Mix up in reporting about ordaination of a married Lutheran minister

VOTE FOR WDTPRSLiberals are having palpitations over the story that a "German man married to nun ordained as priest with pope's approval".  That is how AP put it. 

Here is what happened. Permission was given by Pope Beneditct XVI that a married Lutheran minister, Harm Kleuting, 61, be ordained a Catholic priest.  Now Fr. Klueting has been married for some time to Edeltraut (great name!)!  The accomplished Edeltraut, a medievalist – of course, has a webpage on which she identifies herself as a T.OCarm.  She is a tertiary.  She is a third order Carmelite.  She is not a fully professed Carmelite nun.  The now-Fr. Klueting had to have permission to be ordained because he was married, but he wasn't married to a nun.

Carmelites far and wide will correct me if I am wrong, but I don't think that tertiaries have to be dispensed to marry.  Am I wrong?

Anyway, AP seems to have adjusted its headline.   Let's see what the story looks like from the AP via NPR.

Married German Ordained As Catholic Priest

by The Associated Press

BERLIN February 22, 2011, 10:45 am ET

In a rare move that needed the pope's approval, a Lutheran convert was ordained Tuesday as a Catholic priest in Germany and is being allowed to remain married to his wife — who has already become a nun. [Again, Edeltraut seems to be a T.OCarm, a tertiary and not a fully professed Carmelite nun.  Third Order Carlmelites live in the world, rather than in community (usually) according to Carmelite spirituality.]

Harm Klueting, 61, was ordained by Archbishop Joachim Cardinal Meisner in a private ceremony at the city's seminary, the Cologne archdiocese said.

Pope Benedict XVI gave Klueting a special permission to remain married to his wife Edeltraut Klueting, who became a Catholic Carmelite nun [tertiary] in 2004.

The Rev. Federico Lombardi, the Vatican's chief spokesman, said the exception is rare but there have been similar cases.

"It doesn't happen every day," he said.

Klueting and his wife were Lutherans when they married in 1977 and both served as Lutheran clerics before converting to Catholicism several years ago. They have two grown children.

The Cologne archdiocese said in a statement that [How many things are wrong with this next statement] the couple would not have to take the traditional vow of celibacy as long as they remain married — a highly unusual move since celibacy is normally a key requirement for Catholic priests.

Klueting and his family could not be reached for comment, and it was not clear whether they still lived together as a couple. [Perhaps becaaaaaaause… they are married and she is not, in fact, a Carmelite nun?]

Lombardi said he didn't have any specific information about the Kluetings, including what the pope said about the case.

Klueting is a professor for historical theology at the University of Cologne and teaches Catholic theology at Fribourg University in Switzerland. From now on, he also will provide services as a spiritual counselor for university students.

Cardinals HatThe archdiocese published pictures of the ordination ceremony showing Klueting with short gray hair and a beard, wearing a simple white priest vestment as he received his blessings from Meisner, who was wearing [Get this!] a festive yellow embroidered robe and a golden cardinal's hat.

In 1950, Pope Pius XII first allowed clergymen who had converted to Catholicism to remain married, the Cologne diocese said in its statement. However, each case has to be approved by the pope himself, the statement said, adding that in the past married priests also had been ordained in the German cities of Hamburg and Regensburg.

Last month, three former Anglican bishops were ordained as Catholic priests in London, becoming the first ex-bishops to take advantage of a new Vatican system designed to make it easier for Anglicans to embrace Roman Catholicism.


Frances D'Emilio contributed to this report from Rome.


Meanwhile, all this talk of Carmelites reminds me to remind you to refresh your coffee supply!  Help some professed Carmelites in Wyoming build their monastery and put groceries on the table!

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. Patikins says:

    I read this story via Foxnews.com the other day and knew there must have been more to the story.  Thanks for the clarification.
    P.S. I like the knew comment editor!

  2. Clinton says:

    It's breathtaking that this badly researched story made it past the editors and out onto the 
    AP wire.  Evidently, to write for the AP, one needn't know a thing about one's subject or 
    do a bit of research.  To fact-check for the AP, one needn't actually check facts.  And to 
    be an editor for the AP, one needn't actually insist that (a) writers know what they're writing
    about and (b) fact checkers do their job.  With this article the AP has made a public display
    of their low standards and incompetence.  
    What other stories do you suppose the AP puts out that are written by reporters who know
    nothing about the matter at hand, don't bother to research, and never see a fact-checker?
    This laughable "reporting" puts the credibility of the entire AP organization in doubt.

  3. The great canonist Ed Peters has commented on this case on his good blog.

  4. wolfeken says:

    And yet again no one in the Vatican thought of the public relations mess that would follow.
    There may be good reason (although I disagree) to ordain this man, but the simple fact that he is married to a T.OCarm should have been reason enough not to go through with this.  The Vatican seems to never think of how things will be portayed in the media (and thus digested by the general public) when it makes decisions like these.  Of course the media is going to have a field day with a Lutheran priest married to a "nun" becoming a Catholic priest.  Wouldn't you???
    It's not just about the communications and media reletions.  Yet again, it's about the lousy policy (can you say male prostitute with a straight face?) that leads to public relations disasters that make the outside world laugh at us.

  5. Precentrix says:

    Yes, I'm aware that this is hardly a constructive comment…

  6. Supertradmum says:

    One must remember that the journalists who write this stuff have no clue as to religion, much less the fine distinctions between being a nun and a tertiary. We are seeing the lack of education in our press daily, with stupid inferences owing to a lack of training and education, even in the journalist's so-called expert field. Journalists know more about Nascar and Grand-Prix distinctions than those of religious orders.

  7. Joseph says:

    If one takes in consideration the fevered pitch of the "discussions" about celibacy in all of Germany, then one realizes from which corner those reporters are coming from. If I'd have a charitable  view on that matter, I would say there is a bit of wishful thinking involved.

  8. Joseph says:

    Re: Wolfeken
    I disagree with your stance taken here. Im glad at least in this case the Vatikan did not seem to play politics. Those things should be decided on a case per case basis, and not how it looks. Even politicians should not play to the galeries, let alone the bishops.

  9. Glen M says:

    Dog bites man. Sun rises in East. Mainstream media misrepresents something in the Church.

  10. I would like to see the cardinal’s hat. Unfortunatley the picture is not shown, only a placeholder.
    Since December 2010 I publish regularly interesting posts about clerical and ecclesiastical head coverings on my blog The Philippi Collection.

  11. basilorat says:

    Marrying ex-nuns is sooooooooo last century anyway!

  12. Centristian says:

    Edeltraut, Edeltraut, every morning you greet me…

  13. “There may be good reason (although I disagree) to ordain this man, but the simple fact that he is married to a T.OCarm should have been reason enough not to go through with this.”

    Oh, come on. I agree that PR isn’t the Vatican’s strong point, but are you really claiming that membership in a normal Catholic lay group by a spouse should disqualify the other partner? Omigosh, don’t join CYO soccer! Heck, don’t do anything good. It’ll look bad!

  14. bernadette says:

    I’m a member of OCDS and we are free to marry as long as we follow the laws of the Church regarding marriage.

  15. LarryPGH says:

    I think the “how this appears” factor is more “teaching moment” than it is “scandal”. Many are willing to sound off with their opinions on Church teachings, when they have a rather poor understanding of what those teachings really are. This story provides the opening to discuss what, in fact, the Church *really* says about celibacy (wrt the priesthood), and how people’s misunderstandings of it do injustice to the *true* doctrine and discipline of the Church…

  16. bernadette: But not a T.OCarm. Right?

  17. I’m confused. Ed Peters says they sought permission for him to enter the priesthood, and her to enter the religious life, and the Pope dispensed them from the marriage impediment to entering those states.

  18. bernadette says:

    I’m OCDS, a separate branch of Carmelites from OCarms. I don’t know for sure what their rules are but I am guessing their rules for seculars are similar.

  19. Salvatore_Giuseppe says:

    The bigger problem with the original title is that it is terrible grammar.

    “German man married to nun ordained as priest with pope’s approval” appears to imply that there was a wedding which went on and it involved a German man and a nun who was also ordained as a priest after getting the pope’s approval.

    The best option I see without adding too much (I realize headlines must be short) would be simply add some commas “German man, married to nun, ordained as priest with pope’s approval”

    Which would let me know that something far less scandalous is being reported inside than what it sounded like they were reporting when I read the title

  20. Do the media people who freak out at everything about priestly marriage not realize the Eastern Catholic Churches exist?

    @Salvatore_Giuseppe: That’s what it looked like to me, too.

  21. JKnott says:

    Carmelites far and wide will correct me if I am wrong, but I don’t think that tertiaries have to be dispensed to marry. Am I wrong?
    Father Z is correct.

  22. vellemere says:

    I am a T.O. Carm and am married with three kids.

    We are just like the Secular Carmelites of the OCDS, but we are the third order (a.k.a. Lay Carmelites) of the Ancient Order (O. Carm.)

  23. JPF says:

    From what I gather at Ed Peters’ blog, this is more than simply a matter of Edeltraut being a tertiary. Yes, tertiaries may marry, because they’re not religious, and therefore not bound by vows of chastity. But Peters says that she desires to become a religious–in which case she would need a dispensation. Even then, if I’ve got it right, she could never take vows of chastity, because her marriage vows are still binding until death, and you can’t simultaneously be in a position where you’re bound by vows of both chastity and marital fidelity. So, her dispensation allows her to enter a religious community–but as an adjunct member, an associate, rather than in the fullness of Carmelite vows (there are precedents for this in religious life–Martin de Porres originally entered the Dominican Order with this kind of status, and only later on was he invited to make a proper novitiate and take vows). She’ll be living the rule, alongside the other sisters in the community, but not in vows. She and her husband will be relinquishing their conjugal rights, apparently, but not their marriage vows–which only God himself could relinquish.

    At least, this is what I can gather from reading Ed Peters’ webpage.

  24. anna 6 says:

    “golden cardinal’s hat”…very funny graphic Fr. Z!!
    It reminds me of John Paul’s crow’s ear and the Karma lite nun!

  25. terryprest says:

    “he received his blessings from Meisner, who was wearing a festive yellow embroidered robe and a golden cardinal’s hat”

    Frances D’Emilio might be more suited to the fashion pages than the religious news.

  26. FrCharles says:

    This was the topic of conversation at the friary breakfast table this morning. I found the personal sites of the happy couple through the website of the University of Cologne and found out the truth. The consensus from breakfast remains, however: what the brothers would most like is the opinion or thoughts of the Klueting children.

  27. Elizabeth D says:

    I am an OCDS Secular Carmelite novice. Secular/third order Carmelites of either branch of the order make promises of poverty, chastity and obedience, however the promise of chastity pertains to one’s state in life (it is not a promise of continence if one is married) and does not prevent a change in state.

    As another commenter noted, Ed Peters’ blog does state that this is not only about being a Carmelite secular/tertiary, the wife, Edeltraut, actually obtained dispensation to enter a Carmelite convent. They do not, however, cease to be married, because their marriage is valid. Peters says “while such dispensations are not common, neither are they unheard of, even in modern times.”

  28. Mariana says:

    “a festive yellow embroidered robe and a golden cardinal’s hat.”


  29. Elizabeth D says:

    Okay, I went and actually looked at Edeltraut’s page that Fr Z linked, where she says she is a TO.Carm but nothing about being a nun. I agree there is nothing there that makes it seem like she is a nun, or anything that would require a dispensation, or be irregular in any way. We had a lady who became Catholic together with her husband who had been an Anglican priest, who was interested in our OCDS community, there would have been no problem with her joining or with him being ordained a Catholic priest if he had the appropriate dispensation.

  30. amenamen says:

    Would AP send this reporter to cover a baseball game?

    How would the poor, wide-eyed reporter -who has never been inside a stadium before – explain the nuances of a “stolen base”? a “sacrifice bunt”? a “ground rule double”?
    It would make for some interesting reading. But we might not know who won the game.

  31. For JPF and Elizabeth D and all: In both the reporting and in some of the comments here there is the usual and mistaken conflation of the words “chastity” and “celibacy”. They’re not the same thing. Married people are not celibate, but are encouraged to practice a chastity appropriate to married love, faithfulness to one’s spouse, and the betetting of children. Celibate people don’t marry. They can do a whole lot of other things, including ski jumping; but they just are not married or marrying. The celibate, too, are exhorted by the Catechism, the example of Christ and the saints, to practice chastity. Chastity is difficulty, married or single. It takes ‘practice’. An OCDS or a T.O.Carm. will focus on the Rule of St. Albert, given to monks in the desert, as well as to Lumen Gentium, to pursue the universal call to holiness. The evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity, and obedience, are there put forth as goals and guides for all, married, single, ordained, promised, or undecided. Get on board, Little Children!

  32. JPF says:

    Magistra Bona: I’m perfectly aware of the distinction between celibacy and chastity, thanks. While all persons are bound by the virtue of chastity, not all are bound by the vow of chastity (which entails absolute sexual continence). The strange thing about this case is that you have two people married to each other–i.e. not celibates–who will be bound to live as if they were in vows of chastity, if Edeltraut in fact does enter a Carmelite Monastery.

  33. JPF: Not so strange if we consider the case of the first apostles. Since some of them encountered Jesus in adulthood, it is very likely that they were married. Marriages happened much earlier in the first century than now. (If your life expectancy is, at the outside, 40, it’s best to get on with it.) So, what about those wives? If they shared their husbands’ new found faith, they may have had the wherewithal to make hard or unusual choices. T.O.Carms and OCDS’s take vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience according to their state in life. So, in or out of a monastery, Edeltraut’s entry into the Carmelite Order will be a chaste one. And, the practical outcome of most life-long marriages is a non-sexual lifestyle anyway. Most older couples can cope. It’s not that strange. If both of them were in their twenties, I’d say we’re dealing with a man biting a dog.

  34. JPF says:

    MB: I don’t doubt the goodness and wisdom of this decision by the Kluetings. Please don’t get all preachy on me. I don’t need anyone to sell me on the goodness of living chastity–I’m a religious myself, and I am all for many entering the religious life, and following the Lord in his chastity, poverty, and obedience.. But this case of the Klueters, even if it’s a wonderful thing and very evangelical, is definitely an unusual situation in our day–unusual statistically–and that’s all that “strange” means.

  35. ocarmphil says:

    Indeed this is a grave mixed up. Carmelite Tertiaries are not nuns or priests or mini-nuns or mini-monks. This is grave mistake. For those who wish to know about the TOCarm or Lay Carmelites should look at the official website of the Carmelites of the Ancient Observance.

    “The Third Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel is an association of lay people who, in response to a call from God promise to live the Gospel in the spirit of the Carmelite Order and under its guidance.
    As well as lay people, diocesan priests, who find in the Carmelite charism help for their spiritual lives and their mission in the Church and the world, may be members of the Carmelite Third Order.
    The Third Order member is connected to the Carmelite Order by means of the promise which he or she makes. It is possible, following a very ancient custom, to make private vows of chastity and obedience according to one’s state in life in order to be consecrated more closely to God.”

    “Lay Carmelites typically profess only Promises. However, after a considerable time of prayer, discernment and competent spiritual direction, one may profess two vows: obedience, and chastity – in accordance with one’s state in life. These vows are private, vis-à-vis the public vows of religion (poverty, chastity and obedience) that a Religious makes. The taking of these vows is neither encouraged nor discouraged.”

    The wife is a lay Carmelite and not a Carmelite nun.

  36. irishgirl says:

    I used to be in the OCDS, and we made ‘promises’ of chastity [according to one’s state in life] and obedience [to the Order]. I don’t think I ever had to make a promise of poverty.
    After making ‘final promise’, we could take a vow of chastity and obedience. I don’t think it was mandatory.
    I only made as far a ‘first promise’, which was binding for three years. I was not allowed to make ‘final promise’ or the vow of chastity and obedience. I ended up having to leave.

  37. Martin_B says:

    While the whole “affair” seems to be perfectly legal, I still have a problem:

    Why did the ordination had to be such a clandestine thing:
    – only very few prior announcements by the archdiocese,
    – specifically nothing mentioned about the time and place,
    – a “private” celebration in the seminary’s chapel?

    Every ordination is a feast of joy for the church and should be celebrated accordingly.

    (P.S. I live in the archdiocese of cologne)

  38. Kypapist says:

    This reminds me of the life of Cordelia Connelly (sp?) who lived in the late 1800’s. Her husband (a convert) wanted to become a priest so she had to give her agreement and enter religious life (she started a community). Later he decided he wanted her back; he reverted to his Anglican ministry and sued the Catholic Church in England wanting them to force his wife to return to him. A very interesting story!!!

  39. At the risk of seeming “preachy”, I want to say how much I admire Edeltraut and Harm for choosing to serve the Lord more intensely now that their life and lifestyle makes room for that. This aspect is missed in the coverage. The media pushes for stories about priests and nuns behaving badly, yet will not cover the day-to-day service and suffering that our religious, our consecrated laypeople, and the ordinary faithful offer to the Lord. In Sponsa Christi, Pope Pius XI equates “chastity” with, not only continence, but also “focus”. To be focused on the things of the Lord to the exclusion of other lesser distractions. To hold oneself solely for God. To be for something, not just refraining from something. God bless these out-there and over-the-top folks! Push the envelope, Kluetings!!

  40. Animadversor says:

    Actually, Kypapist, it was Cornelia Connelly. You can reading an interesting article, Religion: Scandal Revisited, from the April 8, 1957, issue of Time.

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