A long, long time ago, a Catholic leader gave me a tip as a young reporter. He told me to keep my eye on the Eastern-Rite Catholic churches and their potential for growth in Northern America.
Why? First of all, because the ancient beauty of their liturgies in a post-Vatican II world would be pleasing to many small-o orthodox Catholics. Second, the Eastern Rites would offer a setting in which married priests could serve, while framed in traditions acceptable to small-o orthodox Catholics.
How would bishops handle that?
I thought of those questions when reading an important, but rather overlooked, New York Times piece addressing a crucial piece of this puzzle. I apologize (to several readers in particular) that this article has been in the tmatt Folder Of Guilt for quite some time.
The headline: “Group of Catholic and Orthodox Officials Endorses Marriage for Some Priests.” And here’s the lede:
In a step that is sure to fuel the debate over mandatory celibacy, a high-level group of Catholic and Orthodox officials is calling on the Vatican to allow Eastern Catholic priests serving in North America to marry.
Eastern Catholic priests are already allowed to marry overseas, but not in North America, with limited exceptions. This year, a married man was ordained as a Maronite Catholic priest in St. Louis with the permission of Pope Francis.
In terms of this story, why is this important? The key is that it came from the North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation and that includes major Catholic bishops. It is an important nod to the Eastern Orthodox churches (including my own).
“This action would affirm the ancient and legitimate Eastern Christian tradition and would assure the Orthodox that, in the event of the restoration of full communion between the two churches, the traditions of the Orthodox Church would not be questioned,” the group said in a statement on Friday.
So what does this short report either miss or downplay?