Answering the call: meet a seminarian…and his wife

Answering the call: meet a seminarian…and his wife December 1, 2011

Here’s something we don’t encounter very often: a story about seminarians preparing to get married.  They are Greek Catholic, in Ukraine, and the story comes from the pages of the current issue of ONE magazine:

In the Greek Catholic tradition, seminarians are permitted to marry prior to ordination. But some still choose a life of celibacy; if they do, they cannot marry after they are ordained.

All the Kosylivtsi priests decided to remain celibate, including Father Holiney and the newly ordained Father Moysiak.

“It is my personal choice,” explains Father Moysiak. “The third year of seminary was decisive for me. I weighed all the factors and decided to remain unmarried. An unmarried priest, in my humble opinion, is better prepared to follow his calling.”

However, most Ukrainian Greek Catholic faithful feel quite differently about married priests. “Usually, there are only three to five unmarried priests from each class of about 30 graduates,” says Father Mykolai-Volodymyr Fredyna, rector of Holy Spirit Seminary. “Such statistics can be explained by the fact that parishioners are used to having the priest’s family serve as a model for them.”

Each year, Holy Spirit Seminary hosts a retreat for the seminarians’ fiancées. Priests and their wives as well as other lay and religious leaders give talks and lead discussion groups about the challenges, joys and expectations of married life in the church. Often during the retreat, a few women realize the lifestyle is not for them. Most, though, happily marry their fiancés.

“Quite a few girls dream of becoming priests’ wives, especially those from villages,” says Father Dmytro Hrynyk, who graduated from Holy Spirit in 2008 and has since served as a pastor at Church of the Deposition of the Robe of the Holy Mother in Lviv. “Though my wife, Khrystyna, tells me she married me as a person first and foremost.”

Read the rest. And check out more articles from the magazine here. And to learn more about Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA), visit our website.

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34 responses to “Answering the call: meet a seminarian…and his wife”

  1. Beautiful!

    “It is my personal choice,” explains Father Moysiak. “The third year of seminary was decisive for me. I weighed all the factors and decided to remain unmarried. An unmarried priest, in my humble opinion, is better prepared to follow his calling.”

    However, most Ukrainian Greek Catholic faithful feel quite differently about married priests. “Usually, there are only three to five unmarried priests from each class of about 30 graduates,” says Father Mykolai-Volodymyr Fredyna, rector of Holy Spirit Seminary. “Such statistics can be explained by the fact that parishioners are used to having the priest’s family serve as a model for them.”

    And another great quote:

    “Celibacy is not demanded by the very nature of the priesthood, as is apparent from the practice of the early Church and from the traditions of the Eastern Churches.” (Presbyterorum Ordinis, 16)

    Some priests are called to be celibate and others are not. And with both celibate and married presbyters, the Church is growing and so are the vocations.

    Imagine that…

  2. Bishops, of course, must be celibate. So those who choose marriage before ordination are in effect excluding themselves from consideration for the episcopate.

  3. I am assuming that the picture shows the seminarian and his soon to be wife. If that is the case, it seems like a little more modesty would be nice for her new role. Or is that just me…love the others taking some pictures.

    Of course that in itself could present a problem introduced into the clergy situation by a wife who others do not see dressing or acting in a holy manner. Well, I don’t see a change to the priest celbacy rule in the Roman Catholic Church for a long time.

  4. Makes sense to me—married priests. Obviously not acceptable in some versions of the Catholic church.

  5. Really, you should have posted the photo alone as one of your Worth a Thousand Words tags. There are so many layers of significance going on in one picture! The nun. The icons on the wall. The cleavage. The seminarian’s little pink camera. And the askew angle seems more than just a nod to a particular style; it perfectly sums up the way the article gives westerners a different view of clerical celibacy.

  6. All advanced studies increasingly affirm the apostolic origins of celibacy (cf Christian Cochini). The Synod in Trullo, granting permission for marriage of priests in the Eastern churches, was an aberration. Even the Eastern churches reserve the full Apostolic office (bishop) to celibates. Scholarly evidence more clearly now indicates that deacons also were meant to be celibate – the wife’s consent to ordination was required because the use of marriage was suspended (cf Edward Peters).

  7. Bill,

    When you discuss the Apostolic origins of celibacy, I’m a bit confused. Peter was married. Paul writes to Timothy and states that a bishop should only be married once and his home be at peace. Are Paul’s criteria for bishops not Apostolic in origin and nature?

  8. No, not all advanced studies, and celibacy is not of apostolic origins. St Paul himself said he _could_ have a wife. What you have is a group trying to read into the past and ignoring evidence which runs contrary to their desired conclusion. If you want, look to Orthodox scholarly responses and you will see what has been left out…

  9. I absolutely do not agree with your read of history here. You might want to consider the following:

    –Not only Peter, but also the first 33 or so men identified than as “Bishops of Rome” (but now considered the first popes) were married. These were the church leaders prior to Constantine’s Edicts and were all martyred for their faith and all of them are considered saints. (Which brings up the fascinating bit of trivia that there are FAR more married Popes that have been declared “Saints” than there are married Deacons so declared.)

    –Celibacy started as a monastic charism, not one followed by the “secular” clergy. Thus, the birth and rise of the monastic tradition — men living in either hermitages or formal monasteries — brought celibacy into our Christian religious environment and that all dates back to Egypt maybe four centuries after the Passion/Death/Resurrection events.

    — Only later did the monastic celibate priests begin to become bishops (instead of secular married priests). In the history of the Latin Rite, we still find married bishops as late as the 800’s and married priests as late as the 1100’s. The Eastern Church — as has been repeated on many comment-streams on this blog — never lost the charisms of the married priesthood or the married permanent diaconate.

    –Modern scholars are now wondering whether John Langland, the “Mass-Priest” who wrote all three editions of “Piers the Ploughman” (a famous text of English Literature from the late 1300’s) was also married.

  10. You might want to avoid icons of St Mary of Egypt. She shows much more skin than that!

    Seriously, there is _nothing_ wrong with the way she is dressed.

  11. Too must breast showing but it probably looked fine when she was standing. I’ve had the same thing happen to me.

  12. Great point jkm. I missed the nun and now looking it all over, it does have a lot of parts which could be discussed.

    As to everyone talking about celebacy, I will leave that up to the Pope and magesterium. Personally, I like the celbate priest and have had many priest give excellent points why celebacy is the right way for the Church.

  13. could be right daisy on the standing up part….but what if she does the opposite and bends over to pick something up?? Have started to see more of this in fashion, but simply believe that it would be better to show less if one is becoming involved with a priest.

  14. From apostolic times there was practical celibacy required even in marriage. From one Vatican commentary:

    It is clear from the New Testament (Mk 1:29-31; Mt 8:14-15; Lk 4:38-39; 1 Tim 3:2, 12; Tit 1:6) that at least the Apostle Peter had been married, and that bishops, presbyters and deacons of the Primitive Church were often family men. It is also clear from epigraphy, the testimony of the Fathers, synodal legislation, papal decretals and other sources that in the following centuries, a married clergy, in greater or lesser numbers was a normal feature of the life of the Church. Even married popes are known to us. And yet, paradoxically, one has to desist, when faced with this incontrovertible fact, from assuming that this necessarily excluded the co-existence of an obligatory celibacy discipline.
    In the patristic era, clerical celibacy, strictly speaking meant the inability to enter marriage once a higher Order had been received. The first legislative expression of this is found in the eastern councils of Ancyra (314), c. 10, and Neocaesarea (ca. 314-325), c. 1, for deacons and priests respectively. An Armenian collection of canons, probably from 365, includes this prohibition of marriage and it is clearly expressed in the Apostolic Constitutions and Apostolic Canons of the late fourth century.3 Canon 14 of the Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon (451) likewise endorses this discipline (albeit indirectly), and it is found in other documents of the fifth and subsequent centuries which consider the practice to be an ancient and timeless tradition.

    Among the legislators of the West, there seems to be a curious lack of interest, given the legislative activity of the East, in the matter of contracting marriage after ordination. Among individual authors the first hint of this rule is in the Philosophoumena of Hippolytus of Rome (d. 235) where Pope Callistus is accused of unforgivable innovations in ecclesiastical discipline, including the ordination of the remarried. Hippolytus then adds: «And even if a member of the clergy did marry, he could, as far as Callistus was concerned, remain a cleric, as if he had not sinned». Indirectly, and independently of the truth of these accusations, we learn of what, in the author’s mind, was the traditional discipline. A further reference is found in the Quaestiones Veteris et Novi Testamenti of Ambrosiaster who lived under the pontificate of Pope Damasus (366-84). He writes, a propos of objections to priestly continence, «But people might say: if it is permitted and good to marry, why should priests not be authorized to take wives? In other words, why should ordained men not be permitted to be united (to wives)?» The significance of the second sentence of this quotation, in relation to the first, can be better appreciated if read in the light of a Roman document of the following century. Pope Leo the Great writes to Bishop Rusticus of Narbonne (458/9):

    The law of continence is the same for the ministers of the altar, for the bishops and for the priests; when they were (still) lay people or lectors, they could freely take a wife and beget children. But once they have reached the ranks mentioned above, what had been permitted is no longer so.

    Introduced here is the technical expression ‘law of continence’ (lex continentiae). It can also be called the law of celibacy in a ‘wide’ sense. Early Western legislation tends to focus on clerical continence as specifically applied to married clergy: the discipline of abstinence from marital relations. If a bishop, priest or deacon (and subdeacon from the fifth century onwards) was prohibited from having sexual relations once in orders, then it is obvious that his commitment to continence would be the major impediment to subsequent marriage (quite apart from the general disfavour shown towards second marriage). For there could be no real marriage unless it was potentially open to sexual consummation. The same law of continence would also impede the unmarried deacon or priest from marrying. The laws, so clearly expressed in the East, prohibiting marriage to the already ordained may thus be reasonably understood to be but the reverse expression of this more basic discipline of continence. This possibility needs to be taken into account when reconstructing the history of clerical celibacy

    Although perhaps strange to our own modern ways of thinking, absolute marital continence was far from unknown or unesteemed in patristic times. Tertullian, himself a married man, informs us in his Catholic period, of lay people who practise continence within marriage «pro cupiditate regni coelestis». So do Jerome and Augustine in the following century. The rapid growth of monasticism and an attraction to the ascetic life led many couples to renounce their intimacy and to enter a monastery or to live in continence within more domestic settings. Church authorities had to intervene decisively when the enthusiasm for continence was deemed excessive and tainted with heretical motives, but at the same time praising those who lived the life of continence for the right motives.Four centuries later the Second Nicene Council (787) would still endorse the possibility of monastic vocations for the married. Neither should one forget the continence that the separated and divorced were required to live. Augustine did not hesitate to invoke the example of some of the married clergy, who had had their difficulties in adjusting to a life of continence, in order to encourage men separated from their wives to live continently. He also applies the celibacy logion «eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven» (Mt 19:12) to divorcees.
    Clerical continence in the West
    a. Fourth century legislation
    Convincing testimonies to the normative nature of clerical continence in the fourth century can be found in individual Western patristic authors (such as Ambrose, Augustine, Jerome). The first known example of actual legislation is c. 33 of the Spanish Council of Elvira, the usual date of which is given as ca. 305. It reads:

    We decree that all bishops, priests and deacons in the service of the ministry are entirely forbidden to have conjugal relations with their wives and to beget children; should anyone do so, let him be excluded from the honour of the clergy.

    There is a similar canon which certain manuscripts ascribe to the First Council of Aries (314), considered to be a sort of General Council of the West. Canon 29 reads:
    Moreover, (concerned with) what is worthy, pure, and honest, we exhort our brothers (in the episcopate) to make sure that priests and deacons have no (sexual) relations with their wives, since they are serving the ministry every day. Whoever will act against this decision, will be deposed from the honour of the clergy.
    The wording of these canons does not immediately suggest that an innovation is being introduced, and it would be an error in historical procedure to maintain a priori that such was the case. The seriousness of the implications for the life of the clergy, the absence of justification for the strictness of the discipline and the canonical penalty attached, would suggest, on the contrary, that the Church authorities were concerned with the maintenance and not the introduction of this rule. The important papal decretals of the fourth century, which indicate the rule for all the West — Directa (385) and Cum in unum (386) of Pope Siricius; Dominus inter of Innocent I (or Damasus?), and the Synod of Carthage (390) — were in fact emphatic that clerical continence belonged to immemorial, even apostolic, tradition. Patristic writings are often explicit in considering the apostles as models of the priesthood. Yet those who might have been married were thought not to have lived other than in continence?
    b. The fifth to the seventh centuries
    As with other juridical institutions of the Church, with time clerical continence developed sharper and more defined outlines. From the fifth to the seventh centuries much provincial conciliar activity is seen in the West where both the obligation to continence is reaffirmed (indicating infringement), and greater precision, taking into account changed circumstances, is given to the law. Canonical collections would circulate and consciousness of legislating in conformity with a wider legal patrimony and with ancient tradition is sometimes made explicit.

    One of the interesting features of legislation that appears throughout this period is the implicit or even explicit inclusion of a continent wife among that class of women that c. 3 of the First Ecumenical Council of Nicaea (325) had characterized as beyond suspicion: «The great Council has absolutely forbidden bishops, priests and deacons — in other words, all the members of the clergy — to have with them a sister-companion (syneisaktos) with the exception of a mother, a sister, an aunt, or, lastly, only those persons who are beyond any suspicion.» The wife, like the husband, was technically ‘converted’, conversio being the change of life that follows on the profession or public promise of continence. It is in mid-fifth century Gaul that an explicit public declaration of the commitment to continence first appears. This was to prevent excuses of ignorance of the obligation which previously had been implicit in the reception of orders. The wife (who in the Gallic Church was termed a presbytera, diaconissa, subdiaconissa or even episcopia according to the status of her husband) was to live as a ‘sister’ in a brother-sister relationship? Her rights were protected as ordination could not go ahead without her agreement. Her promise to live in continence was also an impediment to future marriage.

    Cohabitation of husband and wife had been given the explicit backing of papal authority. Leo the Great wrote in 458-9: «…in order for the union (of bishops, priests, deacons) to change from carnal to spiritual, they must, without sending away their wives, live with them as if they did not have them, so that conjugal love be safeguarded and nuptial activity cease.» Fifth and sixth century imperial legislation also endorses cohabitation, although without specifying its nature,29 as does the Eastern Apostolic Canon 6(5): «Let no bishop, priest or deacon send his spouse away under the pretext of piety…», part of a collection of canons, of Syrian or Palestinian origin, which had considerable influence on the Churches of the fifth and sixth centuries. The Byzantine Church, at the end of the seventh century, would interpret this canon as authorizing marital relations.

    Continent cohabitation expressed trust in the nobility of human love to combine marital affection with the values of the consecrated clerical state. Paulinus of Nola (d. 431) and Pseudo-Jerome (ca. 417?) indicate a warm spirituality for those embracing this new life. Yet the difficulties of the discipline were not unappreciated by the Church authorities. The necessary conditions for this life was a constant concern, Pope Gregory the Great deeming it «harsh and inopportune» (durum atque incompetens) to expect its observance from the unprepared.31 A return to conjugal relations, after all, was often considered to be as serious a sin as adultery, the cleric being punished by reduction to the lay state. Councils also occupied themselves with the details of sleeping arrangements to avoid possible scandal to the faithful. A shortage of vocations due to the rapid growth of the Church was not to be taken as an excuse for mitigating traditional rules. Finally, because of the real possibilities of incontinence, and departing from earlier practice, total physical separation would be recommended or even sometimes required.

  15. Hmm…
    So, the tradition is that when a married man is ordained. he and his wife are to be continent.
    (“The wife…was to live as a ‘sister’ in a brother-sister relationship? Her rights were protected as ordination could not go ahead without her agreement.)
    So, what effect has this had on the married Anglican clergy (and their spouses), who have been ordained Catholic priests recently.

  16. Really, Bill is just following a modernist reinterpretation of the past. I mean, how can he explain Synesius of Cyrene, or why eastern monks went against Ossius of Cordova on the issue of married clergy?

  17. Bill Russell

    I’m not the BLOG-MASTER here, but the informal rule of thumb for as long as I have been commenting here on “The Bench” is three main points with 100 words (OK; maybe 200). Your com-box sat at over 1,800 !

    ALSO, copying large passages from other sources to fill up your comment box is considered rude. Dcn Greg might just jump on you for violating his Terms of Service but that is his shot to call, not mine.

  18. It seems that there are some similarities to what I have heard about Protestant minister’s wives. That is, you’d better have a thick skin because people are going to talk about how you dress, how you raise your kids, how holy you are; no matter what you do.
    Didn’t really notice that so much with being a deacon’s wife; that’s one advantage in being of mature years as deacon couples tend to be. The worst that happened is that some people thought I would be active in sodality and actually know how to make coffee for 50 people. Sometimes a bit of ignorance is an advantage.

  19. B. Russell, I agree with Deacon Norb. That post was way to long—and I certainly wasn’t going to wade through it—others might not either.

  20. I am a decon since 28 years. I was ordained at 39. I have never saw my wife of 45 yaers of marriage wear a dress like that. In the church, or diocesans meeting, or at home. The town of 10,000 were I live and doing ministry knows me very well, and my wife knows that there is a certain modesty to respect. At the beech in holidays is an other thing.
    Maybe we don’t belong to this generation. I preside over 20 mariages a year, and sometime, I just can’t beleive that you can go to a church whith almost nothing!!!!! This is the main reason that there is no mass at mariages. (sory for the poor english, french is my mother toung)

  21. Bill…

    You really do have a bad case of blog comment diarrhea.

    Nobody is going to read long-winded, self-indulgent screeds. Be bold, be brief, be gone. Or you’ll be banned. I’ve already censored one commenter for long, rambling, narcissistic novellas that do little but devour bandwidth while screaming: “Read me!”

    Don’t make me do it again.

    If you can’t make your point in under 200 words, start your own blog. But not here, in the combox.

    Thank you.

    Dcn. G.

  22. Deacon Francois Fournier,
    Sorry for the false start above—accidently hit the submit button. Just wanted to tell you that I think you did very well with your English. Liked reading your opinon on the topic—Thank you for weighing in.

  23. You made excellent points, Deacon Francois. I agree. Something as simple as a camisole worn underneath the dress would have solved the problem. In time, she will learn how to dress in a manner that is both modest and youthful. But that aside, I wish the young couple my best, and am remembering them in my prayers. And there was no need to apologize for your English. I would not be able to communicate in French nearly as well as you do in English.

  24. Married clergy.
    Why discuss the feasibility or propriety of something the Catholic Church has blessed and practiced for two thousand years. Optional celibacy and married clergy is the the teaching of the church and the magisterium.

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