The Universal Church, Eastern and Western, discerns a particularly close linkage between celibacy and sacerdotium. That is why Bishops, in whom resides the plenitudo Sacerdotii, are everywhere celibate.
But the same does not apply with as much force to presbyters. If in the earliest centuries presbyters were required to be celibate, then we must remember that the Church develops her practice and her doctrine and that, therefore, the existence of a largely married presbyterate in the Oriental sui iuris Churches must be deemed to have developed non sine nutu Sancti Spiritus.
And the subject I am thinking about is the ordination of married men. It most certainly is not the idea of allowing priests to marry. Here, again, the consensus of East and West and of the millennia would be strongly against it. An 'amnesty' for those who "left the priesthood to get married" ought never to be on the cards. Them, least of all!
The practice, which began under Pius XII, of admitting convert Lutheran and Anglican married clergy to the presbyterate, is, and always has been, a special case.
All those points are not what I wish at this moment to discuss (Do you hear me?) I itemise them simply in order to clear the ground so that I can get down, undistracted, to today's Great Matter. So here goes:
I think that the admission of married men to the Latin Rite priesthood is, at this particular moment and given the present situation within the Latin Church, to be strongly resisted.
Briefly, two reasons.
(1) Clerical celibacy is ultimately a matter of discipline; it has been derogated from; therefore it can be derogated from. On the other hand, the restriction of the Sacrament of Order to viri is a matter of dogma; the church nullam facultatem habet to ordain women. The two matters are totally different. But there are people who either do not understand this distinction or who conveniently and dishonestly pretend not to understand it. Admitting married viri probati to Holy Orders would, by the ignorant and the deceitful, be described and distorted and publicised as simply a preliminary for the 'next step'.
(2) Ordination of such viri probati would, culturally, strongly emphasise the restriction of Holy Order to males, and thus place it under the very fiercest campaigning pressures. Particularly where a nun or a lay woman had de facto been running a Christian community, the sudden arrival of a newly ordained married (male) priest to take over would in fact hammer home the 'exclusion' of women in a particularly personal and vivid and visible way. There are parts of Ireland where the introduction of a married permanent (male) diaconate has, in just these last few years, been fiercely resisted - and actually prevented - by feminist and heterodox pressures. Think about it!
Be in no doubt: the call for Married Priests is but a surrogate and a tactical preliminary for the real battle: the struggle for the admission of women to Holy Order.
Women Priests; and Abortion; and Dissolution of the bonds between Sexuality, Matrimony and Fertility; are the unholy and inglorious Triad with which the Enemy at this particular historical moment plots the de radicibus destruction of the whole state of Christ's Church militant here in Earth. People who can't see that are a major part of the problem.
Believe me, I know. I've spent most of my life as an Anglican; and we refugees from Old Mother Damnable know exactly how these things are managed. The tools include Gradualism (give people time to get used to the idea: if you spring things on them too abruptly they might discover that they have principles). And Dialogue ("We just want our voices, our experiences to be heard; why can't we all just talk?").
At the heart of it is getting the whole jigsaw complete except for just that one last piece ... which now so easily and so naturally slips into its allotted slot.