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.
I can say, though, that this question is not going away. To the contrary, what was even a few years ago a question posed chiefly in regard to married deacons is suddenly relevant to hundreds, even thousands, of married priests coming in or perhaps coming into full communion and taking on ministry under current and/or proposed provisions. Now, however strong are the arguments for clerical continence among deacons—and they are very strong—those arguments are even stronger yet when applied to priests, men who are still more closely configured to Christ our High Priest and who are the very agents of his Eucharistic cult on earth.
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,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.
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.
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.But why is this issue being raised again now in the last few days, in his son’s blog posts and his own, given that his article was written in 2005? I have a hypothesis and the clues come from the article itself. Peters notes that a custom which has taken place contrary to canon law might become law: “finally, however, because such a practice is, it seems certain, one actually "contrary to canon law," it could obtain force of law only if it was "legitimately" observed for "thirty continuous and complete years."The norm in question, of course, c. 277 of the 1983 Code, while consistent with earlier law, has itself been in place only for some twenty years” (178-179). Those words, of course, were published in 2005, but the year today, 2011, brings us to 28 years, only two from the "thirty continuous and complete years” which would make this practice law according to Peters. Yet, there is something else going on beyond this time-frame which I think troubles Edward and Thomas Peters and has led to a flurry of recent activity with respect to an obscure article on canon law: the establishing of the Anglican ordinariate, which is bringing into the Roman Catholic Church something even worse than married deacons: married priests.
John W. Martens
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My opinion on this really hasn't changed since last year. I think Ed has a legitimate, academic, and interesting point about what the law says regarding clerical continence. It is an area where what is done and accepted by ecclesiastical authority in practice is not aligned with what the law actually says. For Ed to raise this point is good, he is doing what a smart canonist should do. The problem lies in what has happened with this information, how it has been spread around, and how it has been misused. In my opinion, Ed has been way too passive insofar as responding to this, and obviously egged on his son to scandalize the faithful. But the inappropriate way of handling the information doesn't take away from the fact that he's raised a very legitimate canonical point.ReplyDelete
I am surprised that Ed would emphasize the point about custom (having the force of law after legitimate observance after 30 complete and continuous years). I think it's a non-issue, just given the requirements for this to occur. Besides, it's not like the legislator's hands are bound against eradicating a custom with the force of law, even if you can say that it actually exists. But this, along with the nuances of canon 277, are things for canon lawyers to nerd out about and to present papers on at conferences. It doesn't belong in the blogosphere or in the conscientious deacon's bedroom.
I don't know if I would see it as a problem that it is being raised with particular emphasis now that the Anglican ordinariate is alive and growing. Now that the faithful have all been sufficiently confused (thank you, Ed and Thom), they deserve clarification. They have a right to understand clearly what the law intends and expects. Part of the problem is that the supreme legislator just doesn't work that way, offering explanation or change on demand. The Church always moves slowly, especially so when it comes to adding or changing law. She errs (sometimes gravely, tragically errs) on the side of being reactive rather than proactive. It saves the trouble and scandal of having to retract from a position, even if it means great consequences and confusion in the meantime. I was happy to see that +Coccopalmerio at least offered an unofficial response to quell the rumor mills, but I'm not surprised that an official change or answer hasn't been given. Partly because the Church just isn't sure what to think about married clergy, or permanent deacons for that matter. In the scheme of history, this is a very recent, post-Vatican II phenomenon (not counting the married clergy of centuries past). There can't be an official change or decision until there is certainty. Unfortunately, Americans are notorious (in the Church) for their canonical scrupulosity (they say the Romans write the laws, and the Americans follow them) as well as having by a vast majority the most men ordained to the permanent diaconate. It's entirely feasible to me that Rome doesn't appreciate or mind the Americans who keep hand-wringing over this.
Susan M, JCL
"In my opinion, Ed has been way too passive insofar as responding to this, and obviously egged on his son to scandalize the faithful."Delete
You can have an opinion, "Susan M", about whether I am "too passive", but not about whether "I egged on my son". You should retract that false assertion.
And, what are you talking about, about custom? That is not my position. If anything, it is Martens'.
Susan is absolutely right. I don't understand why Peters keeps beating this dead horse. To my knowledge, he has never cited a single Vatican document or Church authority that has affirmed his view that permanent deacons are required to observe perfect continence. His view is also countered by the fact that I don't know of a single diocese in the world that requires married permanent deacons observe it.ReplyDelete
Instead, he's basing his reading of Canon Law purely on deductive reasoning, and treating it as if there are hidden mandates and disciplines of the Church just waiting to be discovered by sentence-splicing canonists.
I get it, Canon 277 says all clerics are bound to continence and celibacy. Paul VI only specifically exempted them from celibacy. All that says to me is the law isn't completely explicit, whereas Peters thinks there has been a serious and ongoing violation of Church law for 35 years. You'd think a bishop or curial official would have said something by now. The only reason Rome gave any response at all was because Peters was sewing confusion among the people.
I don't really know where to start with the multiple errors in this post. May I ask folks to read my work and decide for themselves whether it is sound.Delete
Can 277 says this:ReplyDelete
Can. 277 §1 Clerics are obliged to observe perfect and perpetual continence for the sake of the Kingdom of heaven, and are therefore bound to celibacy.
continence = no sex
celibacy = not married
As married clerics (priests or deacons) are not bound to celibacy (by definition), they are not bound to continence either.
Or, applying mathematical logic:
From the statements:
1. continent => celibate (Can. 277 §1)
2 !celibate (the state of the married)
One CAN NOT logically conclude
Ed Peters interpretation of this canon is simply wrong, not in accord with the plain meaning of the Canon as written, and not in accord with the practice of the Church.
While this may not be Ed's own motivation, it seems to play into an agenda to undermine the married clergy.