Friday, January 2, 2009

Why does the Church Ordain Married Anglican Priests?

Dear Father Henry,

I sympathize with you for loosing your place in the church even though you had spent half of your life serving them. But I wanted to tell you that the Vatican has recently been accepting married Anglicans [so far over 400 converts were ordained as Roman Catholic priests]. Now that you are married, perhaps you can try to convert to an Anglican, became a minister and then convert again to Catholicism and ask to become a priest again?

Henry's response:

Thank you for your email.

Yes, I am aware of the many Anglican and other married pastors who have been allowed to become ordained Catholic priests. But, do you see the absurdity of that? It is irrational to allow these married men to become ordained Catholic priests when thousands of Catholic priests who have married are not allowed to continue in ministry. I no longer have any desire to be part of a church that propagates such injustice.

Is there is anyone who can logically explain why the Church ordains married men from other denominations but refuses to ordain married Roman Catholic men to the priesthood?


Annie said...

Rational? No.

I've wondered the same thing myself. How can you say that there's no room in the Roman Catholic church for a married clergy when you, in fact, have a married clergy?

If I'm correct, Protestant ministers were/are allowed in under a pastoral provision. When women were being ordained in their denominations, they were allowed to convert to Catholicism, be ordained and were dispensed from celibacy.

Apparently, Rome can tolerate the lesser of two evils...wives, as opposed to women taking Holy Orders.

Henry said...

It does appear that women are the problem in Catholicism with respect to ordination. The Vatican seems to think that a wife somehow defiles a priest (unless he is a protestant minister who has converted to Catholicism). And, whatever it is within women that makes Catholic priests unfit for the priesthood also prohibits women from being ordained. When it comes to women, the Church seems to be misogynistic in its views.

The Church teaches that Jesus never had any women apostles so women cannot be ordained, but what about Mary Magdalene – the first to proclaim the resurrection? That is a clear characteristic of an apostle, which means “one who is sent”. Jesus clearly sent Mary Magdalene with the message of resurrection so there can be little doubt that she was an apostle.

Regarding the ordination of married men, the Church teaches that Jesus was celibate so priests must celibate. But, an argument can be made that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene. For example, why was Mary, the mother of Jesus concerned about the lack of wine at the wedding feast at Cana? This is normally not the concern of a guest at a wedding, unless perhaps, she was the mother of the groom. Nathaniel called Jesus “Rabbi” (John 1:49) and in first century Jewish life a requirement of a rabbi was that they had to be married. And, most dramatically, Mary Magdalene is reported in John 20:15 to say: “Sir, if you have carried him away (the dead body of Jesus), tell me where you have laid him and I will take him away.” Mary was claiming the right to the body, which in first century Judaism was the right of the next of kin. (For more information, see “Born of a Woman” by Bishop John Shelby Spong, chapter 13.) Spong makes a pretty convincing argument that Jesus was married, but even if he wasn’t he certainly had at least one woman who was an apostle.

Some believe that the ordination of married Protestant men is the first step toward the Church ordaining married Catholic men. Perhaps, but I doubt it. They will first have to abandon their misogynistic attitude about women.

Anonymous said...

The National Catholic Reporter carried a news item, "Celibacy not for all" in its Nov. 28 issue, about an English bishop saying that priests should be allowed to marry. However, the bishop then states that he must be married before ordination. That's not allowing priests to marry. It's ordaining married men to the priesthood.

Presumably what underlies the difference between the two is the old erroneous idea that priesthood is a nobler state of life than is marriage. To ordain a married man is to raise him to a higher vocation, whereas to allow a priest to marry is to demote him to a lesser one."
Another inane reason for the church's hard line on mandatory celibacy for priests! Right on, Henry!

Anonymous said...

Trying to argue for a married clergy based on an absurd theory that perhaps Jesus was married is just silly. No one will take you seriously. If you want to argue for a married clergy argue from tradition and argue from the perspective of the Eastern rites and the Orthodox Church.

Henry said...

I agree that few take seriously the possibility that Jesus was married even if some evidence points in that direction. It is interesting that early church officials turned Mary Magdalene into a prostitute, when there is no scriptural evidence for this. One can only ask why.

The Church does not have the freedom and objectivity to seek truth because it is preoccupied with empowering itself and reinforcing its assumptions. Even if they had clear evidence that Jesus was married, they would have to deny it because it would contradict their present belief system and agenda.

Allowing married Protestant clergy to function as ordained priests, while forbidding the same right for Catholic priests shows their twisted logic. It is difficult, if not impossible to have dialog with such an institution. Some Protestant Church bodies have all but abandoned ecumenical discussions with Catholicism for this very reason.

Anonymous said...

I believe it to be highly irrational. I am a young man, discerning the priesthood. Deep deep down, I know that I also would like to marry one day. I am torn. It is not fair.

Why does receiving one sacrament bar another? Is not baptism the gateway to the other 6? Not the other 5.

Pray for our church.

Henry said...

You can find the article “The Celibate Addiction” on under the “Theology” link that points out the irrationality of mandated celibacy. I think the real problem is not mandated celibacy but Papal Infallibility. Locating that sort or power in one person is primitive and dangerous. Mandated celibacy shows the oppression Papal Infallibility can cause.

I wish you well in your discernment whether or not to enter the seminary and prepare for the priesthood. Beware, there is a cloud hanging over Catholicism and it is not a cloud of sanctity. Your decision to enter the priesthood is a decision to embrace and defend the whole system, some of which is badly misguided. There are many other ways to serve the Lord without having to sacrifice your intellectual honesty.

Amanda said...

Dear Henry
It must have been a hard decsion for you to leave the priesthood and having fallen in love- to fall in love is the greatest experience- but faithfulness to God is the greatest proof of love.

The simple answer is that the catholic church never considered ordained men from other demoninations as having valid ordination- they lost apostolic succession. In effect they were lay married men becoming catholic priests in the Roman Rite- For many years the catholic church in the Eastern Rite would ordain married men to the priesthood eg Maronite Rite in Lebanon- and other rites in Croatia and eastern europe- once the wife dies you can not remarry ie once having received the clerical state none can remarry - after VAT II in the Roman Rite married men can now be ordanined deacons- . the Roman rite of the 21 rite in the catholic church requires celibacy.It is a precept not Gods law- and there are amny married men in the catholic church -just not in the Roman Rite

Life is hard and calls for committment- as a married person I may be married to my husband and after 10 years meet another man who loves and appreciates me far more than my husband and with whom I fall in love- does that mean to hell with my marriage vows taken 10 years ago?? and now I leave my husband to be with my "lover, to marry him who appreciates and loves me more than my husband???

Its all about fidelity to committment- and its a martyrdom sometimes to be faithful to the call and committment of so long ago.

God bless you

Henry said...

There is a thin line between "martydom" in marriage and being a doormat for someone to use as they see fit. Many divorces occur for very good reasons. I believe the Church's insistance on mandated celibacy is abusive to priests and those who realize this are free to leave. Also, the idea that priests are married to the Church doesn't make much sense. Married to an institution? See this link for more comments on this:

Unknown said...

The problem is that the Catholic priests who left to be married abandoned their posts and violated their ordination vows. Anglican priests who convert have not abandoned the Catholic Church and have not betrayed their ministry. They have come home while the others have deserted. Former Catholic priests can still be faithful Catholic communicants, but lay communicants, or non-practicing priests.

Henry said...

Rather than priests abandoning their posts, perhaps it would be more descriptive of your mentality if you were to say that priests who left are runaway slaves, owned by the institution to which you seem so devoted.

I am continually amazed by people who cannot see beyond the institution and who have equated the institution with God. Because you perceive Anglican priests converting to Catholicism as "coming home", I presume you also believe that there is no salvation outside the Catholic Church.

Absolutist religion such as yours has been (and is) responsible for a great deal of violence and death in our world. It’s time to put aside the tribal god and move into the twenty-first century. The future of the world may very well depend upon it. The God Jesus came to reveal is compassion and love and this is the God humanity must embrace if we are to ever find our way to peace on this planet.

Anonymous said...

So much of the Catholic Churches doings are easily intrepreted on the basis of power politics. Ex: forgeries of documents to legitimize the idea of the supremacy of the bishop of Rome (see Donatio Constantini), despite easy references to the contrary in Ecumenical councils.

.....Thus, why shouldn't we intrepret it's actions in this way. Is it not clear that the Catholic Church (Joseph Ratzinger) allowed Anglicans to be ordained Catholic priests... in order to undermine the Anglican Church. When I hurt my competitor, I advance my position (figure skater Tanya Harding understood this).

In regards to the second-class citizenship of women and marriage, look up the controversy on the "apostle Junia" mentioned by Paul in Romans 16:7, meditate on the importance of other women mentioned in the New Testament. These women had important roles to play in the early church. And consider current Catholicism, where note-worthy women are basically limited to nuns like Mother Teresa.

Mommy Needs Vodka said...

Yet another news story on this. How is this news?

Here's some food for thought: what about if a priest leaves to marry, becomes protestant, then returns to Catholicism to be a priest? Should he not retain his wife?

2+2 is not equaling 4 here. I'm not sure how this equation is justified, to punish priests just because they were baptized Catholic instead of protestant.

Anonymous said...

The only reason I can think of is the Reformation. The Catholic Church still believes it is the one and only true Christian Church. It has never stopped in its goal of luring back the misguided Protestant branch of the faith. Since they believe this they cannot admit the Protestants could be correct about anything, including the idea priests do not have to be celibate. If they give the Protestants an inch they might take a mile, which is the issue of the authority of the Pope. So yes, they will ordain married Protestants as necessary to their goal, which is to win back as many Protestants as they can, but at the same time retain their percieve spiritual purity by maintaining a difference truly Catholic priests, and those who from another faith group. Is it logical? No, the Church is basically cutting off thier nose to spite their face, but as long as the Protestant Church exists, the Catholic Church will never change it views on celibacy. It has too much to lose if it does.

Henry said...

Clearly, what the Church is about by enticing Anglicans to convert is proselytizing. Changing celibacy laws that do not apply to all priests, but only to the ones they want to lure into the fold is proselytizing. To make matters worse, most of these Anglican clergy are homophobic and misogynist because they are leaving primarily over women and gay clergy. Sadly, their misogyny and homophobia have found a home within Catholicism.

Anonymous said...

My name is Andrew. I explain the celibacy thing this way: Even Roman Catholic priests were married at one time in the Roman Church before the Monastic era. During that time, priests who were already married could be ordained. However, if his spouse died, he could not remarry. This is still how it is in the Eastern Catholic Churches today. What changed in the Roman Church is none of her priests could marry. From the Monastic Model, they took a promise of celibacy just as their religious order brothers took vows of celibacy. The Roman Church viewed this as a more singularly devoted form opening priests up to focus primarily on God and ministry. It allowed him to be more devoted to ministry and prayer without sacrificing his family for it. That is the real reason. I am certainly open to a married priesthood for two reasons. One is it is part of the traditions of the Church, albeit a long time ago. Secondly, if the Church values marriage as a sacrament, it cannot be bad, obviously, or they would not allow marriage of any kind. I pray daily and for God's Will and the Spiritual strength of the Church throughout the world. Even if they do allow married priests, there will still be those who do not marry just as the Eastern Churches are today. A good start might be to look at our other Catholic Churches who allow for married priests and really evaluate the pro's and con's.

Henry said...

Andrew, mandated celibacy was also influence by the problem of priest's children inheriting church property, and the view that sexual intercourse was perceived as sinful, defiling the priest rendering him unfit to celebrate mass.

Anonymous said...

Hello Henry! Back in the 80's right after college, I had entered the discernment program for my archdiocese. I felt that I had a calling and was invited by the archdiocese to make application to the seminary. I received much encouragement from my pastor, the other priests and deacons as well as fellow parishoners. Something just didn't feel right though. I felt that I was being called to priesthood but deep down felt that I was also called to the married state. I spoke with several priests and they told me to pray hard and God would lead me to be a holy priest. A week before shipping off to the seminary, I had to meet with the Archbishop and cold feet got the best of me. I told him that I was having a conflict with remaining celebate the rest of my life although I was feeling a call and wanted to wait to further discern my vocation. I Remember him and others telling me that if I couldn't accept celibacy that I didn't have a true priestly vocation. Fortunately, I met a wonderful woman and have been married for 20 years now. During all this time, I always felt that the requirement of celibacy for priesthood in the Latin Rite was unfair and barred a lot of good men from ministry, both those who left the active priesthood to get married and those laymen who are married but feel a call. It seems strange that Rome allows the Eastern Rite Churches to have a married priesthood and now allows married men from other denominations to come right through the front door with their wives and receive ordination as Roman Catholic Priests. This is not only an injustice to the married priests forced from active ministry and married laymen who are cradle catholics, it also seems, totally illogical given the clergy shortage.

Since I had to choose between marriage and the priesthood, I had for a long time felt as if I had turned my back on God and felt riddled with guilt until I realized that God didn't force me to choose between Him and a woman but the Heirarchy did; now I feel angry for being forced into a choice that others coming in from the outside don't need to make.

On top of that, we have this horrible sexual abuse scandal that is universally spread throughout the church and the heirarchy seems lacking in true remorse and utterly incapable of repentance; it is also quite quick to say that the celibacy requirement has nothing to do with the problem. HOGWASH! While pedophilia affects all walks of life including other religious denominations, there seems to be an inordinate amount of it in the Roman Church.

I now find myself at a crossroads concerning my faith and the faith life of my family. I'm finding it harder to remain in a church that seems so controlling and lacking in compassion. On top of that, I still feel a call to serve God in the priesthood. What do I do? Remain with Rome as layman and do as I'm told without being allowed to use my God given brain and questioning her when she's wrong (that would make me a very bad boy, wouldn't it?) or do I become orthodox, Anglican/Episcopalian or Old Catholic and seek ordination in one of those churches? I do not wish to be a schismatic or be regarded as a heretic, I simply want to answer the Lord's call in my life and lovingly serve him without feeling like I have betrayed Him or abandoned the Church by switching denominations.

Speaking of the Anglicans, do you believe that they have valid Holy Orders and other Sacraments? I know that Rome says no and the issue is settled despite enough evidence to the contrary. If as the Anglicans claim, Old Catholic and Orthodox Orders have been infused into their sucession following the Pope's declaring them null and void wouldn't they now posess a validly ordained heirarchy? I also understand that the Orthodox have a somewhat different outlook on what constitutes valid orders and several Orthodox Churches at one time considered Anglican Orders as valid.

Thanks! God bless you Father!

Henry said...

I do not think valid Orders are confined to the Catholic Church and believe we meet Christ in the Eucharist in other denominations including Anglican. It is part of the Roman Church's triumphalism to claim it alone has the real presence of Christ. God is not under obedience to the Roman hierarchy even though they would like to think otherwise.

Transitioning out of the religion of your childhood, whatever the religion, is a challenge and in some ways one will feel a loss. I feel very much at home where I am now but it took a few years. If you do decide to affiliate with another denomination, be sure to give it some time and see through the ritual differences to the heart of the matter - a sacramental connection with Christ in the midst of a loving and inclusive faith community. Once you have made the transition, then it would make more sense to look at possible ordination in that denomination. Most would require that you be a member of the denomination for at least a year before preparing for ordination.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Henry! It is a hard decision for sure but I really am looking for a faith experience that is catholic and sacramental in the truest sense without all the legalism, mind games and control issues. I truly appreciate your advice regarding making a transition and getting to know the new community and experiencing Christ's love through that community. I've often wondered how Rome could "control" who has valid orders and sacraments as if she could decide for the Lord who He can bestow His grace upon; this line of thinking never felt right or very Christian to me. To tell the truth, I'm leaning heavily toward the Anglican side of the
house and like what I've seen so far. Thanks again for your opinion and advice, I really appreciate it!

Anonymous said...

It is my understanding that the first 39 Pope's were married. And if "some" clergy can be married, and "some" can't, where is the fairness in that? I'm just saying...

Anonymous said...

"Legalism"? Wait let me get this straight, you want to enjoy a game of chess without the rules of play? Do the words - "if you love me keep my commandments" make any sense to you? And please Rome doesn't decide anything that pertains to the sacraments. The Church takes as normative the acts and teaching of Christ and his apostles. The church which me and you together with the hierarchy, have no power to change anything that pertains to the sacraments. One ctiteria that has from the early times determined validity of office was apostolic succession. The only people christ gave the power of priesthood are the apostles. Now these apostles laid hands on elders (presbuteros) who now validly acted. The apostles also laid hands on their successors. Thus, you cannot just come up one day and claim priest - remember "no one takes this honor upon himself". Don't be fooled.

Anonymous said...

For one who was once a priest, your theology is quite disappointing. The Catholic Church doesn't claim sole possessor of the real presence, she teaches transubstantiation while Anglicans teach consubstantiation, while most others don't even accept the euchstist. Again, the principle of non contradiction makes us know that a thing cannot be and not be at the same time. Either something is true or fslse. And so either the Catholic Church is right in her teachings on the eucharist and orders or she is wrong. If she is right, that puts to question the dissenting beliefs of other denominations. If she is wrong, then it means Jesus himself either deceived her or abandoned her for the most part of 2000 years existence in error and confusion, which he promised never to do. The Spirit of God is not a spirit of division and confusion in splinter churces. He is a spirit of unity and truth.

Unknown said...

I am a roman catholic religious priest and was dismissed from the congregation leaving the church for months ...I am married now and still want to serve the church.I am looking out for both Anglican or Roman catholic Bishop who can accept me as I am. I am ordained and consecrated.Can someone help?Here is my email address
Name - Fr. Christopher