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Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Married Man’s Ordination Reveals Unusual Prohibition on Eastern Catholics | Daily News | NCRegister.com

Despite a call from the Second Vatican Council to recover their traditions, Eastern Catholics in the U.S. must ask for permission to ordain married men to the priesthood due to a 90-year-old policy

by PETER JESSERER SMITH 04/07/2014 Comments (29)
ST. LOUIS — Surrounded by his wife, daughter and the bishops of his Church, Father Wissam Akiki made history in February as the first married man in 90 years to enter the priesthood for the Maronite Catholic Church in the U.S. But for Catholics of most Eastern-rite Churches in the U.S., including the Maronites, the fact the priest is a married man isn’t that extraordinary: What’s extraordinary is that they have to ask the Vatican for permission to ordain married men in the first place.

Eastern Catholic bishops of the Ukrainian, Ruthenian and Melkite traditions have been cautiously ordaining married men to the priesthood in the United States since Blessed John Paul II relaxed decades-old rules and opened the door to them on a case-by-case basis approved by the Vatican. Now, the Maronites are following suit. On Feb. 27, Bishop Elias Zaidan of the Maronite Eparchy of Our Lady of Lebanon ordained Father Akiki.

“It’s been an ongoing discussion,” said Deacon Louis Peters, the chancellor of the St. Louis-based eparchy. “Pope Francis said he could suspend the rule for this ordination, and so we proceeded.”

But the Holy Father’s approval of Father Akiki’s ordination marks “no change at all” to the Latin Church’s ancient tradition of a celibate-only priesthood, explained Paulist Father Ronald Roberson, an authority on Eastern Churches with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. “The tradition of a wholly celibate diocesan clergy is really something that is a characteristic of the Latin Church, but not the [entire] Catholic Church,” he said. In the tradition of most Eastern Churches, married men are ordained as parish priests. However, celibate men take vows as monks and can be ordained as priests, and bishops are chosen from the celibate clergy. But once ordained, priests can never marry.

A Tragic History

But the “real issue” that makes Pope Francis’ approval of Father Akiki’s ordination newsworthy for the U.S., Father Roberson explained, is a 1929 Vatican decree called Cum Data Fuerit, which imposed a requirement of celibacy on Eastern Catholic clergy in the U.S. Back then, U.S. Latin-rite bishops, openly hostile to the Eastern Catholic liturgy and traditions brought over by Eastern European immigrants, had heavily lobbied the Vatican, calling their married priesthood a “scandal.” They were considered a stumbling block to their plans for a uniform American Catholic Church. These actions helped drive tens of thousands of Eastern Catholics out of communion with Rome — some estimates are as high as 300,000 — and into the Orthodox churches. According to Father Thomas Loya, a pastor in the Byzantine Catholic Eparchy of Parma and host of “Light of the East Radio,” the Vatican’s ban on married priesthood “devastated” the Eastern Catholic parishes in ways that would not be obvious to Latin-rite Catholics.

“Part of the structure of the Eastern Catholic Churches was pulled out from under it, and nothing replaced it,” Father Loya said. Neither the Vatican nor the Latin bishops appreciated the role of the priest’s wife in the Eastern tradition. “It would be as if the Eastern-rite Churches had turned around and said to the Latin-rite priests [in their territory], ‘You’re not going to have housekeepers, you’re not going to have cooks, directors of religious education, youth coordinators, and you’re going to survive and run your parish that way.’”

Vatican II Calls for Restoration

The Second Vatican Council finally repudiated the theology behind these “Latinizing” policies in the Church and established that the Latin Church and the Eastern Churches enjoy status as Churches with “equal dignity.” The Council also gave “all members of the Eastern rite” a mandate both to “always preserve their legitimate liturgical rite and their established way of life” and to “take steps to return to their ancestral traditions.” But despite these declarations of Vatican II, the spirit behind Cum Datum Fuerit still persists in the Church. Father Roberson explained that the thinking behind the U.S. restrictions are that, “when you get outside that territory into areas that are really dominated by the Latin Church, then it’s a different story” of whether the Eastern Catholic bishops can ordain married men.

Read the full article on line here:

Married Man’s Ordination Reveals Unusual Prohibition on Eastern Catholics | Daily News | NCRegister.com

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