Pope Paul VI to the Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Michael Ramsey

"(B)y entering into our house, you are entering your own house, we are happy to open our door and heart to you." - Pope Paul VI to Dr Michael Ramsey, Archbishop of Canterbury.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Anglicanorum Coetibus in the Philippines: some initial reactions on married clergy

Pope Benedict XVI promulgated the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus (AC) last October. The constitution is a significant church document that establishes a new particular church. In this case this church is not bounded by a territorial jurisdiction but is defined by persons having a similar faith tradition. The constitution established a personal ordinariate (equivalent to a territorial diocese) for individual or groups of Anglicans and Anglican churches who wish to join the Roman Catholic Church.

The Pope's constitution puts a premium in preserving Anglican patrimony and its liturgies as long as these do not contradict Catholic doctrine as stated in the Catholic Catechism. The Anglicans in the Catholic Church will be permitted to have their Anglican married clergy on a case to case basis, their bishops can be ordained bishops if unmarried, married Anglican bishops can be priest-ordinaries and can wear their episcopal insignia. The appointment of future bishops will be on the recommendation of the Anglican ordinariate governing council and not just by the Papal nuncio. This according to the norms, respects the synodical tradition in Anglicanism.

The AC as we call it is the subject of many discussion in the Roman Catholic, Anglican, Anglicans planning to become Catholic and even secular blogosphere. Surely the Ordinariate scheme is a significant development in Church history but how will it be applied?

The secular press latched on the idea of the Ordinariate becoming the only place in the Roman Catholic Church where married priests are allowed. The Vatican had to clarify that the Church has previously allowed exception to celibacy for convert clergy but even in the Ordinariates it will still be the exception rather than the norm. I don't think a radical revision of the discipline of the Latin Church will be good as of this time. It has to be recalled that the Eastern Catholic Churches allow married priests but THEY ARE THE BIGGEST FANS of the discipline of celibacy.

In the Philippines this is the first initial reaction to the AC as evidenced by this bit of news about the opinions of the Catholic Bishop of Baguio and the Anglican Dean of Baguio on the matter. How workable is having married clergy in the Catholic Church? I find their reactions a bit strange and rather negative. Filipinos don't have a problem with married clergy. I believe that a majority of Filipino Catholics can accept married clergy if they are models for Christian living. Many would say if the Protestant pastor in town can have a family and manage to be holy, why can't the Catholic priest? Also the problem of poor communities having a married pastor is not a big hindrance. Many married Protestant ministers are serving poor communities. And another thing, many congregations are smaller than Catholic ones and are not organized along episcopal lines. Thus it would be more financially difficult  for a congregation to support a pastor than a larger Catholic diocese supporting a priest.

The Filipino Catholic resistance to a married clergy probably is with the clerics themselves. Having a married clergy would require a new way of looking at being clergy. We laypeople have dealt with Protestant ministers and Catholic priests and we don't see any problem at all. There have been faithful married pastors and Catholic priests [more in the majority, Deo gratias!] as well as unfaithful ones.

My opinion here does not mean that I downplay celibacy as an authentic vocation of the priesthood. Celibacy indeed has its gifts and is in perfect accordance to the will of Christ as stated in the Gospels.

It still puzzles me that the Philippine hierarchy has not yet instituted the permanent diaconate in the Philippines as revived by Vatican II. Our social and religious situation makes the role of the permanent deacon  more essential. There is a need for ordained ministers to fulfill tasks of catechesis and works of charity. This is the ministry of deacons.

Roman Catholic permanent deacons can be married and have secular jobs. They too can be unmarried but they will be required to remain celibate but can have a secular jobs. My parish in Louisiana has a married deacon who is a top notch trial lawyer. On many times I have approached him for advice on legal and spiritual matters. Surely many Filipino men can be deacons as they live holy lives and are successful in their professions or trades.

But permanent deacons can be married. And I'm pretty sure if the Philippine bishops institute it, many who will have the vocation will be married. And they will bring their wives and families to their ministries. I believe that the acerbic debate on reproductive health would be less acidic if you have married deacons [and a few convert married priests!] to explain the Catholic side.

But the question is if the hierarchy is able to accept a married clergy. The laypeople can.

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