Friday, November 24, 2006

Celibacy misunderstood

Fr. Donald Cozzens just does not get it. As he once again takes a minimalist view of the gift of celibacy, his agenda shines forth loud and clear. He speaks of many priests who are frustrated by living a single life and how everything would be grand if priests could get married.

I don't think so.

The question of optional celibacy of priests brings up many issues that would have to be addressed:
- wages: priests make enough for us to live comfortably, but raising a family would be tough on our salary.
- pressures on wife: what role would she be expected to have in the life of a parish.
- children: the scrutiny that they would be under
- freedom: celibacy for priests is about a freedom to serve God's people completely, as a married priest I would feel torn in two by my obligations to the parish and to the family.
- priest as 'Pastor': as pastor, the priest is the head of the family of the parish, leading them all (hopefully) closer to God the Father, who is the model of the priest's fatherhood.

There are many other issues that would need to be adequately examined before the rule on celibacy could be relaxed. And I keep falling back that if married clergy were an absolute success in Protestant communities, it would help. But it is not. The rate of divorce among Protestant married clergy is high, because the non-clergy member of the union (husband or wife) feels second class or does not want to put up with the stress that comes with the territory. I've heard: I married you, not the church you work for.

If the priesthood were a job, maybe. But as it is, the priesthood is a way of life and a vocation, a calling by God to something more. Only those who embrace this completely can transcend the ho-hum operation of a parish to flourish as the spiritual father of his own slice of the world.

5 comments:

Fr. Geoff Drew said...

Just as human sexuality is multi-dimensional (having physical, emotional, spiritual, aesthetic, intellectual, and psychological characteristics), so does celibacy. It is regrettable that it seems too many who involve themselves in this debate (about the benefits of celibacy or that celibacy should be optional for Roman Catholic priests) seem to only zero-in on the physical "unnaturalness" of celibacy. Celibacy is so much more "giving up sex." It is an ordained man's promise or a consecrated man or woman's vow to lead, not without temptation or difficulty, a holistic lifestyle of service to the people of God. Ordained men and consecrated religious need to embrace celibacy as a spirituality in which every aspect of their lives is transformed more and more into the image and likeness of Christ.

Likewise, celibacy cannot be equated with intimacy. Priests need intimacy - physical, emotional, intellectual, spiritual, aesthetic, and psychological. Celibacy requires a promise or vow to live a life without physical-sexual intimacy. But there are other types of physical intimacy (crying with loved ones at the death of a relative, hugs from family members and friends, etc...) that priests need. All human beings, including the ordained and consecrated religious, need intimacy if they are to live life to the full and function as best they can in whatever vocation they choose.

Father Kyle said...

Good point, Geoff. What needs to be kept in mind is that every person within the Church is on a personal journey of holiness, and one's vocation (lay, ordained, or religious) gives the framework for that holiness. Keep the faith, brother!

Anonymous said...

So, Eastern Rite Roman Catholic priests...fit into this how?

Miss Meg said...

It is my understanding that at the conclave of cardinals during Pope Benedict's first year, the discussion came up about the (small "t") tradition of Priestly celibacy in the Roman rite. The Eastern Rite Catholics, who allow marriage, encouraged the Roman rite to keep their tradition of a celibate priesthood. That bears listening to.

Anonymous said...

The charism of celibacy is logical in the context of religious life. Those called to the gift of celibacy are able to pursue their vocation in that context. All of the comments affirming of celibacy carry some weight, however none of them support the logic of why manditory celibacy must be imposed upon all of those in the presbyterate.