Married Priesthood

Married Priesthood
By Reverend Father Paul Ochieng-Ogada, DMB
(Cf. United In Spirit: OFE Newsletter, October 2017, Vol. 2, Issue 2)
 
Saint Peter was married, Saint Paul celibate, and the early church flourished. Both married and celibate priests were common until 12th century when celibacy became mandatory, both married priesthood are gifts to the church.
 
In 2006, an international study I published with the Society of Jesus, Ak Hern of Kenly Foundation found wide-spread support among Catholic laity for married priests: in Spain 80%, USA 82%, Italy 67%, Poland 60%. The same study found significant support (68-80%) for ordaining women.
 
The Catholic church is the only Christian denomination in the United States that has a shortage of clergy. We already have married priests and women deacons in the Catholic church. Eastern rites of Catholicism permit priests to marry. In the US, there are over 300 married priests. It’s felt that God is calling our original tradition. It’s time the church granted women equality for pastoral service. In fact, many married priests and their wives minister as couples. History fully supports a married priesthood. For the first 1200 years of the church existence, priests, bishops, and 39 Popes were married. Celibacy existed in the first century among hermits and monks, but it was considered an optional alternative lifestyle. In 1993 Pope John Paul II publicly said that celibacy is not essential to the priesthood. Married priests and their wives were the first pastors, the first bishops, first missionaries. They carried the message of Jesus across cultures and protected it. Life was met
by joyful expectations, Jesus said he would return, and the first Christians believed that it would be soon. Led by married priests, they met at each other’s homes to celebrate the Mass. Strangers were invited to share bread and wine, no one was excluded from receiving Communion, they soon became friends, joined the church and brought others to hear the good news of Jesus. Presently, in the US there are over 250 former Lutheran and Episcopal ministers serving as married priests after converting to Catholicism. Presently the Armenian Church has at least four women deacons. Pope Paul VI and John Paul II signed documents recognizing the apostolic succession and validity of Armenian Catholic sacraments. The steadily worsening priest shortage and some of the worst sexual conduct of present priest requires us to look at other options for preserving Eucharistic heritage.
 
The laity have a canonical right and obligation to speak about optional celibacy and women’s roles. Authority is vested in us through our baptism and confirmation; we have the duty to explore different ways to ensure the church remains healthy. Canon 212 tells us we have the right and obligation to make our views known on matters which concern the good of the church. We need to return to the early church custom of having women deacons. We look forward at Holy Apostles Monastery to our full reinstatement when the man-made law of celibacy is rescinded. God is calling us back to original tradition, open your hearts and eyes to God’s voice.