The idea of married clergy is nothing new to many of the worlds Catholics. In fact, it has been the norm for our churches for hundreds of years and only became a problem in the early 1900s and only here in America. These problems once again are surfacing and being fueled by high ranking Vatican officials. This unfortunately is giving rise to the Roman superiority that is experienced by many in the east.
In recent comments made by Cardinal Robert Sarah in regard to the upcoming Amazon Synod it was made clear that Cardinal Sarah does not respect the traditions of the East in regard to clerical celibacy and shows that he would once again like to see the restriction placed on married men prohibiting them from entering the priesthood. Cardinal Sarah’s remarks are inflammatory and push a divide between the Latin and Oriental church, they result in an attitude that the Oriental church and her clergy are somehow inferior to those in the Latin church and ignore the years of progress made in the restoration of traditions of the east.
In his book Le soir approche et deja le jour baisse (The Day is Now Far Spent), Cardinal Sarah argues that the answer to the priest shortage in the amazon is not married clergy, he says that, “ I note with dismay that some people would like to create a new priesthood whittled down to a human scale.” (Sarah 2019) Cardinal Sarah makes the distinction between the two vocations of a husband and of a priest, leaving no room for a man to be called both to married life and to the priesthood. Cardinal Sarah goes further to say that allowing for married men to become priests would be a “humiliation” noting that God is able to do anything, including provide priests for the priest shortage in the Amazon. Be that as it may, his comments regarding married clergy, though at first seem like they are directed solely to the Roman church, further comments are undeniably about the Byzantine church, and could have an adverse effect on the Byzantine church, one that could set back the progress made over the past four years in the United States, or worse, cause another schism.
The Cardinal goes a step further to prove his point that the answer to the priest shortage is not married clergy, going so far as using the protestant church as an example of this not working and driving his point home that it is not the answer for the catholic church because it does not work in the Byzantine church:
I also want to emphasize that the ordination of married men is anything but a solution to the lack of vocations. Protestants, who accept married pastors, also suffer from a shortage of men who give themselves to God. Moreover, I am convinced that if in some oriental churches the presence of ordained married men is endured by the faithful, it is because it is supplemented by the massive presence of monks. The people of God intuitively know that they need men who give themselves radically. (Sarah 2019)
Not only are the Cardinals comments offensive, to assume a married man cannot give himself radically to the church and to his parish, the comments are, in part, false. It is important though to not get mixed up in the game of insults, but rather stick to the facts as they are enough to show that you do not need to disrespect the traditions of the Eastern church, in order to continue the tradition of celibate clergy in the Latin church.