Tag Archives: married priests

A vocation to family, and a vocation to priesthood

Wissam-AkikiWhen people start asking about the possibility of a married priesthood usually detail escapes them. The  fact is, the Catholic Church has had a priesthood for millennia. However, in the Latin Church the priesthood has been celibate for the most part since the 11th century (or thereabouts) and Eastern Christianity has retained to a unity of marriage/family and the ministerial priesthood. Only since the late 1980s has the Latin Church started to admit married men to the priesthood in small numbers and now with the Anglican Ordinariates more married men have been ordained. Bishops are never married according to the discipline of the Church.

Among many things, the Eastern Christians in the USA have had to suffer without a married priesthood, something that is very connected to their traditions. In part, the plight of Eastern Christians in the USA has a lot to do with inadequate episcopal leadership which had dire consequences for all sorts of issues ranging from the Liturgy to canonical matters and identity.

One of the problems surrounded the time of Archbishop John Ireland (r. 1888-1918) of Minneapolis, who specifically in 1891, questioned the Catholicity of the Byzantines in Minneapolis. Acrimony ensured. And open hostility became common among various of the Latin Church’s bishops. As consequence of the argument Ireland told the Byzantine Catholic priests to become more Latin and that they were banned from being married in the USA.  Ireland obtuseness ultimately gave rise to a 1929 Vatican decree called Cum Data Fuerit, which imposed a requirement of celibacy on Eastern Catholic clergy in the West.

Archbishop Ireland is credited, hence, with the creation, in 1892, of the Reuthenian (Russian) Orthodox Church in America which gave rise to the Orthodox Church in America with Father (now saint) Alexis Toth and others breaking from the Catholic Church by uniting with Orthodoxy.

If you fast-forward a bit, we have to recognize that certain Eastern Catholic bishops in the USA have ordained married men since the 1990s, namely in the Byzantine tradition, and there have been a few married priests in the Maronite Church in the West but usually this  is kept quiet. That is, until the Maronite Bishop Robert Shaheen requested of Pope Benedict –prior to the famed resignation– for permission to ordain a married deacon a priest. A new Pope, a new openness to an old question. Not long ago Bishop Shaheen retired and his successor received word that Deacon Akiki could be priested. What we’ve seen with the ordination of Father Wissam Akiki there is finally a living of an ancient tradition held by Catholic theology and supported by canon law.

Jennifer Brinker wrote a great article that’s paired with Lisa Johnston’s photos for the St Louis Review, “A Vocation to Family.” I highly recommend the article AND viewing the images.

Best wishes and abundant blessings for Father Wissam Akiki and his beautiful family.

Melkite bishop explores ordaining married men, again

News seems to be made about a Catholic married clergy in the USA, at least among the Eastern churches. It’s not new news but it is an interesting development in the USA that needs insight and pastoral action. The new bishop of the Melkite Church in the USA, Bishop Nicholas Samra (btw the first American born leader of the eparchy), spoke of the need of having a properly formed clergy to pastor the 27,000+ souls of the Melkite Church in the USA, even ordaining married men. In the coming year there may be one celibate man ordained.

This is not the first time the Melkite Church is doing such. More than 3 decades ago several married men were ordained in Canada but judged by the Holy See to be illicit; the former eparch Bishop John Elya ordained 2 married men and his hand was slapped.
In the western world married clergy is not viewed by the Holy See to be pertinent whereas in the old world, married men serve as priests. This carries the old prejudice of Archbishop John Ireland who demanded a celibate clergy of the Eastern Churches; his unreasonable proposition helped create the Ruthenian Orthodox Church in the USA.  With the Eastern Catholic Churches it is part of their venerable ecclesiology to ordain married men to the priesthood. On a pastor’s side, the needs of the laity to follow their traditions. Looking at reality in front of him, there is a demonstrable need for Samra (and other Eastern Churches in the USA) to provide a clergy for his people. The eparchy doesn’t have enough single men willing to do the work, nor does it seem reasonable to hope beyond all hope for an exclusive celibate priesthood. The gospel needs to be proclaimed and sacraments administered for our salvation.
Pray to great Mother of God and Saint Nicholas for the grace of prudence for Bishop Nicholas!
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About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.
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