Tuesday, November 9, 2010

A Call for "Viri Probati"

With a h/t to my brother Deacon Greg over at the Bench, I found his posting about an interview with Archbishop George Bakhouni of Tyre, Lebanon to be very interesting.  Here's the full Catholic News Service interview.

Although the phrase isn't used in this particular interview, the question of ordaining married men to the priesthood in the Latin church is often referred to as the ordination of "viri probati" -- literally, "proven men."  It's a kind of shorthand for "married men."

One of the things I found of specific interest to this blog is contained in one of the comments to the CNS article itself, in which one of the respondents says that (married) permanent deacons would be likely candidates for ordination to the priesthood.  One can hear and read this suggestion in many places.  I would just observe that no one should PRESUME that a vocation to be a permanent deacon would also mean that the same person has a vocation to the priesthood.  They're two distinct, but related, vocations.  Still, it's an intriguing suggestion and one that will probably continue to be made.


  1. Bill:

    I first heard that very suggestion made when I was in formation between 75-78. Here's how that line of argument went at that time:

    --At some point in the future, there will be married men ordained to the priesthood in the Latin/Western rite.

    --The best "proving ground" as to whether any one specific marriage can thrive in that priestly environment is whether that marriage can thrive in a diaconal one.

    --All of us who were in those discussions (in those ancient of days), however, saw that there would be women ordained as "deaconesses" in the Latin/Western rite by 1990 and that married men would be ordained to the priesthood in the Latin/Western rite by 2000. So much for prophetic fore-site!

    In current parish settings where this question comes up (commonly in RCIA gatherings since often those in the audience have experiences with married clergy in their former churches), the tradition of the Byzantine/Eastern churches is often raised. I have to caution my audience that the model used by the Byzantine/Eastern churches presumes two features that will not be a part of our restoration -- if and when it comes.

    Those are: (1) Marriage of priestly seminarians has to take place while the men are still in the seminary but before they are ordained as deacons; and (2) Very often the new brides of these seminarians are themselves daughters of priestly marriages and their mothers have long mentored them in that strange life-style.

    For what it is worth!

    Deacon Norb in Ohio

  2. Dear Norb,

    Thanks for the comments.

    My own background and experience resonates with yours. I was in high school and college seminary from 1963-1971. Notice that during that time, Paul VI renewed the diaconate and, following Vatican II, opened it up to married men. The conversations in the seminary were quite confident that we would be able to marry as well. In fact, as you indicate, we used to joke that we had to get going soon, cuz we were going to have to get married BEFORE ordination.

    I cannot remember anyone, seminarian or faculty member, who didn't expect imminent change to the celibacy discinpline. It was already gone vis-a-vis the diaconate; presbyterate was next.