The Deacon's Bench

The Deacon's Bench

“Christianity survived in the Middle East because of married priests”

That’s the eyebrow-raising comment made by a Melkite Archbishop, interviewed recently by Catholic News Service:

archbishop-george.jpgHeading a southern Lebanese diocese that goes from the sea then east two-thirds of the way along the border with Israel, the one problem Melkite Archbishop George Bakhouni of Tyre says he doesn’t have is finding priests.


In fact, the archbishop said, he’s surprised bishops and other leaders of the Latin-rite church aren’t more interested in the Eastern Catholic churches’ experience with ordaining married men.

“Christianity survived in the Middle East because of the married priests,” the bishop said. Because they are married with families and homes, they tend to stay even when conflicts and hardship send many celibate priests fleeing to safety.

The archbishop met Saturday with a small group of Catholic journalists visiting Lebanon with the Catholic Near East Welfare Association, a North American agency supporting Christians in the region.

For the archdiocese’s 10 parishes, “I have 12 priests. Eight of them are married and four are single, but two of the singles are serving in Italy,” the archbishop said.
“We always propose this to the Latin church because you are Catholic and we are Catholic, but we always feel a lot of reticence when we mention this issue to the Roman Catholic Church. I don’t know, but I think it could be helpful to allow a married person to be a priest.”

Check out the rest.

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Dev Thakur

posted November 9, 2010 at 6:16 pm

Not sure why he feels the need to meddle in the Latin Church’s well established discipline of celibate clergy.
1. The Church more than survived, it FLOURISHED in areas where celibacy was the norm for priests.
2. Recently, we have seen surges in more traditional orders in the Latin Church (that embrace teachings such as celibacy for priests).
3. They still have celibate bishops, do they not?

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posted November 9, 2010 at 7:31 pm

celibacy is a norm, but JUST a norm. I sometimes have the sense that, even though celibacy is JUST a norm and NOT a DOCTRINE, roman catholics and especially the ultra-conservative ones treat it as if it WAS a doctrine. I’m NOT liberal,but I think we should all have a more “open mind” about this issue. I do not criticise the Church’s celibacy policy on pastors and bishops, but I sometimes have the sense that celibacy is somewhat “sacred” and “doctrine-like” for these people, when it’s actually not. It’s JUST a recommendation given by St Paul and applied many centuries later.

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Teena H. Blackburn

posted November 10, 2010 at 7:52 am

Oh, I don’t know Dev. Maybe he’s trying to return the favor. Perhaps you should ask why the bishops of this country interfered with the legitimate traditions of Eastern Catholics when they immigrated to the States, which contributed to them often ending up neither fish nor fowl-celibate priests, rosaries, no iconastasis, while still celebrating the Eastern Liturgy. Ask a lot of Eastern Catholics how Latin bishops in this country have treated them-like suggesting that they are only for immigrants of a certain ethnic background, while the Latin church is the real church that calls the shots for everyone.

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Deacpn Norb

posted November 10, 2010 at 9:33 am

Let me introduce you to Marblehead, Ohio; a very isolated former “company-town” along Lake Erie half-way between Toledo and Cleveland.
After the American Civil War, several businessmen opened a limestone quarry in this area. They then build a deep-water lakeshore dock and started to ship the limestone out in great numbers to feed the steel mills of our Industrial Revolution.
They found out quickly that they did not have enough workers to keep up with their very successful business. So they sent corporate recruiters to Eastern Europe and recruited a lot of workers who stayed a year or so by themselves before they moved their families over.
As one might expect, two churches were formed: St Joseph (Latin/Western Rite Catholic) and St. Mary (Reuthenian/Eastern Rite Catholic).
Then, according to legend, a priest/pastor was assigned to St. Mary’s who was a widower.(This was a time when Latin/Western Rite Catholic bishops were :custodians” of Eastern Rite Catholic Churches and had forces an agreement where they would refuse to accept married Byzantine priests for any reason from any Eastern Church).
A few years after his appointment, the local Roman Rite bishop (probably Cleveland), finding out that this Eastern-Rite priest was formerly a married-priest who had become a widower, made a very disparaging remark in public about that priest’s late wife. (There are at least three legends which have surfaced about what that bishop called that deceased lady and all were clear insults).
When the folks at St. Mary’s heard about what that Latin-Rite bishop said, there was a dramatic and angry schism in the congregation. At least half of them split off, formed Holy Assumption Russian Orthodox Church and then allied themselves with the Patriarch out of Moscow. That Patriarch was so moved by this expression of loyalty, he gave them an extraordinarily expensive icon to display in their sanctuary. It is still there to this day.
NOW: small-town Marblehead (less than 2,000 folks) still has those same three churches. Best I can tell, however, St. Mary’s Byzantine is the largest of the congregations. And their priest/pastors (at least since Vatican II) have usually been married with families.

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posted November 10, 2010 at 9:34 am

Off the top of my head (and not sure how accurate this is): Years ago I read about what lead to the Roman Catholic practice of celibrate priests. For the first few hundred years of the church priests were not required to be celibate. But priests were, in their wills, leaving church-property to their children. So the pope at that time, I don’t know who, instituted the practice of celibrate priets. That begs the question of why he didn’t just forbide leaving church-property to one’s heirs instead.
I can’t help but wonder how much less child-abuse there would be by priests if they were allowed to be married. My $0.02.

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posted November 10, 2010 at 9:41 am

The answer is the Ancient and Medieval custom (largely forgotten today) of a father rearing his first-born son to follow him in his own trade.
Of your father was a priest/pastor, he would train you as an apprentice is trained and the tools of his trade (vestments/ sacred utinsils) went to you for your career as well.

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