Friday, September 25, 2009

Cardinal of Madrid: Married priests can't celebrate the Eucharist

UPDATE: Since this news came out, MOCEOP has issued a curt response to the cardinal which basically says that his statement reflects his conservative character and goes on to list various members of the Catholic Church hierarchy who MOCEOP says are supportive of optional celibacy. I am not going to translate this response because it was obviously compiled hastily and I have doubts about its accuracy (all due respect to our hermanos in Spain). -- RG

by José Manuel Vidal (translation Rebel Girl)
El Mundo

Madrid's Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco Varela doesn't want to hear anything about married and laicized priests. Much less them celebrating Mass. Hence, "to avoid confusion of the faithful, the archbishop of Madrid has issued a note reminding that "the Church expressly prohibits laicized or married priests from priestly ministry."

A few days ago, various media reported that two of every ten priests, or 20% of the Spanish clergy, are married and laicized. In round numbers, that would be about 5,500 priests in Spain alone. Worldwide it is estimated that the number of married priests could be around 150,000.

Many of them left their relationship with the Church along with the priesthood. But many others continue to demand, since Vatican II, the abolition of compulsory celibacy and, therefore, a return to ministry for married priests who want to come back.

There is another group of priests, almost all belonging to the Movement for Optional Celibacy (MOCEOP) who have chosen not only to make rhetorical demands, but also the policy of fait accompli. And some are working as priests. In small communities or neighborhood parishes in various parts of Spain. Not to mention overseas, where it is common for married priests to continue in ministry, given the scarcity of vocations and a blind eye from the bishops.

As a representative of this group, Julio Perez Pinillos, has claimed in various media that he, among others, served as a priest in Vallecas. "Because now one should lead the way," he said.

The archbishop of Madrid stepped up immediately to confront "some recent statements widely disseminated in the media". The first thing he says in his note, is that "the Church prohibits married or secularized priests, who have thus abandoned their priestly commitment, from priestly ministry and, therefore, from celebrating Mass as well as other sacraments".

Despite Julio Pinillos's public statements, the Archbishop of Madrid says he has "no evidence that any priest who is in that situation is offering the sacraments in any church or place of worship in the archdiocese."

Finally, the Archdiocese of Madrid's communique insists on recommending to its priests, in the Year for Priests, "a generous and fresh impetus towards the ideal of total self-giving to Christ and the Church, which is essential to responsibly exercise the priestly ministry."

The old debate on celibacy

The debate on celibacy began in the '60s, when half of Spanish seminarians were in favor of optional celibacy. Those were the days of conciliar "aggiornamento". Even Spanish public opinion, perhaps influenced by the new winds brought by the Second Vatican Council, was overwhelmingly in favor of allowing priests to marry.

Since then this percentage has continued to grow. In every survey carried out in Spain, about 75-80% of respondents support optional celibacy and married priests.

It is not a dogma

Celibacy is not a dogma but a church law that, just as it was passed, could be abolished. Jesus never said that his disciples had to be celibate. In fact, Peter, the head of the apostles, was married. In the early centuries of the Church, there were married and single priests and even bishops, without distinction. St. Paul himself only asked that bishops "have only one wife".

For over a millennium there were married and celibate priests. In the fourth century priests were required to abstain from sex the night before celebrating the Eucharist. When the Church introduced the daily Mass, the precept of abstinence became a continuing obligation. The justification was "ritual purity": any activity or experience of sexual pleasure is incompatible with contact with the eucharistic bread.

Having not achieved the imposition of sexual continence and faced with the subsequent failure of all penalties thereon, the Second Lateran Council in 1139 enacted the law of celibacy. "The priestly ordination becomes an impediment to marriage," reads canon VII of that council. The main reason for enacting that rule was economic: married priests distributed their inheritance among their sons, decreasing the property of their diocese and the Church.

Despite the enactment of the law of celibacy, in 1500 the majority of the priests were still in "marriage-like relationships." It wasn't until the Council of Trent (mid-sixteenth century) that the Church discipline of celibacy was imposed. With a few exceptions. For example, Pius IV thought of dispensing German priests from celibacy because of entreaties from the Emperor.

With ups and downs, celibacy has been imposed on since then on the Latin-rite Catholic Church. Because, in the Eastern Rite Catholic Church optional celibacy is the rule, as well as in all other Christian denominations: Protestant, Anglican and Orthodox.

Arguments Against Celibacy

1. It is a mandatory, imposed law, when in reality it is a 'charism', which by definition has to be free.

2. St. Peter was married and Paul recommended that bishops "have only one wife". Only in the fourth century did the Church demand sexual abstinence of its priests.

3. It is a law of the Church and, therefore, can be changed by the Pope at any time.

4. The law of celibacy has created a loss in priestly vocations.

5. All other Christian denominations (Protestant, Anglican and Orthodox) and even Greek-rite Catholics allow married priests.

6. At most it should be optional.

7. Priests would be more in touch with the reality of people and families.

8. Mandatory celibacy is inhumane.

9. Loneliness is hard, "a bad advisor". Marrying would avoid the "sex scandals" among priests.

10. Celibate priests, like prostitutes, have to love everybody, but nobody in particular.

11. There are many Christians who, because of the law of celibacy, don't have access to the Mass.

12. Most of the faithful prefer married priests.

Arguments For Celibacy

1. It is a law that is freely accepted by those who are ordained priests in the Roman Catholic rite.

2. Jesus Christ, the Eternal High Priest, was celibate.

3. It is a church law, but one that is supported by the enormous weight of many centuries of tradition.

4. There is the possibility that its abolition would lead to serious problems for the Church.

5. The denominations that allow their ministers to marry don't have any more vocations than the Catholic Church.

6. If priests are allowed to marry, those who do not marry might be suspected of homosexuality.

7. Having to deal with a family would make priests less free and less willing to dedicate themselves completely to God's kingdom.

8. It would be far more costly. How could the Church provide for not only the priest but also his family?

9. The priest is never alone. He always has the company of God, the Virgin and the faithful.

10. Like Christ, he loves them all equally.

11. Their absence can be compensated for with celebrations of the Word, presided over by lay people.

12. But other clerics would be shocked and the Church must always avoid the danger of scandal.

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