Field of Dreams: if you build it, they will come!

Clerical Marriage
September 13, 2013, 1:45 pm
Filed under: Opinion

From this week’s “Tablet”:


The issue of priestly celibacy is one of the thorniest issues facing Pope Francis, according to the Vatican’s new Secretary of State, Archbishop Pietro Parolin.Speaking over the weekend, the archbishop also said that a more democratic approach is called for within the Church and that he plans to overhaul the way the Holy See operates internationally. Warning that celibacy could not be dismissed as irrelevant in the modern world, Archbishop Parolin said that celibacy was only a tradition and not a dogma, but added that a way must be found to unify the Church on the matter.

“It is a great challenge for the Pope because he oversees the entire Church and these decisions must be taken in a way that unites the Church rather than dividing it,” the archbishop told the Venezuelan newspaper El Universal. “It is not just about what one wants but about being faithful to what God wants for his Church.”

One of the things the Holy See must come to terms with, particularly in connection with the new Ordinariates, is that a married clergy is an integral part of “Anglican Patrimony”. Given that this Patrimony cannot include any real doctrinal divergence from the teaching of the Catholic Church, it must be looked for in human and cultural traditions, liturgical certainly, but also in the realm of “pastoral practice”.

Archbishop Parolin reminds us that, in the Western Church, celibacy is only a tradition, not a dogma. Anglican practice surely therefore qualifies as a legitimate pastoral variation from the general western tradition. In the Church of England, as it has existed historically since the sixteenth century, the legitimacy of clerical marriage has been maintained both in theory (Article XXXII) and practice. The “vicarage family” has been part of the parochial landscape, normal if not absolutely normative. I have called this the “domestic” pattern of priestly ministry, as opposed to the “monastic” pattern that has prevailed for many centuries elsewhere. In perfectly proper enconiums of priestly celibacy for those truly called to it, it is, I would say, quite improper to suggest that married priests are somehow “second-rate”. Celibacy is a vocation given to both men and women, to clergy and to laity, and is to be honoured. It cannot, however, be the norm for Christians generally, and I think that it is unwise to look for candidates for the priesthood solely from those who have (or claim to have) a vocation to celibacy. It is important that the Ordinariates be allowed, without limitation, to continue the Anglican tradition of a married clergy.

2 Comments so far
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So lucid! Thank you. Peace, John

Comment by napperscompanion

The Latin title of Article XXXII is “De conjugio Sacerdotum”. Which is interesting in itself.

Comment by Kyle Mulholland

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