Skip to comments.Celibacy Will Save the Priesthood
Posted on 09/09/2003 7:35:51 PM PDT by Antoninus
There are a number of difficult issues to discuss in the call for optional celibacy that 163 priests of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee issued in mid-August, while their archbishop was away on vacation.
The first is a question of form: Was their missive a letter, or was it a press release? It was written in the form of a letter, but it was sent to reporters first. Let's call it a "media letter."
The media letter raises another issue when it says that celibacy was optional before the 11th century.
That's not exactly true. The first people to question celibacy were the apostles, and the first person to answer them was Christ, who urged the practice on them. Everyone from St. Paul to the Church Fathers called priests to celibacy.
But it is true that the Church formally imposed celibacy on all priests in 1123 at the First Lateran Council - because married priests were involved in so many sex scandals. The Church's answer to the sex scandals of today should be the same: to emphasize celibacy more, not less.
A New York Times study suggested that the highest number of sex offenders came out of an era in the 1960s and 1970s where seminaries grew lax in the way they screened seminarians and in the way they taught about celibacy. To this day, some seminaries use professors who sneer at celibacy or make light of it, or dubiously qualified "experts."
We shouldn't be surprised when the priests that come from those cultures aren't properly committed to their vows. Don't blame celibacy, blame the seminaries that stopped teaching celibacy.
And do we really think that, in today's culture, celibacy would mean fewer scandals? Imagine priests who divorce or who cheat on their wives being added to the list of scandals.
But the media letter's main argument for optional celibacy is that it will solve the vocations shortage.
We doubt it. A married priesthood hasn't prevented the vocations shortage that Episcopalians and Orthodox Christians are suffering.
And it seems that the seminaries that are most likely to get vocations in America are those that are most committed to the Church's disciplines and teachings: Mount St. Mary's in Emmitsburg, Md.; the Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus, Ohio; and Mount Angel Seminary in St. Benedict, Ore.
Other dioceses that are doing well with priestly vocations include Atlanta; Denver; Peoria, Ill.; Kansas City, Kan.; Fall River, Mass.; Arlington, Va.; Newark, N.J.; Bridgeport, Conn.; Charlotte, N.C.; Lansing, Mich.; Lincoln, Neb. and Rockford, Ill.
Is the Church naive to insist on priestly celibacy? We would suggest that it's naive to idealize what a married priesthood would look like.
Father James Parker of Charleston, S.C., was a married Protestant minister who was allowed to become a married Catholic priest after his conversion. He told us a few years ago, "People who think celibacy is difficult and should not be a requirement for priests don't understand the sacrament of marriage or the nature of the priesthood."
Another married priest, Father Richard Bradford of Brighton, Mass., told the Register, "My wife, Judie, defends celibacy because she sees firsthand the responsibilities I have to my Church."
Married Melkite priest Father Miguel Grave de Peralta told the Register that "those favoring a married Catholic clergy assume marriage doesn't have stress and tensions. I see a lot of parallels between the married life and the celibate life. The intensity of devotion required for both is tremendous."
His wife, Ana, told us, "Very few people understand or know how big a sacrifice it is for the priest and his family. It's an offering the wife makes, often placing herself in second, or even third place. The pastoral obligations must always come first."
Every possible indicator says that celibacy is a good thing for the priesthood.
Vocations flourish where it is emphasized. Church teaching says that a priest's celibacy mirrors Christ's exclusive love for the Church. Scripture records Christ and St. Paul admonishing ministers to be celibate. Church history shows how celibacy is the best answer to scandals of divorce, polygamy and other sexual sins of the clergy. And modern practice shows that married priests impose considerable difficulties on themselves, their wives and their ministries.
It's time to stop apologizing for celibacy, and start promoting it more vigorously than ever.
Discussion of celibacy is a very good thing.
Maybe. Discussion gets people thinking. I notice the Register didn't interview anybody who favored optional celibacy; there are married Episcopalian convert priests who do, you know.
I know two of them.
And it's funny to read about these married guys favoring celibacy.
They must have thought very little about their ministry in the Episcopal Church.
Ping. (As usual, if you would like to be added to or removed from my "conservative Catholics" ping list, just send me a FReepmail. Please realize that some of my "ping" posts are long.)
Sex as an answer to Lust is something only modern man could dream-up.
Does this mean that Atlanta's archbishop and the diocese trend orthodox/conservative? I know that we have a Latin Mass parish, I assume no screaming liberal bishop would allow THAT.
Anybody know the archbishop here and/or the temperature of the diocese?
Inquiring breakaway Episcopalian minds want to know . . .
My biggest complaint regarding Catholic priests not being able to mary is that celibate priests have little credibility when trying to give advice abourt marriage, relationships etc. It keeps them out of touch with a very important part of the lives of their flock.
The Orthodox Church has always allowed priests to marry. We haven't seen any sex scandals in the Orthodox Church.
Finally, allowing married priests would encourage men to become priests and lower the percentage of homosexuals in the ministry. With a larger pool of priest-applicants to choose from, the Catholic Church could do a better job of screening out potentially problematic candidates.
OTOH. My brother & sister-in-law live in Alpharetta and attend a parish there (St. Bridget's?). The CCD material used is soft and my s-i-l taught CCD although she does not attend Mass ever and knows very little/nothing about the Catholic faith (after Catholic HS & College up here in Massachusetts). The other day I sent her sick aunt a St. Padre Pio blessed medal and my s-i-l called me and asked me who Padre Pio was/is. :-(
So I guess, like everywhere else, you just have to take it as a "parish to parish" thing. But if you are worried about an innovative liturgy, I think most parishes have pretty much (aside of the arguably small things) come limping back from the "do it yourself Mass".
A couple of things from an ignorant layman. When I hear people say what you've said, I always think of the Protestant and even the Orthodox communites who are also experiencing a lack of vocations and clergy. You know where celibacy is an option it will become the exception - and that will leave us where our separated brethren are at.
There is a meticulously researched book by Cardinal Stickler (love the name!) "The Case for Clerical Celibacy" which is available on amazon.com - pretty cheap and pretty short. It is the factual history of the priesthood based on available texts. It's very well footnoted and when I read it, I was very surprised at how old the celibate priesthood is and how it was not (finally) enforced over monetary concerns.
(sheesh -- even this Episcopalian, albeit nosebleed high, knows who Padre Pio is.)
We're waiting to see how things shake out in October. Since our Episcopal diocese is EXTREMELY liberal and the parish where we are members is too, we have to wait and see if (a) the orthodox bishops get their own church, and (b) if they are kind enough to send a mission parish to the Diocese of Atlanta, or (c) some conservative parishes in this diocese are able to break away and join the orthodox bishops.
I am hoping at least they will do like the Presbyterians did -- have two parallel tracks and give parishes one year to decide which group they will go to.
The property is unfortunately the sticking point. The ECUSA honchos have already taken a very hard line and said that they will keep the property and pensions and endowments of any parish that leaves, and that they will sue any bishops who try to leave. So many parishes will probably chicken out and stay with the heretics.
If no reasonable alternative develops after October, we will have to find a good orthodox Catholic parish. I don't know if my husband (raised Methodist) will go for the Latin . . . :-D
Anyway, my heart goes out to you. I think most Catholics can understand the struggle all too well.
I know what you mean about your husband and the Latin... unless you are familiar with it (part of your culture like it is/was part of the universal Catholic culture), people seem to think that the Church is trying to pull a fast one and confuse you with a "foreign" language. At least that's how my agnostic/Lutheran husband reacted. He also thought that it was "elite"!!! I thought that was pretty funny since most of the Catholics here are descended from Irish fishermen or farmers or who were starving to death at one time!
In fact, when I was a kid my family travelled in out of the way places all over Central America and the Caribbean. We'd often find ourselves at Christmas or Easter on a Spanish or French island or in Mexico without an Anglican church - so we would go to a Catholic church for Mass. My father (who is a Born Salesman and speaks fluent Italian) would pay a call on the parish priest earlier in the week, explain our predicament, and ask for emergency communication (since as High Churchers we believe in the Real Presence). I don't think we were ever refused.
ANyhow, the point of all this is that I still have somewhere my old Latin missal - and it actually is BETTER than the vernacular service, because whether we were in Mexico, or on a French, Dutch or Spanish island, the service was always the same!
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