Two Intriguing Passages in Amoris Laetitia

Lots of commentary all over the internet, of course, about the much-expected apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia, and lots of things one could discuss. Here are just two very interesting passages that we might start with at Pray Tell.

75. [T]here is a need for further re­flection on God’s action in the marriage rite; this is clearly manifested in the Oriental Churches through the importance of the blessing that the couple receive as a sign of the gift of the Spirit.

202. [O]rdained ministers often lack the training needed to deal with the complex problems currently facing families. The experience of the broad oriental tradition of a married clergy could also be drawn upon.

What do you suppose is meant here? What would it look like to draw on ritual elements from the marriage rite in the Eastern churches? And how do you “draw up” a tradition of married clergy when you don’t have married clergy? It seems like Francis might be planting a seed. What do you think?

Let’s limit ourselves to just these two topics, please, and not get into every aspect of AL.

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22 comments

  1. I would understand 202 as simply saying that unmarried clergy who want to minister to married (or soon-to-be-married) people, might want to learn from their married brothers in the clergy, who could have some insights that neither unmarried clergy nor lay married people could come to unaided.

  2. Re:75, while I don’t expect a change to defining the priest as the minister of the sacrament, perhaps we can recover a better sense of the importance of the nuptial blessing in the rite, and not just focus narrowly on the vows. Don’t know how, exactly, but it could be a very, very good thing.

  3. The revised Nuptial Blessings do include an emphasis on the Holy Spirit that is borrowed from the Oriental Churches. Each now has an epiclesis. That can be a great source of helping us understand and see the power of the couple as both the sign of God’s love enfleshed through the Spirit and help us bring out similarities between the calling forth of the Spirit as a central action in the Order of Christian Marriage as it is in Confirmation and even in the Eucharistic Prayer. Also the couple are the ministers of the Sacrament. The ordained are witnesses for the Church, but the couple are the ministers of this Sacrament to one another.

  4. Well you can interpret this as “planting a seed” for married clergy in the Latin Church, but you don’t have to. 202 might simply mean that it would be useful if Oriental priests taught Latin priests what a good pastor should know about married people, because those Oriental priests have experience in both fields: pastor and husband (and father).

    I think it is not untypical for Pope Francis that he gives certain “hints” without having a clear plan for the future. It is more an Ignatian way of reflection with an open ending. I am quite sure that Francis does not exclude anything for the future, but he has no precise plans. He just wants a world-wide “exercitium” with an open ending, and he opposes to answering questions in matters of pastoral care, discipline, and canon law simply by applying written rules; instead he wants serious and deep reflection in any single case and any single problem.

  5. I wish PTB had a Facebook thumbs-up. I’d definitely give one to 202. I just don’t understand why Pope Francis won’t permit married men to be ordained to the secular presbyterate. There must be some internal power-struggle which is preventing the now-obsolete, even counter-productive rule from being lifted. Undoubtedly, all Roman Catholics can learn from the almost infinite theological and liturgical spectrum of Eastern Christianity. Sometimes there comes a time when education must be put into action.

    However, at least for my own sake, I’d caution against taking sneak peek talking points as isolated truths. I just don’t have time to read Amoris Laetitia (streaming “bookmarkable” audio, Vatican, please?), but I look forward to more discussion points here.

  6. There are in the range of 10,000-15,000 married clergy in the Roman Catholic church in the US – deacons and their wives. I don’t know the number of married clergy in Orthodoxy in the US, but I’d guess there are more married Roman Catholic than Orthodox clergy here.

    That said, speaking as a married member of the clergy, I have no qualifications to be a marriage counselor. I can try to walk a path with a couple experiencing relationship troubles, but accompanying and loving them is about all I can do. If they need professional counseling, I’d refer them to a professional counselor. And honestly, I don’t know that it matters whether or not the professional is married.

    1. @Jim Pauwels:
      “And honestly, I don’t know that it matters whether or not the professional is married.”

      Perhaps another way to look at this is that it’s more of an issue of the character, personality/temperament and gifts of a given person whether their marital status enhances their abilities in this regard or not. That is, it’s the person more than their status.

  7. In the Archdioecese of Vienna Cardinal Schoenborn (who introduced Amoris Laetitia today!) has more than once removed Roman parish priests because they wanted to marry – and then replaced them by Greek Catholic priests (now acting in the Roman rite) who were married fathers. This entire situation is weird; but nevertheless Pope Francis does not consider the time ripe for a change of celibacy laws. 202 is nothing more than a hint for a reflection with open ending (at least that is how I interpret it).

  8. I get the feeling that 202 is one of those paragraphs written to be read several ways. On its face it seems to say that Latin ordained ministers should ask Byzantine and Eastern Orthodox ordained ministers how they manage married or divorced people. However, It leaves open the possibility of a later pope–or Francis himself–of saying, “look we asked them and we really need it here.”

    I think its strange that the experience of married Latin priests and deacons isn’t suggested as a similar source of experience, since is some ways their experiences are both closer at hand in places like the United States (and probably other countries) and more directly applicable. Married Protestant ministers for that matter, too.

  9. #6. Maybe para 202 is another gentle push at the door for the acceptance of married priests in the Western Rite, not just through the ‘accidental’ arrival of married Anglicans alone but through a realisation that we have much to gain and little to fear.
    It really is about time our bishops listened and responded in a positive manner.

  10. I think that a large number of the complex problems facing families today would be better dealt with if spiritual direction were coupled with some form of psychological counseling, etc. Being married doesn’t necessarily make the clergy any more competent in dealing with complex family issues.

  11. #12 But at least Alan if our priests could marry they would be speaking out of a shared experience with those who seek their guidance. Rather than being on the outside looking in there would be a greater understanding of the realities of a shared married life.

    1. @Chris McDonnell:
      Unless we should only have priests minister to those who they are most similar to (celibate priests ministering to celibate Catholics, married priests ministering to married Catholics, divorced priests ministering to divorced Catholics, female priests ministering to female Catholics, etc.) some sort of “outside looking in” is going to always exist.

    2. @Chris McDonnell:
      Chris, I think you state a very pertinent point regarding “a greater understanding of the realities of a shared married life.” Even with the best of intentions, a person leading a celibate life and in many cases, often living alone, and having proportionally more male close friends must by the very nature of their lives find it difficult to comprehend these realities. Theoretical and “classroom” learning can paint a picture, but it is always only one dimensional. Thank God for Papa Francesco, who is, even if in only a minute way, beginning to open those shutters which have been closed for so long.

  12. I would suggest that any reading of #202 is incomplete without going on to #’s 203 & 204 where the training of seminarians is talked about as well as coupling spiritual direction with “the help of teachers and counsellors, family and community physicians, social workers, juvenile and family advocates, and drawing upon the
    contributions of psychology, sociology, marital therapy and counselling.”

  13. God bless our Holy Father and his marvelous Apostolic Exortation. Let us hope and pray that the arbitrary and ludicrous firings of LGBT teachers ceases at once!

    1. @George Niles:
      The exhortation very clearly dismisses the marriages or unions of homosexual persons as being incapable of being true marriages/unions. It also keeps the Catechism’s admonition that homosexuals persons should not be the victims of “unjust discrimination” – the only instance in which the Catechism modifies the term “discrimination” – so there clearly are instances (and North Carolina or Mississippi would agree) in which discrimination is justified.

  14. I thought he had said he was open to the idea of married priests if episcopal conferences had decided to approach him about it.
    Was that a dream?

  15. @Jim Pauwels

    Jim Pauwels : There are in the range of 10,000-15,000 married clergy in the Roman Catholic church in the US – deacons and their wives. .

    Thank You for bringing up the Roman Catholic Permanent Diaconate. We are a rich source of guidance for the unmarried clergy.

  16. The Roman Catholic Church has married priests…the men get there through certain doors opened to them that may not be available to all Roman Catholics. But can we at least acknowledge that there are married men who are Roman Catholic Priests?

    There some priests I know who could walk a struggling couple through the process of healing. No problem. And there are some for whom asking them for a glass of water would take a letter from the CDF…I believe this document from Francis (haven’t read it all) and his many previous statements point us to a process that makes us deal with the person standing in front of us as the place where Christ wants us to work.

    The shift is not in the “rules” but in the pastoral practice. My suspicion is that there have been many bridges built by “pastoral” priests and bishops who today have had their actions endorsed. And then there are those who will point to this document as “wishy washy, Jesuitical, and dangerous.”

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