10 October 2006

Of Marriage, Celibacy, & the Priesthood.

Fr. Ray Ryland reflects in the latest Crisis:

You're a married priest? I didn't know we had married priests. I think the Church should let all her priests marry.”

Words like these have greeted me frequently since my ordination to the priesthood in 1983, with dispensation from the rule of celibacy. I always assure those who favor optional celibacy that both my wife and I strongly support the Church's discipline of priestly celibacy. While I'm deeply grateful that the Church has made an exception for certain former Protestant clergy like me, the exception is clearly a compromise. The priesthood and marriage are both full-time vocations. The fact is, no one can do complete justice to both simultaneously. . .



Blogger Thunder Jones said...


11 October, 2006 15:21  
Blogger PSA+ said...

Naw, I just thought it was interesting.

11 October, 2006 15:33  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe I'm just too protestant, but I don't know how anyone could do justice to either vocation *on their own* without the grace of Christ...isn't saying that no one can do justice to both like limiting the aid Christ can give to one called to both marriage and the priesthood?

16 October, 2006 23:14  
Blogger PSA+ said...

I don't think the point is that one or the other vocations doesn't require grace, but that some vocations are mutually incompatible, or at least that the Church in its long experience has discerned that some vocations are combined only with difficulty and significant compromise - so much so that they ordinarily shouldn't be combined. John Stott has often said that were he married he couldn't possibly carry on his ministry of non-stop work and travel. God gives us grace, but he also gives us wisdom and common sense (we often call these things "common grace") and expects us to use them and act prudently - see the book of Proverbs. Having said that, I disagree with the main thrust of the argument Fr. Ryland makes. But, even I sense this tension, but I also know that I would be worthless in my priestly ministry (and otherwise) unless I could come home to my wife. In the Orthodox tradition, of course, parish priests are normally married, but the bishops are all monks and there is a high regard for the vocation of celibacy undertaken for the Church. I also think that evangelicalism would do well to recover at least the possibility that celibacy might be a vocation for some to consider.

17 October, 2006 13:53  
Blogger Jody said...

I don't disagree that there are tensions between the vocation of marriage and ordained ministry. I merely think that the Roman Rite took what was a perfectly understandable way to stamp out particular abuses and made it a standard that, when optional may be beneficial, but when mandatory and used to exclude some from the ordained ministry is an error. I also agree that evangelicals and other protestants would do well to recognize the possibility of celibacy as a vocation and the benefit of supporting and recognizing it in the Church... that protestants generally have not has been to the neglect of some who have felt themselves to be somehoe "lesser" because they never married. I think it was Archbishop Matthew Parker who expressed a healthy (though no doubt offensive to contemporary feminists) attitude in his pamphlet "A Godly Wife is an Helper"...mandatory clerical celibacy is nearly as big an error as papal infalibility or promulgating the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary as a dogma to be believed by all, and is in most cases a bigger, more immediate stumbling block.

At any rate... I don't know why my last post showed up as anonymous... I enjoy your blog.. take care..

23 October, 2006 22:33  
Blogger PSA+ said...

Should the Anglican ship continue to founder, and should Catholic bishops (esp. in America and England) become more liberal - even proactive - in granting pastoral provisions (as I believe they are), I think mandatory priestly celibacy will take a big hit. It may develop that priestly orders (the Legionaires, &c.) will be strengthened so that some are celibate orders, others not. I think it's important to remember that unity doesn't require uniformity (as evidenced by the Byzantine Catholic uniates and their married clergy). So, perhaps one day there will be an Anglican uniate alongside the Latin rite and other uniates.

25 October, 2006 08:06  
Blogger Jody said...

That may be... it would definitely make things interesting... though I have heard that Byzantine clergy get pressure in the United States to conform to clerical celibacy... This was certainly almost uniformly the case after 1929 and the Papal Bull Cum Data Fuerit which forbade Greek Catholics to ordain married men or for married clergy from other parts of the world to minister in the US, until Pope John Paul II's Pontificate when "romanizers" fell out of favor. Also, some have surmised that the possibility of forming an Anglican Use in England was quashed because the RC hierarchy in that country did not want the creation of a Rite in union with Rome, with a strong culturally English liturgy of its own competing against the Novus Ordo as well a married clergy...but who knows, it could work out. Personally, I have more hope for the Western Rite in the Antiochian Orthodox Church. Though it has generally gotten far less attention than the Anglican Use, the Antiochian structure seems more conducive to such a development on a broad scale.

25 October, 2006 17:22  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home