Saturday, October 13, 2007

The other side of the coin

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.


cordelia said...

the same could probably be said for the children of pastors

Sara said...

I'm a convert to Catholicism from that particular branch of the restoration movement. (Although, I believe the Winklers were "liberals"--they did things like support orphanages etc.) When I first heard the story I was not at all surprised.

The way a lot of these pastors treat their wives is shameful at best. There is a tendency to treat the wives as property or servants. Even worse, the wives cannot go to other women in the congregation for support either.

It's also a well known fact that despite their pious exteriors the preacher's kids are usually the wildest in the bunch.

Adoro te Devote said...

No offense, but I wouldn't want to be married to a priest. In Catholicism, the Church is "la otra media de la naranja". As a woman, and if I were a wife, I'd want to come first; children would need to come first, and how would that happen? And God knows that Catholics are stingy (more so in some places than in others)...who would support the Pastor's family?

I have a friend who is an Evangelical Protestant Pastor. Of course, he realized that his true vocation is marriage, so he gave up full-time ministry. The middle-of-the night calls, the constant need of his presence and response to wore on him and his family. He realized that he had to make a choice; and that choice was his family.

He does still preside at weddings and funerals, he refuses to come back to the Catholic Church (I'm praying for him...he was raised Catholic), but he knows who he is supposed to be; husband and father.

I just don't see how it ever works. Besides...I've known more than a few pastors kids, and most of them haven't done much to uphold the family values, if you know what I mean. Sad.

A married priesthood is not a solution.

Father Schnippel said...

When I was teaching at the High School, I actually had the son of a Catholic priest in class. His father was a Luthern pastor and came over and was ordained under the pastoral provision. Luckily, he was a good kid, generally, but it made it difficult to talk about priestly celibacy. "Well...., except for your dad!"

a thorn in the pew said...

This is a great topic and I appreciate the views on this. I think it is less understood than perhaps even Mary when it comes from people outside the faith.