Almost every news report on the Church contains errors, but some journalistic misunderstandings are so risible they make one wonder if the journalism profession is populated primarily by disaffected Catholics. A recent story on a married German priest is a good example, especially given current obsessions about clerical celibacy.
Harm Klueting, 61, was recently ordained for the Diocese of Cologne after entering the Catholic Church. Klueting and his wife both functioned as Lutheran clerics before the move, and as the Associated Press story runs, they will be “allowed to remain married” through the transition. One would think so, since the Church views the dissolution of a valid marriage as impossible, except by the death of a spouse. So far, so good: The Church neither required Fr. Klueting to abandon his wife nor to throw her into a lake to meet the requirements of his ordination.
The report’s second detail is even stranger: Klueting will “remain married to his wife—who has already become a nun.” Aside from the fact the journalist seems to think a nun is simply the female version of a priest, Edeltraut Klueting is, in fact, a third-order Carmelite, living out her calling in academic and family life rather than within monastery walls. While there are a good number of married Catholic priests in the Latin Rite, there are no married nuns. And, we should add, while nuns take vows, diocesan priests do not, so the “vow of celibacy” later mentioned in the article is simply moot.
The next line in the AP story seems at first to be an ironic joke: “The Cologne archdiocese said in a statement that the couple would not have to take the traditional vow of celibacy as long as they remain married.” It’s rather like saying they will be allowed to live as long as they do not die. Celibacy is, after all, the state of being unmarried, while continence—perhaps what the journalist had in mind—pertains to the choice not to lead a conjugal life.
The article later speculates on matters conjugal: “Klueting and his family could not be reached for comment, and it was not clear whether they still lived together as a couple.”
Last in the list of details is a snapshot of Fr. Klueting’s ordination, pictures of which showed Klueting “with short gray hair and a beard, wearing a simple white priest vestment as he received his blessings from Meisner, who was wearing a festive yellow embroidered robe and a golden cardinal’s hat.” A visit to Wikipedia might have helped to clarify the terminology of vestments, and made clear that the “festive” robe and cardinal’s hat are not just for fun.