Monday, 5 November 2012

End of the Fantasy of "Lutheran-Rite Romanism"?

 Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth.  For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.
1 Timothy 4:1-4 (ESV Anglicised)

Over recent decades some catholic-minded Lutherans, especially the First Things & Lutheran Forum crowds, have openly speculated regarding the desirability and possibility of a sort of Lutheran-rite Romanism or Ordinariate, somewhat along the lines of recent offer made to Anglicans by the Pope. One of the sought after concessions, of course, would be married clergy. This might spell the end of that fantasy - according to a respected Roman canon lawyer, Rome absolutely requires "sexual continence" of married clergy in the Western church (Canon 277 excerpted below). Yes, you read that right, the  canon law of the Papacy requires that in the Western church even married priests and deacons abstain from sexual relations with their wives (in the Eastern Catholic Churches observance of this rule is a somewhat patchwork affair but the long-term trend has been towards celibacy; but since that is the Eastern church, where different rules apply, it does not immediately concern us here). This matter has apparently been the subject of much intra-Roman debate recently, particularly in light of the small but significant number of ex-Anglican married priests who have gone over to Rome, most recently in connection with the Anglican Ordinariate. Rome is expected to make a definitive ruling at some time in the future. Ex-Lutheran converts who have pledged their allegiance to the Papacy and aspire to the priesthood or diaconate will no doubt be hoping that ruling is in the distant, rather than the near future.  Lutheran pastors, meanwhile, will look with renewed appreciation upon the theological significance of the marriage of Martin and Katie.

Pic: 19th C. postcard portraying the prototypical Lutheran pastor's family

Code of Canon Law, Canon 277:
§1 Clerics are obliged to observe perfect and perpetual continence for the sake of the Kingdom of heaven, and are therefore bound to celibacy. Celibacy is a special gift of God by which sacred ministers can more easily remain close to Christ with an undivided heart, and can dedicate themselves more freely to the service of God and their neighbour.


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