Friday, January 28, 2005

Bishop backs push for overhaul of celibacy laws

The Catholic Bishop of Canberra and Goulburn, Pat Power, is supporting calls for celibacy laws to be relaxed to encourage people to become priests.The National Council of Priests has asked the Vatican to consider allowing Catholic priests to marry.Bishop Power believes action must be taken to attract more people to the Church."Generally among priests and certainly among the lay faithful I think there is a recognition of the real need that we have for more people to be available to serve as priests," he said."If it is limited to a celibate clergy that is going to exclude quite a number of otherwise good candidates."Bishop Power acknowledges there has been strong resistance from the Vatican in the past but says it is time for change."To what degree are we prepared to read the signs of the times, to what degree are we prepared to listen to the pleas of our people and if we're going to continue to be blind and deaf in those areas well I think we're heading down the wrong path."

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Some questions you may have about Married Priests and their ministry

“Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things. Love never ends.” (1 Cor. 13)

1. We do not regularly attend a Roman Catholic Parish in the area, and I cannot find a Roman Catholic Priest who will marry us. Being married in the church means a lot to us. What can we do?

There are several options. Most Roman Catholic parishes will require that you have at least some connection to a Roman Catholic Parish. If you live in this area and are open to doing so seek out a parish where you feel comfortable, meet with the pastor and explain that you would like to join the parish and have plans to marry. If you now live in another area and are active in a parish there, ask your local priest to connect you to a parish here. If you still have parents or relatives living in this area who belong to a parish, ask them to speak to their priest about your request.
Unfortunately, because of the increasing rigidity and harshness of many purport to 'rule' the church, many Catholics are turned away by their parishes when they seek the help of a priest to marry them, baptize their children, or seek some other assistance.

All Catholics who approach a priest for a sacrament, or help of any kind should, be welcomed and listened to with kindness. If you have been turned away by priest in your parish for any reason, please contact a married priest if you still need or want the help of a caring, compassionate, non-judgmental minister.

2. One of us is (or both of us are) divorced and we do not wish to use the annulment process. Our priest has told us that we cannot be married in the church. Can you help us?

Unlike the Roman Catholic Church, other Catholic Churches (such as the Episcopal Church and Eastern Orthodox Churches) teach that second marriages may be blessed. I believe that the sacred bond that is formed in the Sacrament of Marriage is a living bond, capable of growth and maturity, requiring the care and sustenance of both parties to the marriage. Humanity has been redeemed in Christ Jesus, and in Jesus’ Resurrection we know death to be conquered, sin to be forgiven, and the chance for New Life given to all.

Married priests welcome divorced people seeking the sacrament of marriage as welcomed God's children seeking happiness and an opportunity for new life. They will gladly bless your second marriage in the name of God’s people.

3. If you witnesses our marriage will it be legal in the eyes of the state? Will the Church recognize our marriage?
Married 'Rentapriests" are all ordained Catholic priests. Most of them were forced to leave the active priesthood in the institutional church because they fell in love and chose to marry. They have been called back to ministry by CITI Ministries, a lay Catholic organization founded specifically to address the shortage of priests throughout the world, and especially in the United States. Because of that call they have the authorization of the International Council of Community Churches (a church body that recoginzes the validity of their ordination) to officiate at wedding ceremonies, and to engage in other ministry. Since they are recognized by the state as "ministers of religion", your marriage will be legal in the eyes of the state.

The International Council of Community Churches and all other Christian denominations will recognize your marriage as relligiously both legal and valid, the institutional Roman Catholic Church will not. It requires that its members follow the "form" of marriage as established by Canon Law (i.e., you must be married according to the rules and custom laid out in Canon Law). Couples whose marriages are witnessed by married priests are not following the form for marriage of Roman Catholic Canon Law, so the Roman Catholic Church considers these marriages illicit.

4. We want to be married in an outdoor ceremony but our priest will only take part in a service in the church. Will a married priest perform an outdoor ceremony?

Married priests are happy to perform your ceremony at a reception hall, home, or other appropriate setting, inside or outside. (Getting married outdoors, in the cathedral made by God's own hands is also contrary to the form of marriage set out in Canon Law - go figure).

5. Will married priests perform ecumenical, interfaith, or non-denominational marriages, or witness gay commitment services?

Yes, as long as you ask God’s blessing on your marriage or commitment to each other, a married priest would be happy to help you.

6. What about other Sacraments that married priests celebrate, are they recognized by the Church?

They are recognized by the International Council of Community Churches and by some other Christian Traditions. The Roman Catholic Church would consider them "valid but illicit." Consequently, were you to come to a marred priest for the sacrament of reconciliation, for example, the church would consider your sins to have been forgiven – but would consider the celebration of that sacrament illegal. The same would hold for the Eucharist.

7. Where’s Christ in all this?

The good Lord admonished his disciples not to lay heavy burdens on other peoples shoulders, and taught that they should be free of the law – so that the spirit of God could reign in their hearts. When the disciples complained that others were curing in the Lord’s name – he reminded them that ‘those who are not against us are with us.’ And perhaps most telling of all, Jesus ate and drank with outcasts – tax collectors, sinners, and lepers - much to the chagrin of the religious authority of his day.

Catholicism – one of the great trunks of the Christian tradition – is bigger than the institution that has evolved around it. Catholicism is more than its corporate structure. It's more than the bishops – though we ought to respect them. It is more than the Pope, though he has claim on our loving attention. Popes, bishops, and priests may be the ones with legal title to the buildings, but they are just people. They can be woefully mistaken, or even malfeasant, as just a glance at recent headlines reminds us.

We are the Church -- you and I – the people of God. The church is the spirit within each of our hearts; it is our own holiness and evolving spirituality. It is our journey together – and on that journey each one of us has the right to feel welcomed at the Lord’s Table, where we recognize Him in the breaking of bread. Each has a right to God’s blessing in our great moments of happiness and sadness – at our weddings and at the loss of our loved ones, in our own sickness and death. Each has a right to help on the journey from those called to be helpers and guides in the way of the Gospel. Isn't that what the priesthood is all about?

When the hierarchy loses its way – as it has from time to time throughout history – it is incumbent on the rest of us to claim our rights and assume our responsibility as members of each other – the Body of Christ.

If you are alienated from the corporate church, you need not be alienated from your Catholicism. The Church – though not its current leaders – welcomes you just as you are. It welcomes you, through the ministry of married priests, in your second marriages, it welcomes you if you are gay, and it welcomes you if you are burdened down with some unspeakable guilt or shame. It welcomes you in His name, the one who has never ceased loving you – not even during the times when you felt farthest from Him.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Catholic Teaching - Once a priest, always a priest

Fr. Bob Scanlan, a married priest in Illinois writes the following to clarify the status of married priests in the Catholic tradition:


Church policy and beliefs are determined when all the bishops and cardinals meet with the Pope in a Council. We all know of the Nicene Creed. This came from the Council of Nicea in 325 A.D. In the City of Trent in northern Italy between 1545 and 1563 there was held a council which set policy and teaching once again and is referred to the Council of Trent. The most recent Council is the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council held from 1961 to 1965 in Rome. The policy from that council is referred to simply as Vatican II. This council changed the way we celebrate Liturgy; the role of all the baptized in the church; the role of the Catholic Church in relation to all other churches and many other issues.

From the time of Jesus to 1916 there was no Code of Canon Law. In 1917 the first Code of Canon Law was written. Canon Law spells out how the church functions in the day to day operations. Laws are written from the decrees of the Councils of the Church. At times as customs change as people and cultures move through society laws need to be changed to keep up with the people and the customs. In 1983 the Code of Canon Law was revised and is the current code in place. It is assumed that in the future as the need arises this Code of Canon Law will be revised to keep current with the needs of the church.

In between councils church authorities from time to time write a Catechism or a day to day operation manual listing in simple terms what the church councils have decreed. Many of us grew up with the Baltimore Catechism which was written in a question and answer format. On October 11, 1992 Pope John Paul II issued the current Catechism of the Catholic Church which is the most current "operation manual" for the church.

So this brings us to the question of the married priesthood in the Roman Catholic Church. What is their status in the church? When they marry do they become laymen? Are they still priests? What does the church through the Councils say about married priests? What does the Catechism say about married priests?

The Council of Trent says "If anyone says a priest can ever become a layman again, LET HIM BE ANATHEMA." (Condemned) Denziger-Schonmetzer 964 & 1767. This book is a compilation of the teachings of the Council of Trent. So we simply say for our purposes "Once a priest; always a priest".

The 1983 Code of Canon Law sections 290 to 293 reaffirm this teaching of the Council of Trent

The current Catechism of the Catholic Church sections 1582 and 1583 once again reaffirm the consistent teaching of the Council of Trent.

Section 1582 states, "As in the case of Baptism and Confirmation this share in Christ's office is granted once for all. The sacrament of Holy Orders, like the other two, confers an indelible spiritual character and cannot be repeated or conferred temporarily." 74 Footnote 74 refers back to the teaching of the Council of Trent 1767.

Section 1583 states: "It is true that someone validly ordained can, for a just reason, be discharged from the obligations and functions linked to ordination, or can be forbidden to exercise them; but he cannot become a layman again in the strict sense, because the character imprinted by ordination is forever. The vocation and mission received on the day of ordination mark him permanently." 75 Footnote 75 refers back again to the Council of Trent 1774 and the Code of Canon Law sections 290 to 293.

When some people refer to a priest who has married as a "former priest or ex-priest" they are outside the consistent teaching of the Catholic Church and are simply wrong.


Rev. Bob Scanlan

Miami Herald prints article about MP cruies chaplains

Alexandra Alter's article in Sunday's Miami Herald entitled Priests Screened for Cruise Ships, (Sunday, January 16), misses the point. She criticizes Married priests serving as cruise ship chaplains because they do not have the official sanction of the Corporate Catholic Church. These married priests, all validly ordained, are ministering under the auspices of CITI Ministries/Rent-a-Priest (CITI), a lay Catholic organization that calls married priests back to ministry. The age-old Catholic teaching, defined at Council of Trent and codified in church law (Canon 290) is "once a priest, always a priest."

Married priests are quietly at work in the church - on every continent - ministering to people who have no priest to meet their spiritual needs. Married priests began their work as cruise ship chaplains when cruise lines found it impossible to find Catholic chaplains among priests still within the Corporate Catholic Church to meet the needs of Catholic passengers on holiday cruises. According to Canon Law, when no other priest is available, married priests must respond (Canon Law 843). Without married priests serving as cruise chaplains, many Catholic passengers would be unable to worship on Christmas or Easter, days of profound religious importance to all Christians.

Both the World Council of Churches and the International Council of Community Churches recognize and ecclesiastically endorse married Catholic priests as ordained Catholic ministers. Currently, CITI member priests work as Catholic chaplains in the military, minister in hospitals, celebrate the Eucharist for small, priest-less communities, and witness legal marriages. Like Jesus, they proclaim God's word despite the opposition of religious authorities who would silence them.