The Pastoral Provision Keeps On
After months of questioning his calling to be a Methodist minister, Mark Kurowski left the United Methodist Church he'd served for 12 years as a pastor and converted to Roman Catholicism in the summer of 2002.
Kurowski, 40, described the process of giving up his church family in Gary, Ind., and his identity as "Pastor Mark" as one of the loneliest, most difficult times he'd experienced. "I felt like I went to a funeral, and the person who died was me," he said.
Things didn't get much easier when Kurowski, married with five children, decided to become a Catholic priest.
Because the Catholic Church requires priests to be celibate, he had to ask the Vatican for special permission to attend the seminary. Now, three years after his conversion, Kurowski is scheduled to enter Mundelein Seminary in the far north suburbs this fall....
Twenty-five years on, this shows that the pastoral provision (which makes this kind of magic happen) has left the big cities where it was initially prevalent and has now gone into the wider American church. Good sign, absolutely.
But, and there's always a "but," as I was discussing over coffee with one of our great commentors yesterday, there's no way to expand it to priesthood as a whole. How could the church provide family-sustaining wages? How about the cost of extending benefits to a whole family? If bishops were chosen from among the celibate, then any guy who didn't get married would immediately be assumed to be: 1. ambitious, 2. gay or 3. both. And does the church really need that kind of polarization in a presbyterate, not to mention low-hanging fruit for the gossip-mongers?
It's a slippery slope, kids. One that would dilute priesthood and the abilities of its commitment. A married priest always comes to a point where either family or ministry has to give. And when one gives, everyone suffers.