Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Married Priests May Soon Proliferate Eastern Rite Clergy Just Might Spearhead a Catholic Revolution in America

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Married Priests May Soon Proliferate Eastern Rite Clergy Just Might Spearhead a Catholic Revolution in America

Article excerpt

More married men may be serving as Catholic priests in the United States and Canada soon, but not because Pope Francis is about to relax the requirement that Latin Rite priests be celibate.

Earlier this month the North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation called on the Vatican to lift restrictions on the ordination of married men to serve as priests in Eastern Rite Catholic churches in the United States and Canada. Eastern Rite Catholic churches recognize the authority of the pope in Rome but share their history, liturgy and traditions with Eastern churches that do not. One such tradition is the admission of married men to the priesthood (but not to the office of bishop).

Growing up as a Roman Catholic in Pittsburgh, I was familiar with Eastern Rite churches. Congregations of those churches were founded by Eastern Europeans who migrated to Pittsburgh to work in the steel industry, and their legacy is a landscape dotted by churches with onion domes.

Boys from my Catholic high school would often attend Mass (or the Divine Liturgy, as Eastern Christians call it) at the Holy Spirit Byzantine Catholic Church across the street. The liturgy, mostly indistinguishable from what you'd find at a Russian Orthodox Church, was an exotic experience for us. At that time, Roman Catholics received only the consecrated bread at Communion, but at Holy Spirit, we also got a taste of wine. (The women of Holy Spirit also sold unconsecrated pierogis to athletes from our school who worked up an appetite at after-school practice.)

We were told that in Europe a married man could be ordained as a priest in the Byzantine Catholic Church but that clergy in the U.S. branch of the church had to be celibate.

Thereby hangs a tale of intra-Catholic religious prejudice: When Eastern Rite Catholics flowed into the United States, Roman Catholic priests (which usually meant Irish Catholic priests) feared that their flocks would be confused and even scandalized if they saw a married priest ministering to their Slavic or Lebanese neighbors.

In 1929 the Vatican promulgated a decree saying that Greek Catholic priests "who wish to go to the United States of North America and stay there, must be celibates. …

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