Voice from the Rooftop

Blog of Vincent Augustine D'Souza

Tag: roman catholic church

Rites and Churches

In Apostles’ Creed we say ““I believe in … the holy catholic Church…” In Nicene Creed we say “I believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.”

Roman Catholic Church has various rites – Latin, Ambrosian, Mozarabic, Alexadrian, Byzantine, Chaldean, Maronite, Melkite, Ruthenian, Syro-Malabar, Syro-Malankara, Ukrainian and so on. Since some years rites are referred by some people as churches. This is contrary to the creeds and creates confusion. There are Orthodox and Protestant Churches. There is Anglican Communion. There are free churches. When one says Ukrainian Church one is not sure whether it is Catholic or Orthodox. When one says Syrians Christians it is not clear whether he refers to Catholics or Jacobites.

Roman Catholic Church claims it is the true church and others separated from it. Others claim they are divided Christians, not separated Christians. For Roman Catholic Church it is not proper to speak of churches within itself except for church buildings. Referring to dioceses as particular churches should be avoided.

Mary Magdalene not a sinner

There are misconceptions about Mary Magdalene. Perhaps she is the most defamed person in the history of the world. There are people who say she was a great sinner by which they mean she was an adulteress or a prostitute. Many of them have heard that from others and repeat it.

It is wrong to say Mary Magdalene was a great sinner because Jesus cleansed her of seven demons. It means Jesus cured her of sickness. At that time people did not know of epilepsy. According to the Bible in one case Jesus cast out many demons from one person. Those demons entered pigs and ran into the sea and those pigs died. One pope, probably St. Leo I, identified seven demons with seven deadly sins, lust being the worst. After that Mary Magdalene was defamed.

Mary Magdalene is not the Mary of Bethany, who anointed Jesus’ feet and wiped them with her hair or the penitent woman whose sins Jesus pardoned for anointing him with oil worth 300 denarii mentioned in the Gospel of St. Luke. Mary Magdalene was from Magdala. St. Gregory I wrongly identified the three as one.

Mary Magdalene is not the woman caught in adultery and brought before Jesus as mentioned in the Gospel of St. John. This wrong identification led many to believe Mary Magdalene was an adulteress. We do not know what Jesus wrote at the time. Some say he wrote the sins of people who wanted to stone the woman. Some say Jesus did not condemn anyone and did not write the sins. Jesus had used harsh words against scribes and Pharisees and could have written their sins to save the woman.

She was one of the women who accompanied and aided Jesus in Galilee. She witnessed Jesus’ crucifixion and burial. She stood by the cross, near Mary, mother of Jesus, and the beloved disciple of Jesus who is said to be St. John. Mary Magdalene is the first person to whom Jesus appears after his resurrection. He instructed her to tell the Apostles that he was ascending to God. She is the Apostle of Apostles. According to the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Luke there were other women with Mary Magdalene when she saw Jesus.

Every saint may have a past and every sinner may have a future but it is not proper to say someone is a sinner based on wrong interpretation or wrong identification. Mary Magdalene is a saint and her feast day is 22 July.

Catholic Church and Clerical Celibacy

Bishop must be husband of one wife.

St. Paul said that in his first letter to Timothy, chapter 3 verse 2.

Roman Catholic Church has three Western Rites and 22 Eastern rites. Bishops, priests and deacons are clerics. Latin, Ambrosian and Mozarabic are Western Rites. Celibacy is obligatory for priests in Latin, Ambrosian and Mozarabic rites. Celibacy is not obligatory for priests in most of the Eastern rites. Celibacy is obligatory for priests in Syro-Malabar and Syro-Malankara rites which are Eastern rites. Celibacy is obligatory for bishops in all rites.

Latin rite is spread all over the world and in these years many scandals regarding priests have come to light. Some scandals have involved bishops. One bishop is said to have fathered children from three women. Later he became the president of Peru. In USA many priests were involved in sexual abuse of boys and some dioceses had to pay huge sums in damages. The revelations about Fr. Macial Maciel, founder of Legion of Christ, shocked many. One of his defenders had to apologise. However a priest being found on a beach with a woman in bikini does not mean he has committed any sin, even if he is a radio talk host and has followers in USA and Latin America. It may be unexpected but not adultery or fornication or sin against the order of nature.

Clerical celibacy is of ecclesiastical law. In the first three centuries celibacy is not obligatory for priests in Latin rite. Synod of Elvira in 306 decreed clerical celibacy. It was not enforced till the Council of Trent in the 16th century.

Catholic Church does not impose celibacy on anyone. Priests accept celibacy willingly. Most of them remain faithful. Some fail. The failings make news. In recent years the scandals have been too many. In USA about 24 million people have left the Cathoic Church over the years.

Should those who have already become priests and bishops be allowed to marry? Considering the number of scandals it is better to allow them to marry. The number of priests has decreased in many countries over the years. With clerical celibacy remaining it may become even less. Considering the number of scandals in the Cathoic Church it seems desirable to allow clerics to marry. Then they will have families and there is need to think about meeting the expeses of their families. Transfers will create problems.

Protestant churches do not have obligation of clerical celibacy. They have less scandals. However divorce rate for pastors is said to be higher than ordinary Protestants. Besides, some pastors and bishops have engaged in homosexuality. Making clerical celibacy optional will not mean there will not be any scandal.

Benedict XVI will have to decide about making clerical celibacy optional. So far he is not in favour of it. However rising number of scandals makes it necessary to think about it. If he thinks these scandals will go away and church will emerge stronger he is free to continue with obligatory clerical celibacy.

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