Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The clock is ticking... or is it?

In the past few days, the canonical "issues" with conjugal rights for married deacons have been raised again, this time by Edward Peters' son. He states:
In simple terms, permanent deacons are obligated by law to refrain from sexual relations with their wife once they are ordained. [emphasis in original]
Fair warning: the argument is air-tight
Why? Because his father says so, apparently. Yet, he also notes:
No, the argument is not air-tight. Fundamentally and formally, the argument is illogical, as I first noted here (last letter) and here. Deacon William Ditewig makes the same observation:
If clerical CELIBACY flows from the desire for clergy to be CONTINENT, then wouldn't the very removal of the requirement for CELIBACY in the case of certain clerics not also remove the requirement for CONTINENCE? (I'm not shouting here; I'm simply typing for emphasis.) All clerics are to be continent. Therefore, all clerics are to be celibate. But not all clerics are celibate. Therfore [sic], not all clerics are continent. [EMPHASIS in original]
Father Lewis Berry comes to a similar conclusion (third comment):
I do not agree that the language of Canon 277&1 which states that the requirement of celibacy is premised on the value of continency in any way necessitates the corresponding view that the dispensation from the requirement of celibacy leaves the obligation of continency in place; I believe that the inference is quite the reverse. The marriage "right" or "usage" is derived from both natural and revealed law and cannot be considered to have been waived by mere implication of either law or collateral event.
Is the foundation of the controversy really just smoke and mirrors?

And, why the big push now, since the 2005 Studia Canonica article has been out there for going on six years? Near the end of the paper we read:

Finally, however, because such a practice is, it seems certain [sic], one actually "contrary to canon law," it could obtain force of law only if it was "legitimately" observed for "thirty continuous and complete years." The norm in question, of course, c. 277 of the 1983 Code, while consistent with earlier law, has itself been in place only for some twenty years. (p. 178-179).
2013 is only a couple of years away. It further appears that the author is not disinterested and wants his interpretation to be affirmed by Church authority:
This welcome articulation of the value of celibacy in its own right appeared in the 1982 Schema Codicis, c. 279, §1,67 and, as we have seen, was carried into the final form of the canon in the 1983 Code without amendment. (p. 169) [Emphasis added]
As a number of people have observed, either in their comments on existing posts or in their own blogs, proper Church authority has already acknowledged the legitimacy of married deacons exercising their marital rights:
The Sacrament of Matrimony sanctifies conjugal love and constitutes it a sign of the love with which Christ gives himself to the Church (cf. Eph. 5:25). It is a gift from God and should be a source of nourishment for the spiritual life of those deacons who are married. (Basic Norms for the Formation of Permanent Deacons & Directory for the Ministry and Life of Permanent Deacons No. 61)
Yes, higher Church authority could redefine the rights and obligations of married deacons. Until then, if ever, I think the "question" is resolved.

1 comment:

  1. Hello Dcn Rex. It’s been a while, I hope you are well.

    I see that you still will not be dissuaded from a theory that basically ignores the fact that certain words, depending on their context, take on one meaning, while in another they can mean something else. For example, the word “valid” means one thing in logical argumentation, and something else in canon law. You insist on reading the word “therefore” (ideoque) in Canon 277 as if it had the some referent as it has in formal logic. Well, I’ve spent considerable time trying to show you that your formal logical analysis of Canon 277 fails for the simple reason that some words in the canon do not carry the formal logic connotations that you think they do, “therefore” being among them. I won’t repeat all those points.

    I would be interested to know, though, whether you find accurate my “Four Options” for resolving this question, posted here:, and if so, whether you agree that Western married clergy now find themselves in the fourth category I suggest. If so, are you comfortable with the idea that Western married clergy—through no fault of their own, they were never told—do not even satisfy the mitigated norms for continence in Eastern Churches?

    Kind regards, edp.

    ps: Could I ask you to refrain from claiming that my arguments are not just wrong, but “irrational”, and that I am ‘attacking the married diaconate’ in apparent defiance of “the Holy Spirit’s plan for the Church”? I don’t trust myself to avoid replying in kind, and that won’t get us anywhere.