As fallen creatures, we often look across the fence to see a bright green yard, neatly mowed. We see the outward appearances of a happy family. The house is painted in bright colors and all seems perfect and peaceful.
In the Catholic context, especially as the Church continues to face a decline in the number of clergy (which I am trying to stop!), we look at married Protestant clergy and think that this might be a possible answer. This particular answer seems even more favorable when we look to our own history and know that there used to be married clergy in the Catholic Church.
But, we also need to look at the cracks that can appear in the foundation of the house next door, that there are some weeds in the yard, and that the family next door has their own issues which they face and can make life difficult.
I just found an article in April 23, 2007, edition of Newsweek, well actually someone brought it to my attention. In the Beliefwatch section of the Periscope, there is a short article on Mary Winkler, who is on trial for the killing of her husband, a pastor in the Church of Christ. Certainly, this is a sad story and one deserving of prayer, and while this is an extreme case, it does not seem to be an isolated case.
The article states:
Though Winkler's case is, to say the very least, extreme, her apparent frustrations are not. Statistics indicate that beneath the smiling, steadfast veneer of a pastor's wife, there often lies a deeply isolated woman who, due to her husband's constant commitment to his congregants, frequently feels neglected and left without a support system of her own. According to research by the late B Bright, founder of Campus Crusade for Christ, 80 percent of pastors' wives feel left out, unappreciated and underqualified. A survey by Focus on the Family found that 88 percent have experienced depression. The divorce rate among pastors, about 50 percent, is no better than the national average.
If this were to be a viable option (and not that I advocate for it, just raising the question), the stresses and experiences of married clergy in the Protestant communions needs to be addressed.
In a recent conversation with a Lutheran pastor, who is married with two small children, I asked him about this very situation. He mentioned that he has to be very diligent with his time, and how he balances that out with his congregation, which he considered to be of a fairly large size at around a couple hundred families. "Any bigger and I couldn't do it by myself," he told me. When I told him that the parish down the street where I used to serve, and with which he was familiar, was considered average size at 2,000 families, his jaw dropped.
The crux of the matter is that married priests is not the quick fix that idealists make it out to be.