Leading Catholic Academic Calls for Married Priests

The Tablet:

A leading academic has said the Catholic Church urgently needs to overturn its centuries-old ban on ordaining married men to ease the shortage of priests and better relate to the faithful.

Writing in The Tablet this week John Haldane, Professor of philosophy at the University of St Andrews, states: “The time is overdue to admit married men to (shortened) formation and ordination.”

Professor Haldane, who is also an adviser to the Pontifical Council for Culture, likens the Church to “a vessel battered by rising waves, leaking along its length and undermanned”. He calls for greater involvement of the laity, “not in the guise of para-clerics but because of its education, expertise and experience” because “it is worse than foolish not to call able bodies to the bridge”.

However he said that men already ordained to the priesthood should not be able to marry or remarry, and added that “for reasons of exclusive commitment, only the celibate should be bishops”.



Married Man Forges Path to Catholic Priesthood

KEYC has the report:

As the Pastor at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Waconia, Father Larry Blake says the weekly children’s mass is one of his favorites.

“I thought to myself this is great to be able to do this with them,” said Fr. Blake.

We caught up with him at a service was earlier this summer. It was back in 1993 that then–Lutheran Pastor Larry Blake left that faith and became a Catholic.

Blake said, “That started a whole new life for us. Now all of a sudden I wasn’t a member of the clergy. I was a lay person again going to mass again every Sunday with my family.”

All the while, he felt the calling to return to the clergy.

It was not going to be a simple thing because Pastor Larry Blake was married and becoming Father Larry Blake would normally require celibacy. But there was a way and Blake found it.

He began a long process. Encouraged by friends in the priesthood and supported by then Archbishop John Roach, the next year meant theological training, not only learning about the Catholic faith and what it means to be a priest, but petitioning the Pope himself for the right to become a priest.

“Not even the Archbishop could promise it would happen because it was beyond him,” Fr. Blake said.

That ordination did happen in December of 1999, three years after a formal request went to Rome.

Fr. Blake said, “When it finally came through it was just such a joy for me that day.”

Father Andrew Cozzens with the St. Paul Seminary School of Divinity said, “Well it’s actually a sign of how important the Church sees it that only the Pope can give this permission.”

Fr. Cozzens says this exception should be viewed as a positive ecumenical statement rather than a statement about what church discipline should be.

He adds while certain things in the church remain unchanged, exceptions can be made for disciplinary norms, including celibacy.

“So what we’re saying is Fr. Larry Blake was already a minister in his Christian congregation. When he becomes a Catholic it makes sense to let him continue that ministerial role as a Catholic priest. So ecumenically we want to respect what he was versus to say it makes sense to have married Catholic priests in general. We still believe that it makes sense priests would be celibate,” Fr. Cozzens said.

The Catholic Church’s history with celibacy goes back as far as church scholars know, but before the 12th Century there were married priests. Those men were required to takes vows of continence, meaning they were not allowed to live as husband and wife. Since the year 1139 only celibate men were ordained. In 1999 when Larry Blake became Fr. Larry Blake he joined a group of about 70 or so married men who came to the priesthood from other denominations.

Fr. Blake’s been a priest for 12 years now and a married man all throughout with three children. His most recent Christmas card looking like any family man’s.

Fr. Blake said, “Does my married life make me better? Again, I would hesitate to answer that. I have had people tell me, they say, ‘Father, I really want to talk to you about my family because I know you’ll understand.’ So that comes up quite a bit; so people will say that. I have such a high regard for my fellow priests too who are celibate and have made a different decision. So I’m hesitant to say this is better than another way.”

So Fr. Larry Blake has two vocations.

“The people of the parish have been supportive of my family life and my family understands the demands and commitment that a priest makes to the parish,” Blake said.

In fact, Fr. Blake says Archbishop Harry Flynn made it clear that the priesthood comes after his first vocation: his family. Something Fr. Blake says his wife never forgot.

“She enjoyed that and has reminded me from time to time.”

An affirmation of his place and his family’s place in the Catholic Church, with a prominent place in Church history.

“I look back on the last 12 years and indeed it has been a privilege…I love it….The joy is in my heart.”

After six years Fr. Blake has moved on from St. Joseph’s Church in Waconia as of this summer.

Right now he’s on another tour of duty serving as a military chaplain in Southwest Asia.




Being a Catholic Priest—and Married

Fr Richard Cipolla:

My experience as a married Catholic priest for 28 years brings to mind several thoughts, both practical and spiritual. First, the church must support new priests’ families financially. During my first years as a married Catholic priest, there were times when we could not pay the heating bill. When I was ordained, it was made quite clear to me that I should not look to the church as my main source of income but rather to a full-time job outside of the church. My parish duties have thus always been secondary.

Secondly, the new priests must be prepared for the spiritual struggles that come with the territory of being a married priest in the Catholic Church. It is difficult for children of priests to hear everyone call their father, “Father.” It is one of my regrets that I could never be a “normal Dad” who was able to attend school functions and sporting events. Priests’ wives often bear the brunt of this special status, for they must allow their husbands to be “priest” at a real cost to themselves and their children…

Despite my situation—which is similar to that of other married clergy who have entered the Catholic ranks since the 1980s—I am a firm supporter of the celibacy of the Catholic clergy. Its basis is not found in councils or popes but rather in the person of Jesus Christ. The heart of the Catholic priesthood is sacrifice, and celibacy, in imitation of Christ, frees the priest to give himself totally to the church and its people.

Though many priests do live this life of sacrifice, it is also obvious that celibacy is used by all too many priests to live a life that is selfish and closed off. The sexual scandals of the past decade are a glaring example of the perversion of celibacy.

And the very structures of a parish priest’s life often prevent him from achieving the freedom that should be the fruit of celibacy. The lack of deep spiritual friendship between priests; the unreal world they inhabit, at least from the viewpoint of a typical American family; the careerism that is the noxious fruit of the bureaucratic world of the chancery—all this works against the priest using his celibacy to be free for his people.

Reform of the priesthood is sorely needed today. The answer is not married priests. The answer is priests who understand the sacrifice that is at the center of their lives—whether they are married or not…

The rest in the Wall Street Journal here.



Eastern Catholic Church (Melkite) to Ordain Married Men to the Priesthood

Orthocath reports:

At his recent enthronement as the Melkite Greek Catholic Bishop in the USA, Bishop Nicholas Samra stated that the Melkite Catholic Church (an Eastern Catholic Church in union with the Pope of Rome) will begin ordaining married men to the priesthood in the USA.

Bishop Nicholas Samra, Bishop of the Melkite Eparchy of Newton, Massachusetts made the comment in a dinner speech following his enthronement on August 23, 2011. The Bishop’s speech, newly published in the Melkite journal Sophia, is the first published public statements by the Melkite Greek Catholic Church of their intention to ordain married men to the priesthood for the American Melkite Church.

Bishop Nicholas, the first American-born Bishop to serve the Melkite Church in the USA, noted that “we are on a shoe-string of clergy to serve our Church as priests.” At present, the American Melkite Eparchy, with 35 parishes and approximately 27,000 members  has only “one priest to be ordained next year.” Worldwide, Melkite Catholics number about 1.6 million and are part of the Melkite Partriarchate of Antioch. The Melkite Catholic Church shares similar traditions with the Antiochian Orthodox Church, but entered communion with Rome in 1729.

Encouraging vocations among his American flock is one of Bishop Nicholas’ goals:

We are grateful for our ancestors — priests and laity and bishops who came from the Middle East and brought us to where we are presently. But now we have come of age and we need priests from among our people in this American Melkite Catholic Church.

Bishops at the Enthronement of Melkite Bishop Nicholas Samra in Newton, Massachusetts

Towards the end of his speech, Bishop Nicholas spoke of the need to both study and implement the training of married men to the priesthood in the Melkite Greek Catholic Church so that “hopefully soon we can see the growth of properly formed married clergy”:

God calls men and women to religious vocations. And I believe he also calls married men to the priesthood…

Read on here.



Married Priest: ‘Single Clergy Better Placed to Serve God’

A married Roman Catholic priest from Burnley has said he believes the church is correct to prefer single celibate clergy in their parishes.

The BBC reports:

A married Roman Catholic priest from Burnley has said he believes the church is correct to prefer single celibate clergy in their parishes.

Father Paul Blackburn is the most recently ordained priest into the Salford Diocese.

He is married with three children.

A former Anglican minister, Father Paul embraced Catholicism after growing dissatisfied with the direction the Church of England was taking on some moral issues.

He said single priests are better placed to serve God by giving their entire life to his ministry.

“Whatever the church decides about the future shape of ministry there will always be a need for celibate priests,” Father Paul told BBC Radio Lancashire.

For centuries, the Roman Catholic Church has insisted that its priests be both single and celibate claiming it is God’s will. They say it has apostolic authority and back up the argument with biblical references.

Critics, amongst them some practising clergy in the church, say laws of celibacy are a more earthly ruling and did not apply in the early days of the church. Saint Peter, the first pope, was married and so were some subsequent popes and bishops.

The rule of clerical celibacy is a church law and not a doctrine, thus the Pope can alter the ruling at any time. The current pontiff, Pope Benedict XVI, is staunchly in favour of the status quo. However, he can and does allow former married Anglican minsters to become Catholic priests with each case being viewed on an individual basis.

In recent times this was seen as a gift from the Pope and is also now part of the ordinariate as some Anglicans struggle to remain in the Church of England.

Many Catholics believe that a married priest is a more rounded priest whose experiences can help deal with family issues better than his single colleagues.

Father Paul disagrees. “A celibate priest can give so much more,” he said. “They can give themselves and everything about them. They can give to the church and to the service of God. I can give what I give but a proportion of my time will always go to my family”…

It was there, towards the end of the nineties, that Father Paul began to have worries about the future direction of the Anglican Church…

Father Paul’s first role as a Roman Catholic priest was to join the chaplaincy team at Blackburn Royal Infirmary. “I have met some lovely people at the hospital, both staff and patients, and it is a privilege to minister to them,” he said…

Even though the church is struggling to find enough priests to cover its parishes, Father Paul still isn’t in favour of relaxing the church rules to accept vocations from priests who wish to marry.

“The world around us is changing and there are less and less people going to mass,” he said. “It is almost as if the culture has forgotten that we are a Christian country. Less people are going to church but the people who are there are there because they are committed.”

Read the whole piece here.