Monday, November 12, 2007

Cardinal Etchegaray on married clergy

From Catholic World News:

Married priests not a solution to shortage, cardinal says

Paris, Nov. 12, 2007 ( - An influential French cardinal has said that the ordination of married men is a possibility that could be discussed, but "it is not a solution to the vocations crisis."

Cardinal Roger Etchegaray (bio - news), the former president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, explained to the newspaper Le Parisen that priestly celibacy is a discipline rather than a matter of doctrine. "It can be discussed," he said.

However, the cardinal voiced his extreme skepticism about suggestions that a provision for married priests would end the shortage of clergy in Europe. The fundamental response to that crisis, he said, must involve a renewed appreciation for service to the Church.

One constantly hears from dissenting ‘Catholic’ and secular sources repeated affirmations that if only holy Church would cease to require lifelong continence from her clergy, the current dearth of vocations would be solved overnight.

It is true, as his emninence says, that the ordination of married men is a possibility that could be discussed, for celibacy is not a matter of doctrine, or of divinely-given precept; it is a disciplinary matter, which could be revoked by the Holy See if it so wished.

The question is not whether celibacy is a changable policy, but whether changing this policy would be of benefit to the Church. At this point in time, however, Melancholicus cannot really see the benefit of relaxing the discipline of the Church, especially when sacerdotal discipline generally is at an all-time low and needs vigorous rejuvenation.

If the history of the past forty years has shown us anything, one does not improve the calibre of clergy and religious by making things easier. All true reforms of the Church, as opposed to the post-Vatican II deformation, have resulted from a return to the sources, and a rediscovery of the value of asceticism and penance. To relax the discipline of the Church in a time of already prevalent laxity, is to invite further deterioration, and would perhaps encourage into clerical ministry many persons who ought not to have any part in ministry in the first place.

Furthermore, the Orthodox and the Anglicans have a married clergy, and can it be said that they are awash with vocations? The Church of England in particular, even though the marriage of clergy in that church has been permissible since 1549, is struggling; since the advent of women’s ordination in 1993, the C of E is now in the curious situation of ordaining more women than men, which means that the priesthood of that church may well in time become a female preserve.

But despite the fact that the Church of England can draw upon both male and female, as well as the married and unmarried, it seems to have a harder time recruiting new clergy than the Roman Catholic Church in the same country.

The paucity of vocations in the Roman Church at present owes nothing to celibacy, or to the position of the Church on women’s ordination; rather it owes everything to the stranglehold exercised by modernism on Catholic schools, universities, seminaries and houses of formation.

Not to mention the current state of the liturgy which, far from inspiring vocations to the priesthood, would make one embarrassed to be Catholic.

It is strange (though not unwelcome) that prelates such as Roger “spirit of Assisi” Etchegaray, formerly noted for dotty theological looseness bordering on dissent, now seem to be talking orthodox Catholicism, and in a more sober and serious vein.

Would our Holy Father Benedict have anything to do with that, I wonder?

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