Monday, 18 February 2013

No Mr Mullins, the Pope's resignation does not mean married priests!

Michael Mullins is, thank goodness, no longer penning 'blog watcher' on Cath News each (thank you to whoever made that decision!).

He does alas, still have an outlet for his poison as editor of Australian Jesuit online dissent central rag, Eureka Street, and today's piece is a classic of the genre.

The liberal chant: change, change, change!

In his Agenda piece Mr Mullins argues that if Pope Benedict XVI can do something as radical as resign the papacy, then his successor could similarly discern that a change of the rules is needed on - you guessed it - clerical celibacy.

Before we get to the substance of the issue let's first note the logical fallacy: the Pope resigned in accordance with Canon Law, he didn't do anything contrary to it.  Accordingly, it sets no precedent whatsoever that relates to clerical celibacy, which remains a requirement under the Code of Canon Law for the Latin rite.

A new Pope could change this of course, for it is a practice not a defined doctrine.  But he would be bucking centuries of tradition in doing so.  The turmoil would be terrible, destroying much rather than healing.  So I can't personally see anyone wanting to bite that bullet.

Mullins is hardly alone on this one, however, for we have also seen calls from those who should no better for relaxation on church teachings on contraception, ordination and much more.

Legitimate discussion - and its limits

It is one thing to discuss the qualities the next Pope should have, or the priorities he should adopt.  The Cardinals will certainly be debating these issues amongst themselves and there is no reason, in my view, why they shouldn't hear and consider our views should we have something considered to offer.

But there are things that a Pope can't change (viz defined doctrines).  We are not some modern, entirely invented, ecclesial community that came into existence in order to pick and choose what it wants to believe.

And there are many traditions that a Pope simply shouldn't change, for we are a Church that defines itself as one that protects and hands down the Tradition that comes to us from the Apostles, and that tradition is embedded in the liturgy and other practical forms.

In the prior Jewish tradition, marriage was, in the main, the expectation and highest ideal for all.  Our Lord and Our Lady model for us a new higher ideal though, in celibacy and virginity chosen for the kingdom.

Celibacy is an ideal held up to us by Christ, our high priest; modelled by the apostles, who 'left all', including their families, to follow him; and handed down to us through the centuries (and yes, even in the Eastern Churches, where only unmarried, celibate men can be bishops).

So let me leave you with great poster highlighted by Fr Finigan over at his excellent hermeneutic of continuity blog.


Bruce Stafford said...

I suggest you go to a Mass at Flemington (NSW) and ask the parish priest there what he thinks of married priests.

Kate Edwards said...

Not being a Sydneyite that is a little too cryptic for me Bruce, please do explain.

Collin Michael Nunis said...

Fr. Peter Joseph? I'd say he'd have pretty solid views.

Kate Edwards said...

I'm still not much enlightened, but Fr Joseph has published a useful defense of priestly celibacy (inter alia) here:

Collin Michael Nunis said...

Fr. Peter Joseph is a fantastic apologist! What is most noteworthy is that he used to be the Chancellor for the Maronite Eparchy of Australia.

What I find even more amusing about Mullins' article is that he is flogging a dead horse. The Catholic Church (the one true Church and not the one that Mullins knows), has already had married priests since the time of the apostles - in the Eastern Catholic Churches. And the rule that priests and deacons cannot marry after ordination is sensible and was proposed by St. Paphnutius in the 4th century. This rule has been followed by the Church East and West, Catholic or Orthodox since time immemorial. This norm of married priests in the Eastern Catholic Churches is accepted by Mother Church and has recommended that it continues as such.

Presbyterium Ordinis 16 says: "(Celibacy is to be embraced and esteemed as a gift). Perfect and perpetual continence for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven, commended by Christ the Lord(33) and through the course of time as well as in our own days freely accepted and observed in a praiseworthy manner by many of the faithful, is held by the Church to be of great value in a special manner for the priestly life. It is at the same time a sign and a stimulus for pastoral charity and a special source of spiritual fecundity in the world.(34) Indeed, it is not demanded by the very nature of the priesthood, as is apparent from the practice of the early Church(35) and from the traditions of the Eastern Churches. where, besides those who with all the bishops, by a gift of grace, choose to observe celibacy, there are also married priests of highest merit. This holy synod, while it commends ecclesiastical celibacy, in no way intends to alter that different discipline which legitimately flourishes in the Eastern Churches. It permanently exhorts all those who have received the priesthood and marriage to persevere in their holy vocation so that they may fully and generously continue to expend themselves for the sake of the flock commended to them.(36)".

Having said that, celibacy is a great gift to the Church, and if the Church is going to give in to anything, it has to be the prompt of the Holy Spirit through Holy Mother Church, and not to the likes of hippies like Mullins.

Mary Abraham said...

As it is, the discipline of celibacy has been relaxed and confused under the Benedict XVI. The practice of celibacy and continence is fundamental spiritual ascetisicm, which is NOT simple an 'optional extra' or desirable for 'practical reasons'. I hope the next Pope will reinforce the three necessary fundamental of Christian renunciation- poverty, chastity and obedience.