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Catholic World News News Feature

Eastern-rite Church set to ordain married men August 17, 1998

PITTSBURGH ( -- The American leaders of the Byzantine-rite Ruthenian Catholic Church have announced their plans to resume ordaining married men to the priesthood. That decision, based on the traditions of the Byzantine Church, may cause a showdown between Eastern-rite Catholics and the Vatican.

The decision to allow ordination of married men is the most noteworthy element in a new set of laws for the Ruthenian Catholic metropolitan region centered on the Archdiocese of Pittsburgh, which stretches across the United States. The new laws were promulgated by Metropolitan Archbishop Judson Procyk, in his capacity as leader of the Byzantine-rite body.

The new laws for the Ruthenian Church were promulgated in response to the new Code of Canon Law for the Eastern Catholic churches, which call upon the "sui juris" churches-- those which enact their own laws-- to set up particular statutes clarifying the matters which are not covered in the Code. The Ruthenian Church in the United States is a "sui juris" body.

The Council of Hierarchs of the Ruthenian Church explained the decision to ordain married men by quoting the encyclical of Pope John Paul II, Orientale Lumen, in which the Pontiff encouraged "a return to the original patrimony of the Eastern Catholic churches." They also noted that there are currently 100 married men acting as priests in the United States-- most of them converts from the Episcopalian Church-- and that their admission to the Catholic clergy "has been implemented without scandal to the faithful of the Latin Church."

However, the Vatican has shown no enthusiasm for a return to married priests among the Eastern-rite churches-- at least in countries where the Roman rite, with its celibate clergy, predominates. In May, the Holy See asked Ukrainian Catholic bishops to stop ordaining married men for service in Poland.

The new Ruthenian laws are to become effective on September 1.