Friday, November 2, 2012

Ed Peters is a canon lawyer, who blogs at In the Light of the Law, and who believes that canon 277 mitigates against clergy, married deacons and married priests included, having sexual relations with their lawful, wedded wives, til' death do them part. He wrote on this issue here, and here, has published a significant academic article on this issue in 2005, and now has blogged on this issue again today (November 2, 2012). The newest entry came to my attention through Deacon Greg Kandra's blog The Deacon's Bench. Deacon Kandra excerpts a section of the Peters' blog post:

My position is, of course, that Western law and tradition expect, beyond any question, the observance of perfect and perpetual continence among all clerics, and that arguments from, say, silence and/or inadvertence (hallmarks, I suggest, of a hermeneutic of rupture) are insufficient to defeat that expectation. But that is not to say that the Church cannot choose to modify or abandon her clerical discipline in this regard; indeed, I suspect that the Church can change her expectations here, and that persons with deeper knowledge of, among other things, the theology of holy Orders, the sacred liturgy, and the nuptial imagery of the Eucharist should advise her on whether such change is a good idea or a bad. My only point is that the Church has not, contrary to common assumption, formally changed her expectation in regard to complete clerical continence, and that damage is being done to important ecclesiastical values by assuming otherwise. As for what the Church will decide to do in this matter, or when she will decide to do it, such things are not for me to say.

Kandra then asks, "Given all that, perhaps someone should just take a red pencil and rewrite that line in the law and be done with it…?" Deacon Kandra is correct, if that is what needs to be done, let it be done. Although, it seems as if Peters has persisted in this, even though the USCCB has penned a letter  sent on January 31, 2012 that reads in part:

Earlier this week, we were informed that Cardinal-designate Francesco Coccopalmerio,
President of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, with Bishop Juan Ignacio Arrieta, Secretary, has forwarded to Cardinal-designate Timothy M. Dolan the Pontifical Council's observations on the matter (Prot. N. 13095/2011). The observations, which were formulated in consultation with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, clarify that married permanent deacons are not bound to observe perfect and perpetual continence, as long as their marriage lasts.
I wrote on this entire issue, focusing on Peters' academic article of 2005, in America Magazine in January 2011. I do not know what bothers him so much about deacons and their wives having sex, or married priests and their wives having sex, unless, of course, it is the fact that he thinks they are breaking canon law.The Church seems to think, however, that all is well.

There is another reason, though, why I thought the issue was being raised then and why I believe it is being raised today even more so and that is the influx of married priests into the Roman Catholic Church. I wrote:

Married priests of course are mentioned by Peters in his blog post today and we are very close to the 30 years of continuous practice since the 1983 Code of Canon Law as we approach 2013. It is time to let this be: the Church has allowed this practice, rightly so, and it should have the force of law, because it is reasonable, right and sensible.

John W. Martens
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