19 February 2020


Does anybody happen to have the following information? I've been unable to find crisp information on the internet ...

 ... When did Pius XII, Papa Pacelli, begin to give dispensations for married former Lutheran ministers in Germany to be ordained into the Presbyterate of the Latin Church?

Assertions on the internet vary between 1939, 1943, 1950; 1951, and 1952.

Might it have been connected with his Germanophilia? Or were there cultural reasons within German society?

In Anglophone countries, of course, anti-Anglican prejudice among episcopates of Irish extraction might have discouraged any similar idea.


Thomas said...

This article from the Catholic Herald archive, dated 21st December 1951, seems to be the 'crisp' evidence you are looking for Father. I think it's worth quoting in full.



Rome lifts the celibacy law for two priests

THE Holy Father has granted an extraordinary special dispensation to enable a father and his son, both former Evangelical clergymen and both married, to become priests without any change in their married lives.

The father, 70 year-old Rudolf Goethe, a descendant of the celebrated German poet, will be ordained tomorrow (Saturday) by Mgr. Stohr, Bishop of Mainz, who received hint and his wife into the Church.

Many Catholic priests — all members of Eastern rites—are of course married men, but so far as is known, these two cases in Germany are the only ones recorded in the Latin rite, though, as is well known, many widowers are priests and in a considerable number of cases the Holy Father has granted permission for the ordination of a married man whose wife, freely renouncing her marriage rights and in agreement with her husband has entered the religious life.

Holy Father's goodness

Dr. Goethe's ordination card includes these significant words: " Rudolf Goethe, by the mercy of God and the goodness of the Holy Father, priest of Jesus Christ." Glaube and Leber; (Faith and Life), the Catholic newspaper of the Mainz diocese, states that the Holy Father made his decision at the request of the German Hierarchy, and reserves to himself the right of consent for each individual case in the future.

Glaube and Leben explains that the Holy Father allows an exception to the universal, rule because a refusal might harm the unity of Faith. Former Protestant clergymen, who at the cost of great sacrifices have become Catholics are, surely, particularly qualified to work for the reunion of all Christians within the Catholic Church, it says. The obligation of separation of married people, it adds, cannot be enforced, since their marriage is a sacrament: " The Holy Father has, therefore, after consultation with the German Hierarchy, allowed that in special cases, each to be judged by the Holy Father on its own merits, a married Protestant clergyman who has been received into the Catholic Church may be ordained a priest, provided that the marriage was contracted before his conversion."

Rule is unchanged

The Vatican newspaper, Osservatore Romano, points out that the dispensation granted in favour of Dr. Rudolf Goethe is an exception and that the rule of celibacy for all other priests remains unchanged.

After his ordination, Dr. Goethe will be appointed to the staff of the chancellery of Bishop's House in Mainz. His son will be appointed a teacher of religion. Thus neither— for the present at any rate—will be engaged in parish work.


Dr Paul Scott said...

The first such ordination took place on 22 December, 1951 in Mainz (Fr. Rudolf Goethe). Source: https://www.jstor.org/stable/27655945?seq=1

Dr Paul Scott said...

And another confirmation: http://archive-uat.catholicherald.co.uk/article/30th-june-1961/4/married-converts-bishop-dies

Friedlon said...

This article* seems to imply that the first dispense occured in 1950: „Es war eine Sensation: Vor genau 60 Jahren, 1950, erlaubte Papst Pius XII. dem Mainzer evangelische Pfarrer Rudolf Goethe, katholischer Priester zu werden.“
* https://www.welt.de/politik/deutschland/article8368922/Verheiratete-katholische-Priester-nicht-so-selten.html

Wikipedia* confirms the ordination in 1951 to be the first: „Erstmals geschah dies für den Mainzer evangelischen Pfarrer Rudolf Goethe, der 1951 mit Zölibatsdispens Pius’ XII. zum Priester geweiht wurde.“
* https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Z%C3%B6libatsdispens

William Tighe said...

"For many centuries the Church had forbidden marriage to its ordained clergy, a prohibition that was hesitantly lifted with the permission of Pope Pius XII. He granted an indulgence to Bishop Albert[o?] [Anton?] Stohr, of Mainz, Germany, in favor of Rudolf Goethe, a married Lutheran pastor who was ordained a Catholic priest on his seventy-first birthday in 1951. In the following year, two younger Lutheran ministers, Eugen Scheytt and Otto Melchers, also made the transfer. Then, in December, 1953, Martin Giebner became the fourth married convert to minister as a Catholic priest in Germany. None of these priests was forced to relinquish marital relations with his spouse. [p.98] There is apparently no historical or ecclesiastical reason why the post-war German hierarchy felt free to make these requests of the Holy See. So-called “liberal” prelates, like Cardinal Cushing of Boston and Cardinal Ritter of St. Louis, are known to have turned down such requests. In the next decade, several Americans, who were rejected by bishops in this country, turned to Germany for help. Ernest Beck, a married Lutheran minister, was advised by Monsignor Hellńegel to seek ordination from the Archbishop of Mainz in 1964. Another appeal to German episcopal influence was made in 1966 by Father Louis Sigman, who got the intervention of Abbot Lorenz Klein, at the Benedictine Abbey of Trier, Germany. He proved that his Episcopal ordaining prelate had been consecrated by a Polish Catholic Bishop who in turn had been consecrated by the Archbishop of Utrecht. Asked if he was willing to accept ordination sub condicione, he was the first to be ordained conditionally by an American Bishop, John Franz, of Peoria. Wives of Catholic Clergy Joseph Henry Fichter Rowman & Littlefield, 1992, pp. 97-98."

Source: On the Christological, Ecclesiological, and Eschatological Dimensions of Priestly Celibacy in Presbyterorum Ordinis, Sacerdotalis Caelibatus and Subsequent Magisterial Documents, STD Dissertation, Catholic University of America, Gary Selin, 2011, pp. 83-84.