Saturday, November 15, 2014

Pope Francis Allows Uniate Churches Worldwide the Ordination of Married Men

Eastern Churches United With Rome May Now
Ordain Married Men Worldwide and Put them in
(Rome) While, according to indiscretions  the Congregation for Clergy have considered a dispensation from celibacy for the Brazilian Amazon dioceses, Pope Francis has given married clergy,  hitherto unnoticed by the media, a considerable rise.
It is now official. The Congregation for the Oriental Churches has published  new provisions approved by Pope Francis  that effectively allow the ordination of married men and married priests the pastoral care of   Eastern Catholic Churches outside their historical territories. So far, there were for historical reasons and due to old union contracts requiring special provisions in the clearly defined historic areas of the Eastern Churches united with Rome. Specifically, these were the Middle East and parts of Eastern Central Europe.

"Gravissimum scandalum"

Any further application was rejected by the Latin Church since the Eastern Orthodox practice contradicts the Latin understanding of the priesthood. Especially great were the resistors in America but also in Europe, such as reported by the Vatican expert Sandro Magister. The presence of married priests in the Latin areas would be a "Gravissimum scandalum" and would cause confusion. So far.
In "exceptional concrete cases" although there were sporadic approvals, but were limited by  Benedict XVI in 2008. But now Pope Francis has allowed  the Uniate Eastern Churches principle to be used and without any territorial limitation, to perform ordinations and married priests in the pastoral care of the faithful of the Uniate Churches. The document published by the Congregation of Eastern Churches  is entitled Pontificia de Praecepta clero Uxorato ORIENTALI and was published a few days ago in the issue 6/2014 of the Acta Apostolicae Sedis (pages 496-499). The document was already signed  last June 14 by the Argentine Cardinal Prefect Leonardo Sandri.

Prohibition Repealed in 1890

The question did not arise, as long as the faithful of the Eastern Catholic Churches lived in their historical settlement areas. That changed in the late 19th century. In the new document it states that there existed a problem of pastoral care of married priests there, who emigrated since  in the 1880s, thousands of Catholic Ruthenians in the Lower Carpathian regions of Austria-Hungary and from the Western Ukraine in the USA. There was fierce opposition from the Latin Bishops against the establishment of married priests who adopted Congregation of Propaganda Fide on October 1, 1890 with the approval of Pope Leo XIII. a prohibition against the presence of married Ruthenian priests in the USA.
This prohibition was extended to the other Eastern Churches united with Rome and to all areas outside of America and Europe that did not belong to the catchment area applied to ​​these historic churches.
The result was, according to  the Congregation of Eastern Churches that an estimated 200,000 Ruthenian believers were converted to the Orthodox. If there were exceptions since then, it was so only after consulting the competent Episcopal Conference and with the approval of the Holy See. Since 2008, every decision was solely to the Holy See.

Reference to Anglican Personal Ordinariates

In the now published global permission, it is recalled that the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus of 2009, the married former Anglican clergy were also de facto approved for areas that   the Uniate married clergy were previously denied.  That this is merely a transitional arrangement for the returning to Rome of Anglican clerics with family, while for the "Anglican" Personal Ordinariates, no married men can be ordained priests, was not mentioned.
The document lists the new provisions granted by Pope Francis that "provide competent ecclesiastical authority the power to allow the pastoral ministry of the married oriental clergy  outside their historic areas" and also assume the ordinations  there.

Three Possibilities

First, where Uniate Eastern Church administrative units with their own hierarchs (Metropolitan, Eparch, Exarch) exist, they are directly granted the power to decide. They are allowed the competence to ordain as married priests, Eastern Rite candidates. The only condition is to inform the competent Latin bishop about it in  the place of residence. 
Second: In the diocese of the Eastern Rite faithful  without their own hierarchs, the same jurisdiction is transferred to the Latin Ordinaries. As support, they have to inform the competent episcopal conference. Pope Francis himself was in his time as archbishop of Buenos Aires, also an Ordinarius of the faithful of the Eastern Catholic Churches of Argentina.
Thirdly, in the areas such as Italy, where the faithful of the Eastern Rite Catholic Churches are without territorial administrative units and their pastoral care is transferred to the Latin bishops, the previous rule applies. Special permits are reserved after hearing the competent Bishops' Conference of the Eastern Churches' Congregation.
The measure has had no impact on the Latin faithful. A crossing of the Latin rite in a Uniate Eastern Church is actually not provided for because they are ethnically and culturally linked to a particular people. One might consider the new rules as a practical facilitation for the Uniate churches, whose diaspora extends through migration, and extends across more countries. Nevertheless, beyond purely functional considerations, the question of meaning and justification of such unqualified accommodation for a practice that is explicitly  rejected by the Latin Church.  It is normal as it arises from an exemption  and is to a certain extent, self-evident. Since the pressure of progressive circles for Pope Francis to the waiver of  priestly celibacy has abruptly increased, these circles will in any case consider the measures  as grist to the mill.
Text: Giuseppe Nardi
image: Settimo Cielo
Trans: Tancred


  1. The title of this blog post is very uncharitable, even insulting, to Eastern Catholics.

  2. The term Uniate is generally considered derogatory by Eastern Catholics.


    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Additionally, not all Eastern Catholics are "Uniates," that is, re-united with the Catholic Church. Some of them have always been in communion with Rome and never went into schism.

    Given that the term "Uniate" is used by the Orthodox as a derogatory epithet, I don't believe Catholics should use it anymore.

    1. Yes, that's true; not all are reconciled, ex-schismatics. "Uniate" is a very imprecise term.

  4. Although I am a Catholic who worships according to the Latin Church Catholic tradition, I am familiar with our beloved Eastern Catholic Churches.

    Therefore, I cringe whenever I encounter among Catholics (always Latin Church Catholics) the insulting term "Uniate".

    Said term insults the dignity of our beloved Eastern Catholic brothers and sisters.

    The term "Uniate" also insults Catholics who are attached to the Latin Church as anything that insults one of our brothers insults each Catholic universally.

    I beg, in a spirit of peace and humility, this fine blog to remove at least from this thread's headline the anti-Catholic word "Uniate".

    Thank you for the opportunity to post to this excellent blog.



  5. Celibacy for priests in the Western Church is a discipline, of long standing, but not so long as the tradition of married parish priests in the Eastern Churches, which was the original discipline in the whole church. At the Union, the Eastern churches were promised that they could retain all of their disciplines and customs. There was no geographical limit at that time. When they came to the US, bringing their married priests with them, the Latin Catholic hierarchy were very uncomfortable with a married clergy, perhaps moved by a feeling that a married clergy could not be holy enough to celebrate the Eucharist, a feeling which is more Manichean or Jansenist than Catholic. They got Rome to pass "Cum data fuerit" which limited married priests to the traditional territories. This caused a huge schism which anything from 90.000- to 250,000 (I have heard those figures and numbers between them) Catholics left Catholic communion and became Orthodox. Their descendants are now Orthodox, in the OCA and ACROD, and some of their churches thrive next to much smaller communities of Byzantine Catholics descended from the same people. This was a grave injustice and this ruling finally remedies it.

    Both the Ruthenian and the Ukrainian Catholic churches in my town already have married priests. I belong to the Ruthenians, and I can tell you that there are no problems with having a married priest; it actually works better in a parish setting.

    So calm down about this. It will not affect the Western church. No one will be allowed to change rites only so as to become a non-celibate priest. It is not easy to change rites; it requires the permission of both bishops involved, and the Eastern rite bishop(eparch) has to be convinced the person understands and really wants to live the tradition of that Church.

    Susan Peterson

    1. That's not actually true. Celibacy is a Catholic tradition going back to the Apostles, and those who are attacking it, whether they know it or not, serve a very dark master indeed.

    2. Susan, read "Priestly celibacy in patristics and in the history of the Church" by Roman Cholij Secretary of the Apostolic Exarch for Ukrainian Catholics in Great Britain or Card. Stickler's excellent The Case for Clerical Celibacy.

    3. Fr. Cholij changed his views, and later left the priesthood to marry, if I'm not mistaken. Celibacy is a discipline, not an intrinsic part of priesthood, as stated by the Latin church itself.

    4. Well, take it up with your church-the official documents of the Latin church plainly state that celibacy is not necessary for the priesthood. It is also the case that when Eastern Christians reunited with Rome, they were told they could keep their tradition of a married clergy. "You're wrong" is not an argument-especially when I can quote the very documents your church has produced supporting my point. You might not like the idea of a married priesthood, but there's nothing wrong with it, according to the teaching of the Latin church itself.

    5. Then you don't understand, or are uninterested in, the significance of apostolic traditions which are preserved in the Latin Rite, and whose deviations from are tolerated in others and other special circumstances.

    6. As an ex Latin Rite seminarian (I left when the faculty started going crazy due to VII) and Third Order member of the SSPX, I have experienced parish life In a Ukrainian Rite parish with a married priest and have found that these priests are smart and human and holy (not that the Latin Rite aren't). Our priest was ordained just before the WWII and had to take care of several mountain parishes when the regular priests fled. He was under Communism for many years and made it to the US with his wife and family (thanks to his daughter). His wife taught school and all the children were very bright and became professionals. It may not always be the case but Father was a gem. So maybe in this I agree with Pope Francis.

    7. Oh, I get it, being married clergy gives them special superpowers.


  7. 1. I am Ukrainian Catholic. I find it sad that the bar is always lowered, never raised, with regard to purity and the priesthood. Our seminaries should be encouraging young men to give up all for the Lord and His service, instead of putting their ordination day on hold until they "find a girl". (Don't even get me started on the scandalous stories of what has occurred in seminaries, and out of them, with regard to the find-a-girl-and-show-her-off-to-the-others game.) A priest who is unattached and trying to lead a pure life -- he, who alone can call the Lord down onto the altar for us-- truly belongs to all his parishioners. He obtains from the Holy Spirit all necessary wisdom to guide us in the confessional and out of it, too, so I am also completely unimpressed by the "married priests have more experience to help parishioners with married life" argument. Please pray for more priestly vocations -- young men who will live single and very active lives for Jesus.

    2. i am proud to use the term Uniate -- have always experienced a thrill of joy that my forefathers centuries ago were blessed with enlightenment to see that we must be united with the Church of Jesus Himself, and that is the church based in Rome. (Again, no need to have someone jump in here with the old argument that "the bishops did it; the people were poor and uneducated and didn't even know for years what had been happening becuse they lived in a time of poor communication". Our ancestors, led by our bishops, "united with Rome", so what is so bothersome by the term Uniate?

    1. Beautifully put and:

    2. God bless you and long live the Ukrainian Catholic Rite.

  8. Married Priests: I shall submit several replies....

    Priests are not permitted to get married, but married men may be ordained as priests. There's a big difference. In all but two of the Eastern Catholic Churches, married men may be ordained to the priesthood. There is a difference in how the Eastern and Western Churches understand the role of a priest. In the East a priest is first and foremost a minister of the Holy Mysteries, not considered to be "outside of the world," but a part of it along with his parishioners. Yet, there are individuals in the Eastern Churches whose lives are eschatological signs, who do live "outside of the world." They are monks. Men and women can be monks in the Eastern Churches, and are the ones who most fully "lay down their lives for the Church." In a sense, Latin Catholics look at their priests in the same way that Easterners look at monks. It is a difference in discipline is not at all problematic, but all need to respect each other's legitimate disciplines.
    In the early twentieth century many Roman Catholic bishops in the United States were scandalized by the presence of married Eastern Catholic priests. They vigorously petitioned Rome, asking to revoke our right to ordain married men. After many years of persistent requests, Rome finally intervened and banned married Eastern Catholic priests from North America in 1929. At the time almost all of our parishes were served by married priests, and this ban caused a terrible schism to ensue. Over half of the Byzantine Catholics in North America left for Eastern Orthodoxy. Entire families were divided along religious lines, and a terrible wound was inflicted that has not entirely healed. In 1992 Pope John Paul II promulgated the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, which reaffirms the right to ordain married men. Since then Eastern Catholic bishops in the U.S. reintroduced the tradition of married priests..

  9. Isn't the Latin discipline the superior one? It is possible to defend the Western discipline without denigrating the Eastern discipline. Likewise, it is possible to defend the Eastern tradition of a married priesthood without denigrating or undermining the Western tradition of a celibate priesthood.
    Between the Eastern and Western Churches there is not only a difference in liturgy, but also a difference in "ethos." Eastern and Western Churches have distinct characters, and for this reason different disciplines suit the situations better. So, mandatory clerical celibacy is better suited for the Latin Church, and optional clerical celibacy (allowing married priesthood) is more suited for the Eastern Churches. This understanding is reinforced by the Second Vatican Council: "...the Churches of the East, as much as those of the West, have a full right and are in duty bound to rule themselves, each in accordance with its own established disciplines, since all these are praiseworthy by reason of their venerable antiquity, more harmonious with the character of their faithful and more suited to the promotion of the good of souls," (Orientalium Ecclesiarum, no. 5).
    The tradition of a married priesthood is "more harmonious with the character of their faithful." However, it doesn't mean that it is at all harmonious with the character of the Latin faithful.
    Have Easterns developed a tradition of married clergy since early century? Looking at the study of clerical celibacy in the ancient Church, demonstrate that at that the time of the Council of Nicea most clerics in both the Eastern and Western Churches were married men. A movement began in the Western Church during the fourth century to promote clerical celibacy, beginning with a canon ascribed to Council of Eliva. It took many centuries for this to become the norm in the West. In the East no such legislation was ever promulgated, although the Council in Trullo did eventually legislate mandatory celibacy for bishops. What matters is the current legislation in the Catholic Church. Pope John Paul II provided the law for Eastern Catholics, so they can hardly be considered disobedient: 373. Clerical celibacy chosen for the sake of the kingdom of heaven and suited to the priesthood is to be greatly esteemed everywhere, as supported by the tradition of the whole Church; likewise, the hallowed practice of married clerics in the primitive Church and in the tradition of the Eastern Churches throughout the ages is to be held in honor. (Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches)

  10. Does priestly celibacy more perfectly conforms the priest to the person of Christ? The Eastern Churches always saw celibacy as being a special, high calling for those who have that gift. While they ordain married men to the priesthood, they recognize that those who have the gift of celibacy should be encouraged to foster this gift. But for Eastern Christians the person that is most perfectly configured to the person of Christ is not the priest, but the monk. It is the monastic life that is the highest possible vocation in their theology, and an important component of the monastic calling is the gift of celibacy. For Eastern Christians say it differently, however: "celibacy more perfectly conforms the monk to the celibacy of Christ." A big part of the underlying psychology between the Eastern and Western Churches is that Roman Catholics see their priests in the same light that Eastern Christians see their monks. During the Arian crisis, in which many bishops and priests embraced the heresy of denying Christ's divinity, the Church was saved by monks. It was the celibate monks who preserved the true doctrine, and the Church was extremely grateful. Thus, in the West many local councils began to legislate clerical celibacy, holding up the monastic vocation as an ideal for all priests. So bishops such as St. Augustine required their priests to live in community with them. In the East the response was somewhat different. Rather than requiring all priests to be celibate, Eastern Churches at the Council in Trullo (692) required all bishops to be monks. This has been the law for the Eastern Churches ever since.
    Why did the Eastern Churches rejected the discipline of mandatory celibacy? It is not that they "rejected" the discipline of priestly celibacy, but rather that have always preserved their tradition of a married priesthood. The reasons for this are both historical and practical. In the West there was always a push for a celibate clergy. Beginning in the fourth century one will find local synods legislating clerical celibacy, and requiring married priests to abstain from relations with their wives. The canons of the synods of Elvira and Carthage, for instance, legislated perpetual abstinence for married deacons, priests, and bishops. Pope Siricius did much to promote celibacy in the Latin Church. In the East the tradition of a married priesthood was always highly valued, although there were some advocating celibacy. The issue briefly came up at the Council of Nicea, but it was decided not to legislate mandatory celibacy for the entire Church, East and West. The first synod in the East to really tackle this question was the Council in Trullo, who met at the end of the 7th century. It was decided that bishops would be celibate, but married men would continue to be ordained as deacons and priests. This has been the rule in the Eastern Churches ever since. From a practical standpoint, the Eastern Churches found it advantageous to preserve a married priesthood. Parish life is typically situated to accommodate a priest with a family, and has worked very well for the past two thousand years. The people are very used to this arrangement, and do prefer it this way. Although mandatory celibacy works very well for the Latin Church, it doesn't work for the East because it is foreign to tradition. Vatican II authoritatively recognized this fact when it declared: "The Churches of the East, as much as those of the West, have a full right and are in duty bound to rule themselves, each in accordance with its own established disciplines, since all these are praiseworthy by reason of their venerable antiquity, more harmonious with the character of their faithful and more suited to the promotion of the good of souls," (Orientalium Ecclesiarum, no. 5). Despite this/other differences, they are still the same One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. These differences highlight the beautiful plurality in the universal Church, and are the fruit of the Holy Spirit.

  11. The article reads as if the prohibition of 1980 was effective in all times and places unless a specific allowance was made. Nothing could be further from reality. After the decree, married priests continued to emigrate to the new world and just presented the church with the reality of a married priest physically present. It was not the decree but the immigration restrictions of the 1920s that halted the practice. Then with the post-World War 2 displacements, a new emigration of married priests arrived in the New World fleeing Communism. No bishop has the gall to send them back to Communist states and the gulag. Starting in the 1970s several Eastern Catholic bishops in the New World simply began quietly ordaining married men as priests, at first with the pretense they were "visiting priests" from the Old World and later dropping the pretense but still doing it quietly.