Published 5 June 2008
Prague, June 4 (CTK) - The Czech Roman Catholic Church has the first married priest, Jan Kofron whom Bishop Vaclav Maly ordained in May, the daily Lidove noviny (LN) writes Wednesday.
Tomas Roule, secretary to Cardinal Miloslav Vlk, Catholic Church primate, confirmed for the paper that Kofron is the only married priest in the Czech Roman Church.
However, Kofron's ordination is an exception and it does not indicate any change in the stance of Pope Benedict XVI, LN writes.
It says the case is a consequence of the fight against religion under the former Czechoslovak communist regime.
In the 1980s, Kofron was secretly ordained by the "underground church" that was concerned far more about the church's survival than the formal aspects. Within the underground church, even married men were ordained bishops and women were ordained priests, the paper writes.
After the fall of communism in Czechoslovakia, the underground and the official church started to merge. The official church demanded that the underground priests be formally ordained again.
Unmarried priests joined the Western church (Latin rite), while the married ones became members of the Eastern church (Byzantine rite). Some priests of the Byzantine rite may be married, while in the Latin rite demands celibacy for priests.
The paper writes that Kofron mainly works with elderly and ill people and is a secretary to bishop Maly.
From Radio Prague:
Vatican ordains Czech Republic’s first married Roman Catholic priest
[06-06-2008 14:19 UTC] By Rosie Johnston
The Vatican has just ordained father of four Jan Kofroň into the Roman Catholic priesthood. This makes Mr Kofroň the Czech Republic’s first ever married Roman Catholic (Western Rite) priest. But this is not the first time that Father Kofroň has been ordained. He was originally made a priest in 1970s communist Czechoslovakia, where he subsequently worked illegally in the country’s underground church. Following the revolution, the Vatican declared his ordination invalid, but in recent weeks, it has reversed its decision. I met Father Kofroň to ask him how it was that, as an already married man, he became involved in the priesthood:
“A friend of mine who was a Salesian priest, and window cleaner on Wenceslas Square in Prague, discovered a link with a very illegal, very hidden form of the church.I was asked if I was open to the idea of priesthood, even though I was married. It was surprising, of course, to me, but nonetheless I was told that the way was open, and that permission had been granted by Pope John Paul VI.
“But after the Velvet Revolution, Rome started to have some doubts about the validity of these married priests and their ordinations.”
I heard that after the revolution, priests who were married and who found themselves in your situation were able to practice Eastern Rite Catholicism, but not Western Rite Catholicism. Why were you so adamant about practicing Western Rite Catholicism?
“It became a question of my conscience. It was strange – just imagine the situation, there are several thousand Ukrainians here who also need, of course, priests performing Greek Catholic services – but after 1998, when 18 of my colleagues accepted ordination into the Greek Catholic Church – there was an overflow of Eastern Rite priests.”
Do you think that there is an inconsistency in the Vatican’s stance on married priests? If you are an Anglican vicar who becomes a Catholic priest, you are allowed to be married, and be ordained a Catholic priest. Do you think that it is slightly unfair that for people like yourself, there are many difficulties that an Anglican vicar just wouldn’t have?
“I think it is understandable that the Catholic Church has a sort of fear of its priests not being celibate. But I think that the time for married people being ordained priests is coming. I don’t think the time for it is just yet, but it is coming. I am convinced about that.”
- Also, for those who can read it, the press release from the Archdiocese of Prague, from whom we also have the photo of Fr. Kofron's ordination.
This whole history of the underground Church in Czechoslovakia is fascinating. Here are some articles that are available online for more information:
- Czechoslovak Church's Quandary: Married Priests (New York Times,11/22/1990)
- Religion Notes: 'Irregular' Ordinations (New York Times,8/10/1991)
- Czech Hierarchy Bars Some Priests (New York Times,12/8/1991)
- Secret ordinations kept Czech church alive: underground church still begs questions. (National Catholic Reporter, 9/10/1993)
- Secret No More: Discovering a female Catholic priest behind the Iron Curtain. (National Catholic Reporter, 5/11/2001)
- Re-ordination an option for secret Czech priests (National Catholic Reporter, 2000)
- Czech Cardinal Speaks of "Clandestine Priests" (Catholic World News, 1996)