The Move Toward Restoration of Married Clergy
The move towards restoration of the Byzantine churches began to take place during the Second Vatican Council, in particular with the publication of Orientalium Ecclesiarum by His Holiness Pope Paul VI. In it, the Pope says that they Byzantine Church and her people are equal to the Roman church, a concept that had been lost over the past thirty plus years. In speaking of the Eastern Church, Pope Paul VI says that, “They are consequently of equal dignity, so that none of them is superior to the others as regards rite and they enjoy the same rights and are under the same obligations…. under the guidance of the Roman Pontiff” (Pope Paul VI 1964).
The following year, the Holy Father issued another decree from the Second Vatican Council, Presbyterorim Ordinis: a decree dealing with the ministry and life of priests. In it, Pope Paul VI lays the groundwork for the complete restoration of married clergy in the United States, and though it would be many more years before the Byzantine church was finally able to restore this long held practice, it was a step in the right direction to mend the hurt that had taken place many years before with Cum Data Fuerit:
Indeed, it is not demanded by the very nature of the priesthood, as is apparent from the practice of the early Church and from the traditions of the Eastern Churches. where, besides those who with all the bishops, by a gift of grace, choose to observe celibacy, there are also married priests of highest merit. This holy synod, while it commends ecclesiastical celibacy, in no way intends to alter that different discipline which legitimately flourishes in the Eastern Churches. It permanently exhorts all those who have received the priesthood and marriage to persevere in their holy vocation so that they may fully and generously continue to expend themselves for the sake of the flock commended to them.
Finally, the catalyst for the full restoration of married clergy in the Byzantine Church took place with the issuance of Orientale Lumen, by Pope Saint John Paul II, who held a special place in his heart for the people of the Byzantine Church and who cared deeply about their sacred traditions. In Orientale Lumen, Pope Saint John Paul II speaks of how, “The light of the East has illumined the universal church…” and, “Since, in fact, we believe that the venerable and ancient tradition of the Eastern Churches is an integral part of the heritage of Christ’s Church, the first need for Catholics is to be familiar with that tradition, so as to be nourished by it and to encourage the process of unity in the best way possible for each.” (Pope Saint John Paul II 1995).
It was only a few short years after the issuance of Orientale Lumen that the Archeparchy of Pittsburgh would announce that a taskforce of canon lawyers had been working on fifty-nine statues for the Byzantine Church. In the 16 August, 1998, issue of Horizons, the newspaper of the Eparchy of Parma, the headline read: Married priesthood restored to U.S. Byzantine Church. The article said that, after years of study and discussion by the metropolia’s Council of Hierarchs, assisted by Fr. Richard J. Whetstone JCOL, from the Archeparchy of Pittsburgh, Fr. Robert Hospodar, JCOL of the Eparchy of Passaic, Fr. Phillip Acquaro, JCOL of the Eparchy of Van Nuys, and Fr. Nicholas Rachfor, JCOL of the Eparchy of Parma, a restored married priesthood was in fact part of the fifty-nine statutes. The commission was chaired by Bishop Andrew Pataki of the Eparchy of Passaic, and under the direction of the Metropolitan Archbishop Judson Procyk, determined that the statutes would take effect on September 1, 1998.