ST. LOUIS (KSDK) – Pope Francis has given permission for a St. Louis deacon, who is married, to be ordained into the priesthood.
Deacon Wissam Akiki will be ordained this week at St. Raymond's Maronite Cathedral. He will be the first married man to be ordained into priesthood under the U.S. Maronite Catholic Church, according to Eparchy of our Lady of Lebanon Deacon Louis Peters [more].The first question to consider here is an obvious one: What is the Maronite Catholic Church?
The Catholic Church is comprised, if you will, of two rites, the Latin Rite and the Eastern Rite, both of which have valid Sacraments and acknowledge the authority of the Bishop of Rome, the Pope. Both rites, the Latin and the Eastern, are said to be sui iuris, that is, they are autonomous and have their own laws and disciplines while adhering to the faith of the Apostles.
The Latin Rite - which is also known as the Western Rite or the Roman Rite (which is why we are called Roman Catholics) - is governed by the Code of Canon Law. In the Latin rite, a married man may be ordained a deacon but not a priest (except, in rare circumstances and by the approval of the Supreme Pontiff, in the case of a man who was baptized outside of the Catholic Church [both Latin and Eastern rites], was married outside of the Church, was a minister in Protestant denomination, and has since been received into the full communion of the Catholic Church and requests the Sacrament of Holy Orders, such as Father Dwight Longenecker). If a deacon's wife should die, he may not marry again (except in rare circumstances, for the good of young children, and with the permission of the Supreme Pontiff).
Note, here, that the issue does not involve having "married clergy," but having married men who are then ordained clerics. There is a difference. Even in the early years of Christianity when married men were ordained as priests, once ordained a priest he could not enter into marriage.
The Eastern Church is comprised of 21 autonomous Churches who follow 5 different liturgical rites (ceremonies, if you will):
- the Alexandrian rite, which includes the Coptic and Ethiopian Churches;
- the Antiochene rite, which includes the Malankar, Maronite, and Syrian Churches;
- the Byzantine rite, which includes the Albanian, Byelorussian, Bulgarian, Greek, Italo-Albanian, Yugoslavian, Melkite, Romanian, Russian, Ruthenian, Slovakian, Ukranian, and Hungarian Churches;
- the Chaldean rite, which includes the Chaldean and Malabar Churches; and,
- the Armenian rite, which includes the Armenian Church.
Both the Latin and Eastern Churches are fully Catholic. As such, the claim of the USA Today that the ordination of Deacon Akiki to the priesthood of Jesus Christ is "a move that could open the doors for more wedded priests in some Catholic churches across the USA" is a bit misleading.
Will this ordination open the doors for married men to be ordained in the Latin rite? No.
Still, in 1929, with the issuance of Cum Data Fuerit, the Holy See decreed that priests of the Eastern rites in North and South America - but not in other parts of the world - should be celibate. Might this ordination, then, open the doors for more married men to be ordained in the Eastern rites in the U.S.? Perhaps.