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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Met. +Hilarion criticizes the mandatory celibacy of the Roman Church

Moscow, September 15, Interfax - The Moscow Patriarchate supports the idea to cancel celibacy of the Catholic clergy.

"Mandatory celibacy of the clergy introduced by the Western Church in the 12th century was not known in the early Christian time. Eastern Churches have followed the ancient practice which allowed them to ordain married men. The Eastern Christianity has always criticized the Roman Catholic Church for this celibate practice," head of the Synodal Department for External Church Relations Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk said in an interview published Wednesday by NG-Religii paper.

According to him, "Orthodox believers think the problem of obligatory celibacy to be an internal matter of the Roman Catholic Church and they would only acclaim its cancellation, if it happens."

"We would rather consider such cancellation of celibacy the return to the age-old traditions of the ancient Church, than a break from the ancient traditions and a liberal deviation," he added.

Speaking of the relations between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Protestant Church, he noted that there were many Protestants "who shared more Orthodox and Catholic positions than that of their own church authorities."

"We know that such believers are pronounced "fundamentalists", "fanatics" and "separatists" in their own Churches just for the reason that they share views different from the officially declared standpoint and try to defend their positions. We are ready to cooperate with such Protestants on different projects including the project of the New Evangelization of Europe," Metropolitan said.
Source

I have a lot of respect for Met. +Hilaion. But I think this is something that is best filed under the heading "None of our business." We aren't Catholic and they aren't Orthodox. How they run their church is their business (though as a matter of private opinion I think the policy is silly). That said, I would note that Rome has a history of trying to ram their Latin disciplines down the throats of their so called sui juris Eastern Rite churches. They have backed off of that a lot, especially since Vatican II. But Rome has never renounced its claimed right to dictate discipline to any part of their communion.

11 comments:

orthocath said...

I tend to agree with you that it's not our business (and that it's a silly rule), though I was greatly bothered as an Eastern Catholic that Rome still attempts to regulate the Eastern tradition of a married clergy among Eastern Catholics outside of their homelands in Eastern Europe and the Middle East. The Eastern Catholic canon law (758 -3) refers to this regulation as "special norms established by the Apostolic See." The Ruthenian Byzantine Catholics in the US currently need to get dispensations to ordain married men to the priesthood. From my Orthodox POV, I question how serious Rome is with regards to seeking unity with Orthodox Churches. Do they really think Orthodox Churches would ever accept the idea that the Eastern tradition of a married clergy should have any regulation by an Eastern Congregation in Rome? If Rome is really serious about union with the East it needs to get over its discomfort with Eastern Churches ordaining married priests. An apology for how Rome treated Eastern Catholics (the eras of St. Alexis Toth and Metropolitan Orestes Chornock) during the nineteenth and twentieth would also be nice too -- but these things are rarely become the subject of apologies.

orthocath said...

My last sentence should say "nineteenth and twentieth centuries" -- that got missed in editing.

Anonymous said...

I also think it's silly to have monks as bishops. But hey, what works for you.

---contrarian

Fr John W Fenton said...

Two things, if I may:

1. The gist of the statement is here:

"Orthodox believers think the problem of obligatory celibacy to be an internal matter of the Roman Catholic Church and they would only acclaim its cancellation, if it happens."

Therefore, what is being said is that Rome will do what Rome will do, but the Russian Patriarchate will rejoice if Rome returns to the Tradition.

2. It is our business--not to meddle, but to advise and support. Essentially, this is a statement of support for an idea that may be under consideration. Even estranged brothers sometimes advise and support each other on a course of action that is best. For the goal is to end the estrangement, not to make the schism a chasm.

orthocath said...

Good point, Father. I hadn't read it that way and after reading your comment, I agree with you.

Carlos Antonio Palad said...

Full text of the metropolitan's interview can be found here (in Russian)

http://www.patriarchia.ru/db/text/1275714.html

sjgmore said...

I'm bothered by those who make it sound as if the Catholic Church's practice is entirely a deviation while the Orthodox Churches' practice is the "way it's always been done". It's my understanding that in the early Church the rule was always in favor of ordaining married priests (since obviously priests were frequently drawn from the ranks of converts, and couldn't have been expected to remain celibate prior to receiving the Gospel), but mandating that they and their wives consent to disciplinary continence.

When it proved to be too difficult to expect married priests to remain continent, the eastern and western churches ultimately took different approaches to revising the discipline. In the east, continence has been expected periodically during certain periods around the celebration of the divine liturgy, if I understand correctly, but the right of married men to be ordained and continue relations with their wives was kept in tact. While in the west, the discipline was revised to exclude married men from the outset, and thus the rule regarding continence remained in effect.

We can argue about which approach is more effective or better for the life and health of the Church, but to pretend that one is a deviation and the other is not does a disservice to tradition, in my opinion. In the end, I think it's best to respect the two approaches as equally appropriate to their respective traditions, and I dislike the anticipatory triumphalism when Catholics suppose the Orthodox will "come around" to their side, and vice versa. There are much more serious impediments to unity, and harping on celibacy has proven to be a source of unnecessary division, I think.

sjgmore said...

I'm bothered by those who make it sound as if the Catholic Church's practice is entirely a deviation while the Orthodox Churches' practice is the "way it's always been done". It's my understanding that in the early Church the rule was always in favor of ordaining married priests (since obviously priests were frequently drawn from the ranks of converts, and couldn't have been expected to remain celibate prior to receiving the Gospel), but mandating that they and their wives consent to disciplinary continence.

When it proved to be too difficult to expect married priests to remain continent, the eastern and western churches ultimately took different approaches to revising the discipline. In the east, continence has been expected periodically during certain periods around the celebration of the divine liturgy, if I understand correctly, but the right of married men to be ordained and continue relations with their wives was kept in tact. While in the west, the discipline was revised to exclude married men from the outset, and thus the rule regarding continence remained in effect.

We can argue about which approach is more effective or better for the life and health of the Church, but to pretend that one is a deviation and the other is not does a disservice to tradition, in my opinion. In the end, I think it's best to respect the two approaches as equally appropriate to their respective traditions, and I dislike the anticipatory triumphalism when Catholics suppose the Orthodox will "come around" to their side, and vice versa. There are much more serious impediments to unity, and harping on celibacy has proven to be a source of unnecessary division, I think.

orthocath said...

Actually, for a Catholic response to the claim that the early Christian Church expected married priests to observe continence, see the article by Anthony Dragani:

http://www.east2west.org/mandatory_clerical_celibacy.htm

I really don't see much "harping on celibacy" these days in the ecumenical discussions. I think the biggest problem is Rome's attitude towards regulating the Eastern tradition, as I said above.

gdelassu said...

I could happily agree with everything that the good Metropolitan says here if only he had refrained from playing the "age-old traditions of the ancient Church" card. After all, restricting the episcopacy to monks was also "not known in the early Christian time," but I cannot imagine that Metropolitan Hilarion would be much impressed by a Baptist minister who criticized the Russian Orthodox Church on those grounds.

I am convinced that, while there are many good aspects to mandatory clerical celibacy, there are also many bad aspects, and that by this point in time the bad are outweighing the good. I would be delighted to see the discipline relaxed on this point. To criticize the practice, however, on the grounds that it is a departure from early norms is as needlessly inflammatory as it is irrelevant.

Brendan said...

Care must be taken in this regard, I think, when we make fraternal suggestions (or stronger) to the Catholics about issues like this.

Like it or lump it, in the Western Church today, this is viewed as a liberal measure, and as a part of a package of revising the Church's teachings overall regarding sexuality -- including sex outside of marriage, birth control and abortion, homosexuality, divorce, ordination of women and so on. It would be, of course, possible for Rome to revise its discipline regarding ordaining married men and leave everything else intact, but the fear, I think, is that this would create tremendous pressure to revisit all of these areas -- a situation which we should be equally reluctant to see happen.

One also must remember that the context in the Western Church in which this issue is coming up is generally *not* the situation among us but rather the situation among the Protestants. Hence when the demand is made, even in Catholic circles, it's often the sloppy request that "priests be allowed to get married" -- something which has never been permitted in East or West outside of the Protestant churches. But we should be well aware that many of the most vocal advocates for eliminating the celibacy discipline in the West envision a kind of Protestant practice whereby a priest may marry and divorce and so on -- which, again, opens the door to revisitation of the whole host of sexual morality teachings, most of which are equally loathed by the most vocal advocates of eliminating the celibacy discipline. In particular, the issue of the ordination of women is routinely linked to the issue of celibacy by most of the advocates of relaxation.

Of course, as I say, the Latin Church could "surgically" revise its ordination discipline for men without having a broader impact. However, given what has happened in the Latin Church in the past 4-5 decades, I think we would be better off deferring to their own sense of what kind of cultural firestorm they are in a position to withstand and what they are not, when looking at the possibilities for doing this. They're really in a fundamentally different situation than we are, culturally.