More on the subject of married priests

The Catholic Herald has an interesting piece on married priests today that says in the UK anyway supporters for this change of discipline also come from the orthodox, not just the progressive, side.  And, of course, the Ordinariate gets mentioned.

Michael Davis writes in The unlikely champions of marriedpriests:

But is the Church of Rome now ready to abandon that apostolic doctrine? That’s the question Pope Francis will put to our prelates at the Amazon synod in 2019. This sprawling, isolated region of Brazil has been hit hard by the vocations crisis: there’s just one priest for every 10,000 laymen. Charismatic pastors are moving into the void, and the country’s Protestant population has more than trebled since 1960. Animism is also enjoying a renaissance of sorts in the world’s largest Catholic nation.

The Holy Father thinks young men are willing to become ministers and shamans, but not priests, largely because of the celibacy requirement. He has suggested that viri probati, or married men of extraordinary faith, be ordained to the priesthood. “We must consider if viri probati is a possibility,” he told Die Zeit in March. “Then we must determine what tasks they can perform, for example, in remote communities.” That’s what the synod will be asked to decide.


In England, the ordinariate has made a once-extraordinary phenomenon – licitly married Catholic priests – almost commonplace. As refugees from the increasingly liberal CofE, virtually all of them are solidly orthodox. Some surprising people are now asking: what if we’re pushing away powerful priestly evangelists? Why can’t a man serve on the altar and the PTA?

The retired Conservative politician Ann Widdecombe is no one’s idea of a liberation theologian. But she supports married priests. “In this country, hundreds of Anglican priests have crossed over to Rome and stayed married, whereas a Catholic priest must choose between marrying and his vocation,” she told me. “But I don’t think we should lift the celibacy rule wholesale. That would cause a lot of division. What the Pope should do, rather, is leave it to the archbishops and let it be decided on a case-by-case basis.”

Damian Thompson, editor-in-chief of the Catholic Herald, agrees. “A vocation to celibacy isn’t the same thing as a vocation to the priesthood,” he observes. “We already recognise that by ordaining married men who belong to Eastern Rite churches or were previously Anglican clergy.”

He hopes that married priests would solve more problems than just the vocations crisis.

“This is a delicate point,” Thompson says, “but I think the ban on marriage lies behind the dramatic over-representation of gay priests in parts of the West. Although most of these men lead faithful celibate lives, and I’m horrified by attempts to exclude gay men from seminaries, shouldn’t we address this imbalance?”

I think much has to be done to revive a proper understanding of what a call to celibate priesthood means—and that ideally, those who accept the call should be those who would have made excellent husbands and fathers of a natural family.

I remember a bishop  saying a priest should feel this offering up of the goods of marriage and family as a wound—maybe not his exact words—but as something that is put on the altar as a sacrifice and something that drives one to prayer and closer union with Christ.

And that those who do not feel this as a wound—maybe they are not truly cut out for the priesthood.  I think he meant this also as a corrective to this idea that there is some kind of “gift of celibacy” out there that suddenly makes one into someone asexual and totally above natural physical desires.

One offers up the goods of marriage and family to Christ to become a priest, not offering up something  they have no interest in or offering up sinful desires they should not be cultivating anyway.

Chastity is not the murder of eros and passion in a man, making him kind of pasty and unmuscular and non-entity-ish.   Chastity is the proper channeling of eros into the love of God, and conquering one’s lower nature by acquiring virtue, not by having nothing to conquer.

The priesthood should not be a refuge for men who have no sexuality or sexuality directed towards ends other than marriage and family.

A married priesthood is not a solution for finding the right kind of men to be priests.

Rorate-Caeli had another article on this subject yesterday, that rejects the idea of married priests.   Father Cipolla writes in Warning against married priests—by a married priest:

Those who are advocating this change have little experience in living a typical and normal life as husband and father.  They are part of a clerical system that lives in an unreal world, where celibacy is lived as being “unmarried” and gives one freedom to do what one wants to do when wants to do it and have too many long dinners on the Borgo Pio.  That behavior is impossible in a marriage.  There is no doubt that this call for married priests is a result, at least partially, of the deliberate misunderstanding of what “priest” means.

Interesting!  This reminds me of what a priest based in Rome told me about what observing fathers dealing with their small children taught him about the priesthood.  He remarked that being a priest can be an enjoyable life but that seeing a father having to sacrifice what he wanted to do in the moment to attend to the needs of children made him realize that he needed to be more attentive to the needs of people around him who might not be as enjoyable as the dinner companion on the Borgo Pio to borrow a phrase from Fr. Cipolla.

Back to his article.   He is a traditionalist who is concerned about a progressivist packaging around changing the discipline.  Thankfully, our Divine Worship and the theology of our priests, married and non, is all about the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.





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GK Chesterton and Anglo-Catholicism –a forerunner of the Personal Ordinariates

Chesterton PosterChesterton and the Ordinariates

by Simon Dennerly

What do G.K. Chesterton and the Ordinariates have in common? In a sense, everything.  This has lead to a project to promote the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of the Southern Cross, by promoting G.K. Chesterton: using a model that is easily replicable.

Many people are aware Chesterton was an Anglican writer who converted to the Catholic Church: but that is only half the story.  To a vast majority ‘Anglican’ automatically means ‘Protestant’, but while Chesterton wrote many of his great works while a member of the Church of England, few are aware he was a member of the Anglo-Catholic section of that institution and critical of Reformed Theology. Faith shapes one’s world-view, and Anglo-Catholicism is more than just liturgy, it is also an intellectual school. So when we talk of Chesterton’s conversion: it was not to ‘Catholicism’, as he already held Catholic belief, but to its fullness in the Catholic Church.

It would be proper to say that the Personal Ordinariates were not just created for “Anglicans”, but specifically as an ark for Anglo-Catholics to preserve their Anglo-Catholicism in the Catholic Church. To draw the parallel, Chesterton and the founding members of the Ordinariates were Anglo-Catholics who ‘came home to Rome’. To deny the role of Anglo-Catholicism in this process is akin to saying being a Dominican had nothing to do with the thought and works of Thomas Aquinas.

G.K. Chesterton was a forerunner of the Ordinariates; he is our Anglo-Catholic kinsman we need to claim as one of our own. A good precedent for this is Blessed Cardinal John Henry, leader of the Anglo-Catholic revival the Oxford Movement, being the Patron of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham.

Not so long ago at a Sunday Divine Worship mass here in Perth, I noticed the author of one of the hymns, “O God of Earth and Altar”, was G.K. Chesterton. This led to the formulation of a plan: I contacted the Australian Chesterton Society seeking one or more people to take classes on the works of Chesterton- and we were directed onto an associated local group, the Dawson Society, with whom OLSC is co-hosting the lecture series. The first series is on the Christianity in Chesterton’s fictional works.

Of course the works of Chesterton are vast and the project is as flexible as the presenter: you can study a particular book, study themes in his work and study selective quotes, hold Fr Brown movie nights, or my favourite, the economic and political system Chesterton developed with his good friend Hilaire Belloc: Distributism.

There are also internal and external reasons for members of Ordinariates to study Chesterton. Internally, Ordinariates are non-geographic dioceses that span countries, made up of spread-out and isolated parishes- it is up to individuals, but if there was a movement to study Chesterton, it would provide a common intellectual formation in, and amongst, Ordinariates. Externally Chesterton is held in high regard by mainstream Catholics and even by Protestants: put in a nutshell, he is a great draw card. Holding Chesterton study groups gives Ordinariate communities greater exposure. Before two of the classes our Ordinary, Mons. Harry Entwistle [Ordinary of Our Lady of the Southern Cross], will be holding Divine Worship exposing many to the Mass of the Ordinariates for the first time.

So if you are interested in your Ordinariate community hosting a Chesterton study group, start one. A good start might be contacting your local/national Chesterton Society, but this is not your only source. Take the initiative and start reading Chesterton yourself. And as always, fly your Ordinariate’s banner.


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How one passes on musical patrimony to one’s children

UPDATE:  When I posted a link to this piece on Facebook on the Anglican Ordinariates Informal Conversation Forum, I wrote the following:  “How many of our Ordinariate parishes have choirs and encourage young people to sing? I loved the fact St. Thomas More in Scranton, PA had a huge choir that included many young children.”  We do not have a choir in Ottawa, but instead engage in robust congregational singing, often in three or four part harmony depending on who’s there.


Here is a link to a marvelous interview with Peter Mahon, of Canada’s well-known musical Anglo-Catholic family (now mostly in the Ordinariate).

MysteryChild_Oct Peter’s father Albert Mahon was cantor under Canada’s renowned sacred music composer Healey Willan. [Pictured are Albert, Dr Willan, Peter, and two of Peter’s sisters.]

Toronto-born countertenor Peter Mahon is both a singer and a conductor. Still a member of the Tafelmusik Chamber Choir after 36 years, he became the artistic director of the Tallis Choir of Toronto in 2003 after singing with them for many years. Mahon also conducts the Vespers Choir at St Michael’s Cathedral, and for the past 11 years, has worked at St. Michael’s Choir School as a rehearsal conductor and voice coach.  Currently the interim Senior Choir director, his duties include selecting the music sung at cathedral services as well as training and conducting the Senior Choir which sings at the Sunday noon Mass.


Mahon and his wife, soprano Katharine Pimenoff, have six children: four sopranos, one tenor and one bass.  Four are professional singers and one is an organist.

Peter, his wife Katharine, and several of their children are members of the ordinariates of the Chair of St Peter & Our Lady of Walsingham, and their son Christopher is secretary of the Anglicanorum Coetibus Society.

Here’s an excerpt, but I encourage you to go over and read the whole thing.

Imagine you could travel back through time and meet the young person in that childhood photo. Is there anything you would like to tell him, or ask him? I cannot think of anything that I would ask, but I would certainly tell myself to keep practising and not give up my piano lessons.  At that age, I had no idea that music would be such an important part of my life.

What would you say to parents hoping their young children will grow up to love and make music? Put them into a choir.  Private lessons are great but practising tends to be a solitary activity.  Singing in a choir is a social activity that can be shared with friends and this will often make taking private lessons, and all the practising that goes with it, easier to take. We never pushed our children into music but we did insist that they all join the church choir when they turned six.  It was part of their education. They were not enthusiastic but neither was I.  Once they started, they really enjoyed it.

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News about St. Barnabas in Omaha

From the Omaha World Herald a nice write-up about St. Barnabas, the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter parish in Omaha that had its altar dedicated last week by Bishop Steven Lopes.

Here’s a short excerpt. Go on over and read the whole thing.

In January, a Catholic priest — the Rev. Jason Catania — began spending part of his time at St. Barnabas, taking over its administration. The church also has a new music director. And recently, renovations to its 102-year-old building in the Joslyn neighborhood were completed.

The latest landmark at St. Barnabas happened last Sunday, when Catholic Bishop Steven J. Lopes formally dedicated the church as a site of Catholic worship. Lopes is bishop of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter, the nationwide collective for the 45 Anglican congregations in the United States and Canada that have been brought into the Catholic Church.

Now the church is entering a new phase, said Catania, who went full-time at St. Barnabas in July.

“We’ve been seeing some more pronounced growth, which we’re very pleased about,” he said.

Catania had been dividing his time between St. Barnabas and Christ the King Parish in the Archdiocese of Omaha, though his official boss is Lopes, not Omaha Archbishop George Lucas. The priest has been working to increase his new church’s visibility.

“I’ve been able to dedicate myself entirely to St. Barnabas,” he said. “We did a new website and we’re getting the word out. There’s interest out there.”

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While we’re on the subject of married Catholic priests . . .

Andrea Erdman’s lovely reflection what it means to be the wife of a Roman Catholic priest and her views on priestly celibacy has sent our blog stats through the roof.

While this topic is fresh on our readers’ minds, I thought I would call attention to a piece Peter Jesserer Smith wrote for the National Catholic Register entitled Wives of Priests Reveal Their Vocations as Spiritual Mothers.

He writes:

The vocation of the priest’s wife comes from the fact that the Catholic Church has both married and celibate clergy traditions among its 24 sister Churches that are in communion with the Bishop of Rome. In the Eastern Churches and in the Latin Church, only celibates can be ordained bishops, and priests can never marry after ordination.


But the majority of married priests and their wives in the U.S. actually belong to the Latin Church, not the Eastern Churches, which comprise only 1% of the U.S. Catholic population. Under Pope Pius XII, the Latin Church made an exception to ordain former Protestant married clergy to the priesthood, later setting down a structure with St. John Paul II’s “Pastoral Provision.”

Most of the priests in the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter, created in this decade in response to Pope Benedict XVI’s 2009 apostolic constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus, are married men who had previously served in the Anglican and Episcopal churches. And many other Pastoral Provision married priests and their wives serve in parishes and dioceses across the U.S.

Lynn Grandon, for example, who serves as director of the Archdiocese of Denver’s Respect Life Office, is the wife of Father Douglas Grandon, who teaches homiletics at St. John Vianney Seminary and serves as parochial vicar of St. Vincent de Paul Church in Denver. He is also one of four national chaplains for the Catholic campus outreach Fellowship of Catholic University Students.

“We said, ‘Yes’ long ago, when our husbands felt the call to ministry from wherever we came from,” Grandon said, speaking of the perspective of wives of men ordained as priests through the Pastoral Provision. “So we knew what life was going to be like on most levels.”


“When we fell in love and decided to marry, I knew that I was continually going to have to give him back to the Church and not be selfish about it,” she said. “You have to give up selfishness 100%, 24-7, 365 days out of the year … and I happily do that — most of the time!”

Go on over and read the whole feature article.  Some most interesting profiles and testimony.

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Not to us, O Lord, not to us . . .

When a priest is counseling a parishioner, he will often work to discover the root of the problem in question. In doing so, he is trying to find out the cause, so as better to engage a proper solution. In dealing with problems, it is often helpful to examine what “got us to this point” in order to figure out how to “get past this point”. As an Ordinariate priest, I am, of course, committed to the principle of the Mass being the foundation of our spirituality, and therefore the degree of reverence we have in the Mass is proportionate to the degree of our devotion to God. Or, as someone else once said, “save the liturgy, save the world”.

Therefore, I ask the question, how did we get here to this point? I am referring to “the point” where the self is more important than God; the point where people (even many Catholics) view the Mass as being “all about them” and for their personal entertainment. A visitor to one of my parishes recently encouraged me to change something about the way that I celebrate the Mass. In our lengthy discussion, I found that the reason that he wanted this was because it was “what he liked”; nothing more, nothing less. Even if we are choosing something that is genuinely holy and good (like, for instance, a particular chant to sing in the Mass), if we are choosing it firstly because we “like it” then we must examine our motivations. For, none of the Mass is supposed to be for the sake of entertainment (even “holy” entertainment).

This problem with liturgical decision-making was made most clear to me many years ago as a protestant when I was speaking with a few other protestant pastors. Each one was explaining the way he likes to “do” worship. One liked this kind of music, another that kind. They all had a rationale for what they did (and a couple of them had split from each other over differences in what they “liked” in their worship service). None of them, however, said they made their choices based on what was pleasing to God. This is not to say that they were unconcerned with this issue, just that it was not mentioned. Although each would answer the question of what is pleasing to God in a somewhat different way, none expressed using that factor as a criterion at all.

It is my practice to critique my behavior by asking, am I doing this merely because I enjoy it, or because God enjoys it? And if the answer is because I enjoy it, then I have to ask, does it displease God (because not everything that is done for personal enjoyment will necessarily displease God). That is a great divide that exists in this world: things done for our own sake, and things done for God’s sake. So, when we think about the beauty of the Divine Worship Mass, we have to ask that scary question: why am I doing this? I will be honest and say that “I like it” is one of the answers for me.

Now, let me be clear: it is not wrong to enjoy the Mass. In fact, the Lord wants us to take delight in the liturgy; not merely for our own pleasure, but rather for the sake of ultimately enjoying God Himself more. You see, we do not have to be in a modernist or contemporary liturgy in order to focus on self and our own pleasure (we in Ordinariate parishes are not immune from this!). We are talented and sneaky people who can accomplish self-aggrandizement in any setting — even in front of Almighty God. Yet, what God calls us to is to enjoy Him. He points this out in many ways, but one of my favorite passages of Scripture that speaks to this issue is:

Trust in the LORD, and do good; so you will dwell in the land, and enjoy security. Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart (Psalm 37:3-4).

The way many people behave today, you would think that there is a maxim somewhere which says “take delight in yourself, and you will get the desires of your heart”, which is the exact opposite of what is being said in the Psalm quoted above. Seek self, and you lose all you want; seek God and you gain what you want (largely because what you will want will be influenced and informed by seeking God first). Nothing new here, and most of us have heard this many times. Yet, how often do we apply it to the beauty of the Divine Worship liturgy? If we do apply this rightly, then we will rarely think of our great patrimony in terms of superiority and pride. We will say instead, “Lord, help me to be humble and engage in the Mass in such a way as to grow closer to You, and to give You all the glory for it.”

I do not have to explain that although the Mass is for our good, it is not actually for us. We are not supposed to be coming to the Mass for what we get out of it, but for what God gets out of it. We are the “performers” (to use a crude word) who present ourselves and our actions to God; He is the observer, receiving our praise, honor and glory. If we are told “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor 10:31), then certainly this would apply to the greatest thing that we do in this life: eating and drinking the very body and blood of Christ. So, then, yes, enjoy the Mass. Enjoy it with your whole heart, mind, soul, and body, but enjoy it for the right reason: as a tremendous blessing that helps us to love God. The Mass is not, after all, an end in itself; it is the temporal “wedding banquet” until that day when we partake of the “eternal wedding banquet”.

When we have a liturgy that is as beautiful and reverent as the Divine Worship Mass, we may take it for granted and easily get the focus off center. The very idea of “we do it right” is a serious temptation to glorify self (and many of us have entertained that thought at times). Think, rather, of the cry of the Psalmist when he pleads with the Lord,

“Not to us, O LORD, not to us, but to thy name give glory, for the sake of thy steadfast love and thy faithfulness!” (Psalm 115:1).

He is not saying “don’t let us get any glory”, he is saying “don’t give us any glory”. Walking into the Church before the Mass begins, let us each have this prayer in our hearts — especially if we expect that the Mass will be something we delight in. “Lord, let this all be for Your glory, and not ours; in any way at all”. For me, I pray silently before each Mass “hide me, and show them Jesus”. Each of us needs to do some “re-wiring” in order to overcome this temptation. We need to change how we think, and that means that we go back to what I said at the beginning: “how did we start thinking this way?” Where did we learn the mistaken notion that the Mass is “all about us”?

Just as I have already encouraged (without fully endorsing) people to readthe book “The Benedict Option” (which I still think is the right direction for our future), so I am now encouraging (without actually fully endorsing) people to read a book called “The Unintended Reformation” by Brad Gregory. As “The Benedict Option” says how to deal with what is going on today, so “The Unintended Reformation” says how we got here. In fact, if you read The Unintended Reformation” first, then it is easier to see what the Benedict Option is saying. Gregory does a wonderful job of laying out for us the radical shift in virtually every area of life from a medieval mind to a modern mind. It is this shift that has torn many from the moorings of humble submission to God, and deposited them on the pedestal of personal deification.

As we move forward in our desire to be an “enrichment” to the rest of our Catholic brethren, we need to make sure that we are not coming across as pompous “know-it-alls” who are more Catholic than anyone out in those “non-Ordinariate” parishes. If you want to find a way to turn the Ordinariates into elite and isolationist communities, that will be the way to do it. Let us each look deeply to ensure that we do not allow such pride to taint any area of our service to our Lord Jesus Christ; and let us be sure that the Divine Worship Mass really is “all about Jesus” and nothing else.

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