Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Fr Touze and Roman Miopia

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.


Daniel Pane said...

The Professor teaches in a pontifical university run by the Opus Dei. Does it mean that Opus Dei had some Latinization tendency over the Eastern Churches? I'm not aware with their activities among the Easterners. As a Latin, I admire them so much, but things like this make me sad enough.

Alan Phipps said...

He makes other Latins sad as well. As Eric Sammons points out in this blog post, Fr. Touze ignores several important aspects of the Church's teaching and appreciation of the practices and theology of the East:

Vetus Romanus said...

Certainly the thoughts of the one do not reflect the thoughts of the whole.

This article touches upon another point I've been wondering about for some time. I'd like to hear other people's opinions.

The heterodox element in the Latin West is calling for a married clergy AFTER their ordination which as far as I understand has never been the tradition East or West.

In response, those like Fr. Touze try to elevate clerical celibacy to a dogma and argue from another extreme.

To me, its seems BOTH camps are missing the boat perhaps originating in a distorted view of the priesthood.

Tom said...

Have you read Stefan Heid's work (Celibacy in the Early Church) on this? You can get it at He would take Touze's position or rather perhaps Touze is following Heid. It is well worth a look.

The Byzantine Rambler said...

The only problem with Heid's work and Fr Touze's following it is that it is contradicted by history. Heid's work is selective in its choice of sources, suspect in the turns of translation, and prejudicial in its interpretation of the evidence.

The history of the imposition of clerical celebacy (beyond the Episcopacy) is a Western phenomenon cotemporaneous with the slow development of feudalism. I would argue that the West lost much in this imposition, not only in the reduction in the selection of candidates for Holy Orders in general, but also through the "widening of the pool" of candidates for the Episcopacy to include members of the regular parochial clergy, the selection traditionally being from monastic settings having always provided a poolof candidates of a keener spiritual insight and pastoral tenderness generally absent in more worldly candidates from the parish or university.

Vetus Romanus said...

"The history of the imposition of clerical celebacy (beyond the Episcopacy) is a Western phenomenon cotemporaneous with the slow development of feudalism."

Well, admittedly the imposition seems to vary at different times and different places in the East as well. Roman Cholij's pretty objective study seems to point this out well. It can be found at:

"I would argue that the West lost much in this imposition, not only in the reduction in the selection of candidates for Holy Orders in general..." In some cases I wouldn't doubt it. However, then there are those historical examples like Spain who in the 16th century had over 1/3 of its population in the priesthood or religious life.

But all of this somewhat begs the question. Isn't the question, whether historical or not, is whether it is PROPER to universally impose celibacy on the priesthood? As I am inclined to answer, "NO, its is NOT proper", my "leanings" toward the East steadily grow.

The Byzantine Rambler said...

Obviously, I humbly agree with you that it is quite improper (and to my mind, scandalous) to even consider a univeral imposition of celibacy on selection for the clergy. It is such high handed attitudes as that espoused by Fr Touze that alienates not only the Orthodox Churches but also serious members of the Eastern Catholic Churches. It gives creedence to the charge of Roman domination.

Anonymous said...

For a critical view of those studies which attempt to make clerical celibacy an Apostolic Tradition, see this article by Anthony Dragani, a Byzantine Catholic:

He notes that Cholij no longer supports his earlier views, even though his work is still up on the Vatican website.