01 November 2009

Crdl Levada clarifies a question on celibacy

A clarification from Cardinal Levada of the CDF, regarding speculation that the publication of the Anglican apostolic constitution is being delayed in order to iron out the question of clerical celibacy for future seminarians of the Anglican Ordinariates:

There has been widespread speculation, based on supposedly knowledgeable remarks by an Italian correspondent Andrea Tornielli, that the delay in publication of the Apostolic Constitution regarding Personal Ordinariates for Anglicans entering into full communion with the Catholic Church, announced on October 20, 2009, by Cardinal William Levada, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, is due to more than "technical" reasons. According to this speculation, there is a serious substantial issue at the basis of the delay, namely, disagreement about whether celibacy will be the norm for the future clergy of the Provision.

Cardinal Levada offered the following comments on this speculation: "Had I been asked I would happily have clarified any doubt about my remarks at the press conference. There is no substance to such speculation. No one at the Vatican has mentioned any such issue to me. The delay is purely technical in the sense of ensuring consistency in canonical language and references. [Shudder. . .the tedious task of getting the footnotes right.] The translation issues are secondary; the decision not to delay publication in order to wait for the ‘official’ Latin text to be published in Acta Apostolicae Sedis was made some time ago.

The drafts prepared by the working group, and submitted for study and approval through the usual process followed by the Congregation, have all included the following statement, currently Article VI of the Constitution:

§1 Those who ministered [past tense] as Anglican deacons, priests, or bishops, and who fulfill the requisites established by canon law and are not impeded by irregularities or other impediments may be accepted by the Ordinary as candidates for Holy Orders in the Catholic Church. In the case of married ministers, the norms established in the Encyclical Letter of Pope Paul VI Sacerdotalis coelibatus, n. 42 and in the Statement "In June" are to be observed. Unmarried ministers must submit to the norm of clerical celibacy of CIC can. 277, §1. [The pastoral provisions for married Anglican clergy will remain in effect.]

§2. The Ordinary, in full observance of the discipline of celibate clergy in the Latin Church, as a rule (pro regula) will admit [future tense] only celibate men to the order of presbyter. He may also petition the Roman Pontiff, as a derogation from can. 277, §1, for the admission of married men to the order of presbyter on a case by case basis, according to objective criteria approved by the Holy See [this is not a good move].

This article is to be understood as consistent with the current practice of the Church, in which married former Anglican ministers may be admitted to priestly ministry in the Catholic Church on a case by case basis. With regard to future seminarians, it was considered purely speculative whether there might be some cases in which a dispensation from the celibacy rule might be petitioned. For this reason, objective criteria about any such possibilities (e.g. married seminarians already in preparation) are to be developed jointly by the Personal Ordinariate and the Episcopal Conference, and submitted for approval of the Holy See."  [So it is likely that married men currently studying for the Anglican priesthood will be granted dispensations for ordination if they come over to Rome.  Nothing here indicates what the norms will be for those entering seminary after the P.O.'s are established.  My guess is that they are choosing to wait and deal with this when the question arises in the future.  This strikes me as risky, but real-life cases help make better law].

Cardinal Levada said he anticipates the technical work on the Constitution and Norms will be completed by the end of the first week of November.

Will the P.O.'s become a "back door" for making married clergy the norm for the Latin Rite as a whole?  Probably not.  But the canonical language will have to be very carefully drawn so as to prevent revisionists from giving the canons "creative interpretations."  However, unlike the Anglican Communion, the RCC has a central authority that can prevent unintended applications of canon law.  In other words, creative bishops will not be able to abuse the provisions of the P.O. to sneak married clergy into the Latin Rite as the norm. 


  1. Christ is celibate. Is the life of a married priest a reflection of Christ's life? What is so unique about our Catholic Church is our Celibate Priesthood. If this were eroded, there will be no more diference between the Catholic Church and other churches and religions in the world. A married man is materialistic and tend to put his family first. We certainly do not want a future married pope who would ensure that he is succeeded by his descendants only. And we certainly do not want a priest who is always busy making money so that his wife and children can live a comfortable life. What about his priestly duties? Every Tom, Dick and Harry on the streets can be a married priest. Why fish in the Anglican pond? What we really need are celibate priests for the salvation of the Catholic Church!

  2. Francis Pimentel-Pinto5:49 PM

    Lavinia Tai is obviously unaware of the fact that centuries before Christ
    the members of the Sangha, a Buddhist monastic order, lived in celibacy.It is also a fact that in Islam members of Sufi mystical communities may live in temporary or permanent celibacy.

    _Francis Pimentel-Pinto

  3. On an Catholic discussion board an ex priest has already announced with glee that the 'back door' is the way to go.