Dcn. Greg Kandra, webmaster of the respected “Deacon’s Bench” blog, asks: “Does anyone seriously think that tens of thousands of married deacons — not to mention the hundreds of married priests — are now suddenly going to commit to stop having sex? If that’s the case: gentlemen, ask your wives to add more saltpeter to your diet.”
I assume Dcn. K’s read my article, so he knows that “suddenly stop[ping] having sex” is not my suggestion to Western married clerics. His tendentious phrasing, therefore, can only be rhetorical, in which case, though, he is implying that I do, in fact, hold that married clerics must “suddenly stop having sex”. That’s disappointing, coming from one of obvious good sense on so many other topics; worse, it’s distracting from the real discussion that needs to take place.
Canon 277 (and the immemorial tradition behind it) either means what I say it means, or it doesn’t. My arguments are open to rebuttal, but I don’t think they should be subjected to ridicule. If a sexually active (married) diaconate, and a fortiori, a sexually active (married) priesthood is, in the end, a contradiction of canon law and Western tradition—and neither I nor Dcn. K get to decide that—then only two choices will ultimately be available: (a) change the law and abandon the tradition, or (b) accept the law and observe the tradition, in which case, obviously, reasonable accommodation must be made for the thousands of men who were ordained without being advised of the requirements of their state. Those are important questions, not trivial ones.
In short, I welcome informed discussion of my thesis and its implications, but I hope we won’t have to spend too much time telling people to ignore quips about “saltpeter” and such along the way.