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Married Priest Soldiers On

Sep
28
2006

Married archbishop Emmanuel Milingo has been excommunicated.

The Vatican gave the 76-year-old faith healer/musician/married priest until Oct. 15 to leave the conjugal bed for good and rejoin the celibate flock, but Milingo forced canonical law by installing four married men as bishops.

Four strikes and you’re out. Well, in Rome they say “latae sententiae” but it’s the same thing.

Milingo’s response? Take your excommunication and shove it, because I can’t be fired by God.

He has a point, of course. Milingo has continued saying mass every day in Washington D.C., where he hopes the anti-celibacy movement will gain momentum. While it was doubtful Pope Benedict would succeed in coaxing him back to Rome the way Pope John Paul did, it was an unexpected turn of events. But as the first such high-ranking church official to be excommunicated in 20 years, Milingo has certainly gained publicity for “Married Priests Now!”

Still, these unlikely Davids will have to do more than get excommunicated to engage Goliath in any kind of meaningful battle. One of the first Married Priest Now group photos, with a purple banner (sans emphatic punctuation!) in the background, shows a smiling huddle of men and women, including a bishop with toddler in arms, in what looks like a modest hotel conference room.

And it doesn’t look like they’ll be making any headway in Rome with the concept, though from what a few small polls have shown, many Catholics (70-80%) are in favor of non-celibate padres, in part as a response to the vocation crisis. There aren’t enough priests to minister to the faithful.

It’s just one more way that the Catholic church, especially with hard liner Pope Benedict at the helm, will avoid change while the faithful might welcome it. And it’s worth remebering that priests haven’t always been celibate and there is nothing clear cut, doctrine-wise, about why they must be.

Take a few minutes to wade through Pope John Paul’s encyclical on celibacy from nearly 40 years ago, when the matter was also much discussed.

While the first sentence states that “Priestly celibacy has been guarded by the Church for centuries as a brilliant jewel,” it also concedes, way down in paragraph 17, “Virginity undoubtedly, as the Second Vatican Council declared, “is not, of course, required by the nature of the priesthood itself. This is clear from the practice of the early Church and the traditions of the Eastern Churches.”

There you have it. In 1967, the Church examined the idea of married priests – at Vatican length, in Latin, not for the faint-hearted – and found that celibate priests were best. Unfortunately, Pope Benedict doesn’t seem keen to re-examine the matter any time soon.

Share  Posted by Nicole Martinelli at 5:32 PM | Permalink

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