Sunday, February 8, 2009

Who's on First?

A posting on Deacon Greg Kandra's blog, SSPX and married deacons: "completely unlawful", is certainly an intriguing read. The criticism of the married diaconate quoted in the post, from a Society of St. Pius X website, implies the Society arrived at their judgment no earlier than 1995, some years before other critics of the ministry checked-in to the essentially the same place. (The author of this blog became aware of the SSPX article some time ago, but didn't see reason to cite it before now.)

Some of the same arguments against a married deacon being ordained or being allowed marital rights are found in both the SSPX article and subsequent letters and postings of others. Of course, SSPX cannot invoke the canons of the 1983 Code of Canon Law, as they apparently and unsurprisingly do not accept it (link; oddly, while enumerating 1983 canons that the Society cannot "accept," canons which mention married deacons are not included in the list).

Some of those commenting on Deacon Kandra's post may not be familiar with the 2007-2008 HPR letter thread on the subject of marital rights for deacons, although it is linked from one of the web pages cited by a comment and indirectly referenced in another.

Two of the comments on Deacon Kandra's post are worth quoting here, as they supplement the arguments advanced in the last letter of the HPR thread:

Dcn Scott Dodge said...
What Dr. Peters and Fr Van Hove ignore, assuming that the above accurately reflects their considered views, is the decree of the council and the canonical status of a dogmatic constitution, namely Lumen Gentium, and the universal and supreme legistlative authority of the pope as exercised in the motu proprio, Sacrem Diaconatus Ordinem, particularly numbers 2 and 11-13:
2. When asking the Apostolic See for approval, the reasons must be explained which favor the introduction of this new practice in a region as well as the circumstances which give well-founded hope of success. Likewise, the manner will have to be indicated in which the new discipline will be implemented, that is to say, whether it is a matter of conferring the diaconate on 'suitable young men for whom the law of celibacy must remain intact, or on men of more mature age, even upon those living in the married state,' or on both kinds of candidates."
11. Older men, whether single or married, can be called to the diaconate. The latter, however, are not to be admitted unless there is certainty not only about the wife's consent, but also about her blameless Christian life and those qualities which will neither impede nor bring dishonor on the husband's ministry.
12. The older age in this case is reached at the completion of the thirty-fifth year. Nevertheless, the age requirement is to be understood in this sense, namely, that no one can be called to the diaconate unless he has gained the high regard of the clergy and the faithful by a long example of truly Christian life, by his unexceptionable
conduct, and by his ready disposition to be of service.13. In the case of married men care must be taken that only those are promoted to the diaconate who while living many years in matrimony have shown that they are ruling well their own household and who have a wife and children leading a truly Christian life and noted for their good reputation.
All of this is codified in the CIC [Code of Canon Law]. Besides being codified, these documents must inform any interpretation of the canons in the revised code as they were promulgated prior to and are constitutive of the new code. So, anyone who presumes to say that married deacons, who live in the married state in a conjugally normal way, are invalidly or illicitly ordained are clearly in error. Such a one also, either explicitly, or by implication, believes their bishop, the Holy Father, and an ecumenical council to be error.Besides the idea that celibacy is required in order to live in the clerical state is clearly not of apostolic origin, a simple reading of the New Testament will disabuse anyone of that erroneous idea. Besides, look not only at the Orthodox churches, but the Eastern churches in communion with Rome, we validly and licitly ordain married men to the presbyterate. February 5, 2009 11:04 AM
Thomas Welbers said...
So far in these comments nobody has actually looked at canon 3 of the First Council of Nicaea to see that the interpretation of the SSPX is erroneous from the getgo. This is the complete text: "The Great Synod has stringently forbidden any bishop, presbyter, deacon, or any one of the clergy whatever, to have a subintroducta dwelling with him, except only a mother, or sister, or aunt, or such persons only as are beyond all suspicion." (See: "Subintroducta" specifically is not a wife, but a woman living in the same household with a celibate man or group of men. (See:
The question of mandatory celibacy of the clergy -- or at least total abstinence from sexual intercourse if they already had wives -- was introduced at the Council, possibly at the instigation of the few western bishops, under the Spanish Hosius, but was opposed by most eastern bishops. The Spanish Council of Elvira in 306 AD is the first instance of a disciplinary canon (of a local council) requiring absolute sexual abstinence (continence) not only for the ordained but also for "others with a position in the ministry." It is speculated that Hosius wanted to use the Council of Nicaea to extend this prohibition universally, something the Council specifically refused to do.
Interestingly, it was St. Paphnutius, an aged Egyptian monk who had been severely deformed in the persecution under Diocletian, who hobbled to the podium, and in severe language denounced those who would impose such a burden on the clergy. In the words of the 1913 Catholic Encyclopedia, "Paphnutius earnestly entreated his fellow-bishops not to impose this obligation on the orders of the clergy concerned. He proposed, in accordance 'with the ancient tradition of the Church', that only those who were celibates at the time of ordination should continue to observe continence, but, on the other hand, that 'none should be separated from her, to whom, while yet unordained, he had been united'. The great veneration in which he was held, and the well known fact that he had himself observed the strictest chastity all his life, gave weight to his proposal, which was unanimously adopted. The council left it to the discretion of the married clergy to continue or discontinue their marital relations." It's interesting to review the other 19 of the disciplinary canons of Nicaea to see how many of them are still relevant, or, as in the case of canons 17 and 20, observed even by the conservative of Catholics. February 5, 2009 3:34 PM