Friday, July 01, 2005

Wide Awake in Philly

Soon, it will be time to run to the water.

From the "Riot Waiting to Happen" desk, tomorrow is Live 8 around the world. While most of the shows -- 10 in all around the globe -- are being held in controlled environments, the American iteration will be played out on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway here. The Parkway, for those unaware, is the grand street which leads up to the Art Museum -- you know, the place with all those steps.... Somewhere around 3 million people are expected.... I'd almost go just to see my future wife, Natalie Portman.

But Natalie Portman + 3 million drunk daytrippers is a bit much, so I'm off to the beach.

The Rome show is being held at the Circus Maximus. Hopefully some American bishops in town'll get down there -- Duran Duran's playing Rome, and the bishops would be very appropriate backup singers on "The Chauffeur." The image of McCarrick wailing "SIIIIIINGGGG, BLUEEEEE SIIILLLLLLVVEEEERRRRRR!!!" is one which would last in anyone's memory forever.

On a side note, today is the 4th of July Bash held every year at the US Embassy to the Holy See. As all the Curialists (State people) who want to see and be seen will show up, and given the unusually large number of American prelates in town, the rumor mill will explode with stuff in about... 4 hours. As a friend over there said, "It feels like the end of term -- there's lots of goodwill going around." And alcohol, too, of course.

But back to Live 8: my point is that the awareness it raises is a pro-life cause, a tres pro-life cause... "Every day," its organizers note, "30,000 children die, needlessly, of extreme poverty." Our TV screens were filled to overflowing with weeks and months of Terri Schiavo, but how often do we hear this sobering stat? And what the hell are we gonna do about it?

B16 has focused more on Africa in his pontificate (aid, AIDS and poverty) than he has on what many of his American fans see as the most egregious "culture of life" violations. So let's get on the ball, people.


In other news, this week's Tablet has hit the web -- no contributions from me in this edition, but there are more to come, don't worry.

The marquee article is from the bishop of Middlesbrough, John Crowley, on what he terms the "challenge" and "opportunity" of celibacy. Check it:

The seemingly endless pastoral duties that fall to a priest could soon begin to feel like “one damn thing after another” unless sweetened at source by the pulling power of tasks undertaken for love’s sake. What the Lord offers to his priests is partnership in mission, not the drudgery of time-serving compliance. Enough said perhaps to indicate what I believe about celibacy, in which state I hope, by God’s grace, to persevere happily all the days of my life.

But now let me, within that vital context, quote from something else said within that same homily [for Crowley's 40th anniversary of priesthood]. “We have some excellent married priests in this diocese.” (These are men – five in total – who were formerly in the Anglican ministry. Without exception they have been warmly accepted and assimilated into the parishes where they serve. In my experience parishioners look primarily for their pastors to be accessible, kindly, spiritual leaders. Once that gift is given them, the fact of whether it is located in a celibate or married man seems somehow less important.) “The Sacrament of Marriage can in such cases add a very special dimension to the Sacrament of Priesthood. In addition, the day might soon come – I express the personal hope it will – when it will be equally possible to serve God in the priesthood either in marriage or in celibacy. I say that, because it’s the ready availability of the Eucharist, especially perhaps in some missionary situations where Mass can at present only be rarely celebrated, which should, so it seems to me, be the determining factor in the Church’s thinking, not whether a priest is celibate or married.”

Now, before everyone starts going off, let's take a step back and remember that celibacy is a discipline, not a matter of revelation. Its codification in the late 11th century came as the result of a popular outcry over the inheritance of ecclesiastical property by the children of clerics.

Crowley -- who, it should be noted, was the long-time secretary to the great Basil Hume and preached at his funeral -- takes the favored Roman talking-point of "No priests, no Eucharist" for a valuable spin: Does the church believe in the value of the people's access to the Eucharist enough to change the disciplinary requirements for priestly ordination?

It's worth a discussion.

As for me, and as you'll be reading sometime in July (whenever I find the time to do hard-core introspective), I felt I had the priestly call in me for the first ten years of my journey within these walls. Then, a chance encounter in a faraway place changed everything and I realized that the vocation was not what my mentors intended it to be.... But that's life, I have no qualms, and, for what it's worth, I wouldn't want to be a married priest. Then again, that's just me -- each requires such herculean effort and sacrifice, God bless the pastoral provision guys who have taken on the dual load.

Amazing thing is, someone told me about a married (pastoral provision) priest whose bishop won't let him pastor a parish... the priest could be such a good example, if it weren't for that damned episcopal hubris rearing its head again. Just ridiculous.

Whatever the case, for anyone travelling this weekend, be safe and have fun! Happy 4th!



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