Christ among the Doctors of the Law



Wednesday, August 23, 2006

The rules aren't changing, they're being applied.

Although secular news reports are, as usual, muddled, it appears that a priest in Jacksonville FL (Diocese of St. Augustine) has been excommunicated for something related to agitating for married clergy. What caught my eye in the story, though, was the priest's line "...I love the woman that I am going [to] marry so much that I'm willing to give up everything for her." My emphasis.

Just so we're all clear, a man upon ordination to the diaconate (which comes before priesthood, of course) incurs the "impediment of holy orders" (1983 CIC 1087) meaning that this priest cannot marry his intended in the eyes of the Church; not ought not, but cannot. Moreover, if he does attempt marriage, even a civil marriage, he will be automatically suspended from ecclesiastical office (1983 CIC 1333, 1394) and sets himself up for additional penalties, up to and including dismissal from the clerical state. All of this would need to be addressed separately from his excommunication, which was apparently incurred for other activities.

Maybe it's just me, but I sense today a rather different mood among American bishops facing outlandish behavior by their clergy; problem-priest cases seem much less likely now to drift along year after year in unresolved, canonically ambiguous states. Ecclesiastical justice is never swift, of course, but at last its wheels seem to be turning again.