That’s 6 years beyond high school. For those who studied in Rome, ordination came after the 3d year of theology (which finishes the institutional courses, those required for ordination).

    Today in the US young men usually have a univ degree when they begin studies. Unfortunately, this degree usually didn’t mean exposure to Philosophy or Latin.

    3. The part-time priest concept was tried years ago–the worker priest. It was finally abandoned because, as someone noted above, there is no such thing as a part time priest.

    4. I have objections to the present policies re “permanent” deacons. a) I think they should have the same education and the same Breviary obligations as that of transitional deacons . b) Because they are clerics, they should wear clerical clothes. c) They should also not have secular occupations but rather be involved in ecclesiastical work such as DRE, prof of Church history, theology, or canon law.

    5. The idea that someone would be ordained to be little else than a Dispensing Machine of the Sacraments (part or full time) is antithetical to the nature of the priesthood.

  52. Oneros says:

    “There is no such thing as a part-time priest,” “The idea that someone would be ordained to be little else than a Dispensing Machine of the Sacraments (part or full time) is antithetical to the nature of the priesthood.”

    Except, the Ethiopians have “part-time” priests, it would seem. The Old Testament certainly arranged the temple service in “shifts.” And if you think clerics (presbyters or otherwise) in the second century, say, were all “institutional men” salaried by the community with no “day job,” I expect this is faulty history. For bishops that would be more believable, but not the lower clergy.

    The priesthood exists for the sacramental life of the community, not the community for the priesthood. If this notion of preserving the clergy as a “caste” is limiting what the Church can offer the faithful, it needs to go. Religious life exists as an “end in itself,” as a lifestyle whose value is not merely “functional.” But the secular/diocesan priesthood is NOT a form of consecrated life (though it’s been treated as such, in the West at least, for the past millennium. Almost every problem has stemmed from this.)