Anglicanorum Coetibus cited (confusingly) as precedent for new Vatican ruling on ordaining married men for the Eastern Catholic Churches

The Vatican Congregation for the Eastern Catholic Churches has issued a new ruling  generally permitting the ordination of married men outside of the traditional lands from which these churches originated – hitherto, for example in the USA, this was prohibited.

In the official letter of the Prefect of the Congregation, Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, which was officially approved by Pope Francis, the situation of the Personal Ordinariates is surprisingly cited as a precedent. This is particularly confusing, since AC specifically states that the celibate priesthood is the norm for the Ordinariates and that ordination of married men is only to be permitted on a case by case basis, which was in fact more or less the situation of the Eastern Churches in the West before this letter was written!

Is this a case of clumsiness and very bad research on the part of the said Congregation? Or is it perhaps an indication that the Vatican is willing to be very generous in its case-by-case rulings for ordaining married men (who were not Anglican clerics) in the Ordinariates too? This would indeed be a very significant move and would represent an important further recognition of Anglican patrimony.

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6 Responses to Anglicanorum Coetibus cited (confusingly) as precedent for new Vatican ruling on ordaining married men for the Eastern Catholic Churches

  1. EPMS says:

    For at least twenty years married men from jurisdictions where Eastern Rite priests were required to be celibate have simply been sent to the relevant “homeland” for part of their formation, then brought back under the provision that allowed married priests from the East to function in North American churches. It was a necessary strategem, since otherwise they would have had extreme difficulty finding vocations. I think this is very likely to be the case in the Ordinariates as well, where there will have been almost no role models and no culture of a celibate clergy to encourage celibate vocations. It’s not exactly a stampede in the Latin Rite where these things DO exist.

  2. Jedd says:

    Well AC is clear: married, Ordinariate laymen who were never Anglican clergymen may be ordained as Catholic priests in the Ordinariate. Rome has recently tried to distance itself from that paragraph of Pope Benedict’s.

    I also hope that this move for the Eastern Rite churches portends a softening on the Vatican’s stance on married Ordinariate clergy. Married Ordinariate men might consider ordination to the diaconate and when Rome comes to its senses many of them might be ordained to the priesthood.

    • Rev22:17 says:

      Jedd,

      You wrote: Well AC is clear: married, Ordinariate laymen who were never Anglican clergymen may be ordained as Catholic priests in the Ordinariate. Rome has recently tried to distance itself from that paragraph of Pope Benedict’s.

      So far, those who were seminarians at the time of reception have been permitted to complete their studies and receive ordination. I’m not aware of any married members of the ordinariates who had not started seminary before their reception into the Catholic Church being admitted to Catholic seminaries.

      Norm.

      • Jedd says:

        True. My point is that this should be seen as a back down by Rome rather than the “true” mind of AC.

      • Rev22:17 says:

        Jedd,

        You wrote: My point is that this should be seen as a back down by Rome rather than the “true” mind of AC.

        The apostolic constitution Anglicanorum coetibus and the associated complementary norms seem to be of a more mixed mind on this. Here, Article VI of the former is quite explicit (emphasis in original).

        § 2. The Ordinary, in full observance of the discipline of celibate clergy in the Latin Church, as a rule (pro regula) will admit only celibate men to the order of presbyter. He may also petition the Roman Pontiff, as a derogation from can. 277, §1, for the admission of married men to the order of presbyter on a case by case basis, according to objective criteria approved by the Holy See.

        So far, the “objective criteria” seem to encompass those admitted to Anglican seminaries prior to their reception into the full communion of the Catholic Church. Article 6 of the complementary norms provide further insight.

        §1. In order to admit candidates to Holy Orders the Ordinary must obtain the consent of the Governing Council. In consideration of Anglican ecclesial tradition and practice, the Ordinary may present to the Holy Father a request for the admission of married men to the presbyterate in the Ordinariate, after a process of discernment based on objective criteria and the needs of the Ordinariate. These objective criteria are determined by the Ordinary in consultation with the local Episcopal Conference and must be approved by the Holy See.

        So there appears to be a sort of “white man speak with forked tongue” scenario of “hmmm… we’d like celibacy to be the norm, but we’re prepared to bend if it’s carefully discerned” disposition present in the governing documents.

        FWIW, this is not unlike much of the sacred constitution Sacrosanctum concillium on divine worship promulgated by the Second Vatican Council.

        Of course, canonically, any diocesan bishop of the Roman Rite has the right to petition the Vatican for a dispensation from celibacy on a case basis to admit any married man to a Catholic seminary and to ordain a married man to order of presbyter. So far such dispensations have generally been limited to cases of former Anglican and former Protestant clergy. However, I think that the present pope would be quite receptive to petitions from conferences of bishops to admit married men to the order of presbyter under other circumstances. The real questions are (1) how soon such petitions will be forthcoming and (2) what the circumstances will be.

        Norm.

  3. EPMS says:

    I gather that the Pastoral Provision Office in the US has a policy of ordaining no more than two married former Protestant clergy per diocese. I think the Church is genuinely worried about anything that might undermine the perception that celibacy is a key requirement of the priesthood. I am sure the Eastern Rite churches in North America would still be forced to have a celibate priesthood if the fall of the Iron Curtain had not made the former restrictions easy to circumvent. Of course the Chirch has also been known to insist that change is impossible right up to the eve of the change, as one sees when reading Vatican II documents on the use of the vernacular in the Latin Rite.

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