The traditional Catholic web-log Eponymous Flower has a post up stating “Pope Francis Allows Uniate Churches Worldwide the Ordination of Married Men.” The piece is actually a (somewhat poor) translation of an Italian article. It’s tone is needlessly panicked, and I must confess I have some concern that the traditional Catholic community, without due reflection, may go into an uproar. That would be unfortunate, not only because it would demonstrate a lack of respect for the Eastern churches in communion with Rome, but also because this move is unlikely to change the status quo. While their numbers are not large, there have been married Eastern clergy in the West for some time now. There is no evidence whatsoever that their presence has adversely affected the Roman Catholic priesthood or undermined the longstanding Latin practice of clerical celibacy. Moreover, given their minority presence in the West, it is unlikely — and almost inconceivable — that this decision will lead to a wave of seminarians transferring from the Roman Church to, say, the Ukrainian Church. That process is far from easy, and I would hope the proper authorities would put their foot down if the sole purpose of a rite transfer is to receive ordination while being married.
Now, whether or not this new broad permission benefits the Eastern Catholic churches remains to be seen. I, for one, hope that it does. Too long the Eastern churches in the West have had to live a hyper-ghetto existence while being largely restrained from growing their flocks. If this new move by the Pope, which is consistent with the articles of the Union of Brest and every other unification accord ever struck with Eastern Christian communities, yields more Eastern clergy to minister to the Catholic faithful of all rites, then praise be to God. Traditional Catholics should rejoice in the strengthening and expansion of the Eastern Catholic churches, not use their differences from Latin praxis as a cause for chauvinism and scandal.