St. Nicholas is Coming to Town

November 27, 2011

At this time of year we’re going to see more and more of the commercialized version of the holy man of Myra, St. Nicholas. His actual feast day is December 6th. A great video explaining who St. Nicholas really was:

For further reading:

Calculating Christmas

The Pagan Origins of Christmas?

Christmas and “Pagan Origins”

Seeds of Doubt for Jehovah’s Witnesses: The 144,000 — Part Two

November 27, 2011

Regular readers of the blog know I write occasionally on subjects related to the Jehovah’s Witnesses due to my background. This continues an earlier article which discusses the Witness teaching that only 144,000 people will go to heaven to be with Christ. The earlier article presents a couple of questions that can be asked to show the inconsistency of the JW interpretation about the 144,000. Still, what if the Witness you are discussing with wants to know what the 144,000 in the book of Revelation refers to?

I suggest these thoughts by James Kallas in Revelation: God & Satan in the Apocalypse:

To take the number [144,000] literally is to come to the exact opposite conclusion that John the author is trying to get across.

How many tribes in ancient Israel? Twelve. And how many disciples did Jesus choose as the basis of the new Israel, the Church? Twelve. And what is 12 x 12? 144! Now, before we go any further we must remind ourselves of how the ancient Jews thought, of a characteristic of their mental patterns, for John was a Jew. How did the Jew express infinity, a large and endless number? By simply multiplying the number by ten! When Peter asks Jesus, “How many times should I forgive my brother, seven times?”, Jesus answers him “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven” (Matt. 18:21-22). What does Jesus mean? Is he to be taken literally? Is Peter to walk about with a pad of papyrus and a pen in his hand, marking down the number or times he forgives his fellow man, and when he arrives at 490 times he can stop forgiving? Of course not! Jesus is not to be taken literally here. He is speaking concretely, as a good Jew would. He is simply trying to get across the idea of infinity, of an endless series, of a continuing never ending act of forgiveness, by multiplying by ten.

And that is what Rev. 14:1 and 14:3 are attempting to say. How many will be saved? A specific limited number confined to a mere and literally understood 144,000? Not at all! What John is saying, to a discouraged and persecuted people, on the brink of despair, tempted to believe that all is lost and God will not be able to deliver his people, is that not a one shall be lost. That God’s power is sufficient to deliver all who call on his name. That all the sons of the old covenant, the remnant of the twelve tribes of Israel, and all the followers of the new Israel, adherents to the teachings of the twelve apostles, that all of them, 12 x 12 = 144 x 10 x 10 x 10 [which would equal 144,000], that all of them shall be rescued by the redemptive power of God! To take the number literally, to limit it, is to come to exactly the opposite conclusion intended by John. He is speaking of the unlimited power of God.

Witnesses will sometimes counter that the number 144,000 must be literal because in Revelation chapter 7 they are mentioned before a vision of a “great crowd” or “great multitude” which could not be numbered. To understand the relationship of the 144,000 and the “great multitude” in Revelation, chapter 7, it’s necessary to look at the text. At Revelation 7:1-9, John says:

1 After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth to prevent any wind from blowing on the land or on the sea or on any tree. 2 Then I saw another angel coming up from the east, having the seal of the living God. He called out in a loud voice to the four angels who had been given power to harm the land and the sea: 3 “Do not harm the land or the sea or the trees until we put a seal on the foreheads of the servants of our God.” 4 Then I heard the number of those who were sealed: 144,000 from all the tribes of Israel.

5 From the tribe of Judah 12,000 were sealed,

from the tribe of Reuben 12,000,

[12,000 are sealed from each tribe]

9 After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. (pp. 60-61)

John says he heard the number of those sealed: 144,000. What he saw after he heard the number was the “great multitude” in heaven. He heard about this group before he saw them. John elsewhere in Revelation uses the same method when he describes Christ in an earlier chapter. First he is told about the “Lion of the tribe of Judah” and next he sees “a Lamb as if it had been slain” (Rev. 5:5-6). John Francis Coffey explains that

the great multitude “which no man could number” is not a group distinct from the 144,000, but rather, it is the same group. John is explaining one group by the other. “After this”, that is, after John “heard” the number of the sealed, he was granted a vision of the whole company of the elect. The definite number of the elect signified completeness:

All the tribes had their required number; none were missing (cf. Jn 17:12). Nor should God’s chosen people be understood as being only a tiny group, for the members were so many that John could not count them himself, he “heard” the number of those sealed – 144,000 (12 x 12 x 1,000). In apocalyptic imagery, the number 12, like the number 7 symbolizes perfection or totality. The second 12 corresponds to the tribes of Israel or the people of God. And the 1,000 indicates an immense number. In other words, the 144,000 symbolizes the great multitude of the elect whose exact number is known only to God. (The Gospel According to Jehovah’s Witnesses, p. 119)

For further reading:

Is Your Hope Bible-Based? Questions and Reflections for Jehovah’s Witnesses

Do the Old Testament Saints Receive a Heavenly Reward?

Oxford Orthodox Christian Student Society Lectures

November 25, 2011

Within the last couple of weeks some notable lectures have been posted to Vimeo which were delivered to the  Oxford Orthodox Christian Student Society, which are not generally available elsewhere. A sampling:

“Eastern Sacred Chant” – a talk by Dr. Dmitri Conomos

“Translating The Liturgy: Was there a Great Entrance at the Last Supper? ” – a talk by Fr. Ephrem Lash

“Aquinas and Orthodoxy” – a talk by Fr. Andrew Louth

The Akathist of Thanksgiving: Glory to God for All Things

November 23, 2011

H/T: Preachers Institute

This Akathist, also called the “Akathist of Thanksgiving,” was composed by Protopresbyter Gregory Petrov shortly before his death in a prison camp in 1940. The title is from the words of Saint John Chrysostom as he was dying in exile. It is a song of praise from amidst the most terrible sufferings.

You can watch a video of this Akathist, preceded by some opening prayers, being celebrated by Holy Trinity Orthodox Church in Parma, Ohio here. An audio recording of this Akathist can also be found on this webpage.

Kontakion 1

Everlasting King, Your will for our salvation is full of power. Your right arm controls the whole course of human life. We give You thanks for all Your mercies, seen and unseen. For eternal life, for the heavenly joys of the Kingdom which is to be. Grant mercy to us who sing Your praise, both now and in the time to come. Glory to You, O God, from age to age.

Ikos 1

I was born a weak, defenseless child, but Your angel spread his wings over my cradle to defend me. From birth until now Your love has illumined my path, and has wondrously guided me towards the light of eternity; from birth until now the generous gifts of Your providence have been marvelously showered upon me. I give You thanks, with all who have come to know You, who call upon Your name.

Glory to You for calling me into being
Glory to You, showing me the beauty of the universe
Glory to You, spreading out before me heaven and earth
Like the pages in a book of eternal wisdom
Glory to You for Your eternity in this fleeting world
Glory to You for Your mercies, seen and unseen
Glory to You through every sigh of my sorrow
Glory to You for every step of my life’s journey
For every moment of glory
Glory to You, O God, from age to age

Kontakion 2

O Lord, how lovely it is to be Your guest. Breeze full of scents; mountains reaching to the skies; waters like boundless mirrors, reflecting the sun’s golden rays and the scudding clouds. All nature murmurs mysteriously, breathing the depth of tenderness. Birds and beasts of the forest bear the imprint of Your love. Blessed are You, mother earth, in Your fleeting loveliness, which wakens our yearning for happiness that will last for ever, in the land where, amid beauty that grows not old, the cry rings out: Alleluia!

Ikos 2

You have brought me into life as into an enchanted paradise. We have seen the sky like a chalice of deepest blue, where in the azure heights the birds are singing. We have listened to the soothing murmur of the forest and the melodious music of the streams. We have tasted fruit of fine flavour and the sweet-scented honey. We can live very well on Your earth. It is a pleasure to be Your guest.

Glory to You for the Feast Day of life
Glory to You for the perfume of lilies and roses
Glory to You for each different taste of berry and fruit
Glory to You for the sparkling silver of early morning dew
Glory to You for the joy of dawn’s awakening
Glory to You for the new life each day brings
Glory to You, O God, from age to age

Kontakion 3

It is the Holy Spirit who makes us find joy in each flower, the exquisite scent, the delicate colour, the beauty of the Most High in the tiniest of things. Glory and honour to the Spirit, the Giver of Life, who covers the fields with their carpet of flowers, crowns the harvest with gold, and gives to us the joy of gazing at it with our eyes. O be joyful and sing to Him: Alleluia!

Ikos 3

How glorious are You in the springtime, when every creature awakes to new life and joyfully sings Your praises with a thousand tongues. You are the Source of Life, the Destroyer of Death. By the light of the moon, nightingales sing, and the valleys and hills lie like wedding garments, white as snow. All the earth is Your promised bride awaiting her spotless husband. If the grass of the field is like this, how gloriously shall we be transfigured in the Second Coming after the Resurrection! How splendid our bodies, how spotless our souls!

Glory to You, bringing from the depth of the earth an endless variety of colours, tastes and scents
Glory to You for the warmth and tenderness of the world of nature
Glory to You for the numberless creatures around us
Glory to You for the depths of Your wisdom, the whole world a living sign of it
Glory to You; on my knees, I kiss the traces of Your unseen hand
Glory to You, enlightening us with the clearness of eternal life
Glory to You for the hope of the unutterable, imperishable beauty of immortality
Glory to You, O God, from age to age

Kontakion 4

How filled with sweetness are those whose thoughts dwell on You; how life-giving Your holy Word. To speak with You is more soothing than anointing with oil; sweeter than the honeycomb. To pray to You lifts the spirit, refreshes the soul. Where You are not, there is only emptiness; hearts are smitten with sadness; nature, and life itself, become sorrowful; where You are, the soul is filled with abundance, and its song resounds like a torrent of life: Alleluia!

Ikos 4

When the sun is setting, when quietness falls like the peace of eternal sleep, and the silence of the spent day reigns, then in the splendour of its declining rays, filtering through the clouds, I see Your dwelling-place: fiery and purple, gold and blue, they speak prophet-like of the ineffable beauty of Your presence, and call to us in their majesty. We turn to the Father.

Glory to You at the hushed hour of nightfall
Glory to You, covering the earth with peace
Glory to You for the last ray of the sun as it sets
Glory to You for sleep’s repose that restores us
Glory to You for Your goodness even in the time of darkness
When all the world is hidden from our eyes
Glory to You for the prayers offered by a trembling soul
Glory to You for the pledge of our reawakening
On that glorious last day, that day which has no evening
Glory to You, O God, from age to age

Kontakion 5

The dark storm clouds of life bring no terror to those in whose hearts Your fire is burning brightly. Outside is the darkness of the whirlwind, the terror and howling of the storm, but in the heart, in the presence of Christ, there is light and peace, silence: Alleluia!

Ikos 5

I see Your heavens resplendent with stars. How glorious are You radiant with light! Eternity watches me by the rays of the distant stars. I am small, insignificant, but the Lord is at my side. Your right arm guides me wherever I go.

Glory to You, ceaselessly watching over me
Glory to You for the encounters You arrange for me
Glory to You for the love of parents, for the faithfulness of friends
Glory to You for the humbleness of the animals which serve me
Glory to You for the unforgettable moments of life
Glory to You for the heart’s innocent joy
Glory to You for the joy of living
Moving and being able to return Your love
Glory to You, O God, from age to age

Kontakion 6

How great and how close are You in the powerful track of the storm! How mighty Your right arm in the blinding flash of the lightning! How awesome Your majesty! The voice of the Lord fills the fields, it speaks in the rustling of the trees. The voice of the Lord is in the thunder and the downpour. The voice of the Lord is heard above the waters. Praise be to You in the roar of mountains ablaze. You shake the earth like a garment; You pile up to the sky the waves of the sea. Praise be to You, bringing low the pride of man. You bring from his heart a cry of penitence: Alleluia!

Ikos 6

When the lightning flash has lit up the camp dining hall, how feeble seems the light from the lamp. Thus do You, like the lightning, unexpectedly light up my heart with flashes of intense joy. After Your blinding light, how drab, how colourless, how illusory all else seems. My souls clings to You.

Glory to You, the highest peak of men’s dreaming
Glory to You for our unquenchable thirst for communion with God
Glory to You, making us dissatisfied with earthly things
Glory to You, turning on us Your healing rays
Glory to You, subduing the power of the spirits of darkness
And dooming to death every evil
Glory to You for the signs of Your presence
For the joy of hearing Your voice and living in Your love
Glory to You, O God, from age to age

Kontakion 7

In the wondrous blending of sounds it is Your call we hear; in the harmony of many voices, in the sublime beauty of music, in the glory of the works of great composers: You lead us to the threshold of paradise to come, and to the choirs of angels. All true beauty has the power to draw the soul towards You, and to make it sing in ecstasy: Alleluia!

Ikos 7

The breath of Your Holy Spirit inspires artists, poets and scientists. The power of Your supreme knowledge makes them prophets and interpreters of Your laws, who reveal the depths of Your creative wisdom. Their works speak unwittingly of You. How great are You in Your creation! How great are You in man!

Glory to You, showing Your unsurpassable power in the laws of the universe
Glory to You, for all nature is filled with Your laws
Glory to You for what You have revealed to us in Your mercy
Glory to You for what You have hidden from us in Your wisdom
Glory to You for the inventiveness of the human mind
Glory to You for the dignity of man’s labour
Glory to You for the tongues of fire that bring inspiration
Glory to You, O God, from age to age

Kontakion 8

How near You are in the day of sickness. You Yourself visit the sick; You Yourself bend over the sufferer’s bed. His heart speaks to You. In the throes of sorrow and suffering You bring peace and unexpected consolation. You are the comforter. You are the love which watches over and heals us. To You we sing the song: Alleluia!

Ikos 8

When in childhood I called upon You consciously for the first time, You heard my prayer, and You filled my heart with the blessing of peace. At that moment I knew Your goodness and knew how blessed are those who turn to You. I started to call upon You night and day; and now even now I call upon Your name.

Glory to You, satisfying my desires with good things
Glory to You, watching over me day and night
Glory to You, curing affliction and emptiness with the healing flow of time
Glory to You, no loss is irreparable in You, Giver of eternal life to all
Glory to You, making immortal all that is lofty and good
Glory to You, promising us the longed-for meeting with our loved ones who have died
Glory to You, O God, from age to age

Kontakion 9

Why is it that on a Feast Day the whole of nature mysteriously smiles? Why is it that then a heavenly gladness fills our hearts; a gladness far beyond that of earth and the very air in church and in the altar becomes luminous? It is the breath of Your gracious love. It is the reflection of the glory of Mount Tabor. Then do heaven and earth sing Your praise: Alleluia!

Ikos 9

When You called me to serve my brothers and filled my soul with humility, one of Your deep, piercing rays shone into my heart; it became luminous, full of light like iron glowing in the furnace. I have seen Your face, face of mystery and of unapproachable glory.

Glory to You, transfiguring our lives with deeds of love
Glory to You, making wonderfully Sweet the keeping of Your commandments
Glory to You, making Yourself known where man shows mercy on his neighbour
Glory to You, sending us failure and misfortune that we may understand the sorrows of others
Glory to You, rewarding us so well for the good we do
Glory to You, welcoming the impulse of our heart’s love
Glory to You, raising to the heights of heaven every act of love in earth and sky
Glory to You, O God, from age to age

Kontakion 10

No one can put together what has crumbled into dust, but You can restore a conscience turned to ashes. You can restore to its former beauty a soul lost and without hope. With You there is nothing that cannot be redeemed. You are love; You are Creator and Redeemer. We praise You, singing: Alleluia!

Ikos 10

Remember, my God, the fall of Lucifer full of pride, keep me safe with the power of Your Grace; save me from falling away from You. Save me from doubt. Incline my heart to hear Your mysterious voice every moment of my life. Incline my heart to call upon You, present in everything.

Glory to You for every happening
Every condition Your providence has put me in
Glory to You for what You speak to me in my heart
Glory to You for what You reveal to me, asleep or awake
Glory to You for scattering our vain imaginations
Glory to You for raising us from the slough of our passions through suffering
Glory to You for curing our pride of heart by humiliation
Glory to You, O God, from age to age

Kontakion 11

Across the cold chains of the centuries, I feel the warmth of Your breath, I feel Your blood pulsing in my veins. Part of time has already gone, but now You are the present. I stand by Your Cross; I was the cause of it. I cast myself down in the dust before it. Here is the triumph of love, the victory of salvation. Here the centuries themselves cannot remain silent, singing Your praises: Alleluia!

Ikos 11

Blessed are they that will share in the King’s Banquet: but already on earth You give me a foretaste of this blessedness. How many times with Your own hand have You held out to me Your Body and Your Blood, and I, though a miserable sinner, have received this Mystery, and have tasted Your love, so ineffable, so heavenly.

Glory to You for the unquenchable fire of Your Grace
Glory to You, building Your Church, a haven of peace in a tortured world
Glory to You for the life-giving water of Baptism in which we find new birth
Glory to You, restoring to the penitent purity white as the lily
Glory to You for the cup of salvation and the bread of eternal joy
Glory to You for exalting us to the highest heaven
Glory to You, O God, from age to age

Kontakion 12

How often have I seen the reflection of Your glory in the faces of the dead. How resplendent they were, with beauty and heavenly joy. How ethereal, how translucent their faces. How triumphant over suffering and death, their felicity and peace. Even in the silence they were calling upon You. In the hour of my death, enlighten my soul, too, that it may cry out to You: Alleluia!

Ikos 12

What sort of praise can I give You? I have never heard the song of the Cherubim, a joy reserved for the spirits above. But I know the praises that nature sings to You. In winter, I have beheld how silently in the moonlight the whole earth offers You prayer, clad in its white mantle of snow, sparkling like diamonds. I have seen how the rising sun rejoices in You, how the song of the birds is a chorus of praise to You. I have heard the mysterious mutterings of the forests about You, and the winds singing Your praise as they stir the waters. I have understood how the choirs of stars proclaim Your glory as they move forever in the depths of infinite space. What is my poor worship! All nature obeys You, I do not. Yet while I live, I see Your love, I long to thank You, and call upon Your name.

Glory to You, giving us light
Glory to You, loving us with love so deep, divine and infinite
Glory to You, blessing us with light, and with the host of angels and saints
Glory to You, Father all-holy, promising us a share in Your Kingdom
Glory to You, Holy Spirit, life-giving Sun of the world to come
Glory to You for all things, Holy and most merciful Trinity
Glory to You, O God, from age to age

Kontakion 13

Life-giving and merciful Trinity, receive my thanksgiving for all Your goodness. Make us worthy of Your blessings, so that, when we have brought to fruit the talents You have entrusted to us, we may enter into the joy of our Lord, forever exulting in the shout of victory: Alleluia!

(repeat Kontakion 13 and Alleluia three times)

Ikos 1

I was born a weak, defenseless child, but Your angel spread his wings over my cradle to defend me. From birth until now Your love has illumined my path, and has wondrously guided me towards the light of eternity; from birth until now the generous gifts of Your providence have been marvelously showered upon me. I give You thanks, with all who have come to know You, who call upon Your name.

Glory to You for calling me into being
Glory to You, showing me the beauty of the universe
Glory to You, spreading out before me heaven and earth
Like the pages in a book of eternal wisdom
Glory to You for Your eternity in this fleeting world
Glory to You for Your mercies, seen and unseen
Glory to You through every sigh of my sorrow
Glory to You for every step of my life’s journey
For every moment of glory
Glory to You, O God, from age to age

Kontakion 1

Everlasting King, Your will for our salvation is full of power. Your right arm controls the whole course of human life. We give You thanks for all Your mercies, seen and unseen. For eternal life, for the heavenly Joys of the Kingdom which is to be. Grant mercy to us who sing Your praise, both now and in the time to come. Glory to You, O God, from age to age.

Liturgical Texts for Thanksgiving

November 19, 2011

Texts that can be used for Thanksgiving

Vespers Service for Thanksgiving

Matins Service for Thanksgiving

Divine Liturgy Prayers for Thanksgiving

From the Vespers service for Thanksgiving:

Come, ye thankful people,* and let us raise a hymn of grateful praise to God,’ our Benefactor and Creator,’ the bounteous source of all our blessings,’ the riches of our earthly life,’ and the glory of the world to come,’ for in His great mercy and love for us His children,’ He has granted us salvation.

Come, ‘ye thankful people,’ and let us praise the Father,’ who in His goodness’ created heaven and earth,’ and all that is in them,’ endowing us His creatures,’ with reason to worship Him,’ who in His great mercy and love for us His children.* has granted us salvation.

Come, ye thankful people,’ and let us praise the only-begotten Son,’ who for our sakes did clothe Himself in mortal nature,’ deigning to suffer and die for us,’ trampling down death and raising us with Himself,’ who in His great mercy and love for us His children,’ has granted us salvation.

Come, ye thankful people,’ and let us praise the Holy Spirit,’ who descended upon the Apostles,’ making them fishers of men,’ through whom the earth has received,’ the knowledge of the Holy Trinity,’ who in His great’ mercy and love for us His children,’ has granted us salvation.

Vatican: Ban on Ordaining Eastern Married Clergy in Western Lands is Not Dead

November 17, 2011

Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, Prefect of the Eastern Congregation, greets Archbishop Cyril Vasil, the Secretary of that Congregation, at the Abp's episcopal ordination in 2009.

Catholic News Service is now reporting that the Vatican’s ban on Eastern Catholic Churches ordaining married men to the priesthood in areas outside their traditional homelands was “reconfirmed” in 2008. In an article published Nov. 16, 2011, reporting on recent statements by an American Melkite Catholic Bishop on married clergy, Catholic News Service quoted the current Secretary of the Eastern Congregation (a department of the Roman Curia):

Archbishop Cyril Vasil, secretary of the Congregation for Eastern Churches, told CNS [Catholic News Service] in Rome that the Vatican reconfirmed the general ban in 2008, “but in individual cases, in consultation with the national bishops’ conference, a dispensation can be given” allowing the ordination.

This confirms a 2010 report by the Italian news service Adista:

On 20 February 2008, the regular meeting of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith reaffirmed the validity of the norm of a binding obligation of celibacy for priests of Eastern Catholic Churches who exercise the ministry outside the canonical territory. The pope, however, has given the Congregation for the Eastern Churches the authority to give a dispensation from this norm, with the approval of the Episcopal Conference in question. (Text here, translated from Italian.)

Based on this latest statement from Rome published by Catholic News Service, it appears that the occasional ordinations of married men to the priesthood by some Eastern Catholic Churches in the USA and Canada (by Ukrainian, Romanian and Ruthenian Catholic Bishops) were authorized by “individual” papal dispensations, granted through the Eastern Congregation. Prior to this, it was thought that only the Ruthenian Byzantine Catholic Metropolia of Pittsburgh had to get such dispensations as they were required to insert a canon requiring papal dispensations for ordaining married men  in their 1999 Particular Law. An earlier 2003 statement from a representative of the Eastern Congregation, published in America Magazine, similarly reconfirmed the Ban but did not specifically mention the dispensations.

It is also not known what the criteria would be that might result in a negative reply to a dispensation request. Some have speculated that one reason for the dispensations is to discourage married men from transferring from the Latin Rite who might also eventually seek ordination.

As Archbishop Cyril Vasil explained, these dispensations are given by the Eastern Congregation “in consultation with the [Latin Rite’s] national bishops’ conference.” In some countries (such as Canada and the USA), the national bishops’ conferences apparently do not object. The publication Program of Priestly Formation, published by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, explains how this works in the USA:

An applicant for the priesthood must testify that he is not married or, if he is married, he has the approval of the Holy See. If an Eastern Catholic candidate is married, a certificate of marriage is required along with the written consent of his wife (CCEO, c. 769§1, 2°) and the approval of the Apostolic See…” (Program of Priestly Formation, 5th edition, 2006, paragraph 66)

However, the situation is different in other countries. For example, in Italy, the Italian Episcopal Conference has vetoed allowing married Eastern Catholic priests from serving in Romanian Catholic parishes there. The bottom line seems to be how the Latin Rite bishops’ conference in each country feels about the issue. It is believed that currently the only Western countries where Eastern Catholic Bishops are permitted to ordain married men to the priesthood with these dispensations from the Eastern Congregation are the USA, Canada and Australia.

This latest Catholic News Service report also noted that some Eastern Catholic bishops dispute the Ban:

Eastern Catholic bishops say the Second Vatican Council’s call to respect the traditions and disciplines of the Eastern churches, and the 1990 Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches affirmation of that call, in effect nullifies the ban, or at the very least makes the ban a “disputed question” and therefore not binding.

Cardinal Antonios Naguib has asked Pope Benedict XVI to remove the canonical ban forbidding Coptic Catholics from ordaining married priests in Western lands

However, Coptic Catholic Patriarch Cardinal Antonios Naguib acknowledged the canonical restriction in a 2011 interview:

“We are one in the faith, one in the highest authority, the Holy Father,” Cardinal Naguib explained. As with other Eastern Rite churches, the Coptic Catholic Church has a different historical, spiritual and patristic heritage than the Latin Rite that leads to some differences in church tradition and law, Cardinal Naguib explained, including married priests. But canon law only allows married priests to serve in Egypt, and the priests serving the diaspora around the world must be celibate, he said.

The Coptic Catholic Church has appealed to Rome to lift that rule….

This echoed a request listed in the Final List of Propositions sent to Pope Benedict XVI from the Synod of Catholic Bishops for the Middle East (dated 23 October 2010) and published by the Holy See Press Office:

Propositio 23
Married Priests

Clerical celibacy has always and everywhere been respected and valued in the Catholic Churches, in the East as in the West. Nonetheless, with a view to the pastoral service of our faithful, wherever they are to be found, and to respect the traditions of the Eastern Churches, it would be desirable to study the possibility of having married priests outside the patriarchal territory.

While the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches (the Eastern Catholic canon law) honors the Eastern tradition of a married clergy:

[T]he hallowed practice of married clerics in the primitive Church and in the tradition of the Eastern Churches throughout the ages is to be held in honor. Canon 373

Canon 758 §3 refers to “special norms” established by the “Apostolic See” (the Pope) for ordaining married men — a reference to the Ban:

The particular law of each Church sui iuris or special norms established by the Apostolic See are to be followed in admitting married men to sacred orders.

It is not known why the Coptic Catholic Church has not sought dispensations from Rome to ordain married men in the USA. This might be because they do not have their own hierarchy in the USA and their faithful are under the authority of the local Latin Rite Bishop.

Also this week, Italian news editor Sandro Magister wrote about tensions in the Catholic Church over married priests in an article entitled Married and Ordained: The Minor Leagues of the Catholic Clergy. In it, Magister noted comments made by Pope Benedict XVI at a general conference on November 9, 2011 about priestly celibacy. Commenting on Psalm 119, the Pope said:

Well, the Levites, mediators of the sacred and of the divine blessing, unlike the other Israelites could not own possessions, this external sign of blessing and source of subsistence. Totally dedicated to the Lord, they had to live on him alone, reliant on his provident love and on the generosity of their brethren without any other inheritance since God was their portion, God was the land that enabled them to live to the full….

Dear brothers and sisters, these verses are also of great importance for all of us. First of all for priests, who are called to live on the Lord and his word alone with no other means of security, with him as their one possession and as their only source of true life. In this light one understands the free choice of celibacy for the Kingdom of Heaven in order to rediscover it in its beauty and power.

Magister observes:

If celibate priests have a theological foundation for their free choice, recalled so insistently by the pope, a theological foundation of equal power is nowhere in sight for the married priesthood, although its full validity and dignity have been recognized by Vatican Council II and by the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches promulgated in 1990.

This is the unresolved contradiction….

But pope Ratzinger has not yet produced an analogous teaching that would also provide a theological foundation for the other form of priesthood present with equal dignity in the Church: that of those who, before being ordained, have been united with their wives in a marriage that is itself a sacramental sign of the marriage between Christ and the Church, of which the priesthood is also a figure.

Magister also mentions the move by some Catholics to make mandatory priestly celibacy an “apostolic doctrine” by citing a “new historical reconstruction”  by writers such as Christian Cochini and Alfons M. Stickler.

The impact of such a development as this on Catholic theology would negatively effect the Catholic-Orthodox dialogue. Fr. Laurent Cleenewerck, Orthodox author of the book His Broken Body, comments:

…If this position becomes dominant in Roman Catholic circles, the effect on Catholic-Orthodox reconciliation cannot be ignored.

Fr. Cleenewerck then quotes Eastern Orthodox Archbishop Vsevolod of Scopelos, of blessed memory, on the importance of this issue:

Very recently, there are disturbing signs of a new effort in Rome itself to claim that sacerdotal celibacy is “an apostolic tradition,” and to suggest that the married priests of the Eastern Churches are not fully canonical. This seems to have begun with the book of Christian Cochini, Origines apostoliques du célibat sacerdotal and to have continued with special reference to the Eastern Churches in a tendentious book of Roman Cholij. The latter book carries a ringing endorsement from Alfons Cardinal Stickler, Librarian and Archivist of the Holy Roman Church. From such one-sided works, the attempt to present sacerdotal celibacy as an apostolic tradition then began to appear in Vatican documents, such as Pope John Paul II’s Pastores Dabo Vobis of 25 March 1992 and the Directory on the Ministry and Life of Priests issued January 1993 by the Vatican Congregation of the Clergy, which actually asserts that “the Church, from apostolic times, has wished to conserve the gift of perpetual continence of the clergy and choose the candidates for Holy Orders from among the celibate faithful.” If this attempt succeeds – and may God not permit it – it would have the gravest consequence for the Catholic-Orthodox dialogue.

For further reading:

Can East & West Coexist With Married Priests?

Italian Catholic Episcopal Conference Vetoes Married Priests

Clerical Celibacy: A Matter of Ecclesiastical Discipline or Apostolic Doctrine?

A Critical Consideration of The Case for Clerical Celibacy

The Orthodox Churches and Priestly Celibacy from the Vatican website

The Contribution of the Eastern Catholic tradition to the issue of Clerical Celibacy in the wider Roman Catholic Church

Fr. Touze and Roman Miopia

Romance Blooms in a Catholic Seminary for Fr. Roman

St John Chrysostom Video

November 13, 2011

Because today is the feast of St John Chrysostom — a short video about his life and impact on the Church: