In a New York Times Op-Ed , history professor Sara Ritchey makes much of the fact that married Anglican clergy will become Catholic priests under the new Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter.
Ritchey provides some useful historical background that outlines the early medieval shift to an all-celibate clergy. But I was struck by her naive ignorance of the recent history of the Catholic Church. The existence of Priests’ wives should, she tells us, provide the occasion on which “a real conversation about the continuation of priestly celibacy might begin.”
Might begin? In the first place, the new Ordinariate doesn’t inaugurate a new era of married priests. The Catholic Church has in fact been ordaining married Anglican and other Protestant ministers for more than a decade now. But more importantly, the “conversation” about priestly celibacy was rather fully engaged in more than three decades ago. Perhaps in the splendid isolation of some academic precincts it still goes on, though only in a one-side way of the progressives talking to themselves. Meanwhile, the rest of the Church regards the conversation as having been in some respects useful, in some respects frivolous, but in most respects over.