"Let books be your dining table, / And you shall be full of delights. / Let them be your
And you shall sleep restful nights" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).

Friday, April 16, 2021

Married Priests in the Catholic Church--including a Married Bishop!

My book that was just published this month, Married Priests in the Catholic Church, began life a decade ago as a collection focused solely on Eastern Catholic experiences--the longstanding Roman harassment and Latin chauvinism around married clergy, the fetishization of celibacy as some kind of "superior" state and with it the concomitant denigration of marriage as a second-class sacrament for the "weaker brethren," and the bogus historicizing that has gone on around the "apostolicity" of celibacy. These and other issues were to be taken up, along with an ecumenical examination of the costs of this approach to Orthodox-Catholic rapprochement. Almost all of this would be focused on a European, and especially East-Slavic, context for the Ukrainian Greco-Catholic Church is the largest of the Eastern Churches in communion with Rome, having the largest number of married clergy. 

But as the book went through the University of Notre Dame Press's superlative peer-review and editorial processes, the reviewers' recommendations came to me asking to expand the focus of the book in both "cultural" and ecclesial terms. I grasped the logic of this at once, and set out recruiting chapters from non-European married clergy (Melkites, Copts, et al), and from Orthodox clergy as well as former Anglicans who remained married clergy in the relatively new ordinariates around the world. All this made for a much richer collection.

In the coming weeks I want to feature excerpts and insights from the various sections of the book. Today we start with an essay from the third section, "Ecumenical Considerations." The essay comes from England bearing the title "The Gift to the Church of Married Clergy" by Edwin Barnes. 

Barnes was a bishop in the Church of England, mother-church of the Anglican Communion (in which I was baptized) from 1995 to 2002. He and his wife Jane converted to Catholicism a decade ago and spent the last few years of his life ordained a priest, and later designated a monsignor, in the Latin Church before his death in early 2019. 

His chapter is short but lovely, and it talks about how the ministry of married clergy is very much a ministry of the married couple. He gives moving tribute to how much unsung and unpaid work was done by his wife, and how no parish--if it is to be a genuine community of concern and pastoral care and not just a sacramental gas station--can function without the whole couple, together and singly, working in their various spheres. 

In saying this, his chapter joins nicely with others, including that of Irene Galadza, the matushka of the most important and influential Ukrainian Greco-Catholic parish in North America, St. Elias in Brampton, Ontario, where she and her husband, Archpriest Roman, have been since they founded the parish in 1976. Irene, too, recognizes not just how much parish ministry depends on the labours of husband and wife alike, but also--and importantly--how much a strain such ministry can put on the marriage. Hers is a welcome note of realism and restraint of those romanticized fantasies some have of how great it must be to have a married priesthood, and how that will apparently "solve" the so-called vocations crisis in the Latin Church. 

Irene's is not a counsel of despair, however, but very much a sober and cheerful reflection on how the wives of clergy can undertake the responsibility for the careful welfare (psychological and physical, but also spiritual) of herself and their children. Though she does not use such terminology as "self-care," that is very much the import of what she writes.

In this regard, her chapter is likewise joined to that of another: Bill Mills, a long-standing priest in the Orthodox Church of America, and author of any number of wonderful books, including his frank and funny memoir I discussed in my interview with him here. He, too, is well aware of the psychic costs of married life in a manse or rectory, and discusses those in his charming and amusing chapter, "Marriage and Ministry: an Eastern Orthodox Perspective." If you like that chapter, you'll love his many other books I have noted on here over the years. 

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