Friday, July 29, 2005

End of the Innocence?

Traditional Catholic Reflections & Reports ponders the state of mandatory celibacy.... Stephen writes:
I think [the end is near]. It is a matter of time. But while it is something we pray for and expect, it is not in any way a matter of dissent or rebellion on our part. God forbid. And it will only strengthen the higher calling of a more freely chosen celibacy from whose holy ranks the bishops will be drawn, as in the east.

I hope it is sooner than later, so that we can widen the pool of good candidates to guarantee our churches the Eucharist and other sacraments in the difficult and challenging days to come. For a long time now, married priest-converts from other denominations have been allowed into Catholic priesthood. Allowing married candidates who present themselves for seminary and priesthood is something we must reconsider, whether 'in economia' or along other theological lines.

This is worth a discussion.

For my part, I concur with the discipline in place -- the twin demands of priesthood and family are too great, and one inevitably has to give -- but if someone voices the right argument (not "Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene"), I'm open to a rethinking.

Let's get talkin', people. Contributions from worthy permoids are especially welcome.



Blogger Fred said...

I'd like to see the average parish pay a living wage for one or two priests with wives and kids . . .

29/7/05 22:33  
Blogger Laura Gonzalez said...


Laura Gonzalez

29/7/05 22:39  
Blogger Laura Gonzalez said...

First of all, I disagree with Deacon Fournier that there isn't "...a lack of priests but rather a distribution problem!" Vocations and ordinations may or may not be up in dioceses where there is a"...dynamically orthodox Catholicism..." but stats don't lie, and the numbers still fall far short of those in 1955 or 1965. The average age of a priest in this country is 61.

(Yes, these were pulled out of my butt):
US Catholic Population:
1955: 33.6 million
1965: 45.6 million
2003: 63.4 million
1955: 48,349
1965: 58,632
2003: 44,487
1955: 34,055
1965: 48,992
2003: 4,700
Two-thirds of the 600 seminaries that were operating in 1965 have now closed. (worldwide?)

Next, should married men be admitted to the priesthood? Yes. Not because it will put an end to the shortage or because it will weed out pedophiles, but because it was once practice, and the theology behind it should be revisited. Is this what the Holy Spirit is pushing us to do?

As to Rocco's reasoning that the demands are too great, I disagree. I think that since it is being done right now, with a married Catholic clergy and clergy of other denominations, it is not impossible. And if you have been around an Irish priest with obligations to his mother, well, you know a family has got to be easier. ;-p

Will it be done? I doubt it. And for all the wrong reasons this practice will not be talked about, looked at. Rome doesn't want to appear to rock any boats, or go back on "Catholic thought and teaching." Also, as pointed above, no parish will be able to afford a pay and insurance increase for priests and their families.

I recently had a discussion about his with the associate pastor at my church. He thinks the hierarchy is not listening to the Holy Spirit in regards to the priest shortage. The course we're on sets us up to be a sacramental religion with not enough men to celebrate the sacraments. Praying does not seem to be doing the job, but that is what we are exhorted to do. Perhaps there are some other things to do besides pray?

Like look at the option of ordaining married men to the priesthood?

Laura Gonzalez

29/7/05 23:15  
Blogger Laura Gonzalez said...

p/s I would never, ever, ever, ever want to be married to a priest.

laura gonzalez

29/7/05 23:17  
Blogger Jeff said...

WHAT stats don't lie? Tell me, not general stats, but what the difference is between the number of seminarians on average in a place like Denver or Lincoln compared to Catholics in the population and what it was in, say, 1950.

It IS a matter of discipline, yes. But it is an ancient, ancient tradition going all the way back to the apostles. Why should it suddenly have to change in the 20th century? The deep value of celibacy as a sign of the Kingdom of God is something few appreciate. But one of those few is Pope Benedict. Read what he has to say about it in his interviews. He is adamant, adamant. And he is right.

No, it won't change in our lifetimes, I don't think. Three cheers for the Rock. He's got the right handle on this one.

30/7/05 00:00  
Blogger Ian said...

Just about every protestant deomination allows married clergy. That doesn't seem to have fixed their problems. Look somewhere else for a solution - this isn't it.

30/7/05 00:12  
Blogger Gyrovagus said...

First of all, I agree with maintaining the current discipline (everyone IS aware that a good number of exceptions have been made for convert Episcopalian, Lutheran, and a couple of Methodist ministers and at least one Polish National Catholic priest?) but be careful about arguments from economics and availability.

First: The ordination to the priesthood of almost any of our current "permanent deacons" would cost most parishes: NOTHING. These men already do their diaconal work in addition to, or having retired from (with pensions and health benefits) their secular employment.

Secondly: I know one of the first Episcopal priests to be received into the Catholic Church in virtue of the "Pastoral Provision" issued in the early 1980s. He was ordained to the Roman Catholic priesthood in 1985. At the time, he had a YOUNG family with SIX children. He ROUTINELY got phone calls from the hospital for emergency ministrations because as one nurse said to him, "We can call several regular Catholic rectories and just get the answering service. But we figured that with a wife and six kids, you'd HAVE to be home at night."

One last caution: Remember what Pope Benedict said about the great numbers of priests in the Third World, and what he called the "bitter" side of that sunny picture. He seemed to be warning "quality - not quantity" - and urging those bishops with a flood of vocations to be especially discerning. That would seem to apply also to any diocese or religious order in the First World experiencing a disproportionate and surprising increase of vocations, wouldn't it?

I think of one of the new "traditionalist" Communities that brags about its numbers. The website shows a huge number of young men, in chapel, facing each other "in choro", while a solemn high Tridentine Mass is celebrated at the high altar. Every one of them is in cassock, surplice (yes, Rocco, of the lace variety), black zuchetto (what???) and biretta.

I know a young man who spent some time with them - not a LONG time with them - since the first house he was sent to consisted of two priests, one of whom spent all day on the computer, while the other had filled three closets full of old fashioned Mass vestments designed, cut and sewn by him.

Do we need LOTS of THOSE kinds of vocations?

30/7/05 00:31  
Blogger Ruth said...

My father is a Lutheran minister so I can speak with some experience on this matter. I agree with Rocco and Ian -- the Catholic church would be exchanging one set of problems for another much larger set of problems. The Lutheran (ELCA)is having their own clergy shortage--and that's allowing for married and women clergy. They've also been hit with some serious scandal (paedophile), which received little attention from the press. It IS harder for a protestant minister to balance his ministry and family life. Something has to give. But more seriously, in my opinion, are the economic pressures which prevent a pastor from speaking truthfully on difficult issues. If he upsets his flock, he loses parishioners, income is reduced--there goes junior's college fund. I could go on, but I think you get the picture. I've found that most Catholics have no idea what the trade-off really involves. I never felt cheated growing up in a parsonage, but there are many who do, including some in my own family.

30/7/05 06:49  
Blogger CDE said...

This is a topic I'm pretty passionate about, so it deserves more than a soundbyte in a comments box. I'll probably dedicate a post on my site to it soon.

I did create several posts about it in December of 2003, at which time my home diocese was given a lot of attention after nearly 25% of the priests signed a letter asking that the Church begin considering a married priesthood in the West. I'm simply including a link to the month of December here. The posts in question appear between December 10 and 14... there was some good discussion in the comments boxes too.

While I would certainly submit to the Church if she decided to open priesthood in the West to married men, I really think that it's the wrong pastoral decision at this moment in the Church, that it would betray (and foster) a lack of faith, and that it would confirm in us our worst instincts about what life in the Church ought to look like.

I think the discussion has, in general, not been radical enough, in the sense of going to the roots of the question of what virginity means and what its value is in the life of the Church. It seems like a situation in which we are ready to relax a discipline without understanding what the discipline means first, which, arguably, is a mode of operation that has not served us very well in the last 30 years. I'm always troubled by the interpretation of the Council that sees in it a spirit of compromise and relaxation. I would argue that the Council's true spirit of aggiornamento has nothing to do with relaxation, but rather with ever more fervent efforts at a true evangelization, which never involves watering down the witness, but of making it superabundant according to the modes of expression that are most effective in a given time and culture.

So does clerical celibacy provide an evangelical witness that has meaning and value for our age? or not? I think the question has to be answered. Our pastoral practice has to mean something, not simply be a pragmatic response to a supposed crisis. Let's understand the values of the discipline before we decide it's time to take away the mandate for it... and maybe in the process we will discover that the discipline in its current form is the best way of expressing the evangelical witness intended by a virginal life.

This is the point Cantalamessa makes in his fine book entitled Virginity: A Positive Approach to Celibacy for the Sake of the Kingdom of Heaven.

Okay, enough for now. Thanks, Rocco, for raising the topic.

30/7/05 08:25  
Blogger Ruth said...

Beautifully written, Clayton...

30/7/05 08:57  
Blogger edgleason said...

There are 15K married deacons about half are at retirement age.. ordained as priests they can say Mass without family/financial impact.. It's going to happen so get 'used to it'
Frisco eddie

30/7/05 11:51  
Blogger edgleason said...

There are 15K married deacons about half are at retirement age.. ordained as priests they can say Mass without family/financial impact.. It's going to happen so get 'used to it'
Frisco eddie

30/7/05 11:51  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If the church takes on married men, they will just be trading one set of problems for a much bigger set. This is no answer at all.

Wait til your priest undergoes:
1) a nasty namecalling divorce.
2) either way too many kids to support that you are sick of dealing with, or no kids at all with lots of questions about birth control, etc.
3) a nasty mother-in-law who thinks she owns the parish
4) a really creepy extramarital affair and the subsequent public row with his wifey dear.

Don't tell me it won't happen. You didn't think priests were lurking behind bushes at the park either. So there.

30/7/05 13:52  
Blogger Laura Gonzalez said...

If he upsets his flock, he loses parishioners, income is reduced--there goes junior's college fund.

Minus the college fund for junior part, that happens now in the RCC. Our pastor is middle of the road he should have double yellow lines painted on him. He does not want to upset the flock in any way shape or form.

MichiganCatholic, I think you hit the nail on the head. Once priests have to start dealing with life the way the rest of us do, all hell is going to break loose. (No pun intended)

However those fears don't address the theology behind having a celibate priesthood, which I think Clayton gets close to. And which I will comment on later.

laura gonzalez

30/7/05 14:42  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

They're not mere fears, dear cradle catholic. Protestants have to put up with this crap every day--well, except for the birth control part. They won't tolerate hordes of kids because they know *they* pay for the braces and college educations.

I suspect if priests had to put up with the stuff we have to put up with, it wouldn't dilute Catholic teaching, as many suppose--even hope. It would still be the case that the ones who do what the Church teaches would be the ones to go to, the rest being useless, pretty much like they are now.

30/7/05 14:56  
Blogger edgleason said...

Help me out here... The above cons talk about 'lots of kids' and 'hordes of kids'... have they ever heard about Humanae Vitae or Pope JPII exhortations on family?or the 'other lung' in the EAST??maybe we're just talking upper middle class suburbs on this issue.and remember, the question on the table is 'optional'
Frisco Eddie

30/7/05 16:38  
Blogger edgleason said...

Help me out here... the above cons talk about 'lots of kids' and 'hordes of kids' What ever happened to Humanae Vitae and Familiaris Consortio?? or the 'other lung' in the east?
is this an upper middle class money issue? is the word 'optional' offensive or too democratic and free for Roman mentalities.. It's still going to happen so get out your check books and start giving a lttle more than 1/2 of the donations that Protestants and Jews make.
Frisco Eddie

30/7/05 17:04  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't make a lot of sense out of your sentence fragments, Eddie, but if I understand you right, you are pointing out how little Catholics put in the collecition plate. Yes, that would be correct. Catholics, in general, are a very cheap lot and give much much less than protestants.

The average protestant minister has his 2.25 kids or whatever, but he also has a house in the suburbs, a couple of cars, a wife who keeps up with the Joneses, and the usual bills and obligations--cable tv, yada, yada for his kids. Plus a free car for his use, vacations and a free cell phone, all paid for by his lovely congregants--all 500 or so of them. THEY TITHE BIG TIME.

Now multiply that minister and his salary by about 4 or 5, because the married Catholic priest is going to be a fertile character and he has to follow church law or it will be noticed by TPTB (the powers that be). PAY FOR THAT--I DARE YAH.

OH, and ignore the mother-in-law. They all have them and she's not the Pope even if she thinks she is. Come to think of it, neither is wifey-dear.

30/7/05 18:22  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh and pardon me frisco, for pointing out that birth control is not "optional" unless you're talking about natural family planning, which we all know most people suck at.

30/7/05 18:25  
Blogger Darwin said...

I don't normally find myself favorably quoting Andrew Greeley, but I think he had a pretty solid point when he wrote that if vocations are sparse a lot of it is because the majority of priests make very, very little effort to recruit any. If every priest was expected to report monthly to his bishop on what he'd done in order to encourage vocations (and if the bishop actually read and followed up on all the reports) we'd have a lot more vocations. I mean, how often do you hear a good, "This is why I became a priest" or "This is what it means to be a priest" sermon? I think I've heard all of two in the last ten years of weekly mass attendence.

Similarly, if we allowed married clergy but didn't institute such recruitment measures, we'd still have a shortage. From what I gather the inability to recruit male priests of any description was one of the things that encourage the Episcopalians to start ordaining women. And ordaining women has mainly just attracted 40-50+ women who look on being a priest as a second job after primary career and children.

30/7/05 22:39  
Blogger Disgusted in DC said...

Just wait until priest daughter up and gets herself pregnant, priest son joins the high school gay-straight alliance, or priest wife is admitted to the Betty Ford Clinic or a padded cell. One can imagine all the sanctimonious condemnation and bile directed at the priest by bigoted and unempathetic parishioners because the antics of the priest's family.

For this, and lots of other reasons, I don't see much good coming out of dropping the mostly mandatory celibacy requirements.

2/8/05 18:37  

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