10 January 2017

Married Clergy, Priests, and Bishops

Sub Tuum.

As if there are not enough real problems in the world today - as in any era - that should unite Christians together in commonality of purpose, Christians sadly find reasons to nitpick and poke at each other. Such scenarios are frequently used as justification for lack of charity and refusal to collaborate for the common good. One thing about the Patriarchate of St. Stephen of which I have always been proud is that, under the guiding principle of cooperation without compromise, we have always worked with other jurisdictions for the preservation of the Christian faith and for the good of humanity. We seek to find common ground to work together rather than focusing on differences to justify lack of Christian brotherhood. 

Cardinal René de Birague, Chancellor of France
whose wife, Valentine Balbiani, was the inspiration
for the sculpture "The Cardinal's Wife."
One issue that causes infighting and separation is, ironically something that is inherently about union, and that is marriage of clergy, priests, and bishops within Catholic jurisdictions. Although this might be something thought to be limited to traditionalist circles, it is not. There are plenty in the Novus Ordo that simply cannot comprehend the notion of a married Catholic clergyman. That is even more baffling considering that there are quite a number of married Catholic priests within the Roman Communion, not to mention the even larger number of married Catholic deacons. And remember that Catholic deacons are ordained clerics in major Holy Orders, not "laymen at the altar," as so many Catholics today erroneously believe. So why all the commotion?

Now it is time for a bit of history. The discipline of celibacy (which refers to being unmarried) in the Christian Church only dates back to the eleventh century as mandatory (with some exceptions). It was primarily a means to prevent legitimate heirs to clerics so that lands and titles belonging to (or desired by) the Church could not be inherited - at least not without permission of the Church. Of course, both celibacy and marriage were legitimate and accepted options for clergy before that. (For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother's womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it. - Matthew 9.12)  Eastern clergy continued to be able to be drawn from among married men. There is indeed quite a long list of married clerics, married priests, and yes, even Bishops - including the first Pope, Blessed Peter the Apostle. Saint Paul in his first Epistle to Timothy refers to the Bishop as being the husband of one wife. (A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach. - I Timothy 3.2)  Plenty of other Scriptural evidence exists for both married and celibate clergy. And, one should guard against the quite Protestant approach of prooftexting. The overarching point is that whether a specific clergyman can marry or be married is a matter of canonical discipline and, within the bounds of that discipline, a matter of personal choice of conscience. Good married men of faith have served as clerics over the past two thousand years of the Christian Church. 

Mgr. Salamão Barbarosa Ferraz
Roman Catholic Bishop who was
married with children.
Perhaps I am biased in this matter since I myself am married. For me, the Countess makes my ministry, not to mention my life in general, more effective, more enjoyable, and more meaningful. And, my marriage is in accordance with the particular canons of the Patriarchate, with special dispensations from any irregularity granted by proper authority. The same applies to all married clergy of the Patriarchate - and at the time of this writing, all priests and seminarians happen to be married. Under present law, we cannot remarry after ordination to the Sub-Diaconate.

Then again, I am not the only married Cardinal in history. Cardinal René de Birague, Chancellor of France (though born in Italy), was married to Valentina Balbiani, who was "immortalized in art" in a sculpture known as "The Cardinal's Wife" by Germain Pilon. Cardinal Birague, to be fair, did not take Holy Orders until after his wife died, but such were the specific rules that applied to him at the time. Even when not permitted to contract sacramental marriage, plenty of churchmen from at least the latter portion of the Middle Ages through the Renaissance and even into the modern period have had mistresses who were effectively common-law wives. Indeed, for quite a long period of the Church's history, it seems high-ranking Church officials were practically expected to have a mistress, or even several mistresses, just like their secular counterparts. Pope Julius II had a mistress (common-law wife) by whom he had a daughter that bore the surname of his own noble family, Felicia della Rovere. She was a prominent Italian noblewoman of the day and wielded great influence. The children of Pope Alexander VI are well known and include Cesare Borgia and Lucrezia Borgia. Alexander's mistress was given a funeral equivalent of that of a queen by Pope Leo X, effectively recognizing her status. Pope Paul III's son was given the title of Duke of Parma and started the great line of dukes of the House of Farnese. Cardinal David Beaton (de Bethune), Archbishop of Saint Andrews in Scotland, had a mistress and is even an ancestor of Queen Elizabeth II. The list goes on and on. At least those who were able to marry their lady consorts sacramentally have been able to "make an honest women of them." The issue of inheritance of land and titles simply does not apply under the circumstances of the world in which we live today.

And then there was Mgr. Salamão Barbarosa Ferraz, Auxiliary Bishop of Rio de Janiero. He was consecrated in the Duarte-Costa line of Apostolic Succession. (Mgr. Duarte-Costa had a persisting conflict with Rome over the alleged support of Pius XII for Hitler during World War II, an accusation that we now know was false, but which one could be forgiven for thinking that at the time). Mgr. Ferraz was married with several children. He was received (without further ordination, even sub-conditione) into the Roman Communion by Pope John XXIII, while still married with children. At the invitation of Pope Paul VI, he participated in a committee of the Second Vatican Council, again while his wife was still very much alive and while still very much married with children. It is clearly canonically possible, even if rare. But rare does not mean wrong, and rare does not mean bad or inferior.

More modernly, there are two Ordinaries of the Anglican Ordinariate, founded by Pope Benedict XVI, who were former Episcopalian bishops. They were ordained de novo as Roman priests and then given ordinary authority. They were/are (one has retired) effectively bishops, even though not ordained as such - and there was even talk that one or both could be made a Cardinal. One frequently heard "Monsignor and Mrs." in reference to them and their wives. There would have been nothing stopping Benedict XVI from ordaining the two Ordinaries in question as Bishops. It is my opinion that the political and social construct within the present Roman Communion simply did not allow it, though I will not presume to state what was in the heart and mind of the Holy Father. 

Indeed, plenty of Ordinariate clergy are married and are just as effective than their unmarried counterparts. However, it seems the days of married clergy as the norm within the Ordinariate are numbered, as there has already been much criticism of their presence. Quite sad, really. The accomplishments of one that comes to mind include building a most impressive parish and Catholic school that serves as a shining example of Catholic education and tradition amidst the modern darkness. 

Certainly the norm in the Church is for celibate (unmarried) clergy. Yet, there have been plenty of married clergy, priests, and bishops who have served faithfully. There have been even more clerics who have had common-law wives, often producing children that were recognized and which became highly placed in society, benefiting the Holy Church and leaving their mark on history. Being in the minority does not mean one is inferior or an abberration. It is time that we bury this ridiculous and divisive argument and not let it be yet another rationale for brother fighting brother.