Married deacons/priests and Marital Relations

I’ve updated my previous post: May married deacons have marital relations?. Dr. Peters and some other commentators are continuing to argue that married deacons and married priests are required by Canon Law to refrain from all marital relations. There are several strong arguments to the contrary, some based on Canon Law, and others based on Sacramental theology.

What is interesting to note is that the Pontifical Council of Legislative Texts already settled the matter in early 2012. See this letter from the USCCB to all Bishops in the U.S. [PDF] And yet several persons continue to argue in favor of perpetual and perfect continence for all married clerics. But if the PCLT had decided in their favor, would they not argue that the matter was settled?

Moreover, in the Eastern Rite of the Catholic Church, their Canon Law [Codex Canonum Ecclesiarum Orientalium] does not require perpetual and perfect continence of married clerics.

Can. 374 – Clerici caelibes et coniugati castitatis decore elucere debent; iuris particularis est statuere opportuna media ad hunc finem assequendum adhibenda.

Can. 375 – In vita familiari ducenda atque filiis educandis clerici coniugati ceteris christifidelibus praeclarum exemplum praebeant.

Canon 374 says that both married clerics and celibate clerics must be chaste. Chastity is sexual purity according to one’s state of life. So for a celibate cleric (or any unmarried person), chastity is refraining from all sexual acts. But for a married person, chastity is not continence (refraining from sexual relations), but rather limiting sexual relations to natural marital relations open to life.

Canon 375 refers to married clerics and the raising of their children. So Canon Law implies that married clerics will procreate.

Now you might propose a situation whereby a married man with children next becomes a priest, and so he already has children to raise. But in the East, many seminarians are young and recently married; they do not yet have any children. So the implications of these two Canons, read together, is clear. Married clerics may have natural marital relations open to life with their spouses.

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One Response to Married deacons/priests and Marital Relations

  1. Bob says:

    Summed up quite nicely in your final analysis there.

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