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Friday, 13 September 2013

"Vatican May Discuss Marriage for Catholic Priests": Matters Arising. By Uwakwe Chibuike

"Vatican may Discuss Marriage for Catholic Priests": Matters Arising by Uwakwe Chibuike 
Amidst other online and offline reports, the Nigerian Punch Newspaper (online), Friday 13th September 2013 published an article titled “Vatican May Discuss Marriage For Catholic Priests”. This report was informed by the views of some disgruntled iconoclastic media elements who chose to fed the public with half-baked beans and insinuate tension among Catholics. 

Recently, Pope Francis appointed Italian Archbishop Pietro Parolin, as the new Vatican Secretary of State, the Number 2 position in the Vatican. Discussing how the Church understands Priestly celibacy in an interview with the Venezuelan Newspaper El Universal early this week , the New Secretary of State said: “Celibacy is not a Church dogma and it can be discussed because it is a church tradition”. Ever since then bearing in mind the reformist-minded Pontiff who has invited Archbishop Pietro into his government, the media has been stormed with headlines like “CATHOLIC PRIESTS MAY SOON BE PERMITTED TO MARRY”, “PRIESTLY CELIBACY IS OPEN FOR DISCUSSION, SAYS VATICAN OFFICIAL, etc. 

The truth of the matter is that the Archbishop was never trying to create the impression that Catholic celibacy would be open for discussion under the regime of Pope Francis. Instead, he was shedding light on the difference between a Church dogma and a tradition. A dogma is a truth revealed by God through the Church, which every faithful Catholic is bound to accept, while a tradition is a norm, value or practice beneficial to the Church which has been adopted by early Church fathers and has lasted for several years. The Archbishop was only trying to emphasize that the Church does not claim that Celibacy is a divinely revealed truth but a venerable tradition of the Church which could be reviewed. But the possibility of it being reviewed does not make its review necessary at the moment.

However, there is no indication at the moment that the Church is going to permit Catholic priests to marry despite recent calls for that. Those championing the view of letting Roman Catholic Priests marry claim to help priests manage their sexual lives responsibly. But then, celibacy is not the cause of sexual scandals among priests. The cause is the lack of a proper commitment to the practice of virtue. Are there no cases of sexual scandals among the married? While we complain today of unchaste actions among celibate priests, tomorrow it would be unfaithful and secularized married priests. Praying for our priests would help them be faithful to their calling and we will have fewer troubles with them on issues of scandal.

Besides, as those who serve in the person of Christ, they should be transformed into Christ who remained a chaste celibate all through his life by following his example. As celibates, they are constant reminders of the world to come which they are witnessing on earth since the children of that world do not take wives or husbands. Their celibate lives also help them to give an undivided attention to the ministry of the Word and Sacraments. Aware of these facts, the Church established impediments that block the validity of marriages attempted by those who have been ordained. Canon 1087 states: "Persons who are in holy orders invalidly attempt marriage."

While we are considering conventional marriage which is permitted for Catholic Priests in the Eastern Rite and prohibited for those in the Western rite, we can observe that all Catholic priests are in a spiritual sense truly married. They, representing Christ the bridegroom are truly married to the Church the Bride. With the Church they profess mutual love and care for each other. Their marriage is consummated after ordination with the first mass and in procreating at the baptismal fonts, they reproduce wonderful sons and daughters of God who pass through the sacrament of Baptism and continue to nurture them with the Word and Sacraments.

Therefore, let our interest not be on having our priests conventionally married or not but on praying for them that they may remain faithful to their principal calling at the moment. They need more graces accruing from our prayers to meet up with their current demands. Going into conventional marriage would increase the demands even when they are still battling with the ones they have. Let us pray for our priests.

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