Posted January 30, 2006
Book: Married Catholic Priests: Their History, Their Journeys, Their
Author: Anthony P. Kowalski
Crossroad Publishing Company, New York, 2005, pp.264
An Excerpt from the Preface:
Before 1965, release from the law of priestly celibacy in the Roman Catholic
Church was not possible. A priest who fell in love had few options — abandon
the woman, maintain a secret affair, face censure and expulsion. Each option
Pope John XXIII grieved over this. As papal nuncio in Sofia, Bulgaria, he
had befriended Orthodox married priests and respected them. As papal nuncio
in Paris, France, he dealt with worker-priests and admired their efforts.
These experiences led to greater compassion toward priests. His friend, the
German theologian Bernard Haring, wrote that John XXIII on his deathbed
expressed regret for not resolving the matter of priests who marry.
Pope Paul VI, aware of his predecessor’s concerns, resolved to do something
about them. Although opposed to discussing celibacy at the Second Vatican
Council, he put in place in 1964 a judicial procedure for dispensing priests
and allowing them to marry. Roman officials handled these matters privately
until 1972, when the norms were made public. A major exodus followed.
Requests for dispensation flooded to Rome from parish curates and high
dignitaries, form remote mission territories and major urban areas, and from
every diocese and religious congregation in the world. At the press
conference in June 1991 the undersecretary of the Congregation of the Clergy
in Rome estimated that the Vatican had granted sixty thousand dispensations.
Pope John Paul II, upon taking office in 1978, halted the process. But he
then authorized the ordination of married Episcopal, Lutheran, and other
Christian ministers who converted to Catholicism. This happened when
ordained Catholic priests were marrying and being accepted as pastors and
bishops in Protestant churches.
Never before has the Roman Catholic Church witnessed anything like this.
First, former Protestant clergy are working as married priests in Roman
Catholic parishes. Second, ordained Roman Catholic priests are accepted as
married pastors in Protestant Churches. Third, ordained Roman Catholics
priests are working as married laymen in Roman Catholic institutions.
Fourth, Roman Catholic clerics, denied dispensation, marry and continue
sacramental ministry without church sanction. Fifth, the ordination of women
a generation ago by a Roman Catholic bishop in the underground church of
Czechoslovakia and the ordination of seven Catholic women by Old Catholic
bishops in Austria have been verified.
A further dilemma arises from the dwindling number of celibate priests.
Catholics and other Christians in need of pastoral care are requesting
sacramental ministry from former clerics, who are eager to respond –
preaching the Gospel, celebrating the Eucharist, and performing baptisms,
weddings, and funerals. With Christ they say, “What man among you, if his
son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for fish, will
give him a serpent.
An Excerpt from the Book:
The Third Millennium
Many expected that, with the millennium celebration focusing on
reconciliation, the Church would address the treatment of married priests.
Cardinal Basil Hume suggested such reconciliation directly to Rome. In the
name of the bishops of England and Wales, Hume formally requested amnesty
for married priests and for their return. He passed away not long afterward
without receiving a response.
The opening years of the third millennium saw a plethora of sympathetic
calls for reform. When revelations of clerical sexual abuse in the United
States stunned the nation, The Pilot, official newspaper of Cardinal Law’s
Boston Archdiocese, in March 25, 2002 called celibacy an issue that ‘simply
will not disappear.” On March 25, 2002, Cardinal Roger M. Mahony of Los
Angeles said, “The Eastern Catholic Churches have always had a married
priesthood, and it works out fine. . .So I think it should be discussed.
Table of Contents:
1. The other tradition
2. Beloved wives
3. Organizing priests
4. The Humanae Vitae debacle
5. Working for the Church
6. Diversity among married priests
7. Prominent former clerics
8. The swinging door
9. Spirituality and married priests
10. My journey
11. Priests in transition
12. A nurturing parish
13. The cultural revolution
14. Married priesthood today