PG NewsPG delivery
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Home Page
PG News: Nation and World, Region and State, Neighborhoods, Business, Sports, Health and Science, Magazine, Forum
Sports: Headlines, Steelers, Pirates, Penguins, Collegiate, Scholastic
Lifestyle: Columnists, Food, Homes, Restaurants, Gardening, Travel, SEEN, Consumer, Pets
Arts and Entertainment: Movies, TV, Music, Books, Crossword, Lottery
Photo Journal: Post-Gazette photos
AP Wire: News and sports from the Associated Press
Business: Business: Business and Technology News, Personal Business, Consumer, Interact, Stock Quotes, PG Benchmarks, PG on Wheels
Classifieds: Jobs, Real Estate, Automotive, Celebrations and other Post-Gazette Classifieds
Web Extras: Marketplace, Bridal, Headlines by Email, Postcards
Weather: AccuWeather Forecast, Conditions, National Weather, Almanac
Health & Science: Health, Science and Environment
Search: Search by keyword or date
PG Store: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette merchandise
PG Delivery: Home Delivery, Back Copies, Mail Subscriptions


Headlines by E-mail

Headlines Region & State Neighborhoods Business
Sports Health & Science Magazine Forum

Married men can become priests in U.S. Byzantine Catholic church

Saturday, October 02, 1999

By Ann Rodgers-Melnick, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

The Vatican has cautiously opened the door to the ordination of married men as Byzantine Catholic priests in the United States.

The change comes as the Metropolitan Byzantine Archdiocese of Pittsburgh prepares to celebrate its 75th anniversary tomorrow at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, Downtown. But the new law is not a full return to the church's practice of 75 years ago, when Rome's permission was not needed.

A set of newly approved canon laws for the archdiocese permits bishops to submit the names of married candidates to Rome for approval on a case-by-case basis.

This does not set a precedent for Latin-rite Catholics, which make up the majority of Catholics in the United States.

Married men have always been ordained in Eastern Catholic churches in Europe and the Middle East. But Rome banned the practice in America in 1929 after Latin-rite bishops complained that Slavic priests with wives and children were scandalizing the Irish faithful. That ban led many Eastern Catholics here to convert to Orthodoxy.

But as of today, when the new law takes effect, "it is possible to ordain a married deacon [to the priesthood], with permission from Rome. The door is not closed," said Metropolitan Judson Procyk of Pittsburgh, who has championed the traditional Eastern married priesthood. Eastern Catholic churches are under the authority of the pope, but follow the liturgy and many practices of Orthodoxy.

As in the Orthodox churches, married men may become priests but men who are already priests cannot marry, even if they become widowed. Bishops must be celibate. The Metropolitan Byzantine Archdiocese of Pittsburgh is the only Eastern church in the United States that answers directly to Rome rather than to a primate in Eastern Europe or the Middle East. With about 100 priests and 95 parishes, it extends south to Texas, but most of its 81,000 members are in Western Pennsylvania. It over sees three other dioceses, which cover the nation.

Last year, Procyk was set to announce that Rome had approved 50 new canons governing everything from seminary education to sacraments. One would have allowed Byzantine bishops in the United States to ordain married men without special permission.

But a conservative Catholic news organization misinterpreted the change as a revolt against Rome. The Vatican then placed all 50 laws on hold while talks continued between officials of the Vatican's Congregation for Oriental Churches and Byzantine canon lawyers from the United States. The Vatican approved the final text this year. Procyk said that the new law on ordination is not a compromise.

"It is a clarification of where the church is right now," he said. Procyk has no immediate plan to admit married men to SS. Cyril and Methodius Seminary on the North Side.

"I have no specific person in mind at this point, but it certainly is likely that, in the future, this will certainly happen," he said. In 1980, the Vatican gave permission for married former Episcopal priests to be ordained as Latin-rite priests. But the first ordination did not take place until 1982 because an administrative structure had to be set up. About 100 of those married men are now priests in the United States.

Pope John Paul II has called for Eastern Catholics to reclaim their own traditions and cast off Western practices they had adopted in order to blend in. As part of that renewal, several years ago Rome released an Eastern code of canon law that authorized each self-governing church to develop laws for its own territory. The new Byzantine laws are the work of a commission that Procyk established in 1995. Reaction so far is mixed and cautious.

The Rev. Thomas Reese, an expert on the Vatican's relationship with the U.S. bishops and editor of the Jesuit magazine America, believes the Vatican is moving to rectify a 70-year-old injustice. In 10 years, he said, Byzantine bishops may no longer have to seek Roman approval to ordain.

"Rome makes changes incrementally. This has to be seen as a first step," he said.

"The question is why the bishops' judgment isn't trusted when they want to ordain married men, while they are trusted to ordain unmarried men. This has nothing to do with logic. I think Rome just doesn't want to give any signals to the Latin rite that change is possible." Among Latin bishops there is curiosity and concern. "You wonder what it will do to their vocations. It will be interesting to see," said Bishop Anthony Bosco of the Diocese of Greensburg. "I think they may introduce this gradually. Put a toe in the water and see how it plays in Peoria."

Vatican officials would not have approved the law unless they planned to approve married candidates, Bosco said. After nearly 20 years of married former Episcopal priests and 30 years of married deacons, Latin Catholics should no longer be shocked by married clergy, he said. But Bosco wonders how the Byzantine bishops will respond to transfer requests from Latin-rite married men seeking ordination.

Byzantine bishops are already hesitant to accept candidates from the Latin church, said the Rev. John Petro, rector of SS. Cyril & Methodius


The mere desire to marry is "not a reason to be a viable candidate," he said. "As we do now, we would ask that they begin attending the liturgy somewhere, join a parish and become an active member of the parish."

Currently, 14 men are enrolled at the seminary. Petro said the students have raised more questions about another new law requiring each graduate to do a year of pastoral field work before ordination.

The Rev. Richard Lelonis, a canonical consultant for the Diocese of Pittsburgh who is a priest in both the Byzantine and Latin rites, doubts that married Byzantine priests will become much more common than married former Episcopalians have become in the Latin church. He doesn't expect a surge in Byzantine seminarians. "The call to the priesthood is bigger than the call to celibacy," he said.

bottom navigation bar Terms of Use  Privacy Policy