the Anglicans and the Eastern churches

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles - email) | Oct 22, 2009

Secular journalists, hearing the news about the Pope's dramatic invitation to Anglicans, immediately fastened on the question of celibacy. If married Anglican priests can be admitted to the Catholic priesthood, will the issue of priestly celibacy in the Roman Church be re-opened for discussion? Probably not.

The opening for married priests will occur only within a clearly defined structure, created for those who are preserving the Anglican tradition within the Catholic Church. If you are a married Catholic from any other background who wants to be ordained, you'd have to absorb that entire Anglican tradition first-- and demonstrate your bona fides in doing so, no doubt-- before you could be considered for the priesthood. Will some men take that circuitous route? Perhaps. Many? I doubt it.

For the rest of us, Catholics outside the Anglican tradition, the same rules will continue to apply, for the same reasons. 

But the Pope's opening to Anglicans may bring a change in practice for Catholics from other traditions: specifically, those of the Eastern churches. Most Eastern Catholic churches admit married men to the priesthood (although a single man, once ordained to the priesthood, cannot marry). Their traditions, like the Anglican tradition, allows for married priests. 

When they first began establishing parishes in the US, however, the Eastern Catholic churches found that their married priests were causing consternation among their American Catholic neighbors. So for decades, the Eastern churches have agreed not to ordain married men in this country. (There have been a few exceptions to that rule, and married priests have continued to arrive in the US from other countries.) 

If the Pope's new apostolic constitution brings a large number of married Anglican priests into the Catholic fold, it will no longer be a novelty-- or a cause for raised eyebrows-- to encounter a married Catholic priest. So the reason for the old agreement with the Eastern Catholic churches will no longer exist. It's only a matter of time, it would seem, before the Eastern churches begin ordaining married men in the US, just as they do in their homelands. 

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at CatholicCulture.org. See full bio.

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  • Posted by: MWCooney - May. 13, 2018 6:25 PM ET USA

    Cardinal Dolan's expressed admiration for this blasphemy -- and I label it that based on the mocking intentions of those sponsoring and participating in it -- is further confirmation that the hierarchy of the Church continues to be the main stumbling block to genuine Catholic recovery. Prayer and Divine intervention are our only hope, I'm afraid.

  • Posted by: mary_conces3421 - May. 12, 2018 3:17 PM ET USA

    Mrs. Lawler affirms my own decades-long gratitude for the Chuch’s revelation of God’s Truth & Goodness through Beauty—even to this lower middle class child. It happened again this year when our smallish Kalamazoo parish re-decked the sanctuary stripped on Good Friday with gold & white for an Easter Vigil EF. How sickening to poison people’s perceptions. It’s de-evangelizing.

  • Posted by: feedback - May. 12, 2018 10:37 AM ET USA

    It was especially troubling for me to see mockery (by Lana Del Rey and others) of the Blessed Mother. I didn't go peacefully to sleep as my "rigid" mind was not able to count any imaginary sheep returning to the fold.

  • Posted by: Cory - May. 12, 2018 2:50 AM ET USA

    <<“would one person return to the faith after tonight, dear Lord? Because of just some fascination or something?” No doubt it’s possible; the Spirit moves in unpredictable ways. But…>> Then there's the question: may one do evil to achieve a good? Cardinal Dolan trying to salve his conscience. I wonder if this is how the sexual abuse scandal took root - bishops and cardinals salving thing their conscience.

  • Posted by: Cory - May. 12, 2018 2:46 AM ET USA

    To the questions: So how did it happen? Why didn’t Vatican officials anticipate the problem that my friends saw? Perhaps the simple answer is that those in the Vatican who approved this are just terribly intellectually deficient. But stupidity is perhaps excusable (perhaps even among supposedly learned men). I wonder though if it is much more demonic than that.

  • Posted by: jan02 - May. 12, 2018 1:15 AM ET USA

    The good news is that God is always at work to bring a far greater good out of any evil committed.

  • Posted by: MatJohn - May. 11, 2018 8:30 PM ET USA

    An analytical bullseye paragraph after paragraph summed up with a final sentence that penetrates to the core. Lawler's evangelization not affirmation one- ups Douthat's outreach or outrage.

  • Posted by: james-w-anderson8230 - May. 11, 2018 7:23 PM ET USA

    Cardinal Dolan has been declining in my esteem for many years. However he fits in very well with many people that Pope Francis chooses to surround himself.

  • Posted by: a son of Mary - May. 11, 2018 5:13 PM ET USA

    I somehow thought Dolan had his act together. This is a bummer to hear these tepid words from him whom I expected so much more. And no surprise good ole Marty prancing about vainly enjoying his alleged sexy priest costume. No wonder we are facing the prophecy of Fatima. I wish we had some tough guys calling a spade a spade. The NY crowd is in love with itself and money and nothing else. Sad.

  • Posted by: Retired01 - May. 11, 2018 4:12 PM ET USA

    The Pope Francis effect? Should we be surprised about the Met Gala?

  • Posted by: Monserrat - May. 11, 2018 3:05 PM ET USA

    Mr. Lawler, you were much too easy on Dolan. I can't imagine him remaining where he is if this were the papacy of John Paul II. He's a huge disappointment to those who followed him prior to becoming Archbishop of New York. Being two-faced doesn't work in the long run. Maybe God is permitting such holly-jolly deceivers to come out of the woodwork, along with other fake "eminences," and show themselves for what they truly are. Maybe there will be an accounting even in this life.

  • Posted by: dfp3234574 - May. 11, 2018 9:49 AM ET USA

    Good analysis. The whole thing was a disaster. I have a far lesser view of Cardinal Dolan after this.

  • Posted by: Don Vicente - Nov. 13, 2009 1:20 AM ET USA

    "The Eastern Churches have agreed...?" Not really:by CUM DATA FUERINT (in 1929) the Eastern Churches were ORDERED by the Holy See not to ordain married men in this country, resulting in the schism of 37 Carpatho-Russian parishes who joined the Orthodox in 1939. With the new Eastern Code of Canon Law (1990), all previous laws and customs were suppressed (Canon 6), leaving the Eastern Churches free to follow their tradition; no special permission is now canonically required to ordain married men.

  • Posted by: cvillacorta9440 - Oct. 26, 2009 5:11 PM ET USA

    Coming from the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church and being the grandauhgter of a priest, I welcome the Pope's actions. I also appreciate the gift of celibacy and appreciate both traditions in the Church.