Saturday, March 05, 2011

Catholic Church in Germany ordains married man: So?

There have been a number of articles coming out recently about a priest in Germany who was ordained to the priesthood despite being the married father of two. It's as though this is big news or something. I find it hard to believe people have only just now heard of this. The problem I find with most articles is that they address non-existent issues or make this seem like some big change. Here's why it isn't.

1) Men from other religions
The only married men who are ever ordained are those from other religions, most commonly Anglican, Lutheran, and perhaps some others. It is never the case that Roman Catholic men who are married become priests. The exception is made because in non-Catholic religions, religious are not necessarily celibate.

2) Celibacy is not a necessary condition to ordination
Contrary to popular opinion, celibacy is not an inherent or necessary part of the priesthood. Rather, the Church only chooses for the priesthood men who have made a vow of celibacy. It is a discipline, not a doctrine or dogma.

Many cases can be shown in history or married priests and bishops. Peter, the first pope, was married, for example. This is also a discipline which did not appear from the very beginning. It was gradually made mandatory.

3) One can never marry after ordination
Once a man has been ordained to the priesthood validly, he cannot remain a priest and become married. This is also the case for deacons. A deacon can be married and then choose to become a deacon, however the reverse is not possible.

4) Some cradle Catholics are validly married and ordained
This occurs in the Eastern Churches in communion with Rome. This includes Greek Catholics, Maronite Catholics, Ruthenian Catholics, Chaldean Catholics, etc. However, bishops in these rites are only chosen from celibates.

5) The media get it wrong
Once again, the media sees this story as a novelty and wonders what it means for the "future of the Church". Always in these articles, it is suggested that the Church is changing, and that if we just wait long enough, the Catholic Church will allow priests to marry freely, divorce will be allowed, as well as gay marriage, contraception, and abortion. The slightest whiff of any change brings the media into a frenzy. However, they almost never get it right. Usually nothing has changed at all, despite what the article might suggest or state explicitly. Always take articles from the media with a grain of salt.

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