February 22nd, 2014

Popular Roman Catholic Media Attacked Married Clergy

Rob Stothard/Getty Images

Ukraine, you might know, is in the middle of a revolution. The people are protesting the government’s tyranny and corruption. The Ukrainian government is responding by torturing and killing the citizens in a scorched earth policy. Numerous images of fearless priests standing between the government soldiers and the citizens, holding nothing but the cross of Christ as they call for peace, have gone viral. These images capture the manly and fatherly call of the shepherd willing to lay down his life for his flock.

The majority of the Ukrainian Catholic priests are young and married as they come from a life-filled and fruitful church, built on the blood of the martyrs. Ours is a church that has always had both celibate and married men ordained to the priesthood, a tradition whose continuance the UGCC assured when they entered reunion with Rome.



Patriarch Sviatoslav, the head of the largest Eastern Catholic Church, gave clear directions to his priests on how they’re to conduct themselves amid this revolution. His Beatitude affirmed their presence on the Maidan and their call for peace, saying, “The calling of each priest, in all frightening circumstances – is not to abandon his flock and to be with them. ‘The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. ‘ (Jn 10:11). Setting aside all fear, a priest is called ‘to be a witness to Christ and His truth.’ ‘Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.” (Mt 24:35).”

In the mean time, Fr. Robert Barron’s popular Roman Catholic catechetical and evangelization ministry Word on Fire published a photo of one of these fearless Ukrainian priests as an accompaniment to the specious argument that a mandatory celibate priesthood is supposedly “non-negotiable” for Catholics.

As a reason given to defend this novel assertion, the blog explained: “To give a dire example, in the case of a catastrophe, I would want my priest to be at the front of the lines leading his flock to shelter. If the priest had a biological family of his own, he would first think of their safety before his flock as the natural instinct would drive his protector reaction towards sheltering his own.” They accompanied this assertion with the image of a Ukrainian priest who is most likely married as their model, on a day when married priests are literally standing between their flocks and death and many faithful lost their lives.

Word On Fire Blog Image

Image from Word on Fire blog

Not only did the blog writer appear not to know that the pictured priest was Eastern and probably married, he taught that the man’s marriage undermines and invalidates his priesthood. An outcry erupted from both East and West which led to the ministry apologizing for the use of that image, but after hundreds of messages, the requests for revision of the text remained unacknowledged and the blog post stood. The silence was interpreted by many to indicate the apparent approval of the ministry’s leader Fr. Barron for this attack on married clergy; an attack so poorly formed that it likewise undermined the sacraments of marriage and ordination, the call of vocation, and manhood, not to mention the obvious attack on the unity of the Church and the Body of Christ. That the Word on Fire ministry has a history of removing the East from it’s catechesis allowed their silence and continued support of the offensive and erroneous assertion done in their name to show how far we still have to go to leave behind the legacy of Roman Catholic Bishop John Ireland.

Fr. Roman Galadza and Family

The witness of the courageous priests in Ukraine, married and celibate, proves the blogger’s notion to be nothing more than a straw man. The Lord calls each man to his vocation–whether celibacy or marriage–and the church calls these men to ministry so transformational that they are given sacramental grace in their ordination to carry it out, as we so boldly witness in the images from the Maidan and in the loving and faithful presence of our own beloved priest and his family.

We stand in solidarity with all the married Catholic clergy and their families here in DFW, in Ukraine, and around the world. We thank the priests’ wives for sharing in their husbands’ ministries. We thank their children for being an image of the Lord’s fruitful love. We pray for the safety of all in Ukraine especially those so nobly working for peace. And we pray for unity here at home and throughout God’s Church, so that we may rejoice together in God’s plan of salvation.

Our prayer for unity was answered and we have cause for rejoicing. After this commentary was published, the Word on Fire blog post was also removed because of the sustained outcry of the faithful from across the universal church. Word on Fire explained:

Thank you for all of your feedback regarding the ignorance and error in our post titled ‘Why I Don’t Want Priests to Marry’. We regret the content, which contained some theological errors, and we also regret using a photo of a Ukrainian Catholic priest, for obvious reasons.

We’ve removed the post and the photo. The mistake was an oversight and a regrettable lack of attention to detail, and was not meant to insult any priest or any rite, most especially those who are standing in harm’s way to protect their flocks. Our most sincere apologies for any offense this photo caused. We certainly continue to pray for that priest and for all priests.

We thank all who publicly shared their support for our priests and their communities, both married and celibate. Please continue to join us as we pray for our courageous priests and their families who sacrifice their lives day in and day out for our salvation.

Update 2:
Word on Fire blog published a follow-up article about Ukraine: The Icon Corner of the World written by Andrew Summerson, a married seminarian for the Byzantine Catholic Eparchy of Parma, Ohio. Please express your appreciation to them!

I Corinthians 12:4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; 6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. 7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.

12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.

14 Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15 If the foot would say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear would say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many members, yet one body. 21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22 On the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and those members of the body that we think less honorable we clothe with greater honor, and our less respectable members are treated with greater respect; 24 whereas our more respectable members do not need this. But God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honor to the inferior member, 25 that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.