Below is an email I sent to Dr. Edward Peters, a canon lawyer who I have referred to before on my blog. The purpose for my email to Dr. Peters was in regards to his article on clerical celibacy which can be found here. It would be helpful to read what he wrote in order to understand my response. This is in no way to be seen as a retaliation of what he wrote, nor from his response to me did he seem to take it that way. My concern is that good, faithful Catholics do not just dismiss out of hand the idea of a married priesthood, which it seems they are wont to do because the subject is often wrongly attached to progressive ideas like women priests and other such innovations. Dr. Peters response to me was very cordial and he has given permission for this to be published. I have edited it by taking parts I found unnecessary for this post.
…let me say that I find your blog to be very helpful. I have also read your book Excommunication and the Catholic Church, which I also found to be helpful. As a convert to the Catholic Faith from being an Episcopal priest, your writings are helping me to understand some of the ins and outs of canon law. Having become a Catholic priest through the Pastoral Provision I did not have adequate training in this area and so I appreciate what you have to say, especially because you are so faithful to the magisterium.
Having said I was ordained through the Pastoral Provision you would be correct to assume that I am a married Catholic priest. Ellie, my wife, and I have been married for 19 years and have four children. And, being a married priest, the topic of clerical celibacy can be a touchy subject for me. And that brings me to the main reason for contacting you directly.
It is your post from April 10 on clerical celibacy I would like to discuss. Let me be the first to say that I am not necessarily advocating for married men to become priests. On the one hand, I believe it could help with the priest shortage. I also believe there are men who are called by God to be both a husband and a priest but who, because of the current law of the Church, must choose either marriage or the priesthood. On the other hand, I recognize that opening the priesthood to married men could cause just as many problems as it solves. For instance, in the divorce culture in which we live, it is very possible that a married priest's wife might leave him and therefore, what would be done about the priest? In the least, this situation would cause scandal in the local parish where he serves but would more likely have a farther reaching impact.
Some people, though, think a married priesthood is a crusade that must be pursued at all costs, especially those who have lumped it in with progressive ideas like women priests and homosexual ‘marriages’. But, of course, a married man can become a priest, whereas the two examples just mentioned are not possible at all.
I have often wondered if it is not the progressives who have pushed good people away from the idea of a married priesthood. The association it has with progressive ideas causes faithful Catholics to shy away from it it seems. But it is not a progressive idea at all but instead, was there from the very beginning. True, the Latin Church stepped in at a time in history and put an end to it for various reasons, but if those situations have changed then it does not seem to be to be ‘progressive’ to consider returning to it.
I bring all this up because in your post you compare the ‘merely disciplinary’ aspect of a celibate clergy with the ‘merely disciplinary’ Sunday obligation. It does not seem to me that these two things are even in the same ballpark. You, being a canon lawyer, would most definitely better understand all the implications of the term ‘merely disciplinary’. But it does not seem that these two things are at all similar.
The Sunday obligation, which is a requirement of canon law, is more than ‘merely disciplinary’. To do away with it would, I believe, be to go against one of God's commandments – keep holy the Sabbath day. The same cannot be said in regards to a married priesthood because there is no commandment of God forbidding it.
I do not say any of this in support of any progressive agenda whatsoever. I always strive to be completely faithful to the teachings of the one true Church that Jesus founded – the Catholic Church. And that is why I become saddened when other faithful Catholics dismiss out of hand the idea of a married priesthood.
My purpose here was to try to express myself clearly in regards to this subject. I hope I have done so. I do hope to hear from you and will also look forward to your blog postings. Also, with your permission because it involves you, I would like to post this letter on my blog. My hope would be to promote a sincere discussion about this subject and not agenda-ridden Church politics. May God bless you and all you do for His Holy Catholic Church.
Fr. Jeffery W. Moore, Parochial Vicar
Our Lady of the Atonement Catholic Church
Your thoughts and comments are welcome. And please understand that I am NOT on a crusade to change the Church's position on priestly celibacy. I simply want faithful Catholics to be open-minded in regards to the subject of married men becoming priests and not to dismiss it without serious thought.