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Sunday, March 28, 2010

Roman Catholic Priests and the Eastern Rite - Time for Change

My father was a Ukrainian Eastern Rite Catholic. This means, his tradition is recognized by Rome under the umbrella of the Vatican. Eastern Rite Catholics are under the Roman Catholic Church, not the Orthodox Church.

The Ukrainian (Russian) Eastern Rite reunited with the Roman Church in about 1595.

Eastern Rite priests are given permission to marry and raise a family, prior to being ordained. In other words, Eastern Rite Catholic priests are usually married and Rome says it's okay.

My father said the Eastern Rite is older than the Roman Rite of the Catholic Church. I'm not a theologian or a religious historian, but I believe my father was correct because Roman Catholic priests say my personal tradition is Eastern Rite due to the precedence of the older tradition. In other words, I'm not Roman Catholic. In fact, I'm an Eastern Rite Catholic, although I practice the former.

My point is, if the Eastern Rite has a historic precedence over the Roman Rite, then why aren't Roman Catholic priests allowed to be married?

Which leads to the point of this blog. Eastern Rite Catholic priests do not appear to be stained by the current sexual abuse incidents now eroding the foundation of Roman Catholicism. The egregious conduct of some Roman Catholic clergy whose criminal behavior was ignored by church administration is threatening to undermine the Vatican's universal religious mission and good social teachings to help the poor.

I have not heard about the sexual abuse behavior infecting Eastern Rite married clergy.

My lay person cure for the criminal sexual abuse cancer eating away at the Vatican are as follows:

1. Call for the resignation of all bishops who are implicated in the sexual abuse cover up.

2. Change the celibacy rule for Roman Catholic priests to be consistent with those of the Easter Rite ordination to the clergy.

3. Focus on the spiritual development of the faithful by inspiring prayer, reflection, forgiveness and benevolent social policy - following the lead of the religious orders of nuns around the world who seem to "get" this.

There is hope to overcome this scandal if the Roman Rite is prepared to undergo a renewal and return to the spiritual roots of its success. Excoriate the sexual abusive behavior by ripping off the celibacy condition as a requirement for ordination to the Roman Catholic clergy.

Certain religious orders may still choose to continue the celibacy tradition. This tradition, selected by a few, should not preclude all men who want to become priests from taking the Sacrament of Marriage. Precedence for this policy is established among widowers, as well as those ordained converts from other Christian religious traditions, like the Episcopal Church, for example.

Most of all, whatever Rite of the Christian faith we celebrate, let's join together in prayer by calling for an improvement in the universal human condition. In my lay person's understanding of faith, we are precariously off course right now and headed to a schism caused by the cover up of this scandal.

Clergy celibacy is a man made rule. Saint Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) said: "A man has free choice to the extent that he is rational".

Our beloved faith must get back to what's humanly rational.

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