Bishop David Motiuk

Bishop David Motiuk

December 1, 2014

EDMONTON – Alberta's Ukrainian Catholic bishop is elated the Vatican has lifted the ban on the ordination of married men to the priesthood in Eastern Catholic churches outside their traditional territory.

But Bishop David Motiuk says the lifting won't have a major impact on the Ukrainian Catholic Church in Canada.

Ukrainian Catholic bishops in Canada have been ordaining married men to the priesthood since the early 1990s, Motiuk said. In fact, most priests in the Edmonton Eparchy who don't belong to a religious order are married.

"All of the Ukrainian Catholic bishops in Canada have for a good number of years ordained both married and celibate clergy. It's been common practice for us."


Nevertheless, the decree is good news for all the other Eastern Catholic churches worldwide, the Edmonton eparch said in a phone interview.

"Everyone is now on the same level ground, save for the caveat that they must still, outside their original territories, seek the opinion of the local Latin ordinary."

Motiuk said the lifting of the ban has been a matter of discussion among the Eastern Catholic churches and Rome for many years.

"Finally we have some direction and some resolution in this regard, which honours both the tradition of celibacy and married priesthood within the context of the Eastern Catholic churches."

Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, the Vatican's prefect of the Congregation for the Eastern Churches, signed the new decree June 14.

The Vatican decree explained that in response to the "protests" of the Latin-rite bishops in the United States, in 1890 the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples prohibited married Ruthenian priests from living in the United States.

In 1929-30, the Congregation for Eastern Churches extended the ban to all Eastern-rite priests in North America, South America and Australia.


A canon lawyer, Motiuk said where perhaps the new decree doesn't go far enough is that it still requires each of the Eastern Catholic bishops to seek the opinion of the local Roman Catholic bishop when they want to ordain a married man.

He would like other Eastern Catholic churches to further dialogue with the pope to remove that caveat.

Motiuk has ordained married men during his tenure but has never informed the local Catholic bishop because it wasn't a requirement.

In the interview he hinted he won't start doing that now in light of the new decree.


"My understanding is that this would not be required just as I would not expect His Grace or any of the Roman Catholic bishops to consult with any of the Eastern Catholic bishops should they choose to welcome into the Catholic Church a married Anglican priest."

Pope Francis' decree speaks to all eastern Catholic churches worldwide, but Motiuk said there are special norms for the Ukrainian Catholic Church in Canada and the United States.

"My research has produced that when the Eastern Code came out in 1990, St. John Paul II reordered this matter and recognized the legitimate and well-respected tradition of the Eastern Catholic churches to both celibate and married clergy."


Prior to that, Ukrainian Catholic bishops across Canada used to send married candidates for the priesthood to Ukraine for ordination.

"In the early 1990s we still were sending married candidates to Ukraine to be ordained. But once the code came into effect in 1991 and we began to research this more closely, then the Ukrainian Catholic bishops in Canada felt that it was within their jurisdiction to proceed with the ordination of married men to the priesthood."

Nevertheless, the Vatican decree is welcome news "even as it is," Motiuk said.