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Friday, January 13, 2012



Para. beginning "Philip Hughes..." You say "married men could not be married". What do you mean? I'm sure it is a typo but can't figure out what might be the right reading.

Carl E. Olson

Matthew: Thanks for the catch! That should have been "priests could not be married..." (in the West). And, of course, those priests who were and are married in the East have to be married prior to ordination.

Larry Coty

Well, you are right that she is a pseudo-scholar; but you have misspelled her name throughout your article. Odd.

Carl E. Olson

Thanks, Larry. Sloppy, careless, an offense again "t"'s. Yes, yes, and maybe. But not odd.

priest's wife

Carl- Thanks for this thoughtful post...we priest's wives are trying to be holy and not hussy-like! ;) It is sad that a monk of the 12th century is taken as the Church's view now. yes- some people feel strongly against allowing married men to be ordained- even in the Eastern churches, but they are not informed and are in the minority.

Tim Andries

Wow, such blatant disregard for scholarly research much less the truth. I don't feel so bad about not having a college education....UL Lafayette is in my home town.

Full Professor of Church History

This essay by Ms. Ritchey is extraordinary in its ignorance of modern historical scholarship on the history of celibacy and the ancient Christian understanding of the body and chastity. It seems to be based on 50-year-old mostly Protestant confessional pseudo-history. I am really amazed that the University of Chicago could have produced a PhD as ignorant as this. Perhaps it is because her dissertation was on plant metaphors in medieval spiritual writing. What happened to actual historical study in history programs? I am ashamed of my discipline for producing people who write this sort of thing. Well before Conchini it has been widely known that celibacy was the canonical norm for clerics in the Latin Church, ever since the Council of Orange (441) and before, the Latin Church expected its clergy to be celibate. That the Gregorian Reform "imposed" celibacy is simply false, they were simply reinstating the old canons in force. And that this was done to "protect" Church money is a laughable idea: priests could alienate to brothers, nephews, etc. And the cherry-picking quotes from Gregorians about priest's wives is the most dishonest and vicious kind of scholarship.

The problem with this article is that pseudo-scholarship is being used to attack the modern Church for welcoming ex-Episcopalians. That makes this even more dishonest and vile. After the brutalization of orthodox Christians in the contemporary Episcopal denomination, to try to destroy the marriages of those episcopal ministers seeking a place in the Catholic Church is not just vile, it is evil.

Charles E Flynn

Perhaps the New York Times put a lot of effort into finding an author that would serve its editorial purposes.

As for the "leading contender"status, the year is young.


"But in the midst of these debates, we should pause to ponder the environment that the priests’ wives might expect to encounter..."

Well, in our parish, she got some casseroles, and I believe there was a little cocktail hour to welcome them in the church basement.

More NYT drivel.


Notice how Ritchey does not even consider the possibility that there might have been practical grounds for imposing the discipline of clerical celibacy. Indeed, the thought doesn't even seem to have crossed her mind. Imagine that, a huge transition to clerical celibacy is effected and it doesn't cross her mind that it might have been for a reason other than generic sexual repression. So, instead of thinking about what she is writing, she simply parrots the propaganda of the sexual revolution, propaganda which states that the historical norm up until Kinsey was that sex is evil and dirty. This baseless narrative is then projected backward onto the medieval Church. The problem with modern media is that our "educated" classes really only know how to think in liberal cliches. And because of their ideological blindness and arrogance, they will never realize how profoundly narrow and limited their intellectual horizons really are.

Peter l

It would seem Ritchey wil need to go back to college again,well done guys.

These priest's and their wives would be welcomed with open arms in my parish also,welcome home.


Sam, Well said!


Herbert Bayer Swope, the inventor of the op-ed defined it thus,

"It occurred to me that nothing is more interesting than opinion when opinion is interesting, so I devised a method of cleaning off the page opposite the editorial, which became the most important in America … and thereon I decided to print opinions, ignoring facts."[3].

It should come as no surprise, therefore, that writers "with an axe to grind" should resort to the op-ed as their forum; there is no demand for substantiation.

What is ultimately sad and immanently regrettable is that those who attack the Church and its Christ unashamedly attack the God of both. That they do so without conscience is one thing; such is the product of our defiant, secular age. But, that they do so without even attempting to understand the message of our salvation and the human transformation to which it beckons is entirely reprehensible.

People mock what they do not understand. They don't understand because they do not seek. They do not seek lest they find, for in finding they may be required to reform.

lee faber

The Dyan Elliot reference was telling. I had to read her in a graduate history seminar and found her to be largely shaping facts to fit idealogy. One example. She talked about how bad the inquisition was for women (think witches), and linked this to official attitudes because the scholastic theologians used the "quaestio" format. The quaestio format was linked to the inquisition's "putting the question" and so we were off to the races on the evils of the scholastics. No mention was made of the fact that both the scholastic questio and inquisititorial features had their origins in roman legal practices.


Now you know why I don't read newspapers, that's what we have you for. Really though, is there bigotry more henious than the bigotry of the secular media, any bigotry more inane than that of leading defenders and spokes persons of the Dictatorship of Moral Relativism?


"psuedo-scholarship"? Isn't that being a bit generous? I'm all for charity, but even thats a stretch.


And, again, the article wasn't even about its alleged subject matter; the topic of married priests was clearly just a pretext so that Ritchie could launch into a screed about the evils of Catholic sexual morality. One gets the impression that, had the NYT had asked Ritchie to write an article about the kinds of bricks used in St. Patrick's Cathedral, she would have found an excuse to turn it into a running commentary on the evils of Church Patriarchy or "Heteronormativity" or some other hobby horse of the political left. The sheer predictability and monomania of NYT reporting would be hilarious if it weren't so mendacious and malign.

Michael Carper

Ritchey's right, in a loose, unintended sort of way. Priestly concubines don't get very good reception these days.

Sandra Miesel

Having Dyan Elliott as a thesis advisor proved to be a most unfortunate experience for me but in fairness, I must say that her first book, SPIRITUAL MARRIAGE, was excellent.

Going back to the centuries after Rome's fall in the West, when some priests were legitimately married, being a priest's wife wasn't such a happy situation, in that a married man could receive Holy Orders without his wife's knowledge or consent. This imposed lifelong continence on her, even if she were widowed. Meanwhile, she wasn't allowed to do much in the parish either. Those fiery Early Medieval denunciations of wicked clerical wives are at least partly condemnation of common failure to observe the marital continence rule.


WEll done. Now rewrite it for the NYT and ask (demand,stomp your feet in a tantrum if you have to) a counterpoint op-ed!


Great post, Carl, a few thoughts come to mind though.

I think there is historical and canon law justification for using the term “Roman Catholic Church.” In fact, there are many instances where that is probably the best term to use if one is thinking specifically of the Roman Catholic Church and not one of the 22 Eastern Catholic Churches that are in Communion with Rome such as the Ukrainian Catholic Church, for example. I think Ritchey meant Roman Catholic and that’s probably why she wrote it. And, yes, while 22 of the 23 Sui Juris Catholic Churches have a married clergy, in practice, probably less than 3% of the total Catholic clergy worldwide are married…probably less than 1% in the U.S. (counting both Roman Catholic priests (converts) and Eastern Catholic priests).

And, while I do not endorse the tone or the error-laced substance of the NY Times op-ed piece you referred to, I think we can all admit the fact, without passing any judgments, that the majority of American Roman Catholics are not comfortable with a married clergy. Lack of familiarity is one reason: there are still only a very small number of Roman Catholic priests who are married (I think they are all converts from the Anglican Church or Lutheranism). Another reason is that there are still some theologians who seem to view priestly celibacy as a theological point and not merely a matter of discipline. I know several Roman Catholics who, while they acknowledge that there can be married priests, view celibacy as the better, more moral, or superior life for a priest. I have also recently had a conversation with a Roman Catholic lay person who informed me that the only reason it is ok for there to be married Roman Catholic priests (converts) is because "the “Vatican” does not allow married Roman Catholic priests to have sex with their wives"! When they said "Vatican" I think they meant Church Law because various canon laws were cited to me to that effect, which I have not read myself. Whether there are any Church laws like this or not--the existence of such attitudes among lay Roman Catholics does give the impression of a lack of comfort and familiarity with a married clergy.

--just my $0.02--my impressions may be wrong.


Sadly, the erroneous info appears in the New York times, which well get a lot more readership than this blog. And also sadly, bending history to fit a political agenda is not an uncommon practice.


How would life be like for a married Roman Catholic priest's wife?

Probably nearly the same as for an Orthdox pries's wife.

Will Linden

Chesterton's "What Do They Think?" is also cogent.

Face it. If someone in the Catholic hierarchy (or a Republican) announced that two and two is four, there would be a chorus insisting that it was five.

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