I’ve covered this topic in past posts.
My understanding is that the Church has always permitted some married men to be ordained as priests and deacons. Now the primary purpose of the Sacrament of holy Matrimony is the procreation and education of children. And since the Church permits married men to be ordained as priests and deacons, these married men should be permitted the marital right, as it is also part of the main purpose of marriage. Two Sacraments cannot be at enmity with one another. And the Sacraments cannot contradict or nullify one another. Neither can one Sacrament deprive another Sacrament of its force or purpose.
Christ could have chosen to design the Church such that all ordained persons must be unmarried. But He did not choose to do so. And the practice of ordaining married men has been constant from the very inception of the Church to the present day. Furthermore, if Christ had intended all married priests and deacons to practice perfect and perpetual continence, why would He permit married men ordination in the first place? If all ordained persons must be entirely continent, then it would seem more fitting never to ordain the married. But, to the contrary, the Church has always permitted the married to be ordained. Therefore, married priests and deacons can and should be permitted by the Church to continue having marital relations with their spouse.
The reference by Cardinal Sarah to the Council of Elvira in 305, as a way to assert that all married clerics throughout Church history to the present must practice perfect and perpetual continence is absurd. The Synod of Elvira was local. “It was attended by nineteen bishops and twenty-six presbyters, mostly resident in Baetica. Deacons and laymen were also present.” [Wikipedia]. Such a gathering has no such authority over the universal Church at that time, nor certainly in perpetuity. And there were multiple Synods between the first and second Ecumenical Councils, Synods with more Bishops and from a wider area, which unfortunately confirmed Arianism. But local Synods can err to any extent, (unless the Roman Pontiff participates and approves of its decisions). So in trying to hold priests and deacons today to the decisions of that ancient local Synod, Cardinal Sarah is grasping at imaginary straws.
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