Pope grants special permission for married man to be ordained priest — UPDATED

Pope grants special permission for married man to be ordained priest — UPDATED February 22, 2011

It happened in Germany.

Details, from the New York Daily News:

A married father of two in Germany was ordained as a Catholic priest on Tuesday, a rare move by the church, which typically requires priests to be single and to take a vow of chastity.

Harm Klueting, 61, a professor of theology at universities in Cologne and Switzerland, and his wife served as clerics in the Lutheran church before they converted to Catholicism several years ago.

Since then, Klueting’s wife, whose name was not given, has become a nun in the Carmelite order.

Klueting was ordained by Archbishop Joachim Cardinal Meisner during a private ceremony in Cologne.

The case was so rare that it required the special permission of Pope Benedict XVI.

“This happens seldom but it’s not unusual,” diocese spokesman Christoph Heckeley told Reuters.

The Cologne archdiocese said in a statement that the new priest did not have to take a vow of celibacy.

Carmelite nuns typically lead strict, cloistered lifestyles, and it’s not clear if Klueting and his wife live together.

There’s more at the link.

Unclear to me is how this differs — if it does — from the Pastoral Provision in force in this country.  Any ideas?

UPDATE: Canon lawyer Ed Peters weighs in on this story and notes:

A consummated marriage between two baptized persons can be dissolved only by death. So the pope did not need to approve this couple’s “staying married”.

Rather, the pope doubtless dispensed him from the impediment that marriage is for the reception of holy Orders (1983 CIC 1042, 1°) and her from the obstacle that marriage is for entry into religious life (1983 CIC 643 § 1, 1°). Before these dispensations were granted, one can be sure, the couple demonstrated full awareness of the rights they were surrendering (such as that of conjugal living, per 1983 CIC 1135 and 1151). In any case, while such dispensations are not common, neither are they unheard of, even in modern times.

And Fr. Z. has a few insights, as well.

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26 responses to “Pope grants special permission for married man to be ordained priest — UPDATED”

  1. We are having a local former Lutheran pastor who is married become a Catholic priest in June. Here’s the story from our diocesan website: http://www.diocese-sacramento.org/Home_news/Jeffhenryordaineddec2010.html.

    So there is some provision for this according to the article: “Under a special pastoral provision approved by the Vatican in 1980, former clergy who have become Catholic have been allowed to be ordained to the priesthood. According to Vatican rules, a priest ordained under the special provision can perform the same ministry as a celibate priest. He cannot be assigned as a pastor or parochial vicar, but he can assist in parish ministry as well as collaborate in other pastoral areas of the church.”

  2. I am a bit confused…wasn’t the “married man” a Lutheran pastor? As the spokesman said, “it’s not unusual”. If the gentleman had not been a pastor, then it would be a bit more rare, I suppose, but this kind of thing seems to happen quite regularly with Anglican and Lutheran clerics…unless I don’t have all of my facts straight.
    Actually, I think that his wife’s story is more interesting…Lutheran cleric to Carmelite nun?

  3. How can the new priest still see and be with his wife if she has joined a cloistered group of nuns? How can she be a married woman and join that religious order?

  4. Deacons,

    As a married cradle Catholic who once felt called to Priesthood and discerned otherwise, and who is happily married and does not feel called to Holy Orders at all (There’s the disclaimer)…

    Can someone explain to me why we are ordaining married (former) Protestant ministers (who need seminary training for priesthood), and not married cradle Catholics?

    I respect the Magisterium, but this one is a head scratcher.

  5. You got me, Gerard. The Church has never really explained this inconsistency.

    It is, indeed, a head-scratcher, and one that a lot of Catholics — and a good many deacons — find incomprehensible.

    Dcn. G.

  6. I personally know of FOUR in the United States. I’m not sure of the current status, but 2 were Air Force Chaplains and 2 were Army Chaplains.

    It is done, and has been done in the past. first one I met was in the early 1990s.

    Gerard Nadal, all four were formerly Protestants.

  7. Sounds like plain ol’ Pastoral Provision to me, but just with Lutherans instead of Episcopal/Anglican folks.

    It’s not a headscratcher. Nobody’s sitting around going, “Ooh, me and my wife waited till we could be married in the Church, so how dare the Church convalidate marriages that weren’t done right in the first place?” It’s regularization of a bad irregular situation, not telling people it ought to be that way all the time. I rejoice when somebody’s marriage is blessed or when people living in sin go get married; I don’t try and imitate the bad part of their example!

  8. I suspect I”m missing something from this story, but it seems out of sorts that God would call any married women to the Cloister life of a Carmelite Nun (unless it’s a third order). How can that be when our number one obligation of fidelity is fidelity to our “state of life”, in this case, marriage!

    Gerald my best guess for why the married Proestants are allowed into the priesthood and not married Catholics is simply for the reason that they are NOT Catholics. Logically it doesn’t seem “fair” I suppose, but I suspect in the bigger picture of witness, it fits into the big Divine Plan, as it’s rare that many Protestants don’t also come with the “converting priest.”

  9. 1. Well, in this case, apparently the lady joined the Third Order of the Carmelites, which (like the one for Franciscans and so forth) is just for male or female lay people living in the world, and isn’t at all like being a nun.

    2. In Church history, there have been plenty of married ladies who have become nuns and married men who’ve gone off to be monks (often simultaneously), but that’s not the case here.

  10. I agree with the general consensus that something important is missing from this story. Ordaining a married man to the presbyetrate is no longer such a “rare” or “unusual” thing. Hmmm so here is the more important riddel…
    1. IF Protestant ministers are not ordained clergy as the Catholic Church teaches mabout ordination (bestowing a real supernatural character which also changes their canonical status)
    2. BUT are more in the realm of lay ecclesial workers then
    3. WHY can’tt a married Catholic male lay ecclesial worker be ordained to the priesthood?
    4. BECAUSE it would open up a Pandora’s Box in the mind of many and threaten to rock the boat of the celibate ruling caste (and if anyone thinks that India is the only place where a well-defined caste system is in place think again…)

    There seems to be no sensible explanation as to why married Protestant ministers can qualify for the presbyterate while highly educated and pastorally experienced married Catholic laymen cannot, except to keep the rank and file IN the rank and file.

  11. I am simple. Married men are being ordained as catholic priests.
    My question is: why do married men who become priests have to be protestant first?

  12. This ordination event is not an example of the implementation of the Pastoral Provisions which covers the ordination of formerly Anglican/Episcopal pastors.

    How do I know this? A college theology professor of mine, a former Protestant pastor (I don’t remember what denomination but he sure knew the Scriptures), was brought into the Catholic Church along with his wife and family by Bishop Sheen. Sometime in the 1960s, I heard that he had relocated to Germany where he was ordained in the Catholic Church. (I was pretty shocked, since at the time I knew a few terrific Catholic priests who had been laicized and were married.)

    Apparently, I have since learned, the German bishops had been ordaining Lutheran pastors since the late 1940’s.

    Gerald and Klaire, I, too, do not think it is fair, but don’t get me started… .

  13. Hi Maureen,

    I’m not sure that I’m following your argument. Pastoral Provision with ANY Protestant Church is the head scratcher for me. Allow me to explain.

    If there were a breakaway sect of bishops who allowed their priests to marry, I could see Rome taking them back into active ministry, family and all. That makes good sense from a political, ecclesial, and charitable perspective.

    Anglicans are not validly ordained priests. We don’t take them in and allow them to function as priests. They must be ordained. So in the spectrum of Protestant clergy, an Anglican priest more approximates a Catholic priest in form and function than other denominations, but none are actually priests. No more so than I am, a cradle Catholic.

    So for me, I’m not sure what the Pastoral Provision is. I don’t disagree with it all, and clearly something is afoot with the leading of the Holy Spirit. I also would never consider priesthood if it were opened to the laity, no more than I wold the permanent diaconate, as God as called me to a very different apostolate and family life with an autistic son whose needs consume our time that might be otherwise be spent in ministry.

    I’m happy and content in my vocation, and one vocation is all I can humanly handle (Tip O the Hat to the Deacons here who manage two vocations!!!). I would just really love to have the rationale laid out for me in a way that makes sense.

  14. Could it have something to do with the fact that when you become a Catholic, you are “starting from scratch” … made “new” in a sense?

    It may seem unfair…but there is some logic there, I think.
    You are correct though Gerard…an explanation is warranted here.

  15. It seems to me that the Pastoral Provision and the dispensations recognize that, unlike men who have been Catholics all along, these married men began serving as clergy in their ecclesial communions in good faith, with no reason to suppose that their marital status would pose an obstacle to their ministry (or that their clerical ministry would pose an obstacle to their marriage). Those who were Catholics at the time of ordination or marriage, however, knew at the time that by choosing to accept one vocation they were closing off the possibility of the other.

  16. And I don’t think the Pope owes anybody an explanation. We can take it for granted that those involved believed that the man had a genuine vocation to priesthood, which had manifested itself even before he became Catholic in his choice to serve as a Lutheran pastor. That implicit explanation is all we need and are owed.

    Not all married protestant clergy who enter the Catholic Church are automatically ordained because, as with all other cases of aspirants to Holy Orders, the Church must discern the authenticity of the vocation and actually call the man to ordination. (Many, of course, do not even seek the priesthood.)

  17. naturgesetz said: “no reason to suppose that their marital status would pose an obstacle to their ministry (or that their clerical ministry would pose an obstacle to their marriage).”

    The only obstacle is the “discipline” of celebacy. It is a man made rule that did not apply to the men choosen by Jesus Christ. St. Peter had a mother-in-law.

  18. Sorry, deacons, you should not have been ordained to the diaconate if you expected to be ordained a priest down the line. Any deacon’s wife would testify that being married to a deacon is wonderful but their time given to minister takes away from wife and children. A no-brainer. And hate to say it, but some deacons’ wives fully expect that women will be ordained priests in the future, and THEY will be among the first. Hopefully this is a local “issue” and not widespread across the USA. 17,000 USA deacons-would that we had that many more priests here. As deacon director in our diocese in 1979 said: some day, deacons may be superfluous and we won’t ordain any more. Permanent Diaconate was restored (as I recall) in order that pagan countries with a shortage of ordained priests would have “ministers” of the Holy Eucharist, and witnesses of Catholic marriage, if a priest could not come around frequently.
    I can’t imagine married deacons with children having to be supported with a home, by local parishes, if they were appointed pastors. Money is tight as it is. We like our priests to be “fathers” available to us 24/7 (with a day off and a vacation now and then).

  19. Anniem,

    Aside from the fact that the rationale you give for the restoration of the diaconate is in error, consider what you said about about married clergy:

    “Money is tight as it is. We like our priests to be “fathers” available to us 24/7 (with a day off and a vacation now and then).”

    Really? You don’t want married clergy because you want clergy available to you at any time of day or night and at little cost? Isn’t that rather selfish? And how does the price fit into the mandate to preach the Gospel? Do not even priests deserve a decent living? St. Paul said the worker was worth his pay, and I don’t recall him mentioning any discount.

  20. situations like this, i pray and God will take care of the rest. Read zenit’s posting below:

    Woman Renounces Her Claim to Be a Deacon
    Says She “Made a Mistake”; Asks Forgiveness
    SAN DIEGO, California, FEB. 24, 2011 (Zenit.org).- A woman who claimed to be a Catholic deacon has renounced her “ordination” and is affirming her fidelity to the Church’s teaching on the impossibility of women’s ordination.

    Norma Jean Coon, formerly a member of the Roman Catholic Womenpriests organization, posted a message Feb. 8 on the Internet in which she “confess(es) to the authority of the Holy Father on these issues of ordination and recognize(s) that Christ founded the ordination only for men.”

    Coon, who has been married for 47 years and is the mother of five, participated in a ceremony in Santa Barbara attempting her ordination July 22, 2007.

    Roman Catholic Womenpriests was established in Europe and began claiming to ordain women in the United States in 2006. The summer of Coon’s ceremony, there were similar events in Portland, New York, Minneapolis and Toronto. Today, the group claims around eight bishops worldwide, and more than 80 priests and deacons.

    Coon said that she “withdrew from the program within two weeks of the ceremony because I realized that I had made a mistake in studying for the priesthood.”

    She added, “I confess to the truth of Pope John Paul II’s apostolic letter ‘Ordinatio Sacerdotalis.'”

    In her statement, Coon formally relinquishes connection to Roman Catholic Womenpriests and disclaims “the alleged ordination publicly with apologies to those whose lives I have offended or scandalized by my actions.”

    Her statement concludes with a prayer: “Holy God, I ask your blessings on my bishop and my pastor and priests in Rome who have assisted me in the process of being reinstated into the Roman Catholic Church. […] Forgive me my Beloved Jesus and Mother Mary for pursuing my own will in this matter of ordination. […] [W]e pray for more priests to serve in our Church and for vocations to enrich our Church in the United States.

    “Forgive us for failing in obedience and enrich us in your holy love, I pray through Jesus and Mary. Fiat.”

  21. Deacon Greg,
    Obviously you are a permanent deacon. We have 2 deacons in our parish who do outstanding jobs, stellar preaching.
    I would like to see the permanent deacons have the choice of priestly ordination–I stress choice. Our church has week-end assistants. They could also help solve the problem of the few priestly vocations we get.
    As far as the Lutheran priest is concerned, it would have to be very rare. He could not live with his cloistered wife. I am not even sure how frequently he would be allowed to visit.

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