Monday, August 27, 2007

Roundtable 24: The Marriage of Priests

By the time of the Reformation in the 16th century, forced celibacy was the rule for all men who wanted to serve as priests [pastors] in the church, and in any position of ministry. Canon law requiring such was put into place in Germany some four hundred years previous to the Augsburg Confession. But much earlier, enforced celibacy was enacted. At a Roman council held by Pope Siricius in 386 an edict was passed forbidding priests and deacons to have conjugal intercourse with their wives (Jaffe-Löwenfeld, Regesta, I, 41), and the pope took steps to have the decree enforced in Spain and in other parts of Christendom (Migne, P.L., LVI, 558 and 728). Underlying the issue of forced priestly celibacy, as with the other abuses addressed at the end of the Augsburg Confession, is the question of the Church's authority to demand or forbid neither demanded, nor forbidden, by our Lord or His chosen Apostles in Sacred Scripture. Lutheranism maintains that there is no such authority in the Church to forbid what is free to all: marriage. The Scriptures clearly teach that St. Peter had a wife, the "first pope," as it is claimed by Rome, was himself a married man! His mother-in-law is referred to in Matthew 8:14 and Luke 4:38. Simon was thus married, and, according to Clement of Alexandria (Stromata, III, vi, ed. Dindorf, II, 276), had children. The same writer relates the tradition that Peter's wife suffered martyrdom (ibid., VII, xi ed. cit., III, 306). This example should have been enough to prove that forbidding priests and other clergy to marry is outside the faith. That there are men who are given the gift of celibacy is true (see Matthew 11:11 and 1 Corinthians 7:7), but that celibacy is a requirement of those who are given the churchly office is false. St. Paul assumes that there will be married me in the churchly offices of ministry when he comments on a man's marital status and his family situation in the Pastorals (see Titus 1:6-9 and 1 Tim. 3:1-7). The Augsburg Confession here rightly asserts that marriage is a gift from God to be received with thanksgiving by laypeople and clergy alike, and to teach otherwise is a teaching of the Evil One. When considering the problems among Roman Catholic clergy and child abuse one need ponder long and hard the extent to which insisting on celibacy among the clergy has not provided a supposed "haven" for homosexuals and others dealing with sexual problems, thinking that the "safety" of enforced celibacy will help them resist their particular sexual temptations. One can hear in the words of the AC the direct, personal experiences of those who were forced to live celibate lives, like Luther and Bugenhagen and others of the Lutherans who were at one time Roman clerics or monks. "For it is clear, as many have confessed, that no good, honest, chaste life, no Christian, sincere, upright conduct has resultd from the attempt to lead a single life. Instead, a horrible, fearful unrest and torment of conscience has been felt by many until the end." (AC XXIII.6; Concordia, p. 46).

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Roundtable 23: Various Abuses Corrected -- Communion under Both Kinds

The Augsburg Confession concludes its presentation on various doctrinal points and moves into a presentation on the "various abuses" that have been "corrected" by the Lutherans. Obviously, these "abuses," as the Lutherans refer to them, struck a very raw nerve among Roman Catholic theologians and princes. The topics dealt with in this section of the Augsburg Confession are, in the following order: both kinds in the Sacrament, the marriage of priests, the Mass, Confession, the distinction of meats, monastic vows and church authority.

The section on the correction of abuses begins with this prefatory explanation:

1] Inasmuch, then, as our churches dissent in no article of the faith from the Church Catholic, but only omit some abuses which are new, and which have been erroneously accepted by the corruption of the times, contrary to the intent of the Canons, we pray that Your Imperial Majesty would graciously hear both what has been changed, and what were the reasons why the people were not compelled to observe those abuses against their conscience. 2] Nor should Your Imperial Majesty believe those who, in order to excite the hatred of men against our part, disseminate strange slanders among the people. 3] Having thus excited the minds of good men, they have first given occasion to this controversy, and now endeavor, by the same arts, to increase the discord. 4] For Your Imperial Majesty will undoubtedly find that the form of doctrine and of ceremonies with us is not so intolerable as these ungodly and malicious men represent. 5] Besides, the truth cannot be gathered from common rumors or the revilings of enemies. 6] But it can readily be judged that nothing would serve better to maintain the dignity of ceremonies, and to nourish reverence and pious devotion among the people than if the ceremonies were observed rightly in the churches.

One could say that the "abuses corrected" are in fact the "flash points" of the Reformation, where the implications of the Gospel recovery that took place in the 16th century were most noticeable and dramatically apparent: laity receiving both the bread and wine in the Lord's Supper, priests being married, no more mandatory or forced confession, monasticism abolished, forced fasts ended, etc.

Here however Lutheranism also reveals itself as a reformation, not a revolution, for unlike the fanatics, Anabaptists and the emerging Reformed movements, Lutheranism does not do away with ceremonies and practices, but corrects abuses associated with them, and observes them rightly. Hence, priests are not required to be celibate, but may marry, or remain unmarried. Fasting is not abolished, but not required by way of meriting grace. The historic form of the communion liturgy, the Mass, as it came to be called, is not ended, but reformed and the Gospel restored to its heart and center, and so forth.

And so we begin with the correction of the error of Rome in withholding from the laity the Lord's blood, under the wine. How did this error develop? When did it develop? It was, relatively speaking, a recent innovation by the 16th century. Up until the twelfth century, in both Eastern and Western Churches, the cup was given to the laity. The Council of Lambeth in 1281 forbid the laity from receiving the cup. When this practice became universal is hard to say, but by the time of the Reformation the laity did not receive the consecrated wine. It was particularly at the Council of Constance in 1416 that communion under both kinds was abolished, John Hus, was burned at the stake for, among other things, advocating communion under both kinds. You can read a good overview of the Roman perspective on this issue at the New Advent site. In an astounding coincedence of history, Martin Luther took his monastic vows at the Augustinian Cloister in Erfurt, Germany, lying prostate on the tomb of the Catholic Cardinal who had served as Huss' chief judge at the Council of Constance.

There developed in Romanism anemically foolish argument that since the blood of Christ is surely also given under the consecrated bread, with His body, that receiving the bread is "enough" for the laity. This theory, known as concomitance, is a silly philosophical excuse for violating the clear Word of Christ and His command: take and drink, all of you. Reasons for withholding the cup from the laity developed ex post facto and even today when read strike the objective reader as wholly absurd, lacking in any meaningful Biblical foundation. Vatican II in the 1960s reversed the Roman practice of refusing the cup to the laity, and while still communion under one kind is permitted and practiced, communion under both kinds is now commonplace in many Roman parishes.

But at the time of the Reformation, the Lutherans insistence on offering the Lord's Supper, whole and inviolate, to the laity: both the consecrated bread and the consecrated wine, was regarded as an act of open rebellion against Roman rule of the Church.