Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk

Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk

October 20, 2014

VATICAN CITY – By tapping into its Eastern theological and spiritual traditions, the Catholic Church could find an appropriate way to minister to divorced and civilly remarried Catholics, the head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church said.

"According to the tradition of the Byzantine Church, a priest or a bishop is not a judge. His task is not to justify or to condemn somebody, especially in such a delicate area as marriage and family," Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk told reporters Oct. 11.

"Our task, our duty is to be spiritual fathers and provide some sort of spiritual healing."

The Church has to deal with many wounded people, he said. "We have to realize how many different possibilities, how many instruments Jesus Christ gave us."

The Church's medicine chest includes: "spiritual assistance, the sacraments of the Church, prayer, blessings, support, solidarity," the archbishop said.

The married couples and families Shevchuk ministers to are not all laypeople; like other Eastern Catholic churches in full union with Rome, his Church admits married men to the priesthood.

Overall, he said, about 90 per cent of the Ukrainian Catholic priests are married and about 99 per cent of the priests in his archdiocese are.

Shevchuk said, a happy, solid priest's family is "a very attractive and truthful way to proclaim the Gospel of the family."

"I have to think how to be a good father not only to my priests, but to their families," he said. "If some family of our priests will fall into serious crisis, it will be a big tragedy not only for them, but for the Church."

Archbishop William Skurla of the Byzantine Catholic Archeparchy of Pittsburgh also spoke to Catholic News Service about the experience of his Church with married priests.


"One of the benefits is that it is a family right in the heart of the Church and it allows them to be more responsive to the needs of the people," he said.

However, he said, "the downside is that it has all of the problems with marriage itself; it is a challenge to remain married, and to balance the life of the family and the life of the parish for the priest, his spouse and the children."

Skurla said a married priesthood is "something that gives life to not only the family of the priest and his wife, but also to the parish."