Saturday, January 22, 2011

What is the impact of removing married people from church leadership and leadership selection processes?

My last blog posting reflected upon the genesis of the 1054 A.D. church schism where Roman and Eastern Orthodox Catholic leaders divorced ecclesiastically.  For almost 1,000 years power and stubbornness have prevented reconciliation.  I asked if this ecclesial disunity offered laity a good example for humbly setting aside entrenched positions to maintain marital unity. 

Tying the East/West Schism to marriage might seem strange.  However, Roman church leaders’ views on church power and marriage coincidentally experienced a major shift around the same time as the East/West Schism. 

Until 1059 A.D. the laity participated in selecting the pope.  In 1059, just 5 years after the schism, the Roman Catholic Church’s College of Cardinals rather than the faithful began electing popes.  When the Cardinals first assumed this power, the laity still had to ratify the Cardinals’ choice.  However, by 1139, the Cardinals restricted papal elections to just their college, completely marginalizing laity from the process.

Not only did Roman Catholic Church leaders marginalize laity from the pope selection process; in the same timeframe clergy celibacy became a requirement.  Therefore beginning around the time of the East/West Schism, the pope selection process no longer included lay or married people’s perspectives.  Thus, coincidental with purging its ranks of people who lived in marital unity, church leaders skills for forging spiritual unity seemed to plummet. 

What is the impact of removing married people from church leadership and leadership selection processes?

Today, Roman Catholic Church leaders believe themselves “married” to the church yet they have no experience to know what it means to be married.  Successful marriage requires mutual deference to the other party.  However, in their “marriage”, church leaders insist all humble deferring be done by laity.  Such a power imbalance would be considered disastrously unhealthy in a real marriage, even perhaps abusive. 

Again, I must ask, do church leaders and their governing model set a good example for marital unity?

As an aside, here are a few fun facts to educate those unaware of the Catholic Church’s rich history of married clergy.

Many of the earliest popes and apostles were believed to be married.  Scripture indicates that they did not put their wives aside but traveled with them as is evidenced in 1 Cor 9:5.  Furthermore, there is historical evidence that the following popes were married and fathers, or children of priests themselves. 
  • St. Peter
  • Anastasius I (399 A.D.) was also father of Pope Innocent I
  • Felix III (483 A.D.) was also the son of a priest
  • Homisdas (514 A.D.) was also father of St. Silverius (also a pope)
  • St. Silverius (536 A.D.)
  • Adrian (or Hadrian) II (867 A.D.)
  • John XVII (1003 A.D.)
  • Clement IV
  • Sergius II (904 A.D.) is believed to have fathered Pope John XI
  • Sixtus I (116 A.D.) was son of a priest
  • Damasus I (366 A.D.) was son of a priest
  • Innocent I (401 A.D.) was the son of a pope
  • Boniface I (418 A.D.) was son of a priest
  • St. Silverius (536 A.D.) was the son of a pope
Amended on 1/30/2011
Yesterday a very noted Catholic theologian advised me that I ended my list too early and thus omitted Pope Alexander VI (1492).  Though he was not married, he fathered four children with his mistress, Vanozza Catanei, including "Caesare, who was the darling of Machiavelli’s The Prince" and "Alex’s thrice-wed daughter Lucretia, a femme fatale par excellence!"


    1. What is the source for the family relationships of the popes you mention?


    2. Most any history book of the popes has this information... I'm not at home right now so can't quote ISBNs but I have an Oxford History of the Popes or something similarly named. Also McBrien wrote a book on the history of popes.

    3. Thank Ewe. I guess I have to invest in some less hagiographic history books...

    4. "The Oxford Dictionary of Popes" by J.N.D. Kelly
      "Lives of the Popes" by Richard McBrien
      Also books like "The Knight the Lady and the Priest" by Georges Duby give background on marriage.