"On Sunday, the Vatican announced the creation of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of Saint Peter, a special division of the Roman Catholic Church that former Episcopal congregations and priests — including, notably, married priests — can enter together en masse. The Vatican has stressed that the allowance for married priests is merely an exception (like similar dispensations made in the past by the Vatican) and by no means a permanent condition of the priesthood. If a priest is single when he enters the ordinariate, he may not marry, nor may a married priest, in the event of his wife’s death, remarry. Nonetheless, the Roman Catholic Church is prepared to house married priests in numbers perhaps not seen since the years before 1123, when the First Lateran Council adopted canon 21, prohibiting clerical marriage... By the time of the First Lateran Council, the priest’s wife had become a symbol of wantonness and defilement. The reason was that during this period the nature of the host consecrated at Mass received greater theological scrutiny. Medieval theologians were in the process of determining that bread and wine, at the moment of consecration in the hands of an ordained priest at the altar, truly became the body and blood of Jesus Christ. The priest who handled the body and blood of Christ should therefore be uncontaminated lest he defile the sacred corpus. The priest’s wife was an obvious danger. Her wanton desire, suggested the 11th-century monk Peter Damian, threatened the efficacy of consecration. He chastised priests’ wives as “furious vipers who out of ardor of impatient lust decapitate Christ, the head of clerics,” with their lovers. According to the historian Dyan Elliott, priests’ wives were perceived as raping the altar, a perpetration not only of the priest but also of the whole Christian community... "
Sara Ritchey is an assistant professor of medieval European history at the University of Louisiana, Lafayette.
Bridget Mary's Reflection
Let's hope that Pope Benedict will acknowledge the institutional church's horrific history of misogyny in their treatment of women including the wives of priests in the 11th century.
The policy of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of Saint Peter prohibiting a priest to remarry after his wife dies certainly does not inspire confidence that change is in air! Equality, mutuality, partnership are words we would like to hear in describing "What will life be like for the wives of Roman Catholic priests?" Roman Catholic Women Priests are living the vision of Jesus now in inclusive communities of equals and it is time for the institutional church to do so too.
Bridget Mary Meehan, ARCWP