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.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Married clergy and the vocations problem

The first post on this blog was about married priests in the Anglican churches in the Philippines and how this created a minor controversy in the wake of the Vatican announcing Anglicanorum coetibus  two years ago. But before we proceed we have to make some things clear

The official facts:

The Catholic Church has married priests in the Eastern Catholic Churches. A majority of parishes in the Greek, Ukrainian, Ruthenian churches are staffed by married clergy.

The Latin rite of the Catholic Church (which comprises the vast majority of Catholics) requires that all priests should be celibate (meaning unmarried). However the popes have dispensed with this obligation especially for married ministers of Protestant and Anglican churches called to the Catholic priesthood. A majority of clergy which were given this dispensation were from the Anglican Communion.

The Eastern (Orthodox and Catholic) Churches and the Western (Latin) Church do not allow married men to be consecrated bishops. In the Eastern churches, the bishop is also a monk and since monks are celibate, the bishops must be too. Also the bishop is traditionally seen to be married to their dioceses. In the Eastern Churches a widow may be consecrated as a bishop. In the Roman Catholic Church we know of one cardinal, an former Anglican priest, Cardinal Henry Manning of Westminster, who was a widow. Upon his death and among his cardinal's regalia his staff found that he had a locket with his late wife's picture.

The Latin Church and the Eastern Catholic Churches permit the ordination of married men as deacons. The Latin Church considers married deacons as permanently in the diaconal calling, while in the Eastern Churches they might be ordained as priests. In the Latin Church, the decision to do this lies with the national bishops conference. In the Philippines, the CBCP has not given the go signal but 20 years ago, the subject was brought before the Plenary Council of the Philippines. Deacons like priests and bishops are in Holy Orders

Married and celibate vocations have been honored in the Church since her founding. They are to be considered equal and of complementary value.

And here are some more

It is said that a married clergy will help solve the clergy problem. However even the Protestant churches have suffered a lack of vocations as our society becomes more secular. The Prime Bishop of the Episcopal Church of the Philippines, the Most Rev. Edward Malecdan has said that enrolment in the ECP's St Andrew's Theological Seminary has dropped in recent years.

It may be financially hard for a particular church to support married clergy and their families. The Ordinariate in England is facing a financial challenge to support its clergy all of which are former Anglican priests and many of them have families. The support for them should come from the diocese and in this case the Ordinariate. In the Philippines, Roman Catholic dioceses find it increasingly difficult to support secular priests, especially retired one and even the parish church buildings since then dioceses depend mostly on mass stipends. Fr Raymond Arre of UP told me that since the parish church is a national cultural treasure, the parish has to make sure the church and its artworks are well maintained and this entails increasing costs on top of supporting the priests and parish staff.

The Eastern Churches in the USA also face the same problems as they ordain married men for service in that country. In the Philippines, poor communities may find it difficult to support a married cleric and his family.

It appears that vocations to the clerical state in the Catholic, Anglican/Episcopal and Protestant churches have been decreasing and this isn't due to the religious traditions they have (clerical celibacy or a married clergy) but to the increasing secularization of Filipino society. Perhaps one solution is to revive spirituality among the youth. One Anglican UP graduate sent me a private message on Facebook and he told me that his Episcopalian grandparents who were devout Anglicans were the reason why his uncles and a brother had religious vocations. One uncle became a vicar general of a Roman Catholic diocese and his brother became a Roman Catholic priest!

It is the family and how the family lives out its faith traditions that is the seedbed of religious vocations to the Catholic Church and this religious tradition need not be Roman Catholic at all.

My personal take on the matter is that I value the call to celibacy and to the married state as equally valuable since they are premised on being faithful. If one is single and in the lay state, then there is no choice but to be celibate. If one is married then one is no longer celibate but has to be faithful to his/her spouse and family. As I said the family is the seedbed of religious vocations.

In a secularizing Philippines, it is increasingly hard to live out these Christian callings.

1 comment:

  1. Often folks neglect to note that the Catholic Church in America has 17,000+ married men as clergy. Poor deacons, everyone forgets deacons ARE clergy!


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