Fr. Touze and Roman Miopia

I blogged on  Fr. Touze’s unfortunate remarks a few weeks ago. I plan on addressing this in more detail in the near future but wanted to share these thought-provoking comments by Fr. Titus Fulcher:

Fr. Touze and Roman Miopia

By Fr. Titus Fulcher

H/T: Byzantine Ramblings

From Rorate Caeli and also Josephus at Byzantine, Texas comes the most astounding interview from Zenit to be published in decades. The piece in question is an interview entitled “Married Priests Will Always Be an Exception: Interview With Theologian on the Foundations of Celibacy“. Before reading my comments, I would urge you to read the entire interview. Below are highlights only.

ROME, MARCH 9, 2010 ( Married priests are an exception and the Church is increasingly convinced that they must remain so, according to a spiritual theology professor at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross.

Father Laurent Touze explained the foundations of priestly celibacy when he spoke at a two-day conference held last week at Rome’s Pontifical University of the Holy Cross. The conference, “Priestly Celibacy: Theology and Life,” was sponsored by the Congregation for the Clergy as an event for the Year for Priests.

ZENIT: Why, then, are exceptions made?

Father Touze: Historically because there has been a manipulation of texts and I believe a bad translation that the Eastern Church, which has separated from Rome and has recognized that what they had declared contrary to tradition, could be accepted. In this connection there truly are some exceptions. The Church discovered that she had the possibility of admitting exceptions but that these should be understood as such. Respectably, as the Second Vatican Council stressed, there are very holy married priests in the Eastern Catholic Churches who have contributed much to the history of the Church and to the faith in times of persecution, but they are truly exceptions and must be understood as such.

To this should be added the quote from Fr Touze noted at Overheard in the Sacristy,

Prof. Laurent Touze – Pontifical University of the Holy Cross
“During the time of the early Church all priests, deacons and bishops had to practice celibacy from the minute they were ordained.”

It is obvious that Father Professor Touze is a terminal victim of scholasticitis. This disease, widespread for centuries in the West and recently thought to be in decline, begins with a defective understanding of “original sin” as an ontological state of being passed on through procreation. Rather than explicitly respecting the Scriptures and Tradition of the Church that the effect of original sin is death, and thus endemic to humanity, scholasticitis views Original Sin as a guilt passed on via the very act of sexual intercourse – even between spouses – and thus somewhat sinful and thus to be avoided. Hence the movement in the West towards a celibate clergy historically had as much to do ensuring the ‘purity’ of the celebrant at the Liturgy as the commonly referenced prevention of property disputes raised by the progeny of the presbyterate.

Through the miopia of scolaticitis the in persona christi view of the priest at Mass confuses the role of the priest as the president of the community (an essential part in Greek of the etymology of the term “presbyter”), with a somewhat magical ontological identification of the priest with our Lord offering Himself for the life of the world. This is clearly seen in the scholastic obsession that the recitation of the “Words of Institution” are the the identifiable moment and necessary element to confect the transubstantiation of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ. This accounts for the absence of the Epiklesis in the Roman Canon. (Check the nicely informative article at Wikipedia on Epiclesis.)

On this count alone, Rome has had significant difficulties in recent years when accepting into communion various ancient Churches of the East whose Liturgy never featured the Words of Institution at all. Indeed, it has led to elaborate and imaginative explanations as to how these ancient rites claiming Apostolic origin, could still be found valid in the scholasticized context without the essential ingredient.

The Byzantine Tradition has always held the original position on both the Eucharist and the question of clerical celibacy. Regarding the Eucharist, it is the Epiklesis – the calling down of the Holy Spirit to change the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ – that effects the change in substance. In this view, the priest or bishop acts as president or overseer of the gathered Church, with the spiritual authority and power to effectively call on the Holy Spirit for this change, the spiritual authority being guaranteed by the Apostolic Sucession of the bishop and adherence to the Gospel Tradition handed down from the Apostles.

As the result of Original Sin (or more precisely Ancestral Sin) is the corruption and death now rampant in creation, Holy Baptism and Chrismation make each Christian capable of achieving repentant growth in the Likeness of God, and Ordination grants the permission through orthodox teaching and Tradition in the Apostolic Succession for the cleric to lead the people in the Eucharistic celebration. That is the extent of the liturgia – the public work, the work of the people – in the participation of clergy and laity in the Divine Liturgy. It is the Holy Spirit who brings Christ to us through our thanksgiving and anamnesis (remembering) His Self-offering for us to God the Father. Therefore, purity from sexual intercourse is not such a central necessity as the Scholastictic Roman doctrine would have us believe.

True, married clergy abstain from sexual relations with their wives on the eve of the weekly celebration of the Divine Mysteries. However, this is part of the fasting and preparation for the reception of the supreme and highest Gift of God to humanity in the Body and Blood of Christ, not because sexual intercourse compromises the purity of the celebrant and therefore risks the efficacy of the Holy Body and Blood..

In the 2005 Extraordinary Synod on the Eucharist, held at the Vatican, the conflict between the Byzantine historic Tradition and understanding of the Eucharist and priestly celibacy versus the Roman Scolasticitis saw a brief and reportedly heated exchange between Melkite Patriarch Gregory III Laham and Italian Cardinal Angelo Schola of Venice. As noted by Amy Welborn, amongst many at the time, reported:

According to priests who briefed reporters on the synod proceedings in several languages on Tuesday, the debate produced a coarse exchange late Monday between Cardinal Angelo Scola of Venice, the general relator of the synod, and Melkite Patriarch Gregoire III Laham.

“Celibacy has no theological foundation” in the priesthood, Laham said, responding to an opening speech by Scola that cited “profound theological motives” for not allowing married men to enter the priesthood.

“In the Eastern Church married priests are admitted,” Laham said, adding that “marriage is a symbol of union between Christ and the church.”

Responding to Laham, Scola asserted that “in the Latin church theological reasons exist” for maintaining the policy on celibacy. He did not elaborate on those reasons. He then added, “The synod is a place to explore the Mystery, not to give directions on its use.”

In reality, the Cardinal knew he didn’t have a theological foundation to stand on. The history of the issue of clerical celibacy can be easily traced by anyone who wants to take the time to review the history of the canons, starting with the complete collection in the Rudder and equally reviewing the various canons in the West up through the time clerical celibacy was universally invoked.

Foolish comments like those of Father Professor Touze are an embarrassment and irresponsible. Such views will not only reduce any forward movement towards reconciliation with the Orthodox, but will reinforce the sense of estrangement felt by Eastern Catholics who repeatedly have to argue for their own Tradition’s ‘rights’ in the Church.

Let us pray that Fr Touze and those like him retire to happy and peaceful pursuits, like moth collecting.

4 Responses to Fr. Touze and Roman Miopia

    • Conor Dugan says:

      I don’t think it fair to write, “In reality, the Cardinal knew he didn’t have a theological foundation to stand on. The history of the issue of clerical celibacy can be easily traced by anyone who wants to take the time to review the history of the canons, starting with the complete collection in the Rudder and equally reviewing the various canons in the West up through the time clerical celibacy was universally invoked.”

      There are profound theological reasons for priestly celibacy. These profound reasons can coexist with the equally valid Eastern practice of married priests. It isn’t a question of one tradition being correct and the other wrong, but both having apostolic roots.

      Saying the Cardinal had no theological foundation to base is argument, also calls into question the theological bases for monastic celibacy and celibacy more generally.

      • orthocath says:

        Some good points but the perspective espoused by the Cardinal is is often expanded beyond celibacy in general to say that the East should also adopt mandatory clerical celibacy. When that happens, that creates some real problems in the Church.

  1. Conor Dugan says:


    First off, love the blog which I discovered today after having lunch with a good priest friend who is Roman Catholic, but spent 12 years worshiping in the Melkite Catholic Church. A search based on our conversation for a piece Fr. Taft wrote, brought me here!

    Second, I am in total agreement with what you say. I found Dr. Dragani’s response to Cardinal Stickler’s book, which I had found very persuasive, to be equally compelling. I think both traditions are valid and need to be respected. I am dismayed by the recent actions of the Italian Episcopal Conference.

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