Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of March 26, 2007
Ukrainians fought to regain right to ordain married men
Church's right to married clergy acknowledged in 16th century
By WCR Staff
"It would seem that the Ukrainian hierarchy in Canada could, in good conscience, ordain married priests."
- Bishop David Motiuk
In 1913, the Vatican also banned the ordination of married men in Canada.
One married priest, Father Alexis Toth, refused to return to Europe. The archbishop of Minneapolis suspended him and he joined the Russian Orthodox Church. Recently, that Church declared Toth a saint.
An immigrant to Canada, Father Demetrius Seneta, had been baptized a Ukrainian Catholic but was ordained a Ukrainian Orthodox priest.
In 1930, he asked to return to the Ukrainian Catholic Church, even offering to send his wife and children back to Ukraine. Bishop Nykyta Budka of Winnipeg supported his application, but the Vatican said "no."
Nevertheless, Budka, who was beatified in 2002, ordained several married priests for the United States after the U.S. bishop, Soter Ortynsky, died in 1916.
A 1930 Vatican document governing the Ukrainian Church in Canada excluded the possibility of ordaining married men. The document had to be renewed every 10 years and it was in 1941, but not again.
Meanwhile, a 1957 Vatican document recognized the legitimacy of married clergy in the Eastern churches. The following year, the Vatican allowed the Ukrainian Church in Canada and the U.S. to ordain married former seminarians of the Lviv Archeparchy who had been studying for the priesthood when the Second World War started.
Nevertheless, the Vatican continued to insist that ordination of married men in Canada was forbidden.
By 1974, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops was preparing to withdraw any objections the Latin rite Church might have to married Ukrainian clergy when the Vatican sent an unsigned note to the CCCB saying the issue could not be considered by a bishops' conference.
Canada's Ukrainian bishops petitioned Rome in 1984 to allow them to ordain married men.
By this point, Ukrainian priests, some of them married, who were to serve in Canada were typically ordained in Ukraine. In 1994, Bishop Basil Filevich of Saskatoon ordained a married deacon to the priesthood. Other ordinations followed.
All this created a stir with a Vatican official sending a note stating that the prohibition on ordaining married men remained in effect.
Motiuk concludes his discussion by stating "it could be argued" that there is no need for the bishops to seek permission from Rome as the 1930 document expired in 1951 and has not been renewed.
"It would seem that the Ukrainian hierarchy in Canada could, in good conscience, ordain married priests, which, in turn, would help alleviate the present shortage of Ukrainian clergy in Canada," the bishop wrote.
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