Earlier, I wrote about the tension that still exists in some quarters between Eastern Catholics and Latin Catholics regarding a married priesthood and its ecumenical implications. When Eastern Catholics gave up their communion with Orthodoxy and entered communion with Rome they were guaranteed the right to continue their tradition of ordaining married men to the priesthood (see section 9 of the Treaty of Brest). However, when Eastern Catholics started migrating to Western lands where the Latin Church was dominant it often became a problem to have both traditions (the Eastern tradition of a married priesthood and the Western tradition of a celibate priesthood) coexisting in the same place. This led to restrictions being placed on Eastern Catholics in the US and Canada (and in some other countries as well) that outlawed ordaining married men as priests and the requirement that henceforth only celibate men be ordained. Such restrictions led to tens of thousands of Eastern Catholics leaving union with Rome and returning to Orthodoxy.
This problem still exists in some areas but it appears that the situation is beginning to change, especially with regard to the Ukrainian Catholic Church in Canada and the US. An indication of the change in attitudes is this delightful vignette just posted from the 40th anniversary celebration of St. Elias Ukrainian Catholic Church in Brampton, Ontario, Canada. Fr. Roman Galadza, pastor of St. Elias, describes the tension he experienced in the mid-1960s between the then expected norm for a Ukrainian Catholic seminarian in the US to be ordained and remain celibate and the love that began blooming between him and a Ukrainian girl he met at a Ukrainian Catholic parish in New York named Irene. At about 2 minutes and 40 seconds into this video he starts telling their story:
This seminarian, realizing he was called both to marriage and priesthood, was able to find a Ukrainian Catholic Bishop in Canada who would ordain qualified married men in accordance with the Eastern tradition.
That such romantic stories can be told publicly is an indication that real change is happening between Eastern and Western Catholics. There has clearly been a clash of cultures and traditions between Roman (Latin Rite) Catholics and Eastern (Byzantine and Ukrainian) Catholics over this issue. Sadly, the much smaller Eastern Catholics lost out in this conflict but these are promising signs.
I think, however, some quarters of the Roman Catholic Church still are not prepared for such normal stories of love between a seminarian and his future wife. Hopefully, that will begin to change. Hopefully, also, regulations on married clergy in other Eastern Catholic Churches outside of their “home territory” will be lifted in the future.
UPDATE: November 23, 2011 — For updated information on the Ban on married clergy and how it is currently applied, see the article: Vatican: Ban on Ordaining Married Men in Western Lands is Not Dead.