Married Priests & Priestesses?
The Vatican presented something important today, 8 June, at a press conference: the Preparatory Document for the upcoming 2019 Pan-Amazon Synod in which there is now talk about giving women some “type of official ministry” and of making “courageous” and inculturated proposals with regard to the Church’s “inclusive ministerial action.” One of the leading organiziers of this synod, Bishop Kräutler, says this reform should include married priests, male and female. The Preparatory Document itself refers indirectly to a decisive meeting that took place, in 2014, between the Pope and Kräutler…
I’m not going to get on the hysterical bandwagon over this. Because what we’re seeing here appears to be an attempt at overreach to get a compromise. Rome apparently wants to ordain married men to the priesthood. Meanwhile, liberal Catholics want women in the priesthood too. Traditional Catholics want neither in the priesthood. So you put both on the table (married and women), you deal with the traditional push back, and what you end up with is a compromise — married men in the priesthood and no women.
How do I know this? How can I be so sure? It’s because it has to do with what can be done versus what cannot be done. If Rome is really putting married and women priests on the table for discussion, together, it means that Rome’s mind is already made up. They’re putting something on the table they know cannot be done (women priests or priestesses) so they can say they have compromised when they start ordaining married men to the priesthood.
Let’s be clear as to what is possible in the Catholic Church and what is impossible…
- POSSIBLE — Ordaining married men to the priesthood is possible because the Catholic Church already does this, primarily in the Oriental churches that are united to Rome (Alexandrian, Antiochian, Byzantine, etc.), as well as among the Anglican and Lutheran priests who convert to Catholicism. Expanding this practice to the mainstream Latin Rite is merely a matter of disciplinary change, and has nothing to do with doctrine or Apostolic Tradition. The Latin Rite of the Catholic Church ordained married men to the priesthood all the time, up until about one-thousand years ago. It can do so again, with any discretion it sees fit, including limiting the practice to older married men whose children are grown or mostly grown (viri probati).
- IMPOSSIBLE — Dropping the celibacy rule entirely, and/or allowing men who are already ordained priests to go out and get married, is impossible because it violates 2,000 years of tradition and Biblical teaching. The established practice in the Catholic Church is, and has always been, you remain what you are when you enter the priesthood. If you enter the priesthood as a celibate man, then you remain a celibate man. If you enter the priesthood as a married man, then you remain a married man. However, if you happen to be a married priest, who entered the priesthood as a married man, you cannot remarry should your wife die. Again, you remain as you are.
- IMPOSSIBLE — Married priests cannot become bishops while their wives are still alive. While it is true that some apostles had wives, and that some early bishops may have had wives too, it is also true that from the time of St. Paul the mindset of the Church was to move toward a celibate episcopacy. Since the end of the first century, only celibate men have been consecrated as bishops, both in the East and the West.
- IMPOSSIBLE — Ordaining women to the priesthood is simply not possible because it violates both Biblical teaching and Apostolic Tradition. As Saint John Paul II infallibly taught, the Catholic Church simply does not have the authority to ordain women to the priesthood (Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, published in 1994). Not even the pope could do it! The only way a woman could ever be ordained to the Catholic priesthood is if Jesus Christ dropped down from heaven and did it himself in front of everyone! Then the Catholic Church could say it has the authority to ordain women.
As a former Anglican, I’ve dealt with all this before. One of the perks of joining the Catholic Church was no longer having to worry about the anti-Biblical and anti-Traditional practice of ordaining women to the priesthood. In fact, even trying to simulate such an ordination (because a real female ordination can never happen) is considered a schismatic and heretical act, that Rome has consistently punished with excommunication every time a priest or bishop has either allowed it, or even expressed public support for it. So it’s not going to happen. If Rome ever allowed it, Rome would be committing a schismatic act, according to its own teaching, that would separate itself from the Catholic Church — which is unthinkable! So it’s not going to happen folks. The very idea of putting this on the table as a possibility for discussion means that it’s a decoy. It’s designed to appease traditionalists when Rome does what Rome must do, and that is shelve the idea after the traditionalists rightly cry foul, making it look like a compromise with traditional Catholics when Rome decides to ordain married men to the priesthood following the synod.
Now, on a personal note, I have no problem with married priests for the reasons stated above. We have plenty of them in the Ordinariate and they do just fine. The Ordinariate priests themselves have, wisely, decided to stay out of this discussion. They won’t be part of the debate. However, as a layman in the Ordinariate, I am more free to speak my mind. I think married men as priests are just fine. I do think, however, that it is better to limit ordination to older married men, whose children are grown (or near grown), because of what St. Paul the Apostle wrote about ordaining married men in the Bible…
He must manage his own household well, keeping his children submissive and respectful in every way; for if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how can he care for God’s church? — 1 Timothy 3:4-5
There really is no way to determine, with any kind of certainty, how well a man manages his household, and keeps his children submissive and respectful, until his children are grown or near grown. When we see grown (or near grown) children who have become God-fearing Christians and respectable in every way, then we know with certainty that he’s the right kind of man to be ordained as a spiritual father to Catholics. That is my personal take on the matter. I think if you’re going to have a married priest, he should ideally be an older man who has proved himself by producing godly adult children. While celibate priests should ideally be ordained as younger men.
As for priestesses, it ain’t gonna happen, and all I can say is thank God! We had female priestesses in the Anglican churches, and while it would be disparaging to women if I said that this in itself caused the decline of Anglicanism, I don’t think its unfair for me to say that this greatly contributed to the emasculation of the Anglican priesthood and Anglican churches in general. That emasculation (which had many factors, including female clergy) is what led to the decline and collapse of Anglicanism in recent decades. Sadly, the Western Catholic Church has adopted many of these same emasculated features in recent decades minus female clergy, and that is probably the ONLY reason why the Catholic Church has not yet seen the same kind of decline as The Episcopal Church in the United States. If you really want to know what female clergy will do for the Catholic Church, look no further than The Episcopal Church USA or the Anglican Church of Canada. Ordaining women to the priesthood will only gut the priesthood and empty the pews.
On a personal level, I will never receive communion from a priestess, even if Rome says it’s okay. I will never regard a mass celebrated by a priestess as valid, even if Rome says it’s okay. I will never attend a parish where a priestess is present, even if Rome says it’s okay. Nor will I ever acknowledge a female ordination to the priesthood as valid, even if Rome says it is. But here’s the kicker. I am not alone. There are tens of millions of Catholics just like me on this issue, and don’t you think Rome knows that?
Even if Scripture is abandoned, and Apostolic Tradition is ignored, the very thought of losing credibility among tens of millions of Catholics around the world, and breaking the Catholic Church up into factions, ought to be enough of a discouragement for anyone in Rome to go very far with this female clergy idea. So it’s dead in the water, and Rome knows it. They’re only putting this on the table as a decoy so they can claim “compromise” when they begin ordaining married men to the priesthood in the Latin Rite, probably sometime after 2020.