Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Shades in the celibacy spectrum

In addition to the lovely Christmas stories and the Pope's own pronouncements on the issue, we have seen articles over the last few days showing a range of views on the celibacy issue.

Strongly promoted in Rhode Island

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence, RI is launching a media campaign on vocations in January which features a television ad extolling the virtues of celibacy. For those who want to view these earnest young priests defending their option, the video has been posted on You Tube.

"Should be optional but it's OK for me"

That best sums up the views of one of the Dominican Republic's most radical priests and a Salesian, Padre Rogelio Cruz, as articulated in this December 26 article in El Nacional. Cruz states that the celibacy requirement has no Biblical basis and that he believes it will become optional one day. Even if that were to happen, Cruz says, he would choose to continue living a celibate lifestyle because it makes it easier to devote himself to his ministry to the poor. To him, celibacy should not be the central issue, but whether or not one is working to build the Kingdom of God.

Celibacy: No más, no more

The Puerto Rican newspaper, El Nuevo Día, 12/27/2006, contains a profile of an older Dutch priest, Pedro Van Marissing, who worked a long time in one of the poorest areas of Puerto Rico -- Juana Matos in Cataño. Fr. Van Marissing came to Puerto Rico following his ordination in 1964 because his uncle was already a bishop there. As a result of his experiences in this poor community, Van Marissing began to question many of the practices of the Church. In the article he mentions his disagreement with a Sacrament of Reconciliation where parishioners would be assigned to say rote prayers rather than really do the hard work of reconciliation and on the Eucharist, he notes: "In the consecration, we say 'Take this, all of you, and eat it'. It doesn't say 'all of you except...' The invitation is for all. If Jesus made no distinction, why should I?"

Fr. Van Marissing's views alienated him from his fellow priests. He began to question the Church as an institution and celibacy. He says: "When you are very busy, you don't think as much about celibacy. The Church has always had a problem with sexuality but as a priest you don't stop being a human being with sexual aspects. When you start to have problems and you can't communicate with anyone, it's logical that you begin to question celibacy." Van Marissing left the priesthood and got married.

For a long time he was completely alienated from the Catholic Church. Eight years ago he came back into the Church via the Comunidad de Jesús Mediador ("Community of Jesus the Mediator") founded by a Dominican priest, Fr. Alvaro de Boer. Fr. Alvaro sent him to minister in a low income neighborhood called Bayamón Housing. He performed the sacraments in this community, saying that they are illicit but valid. He now does similar work in a project in Santo Domingo. He says that he is no longer trying to resist within the church but has moved to the margins where he is needed and can exercise his ministry. "And this too is a way of resisting."

Catholic priests enjoy Christmas with their kids

And more about some Byzantine rite priests and their kids in Italia...interesting because these are married priests who have allegiance to Rome. Honestly, there are so many variations in this movement, it's hard for a humble laywoman to keep it all straight! ;-)

By Malcolm Moore,
Sunday Telegraph

This Christmas, high in the mountains of Calabria in southern Italy, a handful of Catholic priests will be able to celebrate Mass and then sit down to dinner with their families.

The 15 married priests who live in Lungro make up one of only two dioceses in Italy whose priests are able to get married with the blessing of the Vatican.

It was in the 15th century that the Pope permitted a group of Albanian refugees to keep their Orthodox traditions in return for allegiance to Rome, exempting them from the rule of celibacy. In the run-up to Christmas, The Sunday Telegraph was granted special access to observe Mass in Lungro's Byzantine Cathedral, together with the priests and their children – a combination that would be unthinkable across most of the Catholic Church.

Their effectiveness is under scrutiny because of a fierce debate in Catholic circles over whether all priests should be allowed to have families of their own.

During the service, the priests' wives and children sat with the choir, watching them chant the rites in Greek. The children strained their necks to glimpse their fathers as the priests approached the altar, which was hidden from public view in the Eastern way.

Afterwards, the families streamed out to meet them in a cathedral aisle. Father Marius Barbat watched as his six-year-old son, Adrian, playfully blocked the path of the priest carrying the chalice from the altar.

"It should be normal for priests to be married," said Fr Barbat, who arrived from Romania two years ago. "In my country, there are lots of married priests and they are accepted by the community."

Father Pietro Lanza, the head of a new seminary nearby which aims to train more married men to be clergy, said his Albanian ancestors had fled to Lungro to escape a Turkish invasion in the 1400s.

Now, with Pope Benedict keen to refresh ties with the Orthodox Church, Lungro, with its 3,000 inhabitants, has become an important symbol of unity between Rome and Constantinople.

At the Pope's direction, senior cardinals are considering the issue of celibacy, given the dramatic fall in the number of people who are training to be priests: just 5,000 in Italy, compared with more than 30,000 during an average year in the 1960s.

Insiders say that the main obstacle to change is now economic – including concern over the potential cost of priests' widows' pensions.

However, in Lungro only one thing is on the agenda this weekend. The priests are preparing to celebrate the birth of the infant Christ, with their own children firmly in tow.

Celebrating firsts in family, faith and life

One reads the following excerpt about a married Lutheran pastor who became a Catholic priest complete with wife, children, and grandchildren and it sounds so normal and natural that one wonders why the Church continues to insist on an abnormal lifestyle for most of its clergy.

Celebrating firsts in family, faith and life
By Gary Soulsman,
The News Journal
December 25, 2006

...Another man feeling more contentment and joy in connection to his faith is the Rev. Leonard Klein, of Brandywine Hundred. In April, he was ordained as a Catholic priest.

Klein, 61, made the decision after almost 30 years as a pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. He sought to become a priest because he felt so in tune with Catholic teachings on issues such as the sanctity of life.

In 2002, he approached the Diocese of Wilmington about joining the church. With ordination, Klein joined 100 married men nationwide who've left other denominations to become priests. The Catholic church has allowed such exceptions to the tradition of celibacy since 1980.

In preparation for Christmas, Klein has been hearing confessions and celebrating Mass at Immaculate Heart of Mary in Brandywine Hundred. He likes that the celebration of Mass has become the center of his ministry. He also works part time as assistant director of the Family Life Bureau.

"My wife and daughter tell me that I am the happiest they can remember," he said. "So I suppose you could say there is a certain blessing in that for all of us."

This Christmas, the Rev. Klein's extended family of three grown children and three grandchildren will join him and his wife, Christa, at their Surrey Park home...

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Hijos de Cura ("Children of Priests")

This very interesting article by Isabel Ibáñez about various models of priests and religious who are receiving children in a more permanent way into their lives in Spain is from the Spanish Web site Periodista Digital (12/24/2006). I will summarize most of the stories and translate the one that is of greatest interest to us.

It is also important to note that Fr. Pinillos, whose story I translated completely below, is now heading the Spanish optional celibacy movement, MOCEOP. He is not receiving any salary from the Church for his services and, to avoid scandal, he is not working in the same parish where he was a priest before he and Emilia got married.

In addition to Fr. Pinillos, the cases Ibáñez talks about are:

  • Luis de Lezama, a priest who created a shelter for abandoned and neglected children but also took many of them into his own home over a period of 44 years.

  • Valentín Bravo, the pastor of El Espinar, who, with the permission of the bishop of Segovia, legally adopted a Russian orphan named Alosa so that the boy would not have to go back to his home country where he had been terribly neglected both physically and developmentally. The article adds that adoptions by priests and religious, though extremely rare, are not actually prohibited by Canon Law. Fr. Bravo emphasizes that he did not adopt Alosa to alleviate any personal feelings of loneliness but because he was an abandoned child and he could not in good conscience fail to advocate for him. He adds that the boy also benefits from being able to relate to Fr. Bravo's extended family. The boy says he is happy in his new life, even when he has to answer questions about his father's profession. Fr. Bravo says that Alosa brings him great joy and has enriched him as a person and in his ministry. Because he has had to learn to share a home with another person and to be a parent, he feels that he now understands other fathers much better.

  • Sole Cano, a former Trinitarian nun from Valencia who is a teacher. While still a nun, in 1988, she took in three orphaned street children. At the time she was living in an apartment with another nun in a poor area. She says that she received a lot of support and help from her community in caring for the children and that although there were difficulties and problems juggling the schedule between religious community activities and family responsibilities, she feels gratified to have been able to give a dignified life to these children and privileged to have watched them grow into adulthood.

Julio, Ruth, Tamar and Noemí
(English translation by Rebel Girl)

Like any other man who is ordained a priest, Julio Pérez Pinillos never thought he would fall in love, have sex, much less have children, but in Spain 5,000 (20%) of Catholic priests have gotten married -- there are some 90,000 in the world. Canon Law says that any married priest is automatically laicized, that is to say, he should forget about celebrating Mass. And the Bishops' Conference says it knows of no exception to this norm. Nonetheless, Julio Pérez Pinillos has a wife and three daughters and continues to give Communion in the parish of San Cosme y San Damián de Vallecas.

In Julio's life, perhaps everything was "twisted", in quotes, when he decided to stop being a normal priest and become one of those worker priests who in the 1970s went to work in the factories as a way to be closer to the people. There he met a young woman who was committed to her Church and fell in love. "I thought I would be celibate forever and I was for ten happy years. But I met this girl. I resisted it until I realized that love was free. And in the same way that we went into the factories to be closer to the workers, Emilia and I decided that we would be closer to the idea of family if we formed one," he recalls.

So the couple went to talk to the auxilliary bishop of Vallecas, Alberto Iniesta. "He listened to us with great respect and generosity, and answered that he could not tell us that what we were going to do was outside of the Gospel." Julio got married and had three daughters, Ruth, Noemí and Tamar, ages 26, 21 and 18. And he continues to offer Mass. He knows that his case is more than extraordinary -- the product of an understanding bishop and colleagues. He has not forgotten that many have stopped exercising their ministry against their will; which is why he became the president of the Federation of Married Priests.

The debate over optional celibacy makes the headlines from time to time. Most recently, a month and a half ago, when the Pope called a meeting of the heads of the dicastries of the Curia to reflect on the petitions for dispensation from the celibacy requirement. Nonetheless, the next day, he slammed the door on the hopes of thousands of married priests when he proclaimed that everything would continue as it had. "But I know that something is moving and I trust that this is how it is. Because this is just a norm from the 12th century", he asserts, "up until then, priests married and had children." He outlines a lot of arguments to defend his cause, "but the most important is that Jesus never talked about celibacy or virginity. The Gospel says nothing about this."

Is it better or worse for a priest to have had children?

"The married man is as much a saint and as much a sinner as the single man, but for me marriage opened new dimensions, nuances on wives and children, on reproduction. Also on sexuality: the Church has often blundered on this topic because sexual moralism comes from not having sexual relations."

Julio asserts that his daughters have never suffered from being daughters of a priest. To corroborate this, Tamar and Noemí add, smiling: "Everything has always been completely normal. In a skating class where we were new they were told to ask us as a joke who our father was. Ha, ha! One of them said that she had consulted a nun at her high school and that it was not possible [for them to be the daughters of a priest]. But here we are."

In a way I, Rebel Girl, am nervous about publishing this piece on the Blog. I really hope that Fr. Pinillos can continue to enjoy the harmonious relationship he has with his diocese that enables him to continue to function as a priest. It is the dream of so many and eventually will be the future of our Church.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Who speaks for the least among us?

By Cokie and Steve Roberts, Syndicated Columnist

— Tis the season of giving — and getting. Reading the business pages of the nation’s newspapers reveals that a very few people are getting a very great deal. Most aren’t so lucky. That’s always been the case, of course, but the disparity between the super rich and everyone else in America is greater than at any time since the roaring ’20s, according to a study that was issued even before the recent Wall Street bonus bonanza. In the United States, the richest 10 percent of the country now owns almost 70 percent of the assets. Here’s our question: where are the voices of moral outrage?

Catholic Charities, USA, one of the largest national social service providers, recently released a report on poverty detailing the grim statistics agencies like theirs face every day. Last year, 25 million people visited food banks. More than half of America’s adults will spend a year in poverty at some point in their lives. Meanwhile, the mega-rich jet off on their private planes to one of their multiple homes where they might spend more in a day than most families make in a year. But religious leaders remain largely silent on the subject.

Not long after Catholic Charities issued its startling document, U.S. Catholic bishops convened for their annual meeting. Did they choose to take up the moral issues raised by their own social service agencies? Did they address the fact that many full time working families can’t afford homes or health care? No, the prelates decided instead to weigh in against homosexuality and birth control. It’s as if they are asking to be ignored.

Take the subject of birth control: Any priest who looks around at the average family in his congregation can support the literally hundreds of surveys over the last several decades that show Catholic use of artificial contraception no different from that of the rest of the population. The folks in the pews tuned out the men in miters on that subject many years ago, and the hierarchy’s sway over the faithful hasn’t been the same since Catholics started going their own way on that most personal of decisions.

The bishops’ authority isn’t likely to be enhanced by their statement concerning gays and lesbians either. Telling them that they are welcome as church communicants as long as they are celibate — essentially telling gay lay people to behave like gay priests are supposed to — will cause some gay Catholics pain, but will not stop them from being sexually active people. And it won’t stop many of them from receiving Communion.

At their annual meeting the bishops also reiterated the church’s stricture against adoption by gay couples. The Boston Archdiocese shut down its century old adoption agency this year rather than comply with state laws barring discrimination against gays and lesbians. The action caused an enormous upset in the city’s Catholic community, still reeling from the sexual abuse scandal in the church.

That scandal so weakened the authority of the church hierarchy that now bishops seem to be using the remnants of their clout to go after the weak, rather than the mighty. Gay couples willing to adopt hard to place children, as they did in Boston, hardly appear worthy targets of Episcopal ire. Wouldn’t the bishops’ voices serve the public good more effectively if they took on the obscenity of executive compensation in the hundreds of millions of dollars?

Who else can do that? It’s certainly not the government’s purview. It is the role of religion in society to speak as the moral force for the common good. Religious leaders should be beating the message home to the community that we have obligations to each other beyond collections of cans for soup kitchens or toys for tots drives at Christmas. The bishops should be railing against the fact that the government has changed its terminology to describe the some thirty five million hungry people in this country as those with “very low food security.” That way hunger doesn’t sound quite so bad, even if it still feels the same.

If there’s one thing the man whose birth we celebrate at Christmas was clear on, it was our responsibility to care for the “least among us.” Those with the most have the greatest responsibility of all. Their religious leaders should be hounding them, and all of us, to fulfill our duty to make this a better society for all in this season when we give and especially when we get.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Married Priests Now Organization - The Moon Connection

While the goals of the MPN movement, spearheaded by Archbishop Milingo, are laudable, many of us continue to be troubled by the Archbishop's connecton to Rev. Moon and the Moon Orgaization. T.S. Eliot, in Murder in the Cathedral, writes that 'it is by far the worst treason to do the right thing for the wrong reason.'

A careful observer of the Moon Organization writes as follows -

"When I first saw Part II of the Married Priests Now Dec 9 video (at, which contains a marriage blessing for priests and their wives, it would not play for me. It did today and yes, it is the Moon marriage blessing ritual - 100% rooted in Moon's Unification Church and its rites. Beyond the blessing and the holy wine ceremony, which are key Moon rituals - the video is telling because, about three fourths of the way through part two, Archbishop Milingo reads from a book that has the symbol of the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification(FFWPU) and the symbol of the Unification Church on the cover. Milingo's stole also has Unification Church symbols on it. MPN claims that it is not promoting Moon's ideology and that Moon has nothing to do with MPN other than providing it with some cash, but the use of Unification Church rituals and symbols suggests otherwise.

"This is all very troubling, as a good cause may be coopted by Rev. Moon's cash, and the naivete of the men who have turned to Archbishop Milingo in genuine hope that he is the harbinger of much needed reform."

This is something we must all watch very carefully.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Married Priests Back Celibacy - Part 1

I think this article is interesting even though the conclusions it reaches are not necessarily CITI's. It does offer the major pros and cons of a married priesthood in considerable detail and it talks quite a bit about the experience of those married priests the Church has allowed back into the Roman rite.

Married Priests Back Celibacy: Priestly celibacy is back in the news. But the media often miss many fundamental issues pertaining to it.
Register Senior Writer
National Catholic Register
December 24- January 6, 2006 Issue
Posted 12/19/06 at 8:00 AM

Part one of Two

WACONIA, Minn. — It was a Saturday night, and Father Larry Blake had just celebrated Mass at St. Joseph’s Church in Waconia, Minn. He hadn’t eaten dinner and longed to spend time visiting with his wife and children.

“No sooner had I sat down than our emergency line rang,” said Father Blake, a former Lutheran pastor who was ordained to the priesthood in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis in 1999. “Someone at the hospital needed the anointing of the sick. I determined I had enough time to finish eating dinner and then left for the hospital.”

By the time he returned home at 11:30 p.m., his wife and children were all fast asleep.

“I’d be dishonest if I said I wouldn’t have rather sat at home and visited with my family, but this is what I was called to do.”

It is challenges like this that are often overlooked in the debate over whether Catholic priests ought to be allowed to marry.

It’s an age-old debate that has been back in the news of late. On Dec. 10, Zambian Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo installed two more married men as bishops outside of the Catholic communion at the conclusion of his Married Priests Now convention in New Jersey. In September, Archbishop Milingo had installed four married men as bishops, leading to his excommunication by Pope Benedict XVI.

In early December, Cardinal Claudio Hummes, newly appointed to head the Vatican’s Congregation for Clergy, said in a Brazilian newspaper interview that celibacy is a disciplinary norm and not a Church dogma and therefore was open to possible change.

Shortly after arriving at the Vatican from his native Brazil Dec. 4, the cardinal issued a statement emphasizing that priestly celibacy was a long and valuable tradition in the Latin Church, based on strong theological and pastoral arguments.

As well, a couple of ordinations in December of former Anglican clergymen who are married led some to wonder, “Why should they be permitted the exception when priests who went off and got married are not allowed to return to active ministry in the Church?”

According to one scholar, the Church has been struggling with the celibate priesthood question from time out of mind.

Father Andrew Cozzens, an instructor of sacramental theology at the St. Paul Seminary School of Divinity in St. Paul, Minn., said the Church first legislated clerical celibacy at the beginning of the fourth century. “At that time, it was mostly the teaching of continence,” he said. “It was almost universally required that if a married man was ordained a priest, he lived as a brother and sister with his wife.”

Father Cozzens, who is writing his doctoral dissertation on how the priest is a living image of Christ the bridegroom, said that the continence idea stemmed from St. Leo the Great, who said that when a man becomes a priest, his former marriage becomes a spiritual one because he enters into a new marriage.

He added that the practice was common in both the East and West until the seventh century, when the East began to permit married men to live as married men, except for bishops, who are required to remain celibate.

“In the West, every time the question comes up for discussion, the magisterium grows stronger in its defense of the connection between priesthood and celibacy,” he said. “Once the Church started legislating, they started pushing celibacy.”

The Numbers Speak

Yet, organizations such as Corpus and FutureChurch continue to argue that opening ordination to married men — as well as to women — would attract more priests.

“We feel that celibacy is a gift, and a gift should be freely exercised. It shouldn’t be mandatory,” said Stuart O’Brien, member services director of Corpus, a Massachusetts-based organization representing priests who have left ministries in the Church to get married. “The priesthood should be open to all the gifts of all people.”

Yet, the argument that making celibacy optional would solve the priest shortage seems to be contradicted by the Protestant experience. Ordinations among denominations that allow married clergy have seen nothing but decline. Male ordination in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America has dropped from 354 men in 1980 to 151 in 2003. In fact, in 2003, female ordination surpassed that of male ordination in the Evangelical Lutheran Church.

That decrease is also observable in the Episcopal Church of the USA. Male ordination decreased from 272 in 1974 to 94 in 1997, while female ordination increased from nine in 1974 to 69 in 1997.

“The Protestants have their own problems,” rejoined Corpus’s O’Brien. “They aren’t necessarily our problems.”

And yet, married men ordained priests legitimately aren’t the ones calling for a change. Often, they are the ones that are most supportive of celibacy.

“I fully support the position of the Church on celibacy and consider it an exceptional privilege to serve the Church in this way,” said Father Blake, of Minnesota. Still, he admits that it’s a balancing act.

“It would be dishonest for me to say that there are not times when there are things that happen in the parish, and it means that I have to take time from my family, or there are times when I don’t attend something happening at the parish because of a family obligation,” he said. “If I were by myself, I might go. It cuts both ways. The reality is that I now have two vocations.”
Through the Pastoral Provision, the Church accepts married Episcopalian priests who have become Catholic. To date, 82 men have been ordained under the provision, the latest being Fathers Alvin Kimel in Newark, N.J., and Dwight Longenecker in South Carolina. Father Longenecker is a Register columnist.

Statistics are not available for Protestant converts who become priests, as they have more stringent requirements, and are handled on a case-by-case basis by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Father William Stetson, who serves as secretary to Newark Archbishop John Myers, the ecclesiastical delegate for the Pastoral Provision, pointed out that Episcopal ministers who are ordained to the Catholic priesthood do not ordinarily serve full-time in parishes.

“The Church tries to recognize that they have a duty to their family,” said Father Stetson. “Practically, a married man is not as available. Theologically, it’s a gift of Christ to his Church. The best way for a man who is invested with the priesthood of Jesus Christ is to serve the portion of the flock given to his care with an undivided heart.”

Providing for his family is a common challenge for married priests, he said. “Many of the priests have to supplement their income with secular jobs,” said Father Stetson, who knows of priests who are policemen, university professors or psychiatrists. “The experience of every single Episcopal priest that has come into the Catholic Church is that they are surprised by the volume of work that the majority of Roman Catholic parishes require.”

Corpus’ O’Brien finds the Pastoral Provision incongruous.

“Those who are married can practice the priesthood in the Roman Catholic Church,” said O’Brien, “while those who have been ordained and would like to return are excluded. It’s something that, to me, doesn’t make any sense.”

Greek Orthodox Deacon Virgil Petrisor, of Brookline, Mass., said that he finds it sad that married priests so often cite the problem that the priesthood diverts their attention from their parishes to their wives and children.

“I tend to view the family as a part of the ministry,” said Petrisor, who is studying to be a priest at Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology. “It’s not … these other people who keep him from doing his ‘job.’ Rather, it’s the priests and his family doing Christ’s work. I think the family can and should be an asset rather than a distraction.”

Jesuit Father Joseph Fessio disagreed.

“I don’t see how a priest who is faithful to his calling can give his wife and children the time and attention that they need in a marriage,” said Father Fessio, provost of Ave Maria College in Naples, Fla. “Does it mean it can’t happen? No, it doesn’t mean that, but I believe that there is some fundamental inner tension which can never be resolved.”

(CNS contributed
to this report.)
Tim Drake is based in
St. Joseph, Minnesota.

Next: Priests speak candidly about the spiritual and practical benefits that they have gained from the gift of celibacy.

‘A Precious Jewel’

Surprisingly, some of the most vocal defenses of priestly celibacy have come from those who can marry — Eastern-rite Catholics and former Anglicans who have been ordained under the Pastoral Provision, an exception granted by Pope John Paul II in 1980.

During the 2005 Synod of Bishops on the Eucharist, for example, Cardinal Angelo Scola, Patriarch of Venice, raised the issue of viri probati (tested men), saying that some bishops had “put forward the request to ordain married faithful of proven faith and virtue.” Bishops from Great Britain and New Zealand supported the idea, arguing that it might encourage additional young men to enter the priesthood.

During the interventions by Eastern-rite bishops, Cardinal Nasrallah Sfeir, the Maronite patriarch of Antioch in Lebanon, said that half of his diocese’s priests are married.

“It must be recognized that if admitting married men resolves one problem, it creates others just as serious,” he told the synod members.

The priest’s duty to care for his wife and children, ensure their education and oversee their entry into society are among the problems Cardinal Sfeir mentioned.

“Another difficulty facing a married priest arises if he does not enjoy a good relationship with his parishioners,” he said. “His bishop cannot transfer him because of the difficulty of transferring his whole family.”

Celibacy, in fact, is “the most precious jewel in the treasury of the Catholic Church,” the cardinal declared, contrasting the practice against an impure culture. “How can celibacy be conserved in an atmosphere laden with eroticism? Newspapers, Internet, billboards, shows, everything appears shameless and constantly offends the virtue of chastity.

“If Jesus Christ wanted priests to be married,” he continued, “he would have gotten married himself.”

The cardinal’s remarks drew applause from the synod’s participants.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Henrietta man's holy vows stir unease

Ordination invalid because it's outside church, diocese contends
by Marketta Gregory

The Rev. Ray Grosswirth's ordination to the priesthood followed all of the Roman Catholic traditions, except his wife helped him with his vestments.

That one change — and, more importantly, the fact the Henrietta man is not celibate — drew crowds of reporters and onlookers Sunday to watch as he and another married man were ordained in New Jersey by Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo. The Zambian archbishop married in 2001 and has ordained married men to serve as bishops, prompting the pope to excommunicate him.

For more than a decade, Grosswirth had been preparing for the priesthood, earning his master's in theology and a master of divinity from St. Bernard's School of Theology and Ministry. He has also served as a Eucharistic minister and lector, and at times he has taught adult education classes and visited nursing homes while attending St. Mary and Blessed Sacrament churches in Rochester with his wife of 12 years, Brenda.

But the Rochester Roman Catholic diocese said Monday that his ordination occurred outside of the Roman Catholic Church and is not considered valid.

Ordination has to happen "under the authority and blessing of the Church and by bishops in good standing," said Doug Mandelaro, spokesman for Rochester's Roman Catholic diocese. "Any sacraments would not be valid."

The diocese declined to comment further.

Grosswirth sent a certified letter to Rochester's bishop before he flew to New Jersey on Friday. He wanted Bishop Matthew Clark to hear the news from him, not the media.

"I have a great deal of respect for Bishop Clark," said Grosswirth, who is still getting used to the title of reverend. "But Clark may have to respond" and start the excommunication process.

Still, Grosswirth felt he had to take action.

"I came to the same decision that the folks at Spiritus Christi did," he said, referring to a congregation that split from the Rochester diocese in 1998 and ordained a female priest. "Why do we sit here and talk about it? Let's do it.

"I'm 57. If I wait for the Church to change its position on celibacy, I'll be dead."

In rare circumstances the Church has allowed married priests from other denominations to remain married and be re-ordained to become Catholic priests — a practice that Grosswirth calls hypocritical since married Catholics are not allowed to serve.

Now that he is ordained, Grosswirth expects to officiate at marriages, funerals and baptisms, though not in Roman Catholic churches. His ordination couldn't be held in one, either. Instead, he and Dominic Riccio of Barnegat, N.J., another married man, were ordained at Trinity Reformed Church in West New York, N.J.

Grosswirth will continue working full-time at the city of Rochester and serve as an independent minister after hours.

"I don't see myself as a heretic or as a schismatic," said Grosswirth, who is also the national media liaison for Corpus, a group that supports allowing women and married men into the priesthood. "I still consider myself a Roman Catholic."

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Milingo admits Moon support.

by Amy Welborn

The renegade Roman Catholic archbishop who was excommunicated by the Vatican after he installed married priests as bishops acknowledged today that the Rev. Sun Myung Moon was supporting his crusade against mandatory celibacy.

At a weekend conference of married priests, Zambian Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo distributed a statement to participants headlined "Thanks," crediting the Korean evangelist for his backing for the meeting and for Milingo's Married Priests Now! advocacy group.

"Today we are present as beneficiaries of Rev. Moon," Milingo wrote. "In order to ensure the success of our convocation he dedicated his key organizations to give their utmost support in every way needed to the Married Priests Now!"

Milingo was married to a Korean acupuncturist chosen for him by Moon in a mass Unification Church wedding in 2001. The archbishop appeared to drop those ties when he heeded pleas from Vatican officials and Pope John Paul II to renounce the marriage and return to Rome.

When Milingo disappeared from Italy this year, resurfacing in the United States in July, he and his aides denied any link with Moon. They said they were fighting on their own to save the church from its clergy shortage and sex abuse crises that they blamed on celibacy.

"He got his wife and now it's over," a Milingo aide, the Rev. Dairo Ferrabolli, told the Associated Press in September.

However, at this weekend's meeting, Milingo overflowed with praise for Moon.

"I have witnessed the zeal of Rev. Sun Myung Moon for the realization of the Kingdom for God," Milingo wrote. "His concern for the welfare of the whole world makes him not only a world benefactor, but more importantly a person whose vision, humility and saintly life has awakened our own courage and determination to organize and do what we ourselves know is right from God."

Monday, December 11, 2006

Archbishop's message is that celibacy isn't only key to the Pearly Gates

Home News Tribune Online 12/11/06
by Erick Wakiaga

The archbishop is in the house.

Well, sort of.
Emmanuel Milingo, a Roman Catholic archbishop from the African nation of Zambia, who was excommunicated for ordaining married men as priests, is on a mission. He's been in New Jersey to continue his campaign against celibacy of the clergy by ordaining married priests.

But Milingo, 76, is not new to stirring up the pot from within.

In the 1970s, he drew the wrath of some bishops through his exorcism and healing ministry.

Again, Milingo got in trouble with Pope John Paul II in 2001 when he married Maria Sung in a mass wedding performed by the Rev. Sun Myung Moon of the Unification Church. Moon is the Korean known for uniting thousands of couples holding photographs of future spouses in mass weddings.

But mass wedding or not, the gospel according to Milingo is that celibacy isn't a key to the gates of heaven. In fact, he says that one need not be celibate to point to others the direction to the gates of heaven.

I've never heard Milingo preach, but the gospel he is spreading is good for the Roman Catholic Church.


Well, even Apostle Paul himself says in his first letter to Timothy (3:2) that "A Bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife . . ." Although Paul desires that men be like himself — unmarried.

"I would that all men were even as myself; but every one hath his proper gift from God," Paul adds in his first letter to the Corinthians.

In other words, the top apostle gives priests the freedom of choice.

In addition, those familiar with the Bible know that it exalts the state of marriage. In fact, at one point the Catholic Church itself allowed priests to keep the wives to whom they had previously been married.

I'm sure there are thousands of ordained priests who are married and willing to serve the church. But their marital vows stand between them and the altar.

These are the men — and women — that Milingo wants the Roman Catholic Church — tainted by sex-abuse scandals — to welcome.

For the record, the Roman Catholic Church in the United States has spent more than $1 billion to settle the sex scandal.

Our own Diocese of Metuchen had its share of the scandal. Some of you may remember the case of a priest who was accused of abusing an 11-year-old altar boy in a Hunterdon County church.

I believe time is ripe to allow Roman Catholic priests who can't live a life of celibacy to serve the church.

I'm not saying that married priesthood in itself would prevent sex abuses by priests. But allowing priests to marry would be one step to solving the sexual problems and the declining number of priests, challenges confronting the Roman Catholic Church.

There are more Milingos out there. And the flock is crying out aloud for them.

2006 Contemporary Catholic Trends Survey Shows Americans Support Married Priests Too

According to the most recent Le Moyne College/Zogby International Poll Contemporary Catholic Trends survey, 64% of American Catholics who describe themselves as regular Mass attenders favor allowing priests to marry. That number rises to 81% among Catholics who attend Mass less than once a month.

The poll also shows Catholics' support for the bishops, the Pope, and their local pastors and their level of adherence to basic Church teachings on "life" issues. You can read more about it on the Zogby Web site.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Priest lives spiritually with wife in Parsippany, outside tradition

72-year-old says he plays unique role for community


Anthony Padovano knew what he wanted to do with his life when he was a teenager sitting up in bed one night, unable to sleep. He says he had a "quasi-mystical experience," a calling from God, and afterward told his parents he wanted to become a priest.

He used another word to convey urgency.

"I need to be a priest," he told his parents.

Technically, and he says spiritually, he remains a Catholic priest 32 years after he left his church ministry to marry a nun he met while teaching a graduate course on theology. Once ordained, priests always are priests, even though married priests are not allowed to function as clerics within the church. That creates some internal stresses, Padovano said.

"The official church keeps saying you have to live as a lay person, but you're not one," he said. "It's like telling a surgeon that because you get married, you can never do surgery again."

Padovano, 72, a college professor and author who lives in Parsippany, said he once expected Roman Catholic officials to end mandatory celibacy for priests. He hoped to return to a church ministry. But that didn't happen, Padovano became a critic of church leadership, and he decided long ago that it was better to keep talking about issues in the church than to go back. And, like hundreds and perhaps thousands of married priests across the nation, he said he has a ministry outside the traditional boundaries of the church.

"I respond to pastoral needs," he said.

He did not attend this weekend's married priest convention held at the Sheraton Hotel in Parsippany, and said he didn't want to make extensive comments about the movement that led to that convention -- criticized by some for its connection with the Rev. Sung Myung Moon. But he applauded the movement's leader, Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo, who was excommunicated after ordaining married men as bishops, for taking up the issue of optional celibacy.

Wave of marriages

Padovano and his wife, Theresa, were among thousands of priests and nuns who left church ministries in the 1960s and 1970s to get married. Church historians say the exodus peaked in 1973 when 900 American priests left their ministries. Priests who left church ministries at the time often received dispensations that allowed them to get married, a practice later restricted by Pope John Paul II.

Married priests are still priests, said Monsignor Robert Wister, a professor of church history at Seton Hall University, but are not allowed to function as clerics except in emergencies. They created support groups in the 1980s and lobbied the Vatican to change its rules on celibacy. Many continued to function as priests, outside the boundaries of the traditional church. Three hundred married priests nationwide are listed by a group called Rent-A-Priest. They typically perform weddings traditional priests won't -- for example, for Catholics who have been divorced and who have not been granted an annulment.

Padovano does not belong to Rent-A-Priest but said he does perform weddings. While he once wanted to return to the church, he said that no longer is his goal. He said he disagrees with church leadership on a wide range of issues, such as birth control and the role of women in the church. He advocates lay people having more say in the church. CORPUS, a national group once headed by Padovano that represents 1,500 married priests, supports ordaining women as priests, a subject church officials won't discuss.

"If I went back and was compelled to serve under (a conservative) bishop, what would I gain, and what would the people of God gain?" Padovano said.

Issue closed

Theresa Padovano, 65, his wife, also has become a prominent church critic. She co-founded the northern New Jersey chapter of Voice of the Faithful, formed to provide support to victims of clerical sex abuse and to promote discussions about changes in the church. She said a group of married priests and their wives used to get together to provide support for one another. They expected the church to change its stand on celibacy for priests -- but Pope John Paul II closed discussion of the issue.

"We prayed for it to happen," Theresa Padovano said of optional celibacy. "But I think the Holy Spirit knew what she was doing. We would have been so grateful that I wonder if we would have been free to say what we really believe. ... We wouldn't have been free to criticize the hierarchical system."

The Padovanos, who have four children and are expecting their first grandchild, joined a religious community in Nutley, and Anthony said he still has a ministry. He performs wedding ceremonies that traditional priests won't. Those marriages are not recognized by the Roman Catholic Church, according to experts. But Padovano said the ceremonies he performs have some benefit to the church, even if church officials don't see it that way.

"A priest who is married can reach out to people in a way that keeps them tied to the church ... as opposed to feeling abandoned and neglected," Padovano said.

He said he heard his father's dying confession in a hospital in 1987 after at first resisting. He told his father they were too close for him to hear the confession. He told him he could find another priest in the hospital. His father responded that he didn't know how much time he had left.

"I won't go to anyone else," his father said.

Padovano said he embraced celibacy when he became a priest, but after he fell in love he began to see it as an institutional requirement rather than a spiritual one. He said he wasn't disillusioned about the priesthood.

"You don't have to be disillusioned to fall in love," Padovano said.

The Padovanos fell in love over dinner with friends, during theological discussions following summer classes. Anthony taught in Houston in 1973. He was attracted to Theresa because she is "an extremely beautiful person." She was impressed by his progressive theology, including his stand on sexual issues, and remembers him talking about people having a say about the size of their families. That was "radical" at the time, she said. When he went back to New Jersey, and she returned to Montana, they stayed in touch by writing letters and talking on the phone.

Anthony said he didn't want to take Theresa away from a life that made her happy. Theresa said she didn't want to take Anthony away from the priesthood. They had a decision to make -- accept their love or never see one another again. Anthony told Theresa he wanted to spend his life with her. He says now that getting married was a calling from God, every bit as powerful as the one he had when he was a teenager. Theresa said she also felt a calling. She wanted to set an example.

'Something new'

"I had the feeling that the Spirit was doing something unusual, something new," she said. "There was a need for people to see there isn't a contradiction between ministry and marriage."

Theresa said nuns in her community referred to Anthony as their "brother-in-law." They both said their families understood. They were married on Sept. 1, 1974, in the living room of the house where they still live and where they raised their four children. Theresa said their lives have been no less spiritual than when they were part of the traditional church.

"We see the home as a sacred place," she said as she talked about laughter in her house over the years, children playing, taking music lessons, dressing for Little League games, going off to college and starting their own families.

Groups express concern over Married Priests Now

Organizations with similiar goals uncomfortable with connection, assistance from Unification Church


PARSIPPANY -- A schism appears to be developing between one upstart organization supporting the end of mandatory celibacy for Roman Catholic priests and other groups that have been doing the same thing for years.

At least one organization representing married priests came out this week against the recently-formed Married Priests Now, which is holding a convention this weekend at the Sheraton Hotel.

Other organizations said their members have mixed feelings about the group and were particularly concerned about its connection with the Unification Church's Rev. Sung Myung Moon, who has called himself the Messiah.

"That doesn't click with most Roman Catholics," said Russell Ditzel, president of CORPUS, a national organization representing 1,500 priests who left ministries in the Roman Catholic Church to get married.

Organizers for the Married Priests Now convention, which begins Friday evening and ends Sunday, had been predicting as many as 1,000 married priests participating, 600 in person and others by satellite. They said on Wednesday that just 200 married priests have registered to attend.

Ditzel and other married priests expressed support of the goals of Married Priests Now, which is led by renegade Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo, who was excommunicated earlier this year after ordaining four married men as bishops. But they also expressed apprehension about Milingo's connections with Moon.

Milingo was married in a mass wedding ceremony by Moon and members of his organization acknowledged that Moon supplied some of the funding for this week's convention.

Peter Paul Brennan, one of the men ordained as a bishop by Milingo in September, said on Wednesday that while Moon supports Married Priests Now, he is not part of the organization.

"Rev. Moon has nothing to do with Married Priests Now,"Brennan said. "He does support the concept and he is providing funds through (Milingo's) wife. She supports him because he gets nothing from the Vatican."

No convention support

While Milingo was excommunicated in September, church historians say he technically remains an archbishop, although he is not allowed to function as one. They say it is illegal for Milingo to perform ordinations but theologians are divided over whether they have any validity.

Milingo, who referred all questions Wednesday to other members of his organization, has said he plans to ordain three married men as priests in a ceremony on Sunday to be held at an independent church in West New York.

A group called Celibacy Is The Issue, known as CITI, issued a press release this week indicating it did not support the Married Priests Now convention.

The statement said CITI would not be represented at the convention.

It also said CITI, which runs a listing of married men working as priests outside the traditional church structure, does not represent any priest under the jurisdiction of "one considered a schismatic bishop." Louise Haggett, founder of CITI, said in a telephone interview that she was referring to Milingo.

"We are Roman Catholics and plan to stay that way," she said of her group.

Paul Mayer, a former Benedictine monk who got married decades ago, said he sent out e-mails this past week warning married priests and organizations that represent them about Milingo's connection with Moon.

"It is very troubling," said Mayer, who lived in a Newton monastery for 18 years and now lives in East Orange. "I consider him (Moon) to be sinister."

Brennan acknowledged that Moon supplied money to help pay for hotel rooms and food for participants at this weekend's convention. But he said Married Priests Now is a separate entity, and Moon was simply supporting the cause of ending mandatory celibacy in the Catholic Church.

"It doesn't bother me," Brennan said of Moon's contributions. "I think it's wonderful that the Rev. Moon is being generous."

Celebration en masse for married rebel priests

The Times of London
James Bone, Parsippany, New Jersey

Parsippany is a long way from the Vatican — not just geographically, but theologically. The town is the unlikely epicentre of a global campaign to drop the celibacy requirement for Catholic priests.

Hundreds of married priests and their wives will today reaffirm their wedding vows together in a hotel ballroom.

The campaign is led by the former Archbishop of Zambia, Emmanuel Milingo, who was excommunicated by the Pope in September for consecrating four married bishops.

“Marriage is the normal way,” Mr Milingo told The Times, wearing a wedding ring on one hand and his archipiscopal ring on the other. “People must now believe that the sanctity of the priesthood depend on celibacy. Not at all.”

The charismatic 76-year-old has had a troubled relationship with the Vatican since stepping down as head of the archdiocese of Lusaka after the Vatican opposed his endorsement of traditional African faith healing and exorcism.

In 2001, he married a young woman from South Korea in a mass ceremony organised by Rev Sun Myung Moon. He avoided excommunication then after bowing to an appeal by Pope John Paul II to renounce the marriage.

In July he announced the creation of the pressure group Married Priests Now! and he is now living with his wife, Maria Sung, who is a member of Rev Moon’s Unification Church.

His flamboyant character has given pause to some. Monsignor Robert Wister, a professor of church history at Seton Hall University, a Catholic college in New Jersey, said: “I think only a psychologist could explain why a person gets involved in a marriage to someone he has never met in a mass ceremony presided over by Rev Moon. I think we are dealing with a rather exotic figure.”

Mr Milingo says he knew his future wife in Rome, but did not know that she was the bride selected for him.

Mr Milingo said that he planned to ordain three more married men as priests tomorrow at a service in New Jersey. “They are talking about excommunication, but excommunication is just a word. It means nothing to me,” he said.

Married Priests Now! estimates that about 150,000 men have left the Catholic priesthood to get married.

John Horan, who left the Church in 1988 to marry, said: “I very much enjoyed being a priest, but I was in love. I just decided that my call to priestly ministry did not come with a call to celibacy.”

Advocates of change argue that St Peter was married and that celibacy became the rule only in the 12th century.

Eastern Rite churches, which follow Orthodox traditions but are loyal to the papacy, permit the ordination of married men. The Vatican has even granted full status to about 40 married priests who have converted from Anglicanism to Catholicism. But Pope Benedict XVI has taken a strong line on celibacy, summoning the Vatican Cabinet to reaffirm church teaching.
Father Joseph Fessio, editor of Ignatius Press, the Pope’s publisher in the United States, said: “There is a theological reason for the celibacy, in that a priest wants to be in conformity with the high priest Christ whose bride is the Church. The Catholic Church will not ever change this discipline, which is not just a discipline like not eating meat on Fridays.”

The role of Rev Moon has provoked suspicions that he wants to create a new sect in Africa to rival the Catholic Church, a charge that Mr Milingo denies. The Rev Moon’s organisations fund Married Priests Now! and help Mr Milingo, who has lost his Vatican pension.

Louise Haggett runs a website that has referred 100,000 people to married priests for weddings and funerals and is a leader of the CITI ministry, an acronym for “celibacy is not the issue”. She has cautioned the group’s members, who have been “suspended” as priests but not excommunicated, to avoid Married Priests Now! because Mr Milingo has broken with Rome.


Since 1994 over 40 married Anglican priests have been ordained as Roman Catholic priests in the UK

Friday, December 08, 2006

Reflections on Priestly Celibacy

Before sharing the article on celibacy by Fr. Castillo that I promised, I'd like to share some depressing news. The Vatican just upheld the excommunication of Call to Action Catholics by then Bishop Robert F. Vasa of the Diocese of Lincoln, Nebraska 10 years ago. The current bishop, Fabian W. Bruskewitz concurred with his predecessor and compared his actions to parents telling their children that they can't test everything in the medicine cabinet or under the sink. And while you are choking on this demeaning simile, Bruskewitz has a message for CTA members: "The best lesson that can be learned from everything that has happened is that one finds happiness, joy and satisfaction in obedience to the church." If you really want to read more about this decision, you can find details from Catholic News Service.

And now for a progressive perspective...

Reflections on Priestly Celibacy
by José María Castillo, SJ
Santiago de Chile
Crónica Digital
November 28, 2006

This article was originally published in Spanish and is available here. English translation courtesy of Rebel Girl.

According to the gospels, Jesus did not impose the obligation of bachelor living on any of his apostles. St. Paul says that some apostles lived with Christian wives and adds that they had the right to do so (1 Cor 9:5).

In the letters to Timothy (1 Tim 3: 2-5) and Titus (Titus 1:6), in explaining the qualities a bishop should have, it says that he should be faithful to his wife and know how to rule his household and his children well, because "if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how can he take care of the church of God?" (1 Tim 3:5)

That is how things were until the 4th century. It is known that at the Council of Nicea (325 AD) some bishops wanted to "introduce a new law" that "ordained" men (bishops, priests, deacons) "not sleep with their wives."

Faced with this petition, Bishop Pafnucio yelled that one should not impose this heavy yoke on consecrated men, adding that the matrimonial act is worthy of honor and that matrimony itself is immaculate. (Socrates, Hist. Ecl. I:9). And the Council of Gangres (345 AD) condemned those who said that one should not receive communion from the hands of a married priest.

Nonetheless, at the beginning of the 4th century, right here in Granada, at the Council of Elvira, the law of continence -- not the law of celibacy -- was imposed on the clergy, that is to say, they couldn't avail themselves of their marriage from the moment of their ordination. This discipline continued for centuries.

This caused serious complications. For example, the First Council of Toledo (397-400 AD) ruled that the wives of clergy who sinned with someone else should be severely punished by their husbands in such a way as not to cause their death. And the Third Council of Toledo (589 AD) decided that the wives of clergy who sinned with another should be sold as slaves and the proceeds given to the poor.

In Eastern rite Christianity, the discipline was different: the Trullan Council (692 AD) set the law that remains in force in those churches and permits clergy to marry. "The nuptials are honorable and matrimony is immaculate." Therefore it is not true that the celibacy law is a law of the universal Church. It is a law of the Latin rite Church.

How long can we say that the celibacy law has existed? It was Pope Innocent II who at the Second Lateran Council (1139 AD) officially declared that marriage for priests was not only prohibited, but also invalid. From then on, priests (in the Latin rite Church) remained unable to marry. How was that decision reached? In the case of the bishops, economic criteria were decisive: There was the danger that a married priest would leave the properties of the Church as an inheritance to his children. But the determining factor was the principle of "ritual purity."

That was demonstrated in the best historical study made about this specific point (R. Gryson, Les origines du célibat ecclésiastique, Duculot, Gembloux, 1970). According to this principle, "only those who are pure can have access to the sphere of the sacred." But the conviction that sexual relationships contaminate and stain has been held since time immemorial.

The Greeks (Pythagoras, Empedocles) taught this way before Christianity. And the Jewish priests lived this way, who were married, but when they had to serve in the Temple, they had to stay in the Temple, without consorting with their wives. This was one of the arguments that was used in Rome when the daily celebration of the Eucharist was imposed in the 4th century. This is why the continence requirement was also imposed on clergy at that time.

This way of viewing sexuality as something that renders one impure is not accepted in current culture. This is why other arguments are usually used to justify keeping the celibacy law.

These are arguments that should be qualified. Because if you say that one who does not marry loves God more, you are really saying that God can be the jealous rival of a human love. But God is not (nor can He be) this way. What God most wants is for the love between humans to be as intense and authentic as possible.

Another reason that is usually provided is that someone who marries cannot devote himself as completely to the apostolate, which is true in some cases.

But it is not true that we priests devote more time and will to our task than the time and will other professionals put into their work -- business people or artists, for example.

So why is this church law still in effect? Experience teaches us, and psychologists endorse it, that whoever controls the emotional and sexual life of a person, secures that person's obedience. Probably this reason is stronger than we might imagine, even though many are not aware of it.

Aside from that, I don't think that if the Church allowed priests to marry, more people would enter the seminaries and novitiate programs. The crisis in vocations has deeper roots that now is not the moment to explain. Many Protestant churches have the same crisis in pastors.

And we know that Protestant pastors can marry. We have to remember as well that the sexual instinct only has three possible outlets: satisfaction, repression, or sublimation. But repression brings serious problems for the person who is forced to live that way. And sublimation for religious reasons is, of course, an admirable gift.

But it is not easy to understand how such a sublime experience could be lived by hundreds of thousands of people as those who want to devote themselves to apostolic ministry in the Church must live. Out of this come the "double lives", the scandals. Therefore I think that it would be better to eliminate this law that is more and more difficult to uphold each day.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Central America: Boosting the status quo on celibacy

SEDAC, the Central American Bishops' Conference, which has been meeting in Tegucigalpa, Honduras decided to put in their 2-cents worth on the celibacy question. They called on their priests to value "cada día más el don del celibato que han recibido" ("each day more and more the gift of celibacy they have received" through ongoing formation. SEDAC added:

"El celibato sacerdotal vivido en madurez afectiva, signo de la radicalidad de su entrega libre a Cristo y a su Evangelio, es un precioso ejemplo para todo joven del valor de la castidad y para aquellos llamados por el Señor a la vida consagrada y al sacerdocio ministerial, un acicate a no dejarse vencer por el temor"

Translation: "Priestly celibacy lived in affective maturity, a sign of the radicalness of the free gift of themselves to Christ and His Gospel, is a precious example for all youth of the value of chastity and for those who are called by the Lord to the consecrated life and priestly ministry, an incentive not to let themselves be conquered by fear."

And they end with a quote from Deus Caritas Est in which Pope Benedict XVI calls celibacy the best testimony of the God in whom we believe and who impels us to love.

Later I will have a somewhat different view on the subject from a well-known Spanish Jesuit theologian to share with you, but I need some time to translate it.

Groups express concern over Married Priests Now

The Daily Record of 12/7/2006 contains an article reflecting the split in this movement between Married Priests Now and other groups calling for an end to mandatory celibacy such as CORPUS and CITI. The other groups are uncomfortable with Archbishop Milingo's connection to Revd. Sun Myung Moon and also the schismatic nature of Married Priests Now.

The connection with the Unification Church "'doesn't click with most Roman Catholics,' said Russell Ditzel, president of CORPUS, a national organization representing 1,500 priests who left ministries in the Roman Catholic Church to get married."

In the article, Peter Paul Brennan, who was ordained a bishop by Milingo within the structure of Married Priests Now, denies that Moon has any involvement with the movement but goes on to say that Milingo's wife receives funds from the Unification Church and, as Milingo is no longer on the Catholic Church's payroll, this is how the couple lives.

CITI also declined to participate in the Married Priests Now convention and Louise Haggett, CITI's founder, said: "We are Roman Catholics and plan to stay that way."

The rest of the Daily Record article is available here.

Belgian priests back end to celibacy rule

Another example of how the Magisterium is out of touch with the Sensus Fidelium on the celibacy issue:

Brussels, Dec. 6, 2006 ( — Nearly 80% of the priests in Belgium's Flemish region support the admission of married men to the Catholic clergy, according to poll results appearing in the newspapers Gazet van Antwerpen and Het Belang van Limburg.

The survey of 234 priests found that a clear majority -- 57% -- believe that their work load is now too heavy. Questioned about the findings by Gazet van Antwerpen, Cardinal Godfried Danneels of Brussels said that he was not surprised by that result, observing that priests are aging (the average age of the survey respondents was 67) while their responsibilities are unchanged.

Cardinal Danneels added that he was not surprised by the priests' support for an end to the requirement of clerical celibacy. "Celibacy is not easy to live," he observed, and "everyone knows that celibacy is an ecclesiastical rule that could change."

However, the cardinal voiced his doubts that the shortage of priests could be eased by admitting married men to the Catholic clergy. "I don't think there are many married men prepared to become priests," he said -- noting that Protestant churches, despite their tradition of allowing married ministers, are experiencing a similar drop in the number of clergy.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Renegade bishop set to rattle Rome

More about Archbishop Milingo's activities and some interesting details about the links between Married Priests Now and the Unification Church. Prof. Charmè's remarks at the end of the article about the de facto changes in the definition of "Catholic" are also interesting.

Wednesday, December 6, 2006
By Sachi Fujimori
Herald News

A Roman Catholic Archbishop from Zambia with a colorful history of rousing the Vatican and ties to the Rev. Sun Myung Moon, will once again annoy his bosses this Sunday when he ordains three married men as priests at a church in West New York.

Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo returned to the United States this July to kick-start his movement, known as Married Priests Now. This weekend he will host a conference at a Sheraton hotel in Parsippany, convening as many as 600 married priests from around the world. On Sunday, Milingo will perform the ordinations at Trinity Reformed Church in West New York. Milingo would have had little luck finding a local Catholic Church to perform the ordinations. He was excommunicated by the Vatican in September after he ordained four married men as bishops, including a priest from Newark. Excommunication renders all of Milingo's holy activities illegal in the eyes of the Roman Catholic Church.

A Clifton resident and coordinator for Married Priests Now, Bishop Dairo Ferrabolli, is sanguine about the Vatican's rejection.

"We are Catholic. If the Vatican doesn’t want to recognize us, it's OK," he said. "The mother is rejecting the son. What do you want the son to do?"

Ordained as a Roman Catholic priest in Brazil in 1979, Ferrabolli said he had to resign from his church when he married. He then formed an independent church, the Catholic Family Church, with about 350 families in the United States and the Caribbean, according to Ferrabolli.
He also occasionally performs spiritual services for weddings and birthdays, he said. He is still married today with two daughters and a son.

Milingo and his followers say that allowing married Catholic priests to return to full ministry is a solution to the priest shortage, will improve the status of women in the Catholic Church and serve as a model of a Christian family.

The weekend-long conference of renegade Catholics is partly funded by a group associated with Moon, the controversial South Korean founder of the Unification Church, known for his deep pockets and mass weddings.

"We are a new organization. We don't have much of a budget to take care of things," said Ferrabolli of their sponsorship.

Milingo has been associated with Moon before. In 2001, Moon chose a South Korean wife for Milingo, and married the couple in one of his mass wedding ceremonies. After pleas from Pope John Paul II, Milingo renounced the marriage. But he reportedly reunited with his wife when he returned to the United States this July, according to the Catholic News Service. Clifton's Ferrabolli also has ties to one of Rev. Moon's organizations.

The connection may be more than just sponsorship, according to John Gorenfeld, a New York-based freelance writer who is currently writing a book about the Rev. Moon and the Unification Church.

On his Web blog devoted to Moon, Gorenfeld reveals that the Web site for Married Priests Now ( was registered under the same domain name of Moon's personal Web master, David Payer. Payer's name has since been removed, but his Iowa address and telephone numbers remain. The same contact info appears on the domain registration for the Unification Church homepage.

Moon is known for trying to build inter-religious federations, said Gorenfeld. And his partnership with Milingo and the renegade Catholics could serve to bolster his legitimacy, he added. In 2004, the ex-president of Uganda married a Japanese women selected for him by Moon in a mass satellite wedding ceremony.

Moon is "interested in aiming big and finding wives for influential figures who come under his flag," said Gorenfeld.

This weekend's conference in Parsippany will include a holy Mass, linking via satellite 1,200 priests and their wives from Europe, Africa and Latin America, said Ferrabolli. The activist clergy will be dressed in full regalia, just like their counterparts in Rome.

Milingo does not preside over a church today. But if you ask him and his followers, their Catholic Church has no walls. Milingo often presides over mass, said Ferrabolli. "Even when he travels, he carries all his holy items. We pray mass in the airport. We celebrate the Eucharist."

Milingo's push for married papacy is getting the attention of his bosses at the Vatican. In a November meeting in Rome, led by Pope Benedict XVI, Catholic leaders met to "discuss the disobedience" of Milingo, according to a Vatican statement. By the meeting’s end, the Vatican reaffirmed their stance on mandatory celibacy for priests. Some experts say the Vatican is concerned over Milingo's activities because of the fear of his influence. He was an archbishop of Zambia. Africa and South America are regions where the Catholic Church is showing its greatest growth.

"The Catholic Church is becoming a complicated diverse community,” said Stuart Charmè, chairman of Rutgers' department of philosophy and religion.

"And the unquestioned authority of the Church of Rome is no longer taken for granted by some parts of the Catholic Church in new markets in the third world.

"In some ways it's a showdown of authority," said Charmè.

And he doesn't see the Vatican backing down any time soon.

"The Catholic Church is an extremely tradition-bound institution, comprised of men who were socialized in a different generation, not open to change," said Charmè.

Monsignor Robert Wister, a professor of church history at Seton Hall University, said Milingo's support for married clergy "is not the answer to the priest shortage."

The Vatican, too, is concerned about the shrinking ranks of priests he said, but has responded by stepping up their efforts to encourage men to become priests.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Matrimony and Holy Orders: Reading the Vatican Tea Leaves

I wish I knew more Portuguese since it seems like the most interesting prospects for Vatican "tea leaf reading" on celibacy are coming out of Portugal and Brazil.

According to the O. Estado de S.Paulo, Cardinal Hummes, before he backtracked, "admitiu ontem que a falta de vocações sacerdotais possa levar o Vaticano a discutir a ordenação de homens casados. 'Embora os celibatários façam parte da história e da cultura católicas, a Igreja pode refletir sobre essa questão, pois o celibato não é dogma, mas uma norma disciplinar', disse d. Cláudio, lembrando que alguns apóstolos eram casados e que a proibição do casamento só veio séculos depois da instituição do sacerdócio." In English: Cardinal Hummes said that the lack of vocations could lead the Vatican to discuss the ordination of married men. He added that even though celibate people are part of Catholic history and culture, the Church can reflect on this question because celibacy is not a dogma but a disciplinary norm and he recalled that some of the apostles were married and that the prohibition against marriage came centuries after the institution of the priesthood.

The Cardinal goes on to say that the Church is not a static institution and can move when it has to. He says that it may start slowly with a discussion of whether to reopen the celibacy debate at all. And again he reiterates that this discussion is being prompted by the shortage of vocations, particularly in Europe.

By Monday, the headline was "Dom Claudio denies any opening by the Vatican on celibacy" (article in Portuguese). At this point the Cardinal does a 180 degree turn and says that ending celibacy is not the solution to the shortage of vocations since this is due to other factors like the modern secularized culture. And the Vatican says that Dom Claudio's remarks were misinterpreted.

With all due respect, I don't think so. Cardinal Hummes is not an ignorant man. He knew perfectly well what he was saying. He was reading the priest crisis from a Latin American perspective. Rome is slapping him on the wrist and saying: "If you're going to Europe, brother, it's time to start using European analysis and language" -- hence the reference to "modern secularized culture." This term is much less a part of Latin American ecclesial discourse.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, the Portuguese newspaper article from Correio da Manhã contains some interesting speculation in addition to the survey results which I reported in an earlier post on this blog. The bishop of the Portuguese Armed Forces, Dom Januário Torgal Ferreira, after a bit of bluster about how it's hard for people to understand priestly disciplines such as the vows of poverty and celibacy and how the Church can't change to reflect the prevailing winds, nonetheless adds: "é muito provável que haja mudanças a esse nível, talvez mais cedo do que o que se pensa” ("It is very probable that there will be movement at this level, perhaps more than one would think"). While stating that allowing those already in the priesthood to marry is a long way off, Dom Januário opines "a Igreja não vai demorar a aceitar a ordenação de homens casados" ("the Church is not going to delay [long] in accepting the ordination of married men"). The article then goes on to quote from the presiding bishop of the Portuguese Bishops' Conference who reaffirms the status quo on celibacy.

Bottom line: If you are feeling called to be a married Catholic priest, make sure you receive your sacraments in the proper order: 1. Matrimony, 2. Holy Orders.

Curial cardinal says celibacy 'not a dogma,' can be discussed

Published on National Catholic Reporter Conversation Cafe (
By John L Allen Jr Daily
Created Dec 4 2006 - 01:44

Pope Benedict XVI's choice as the church's top official for priests has said that celibacy “is not a dogma,” and that the Catholic church can reflect on the subject.

The explosive character of the issue, however, was reflected in a "clarification" issued in the name of the cardinal by the Vatican Press Office on Dec. 4.

Cardinal Claudio Hummes, 72, of São Paulo, Brazil, was nominated Prefect of the Congregation for Clergy on Oct. 31. He made the comments as he left for Rome in an interview with the Brazilian publication Estado de São Paulo.

“Even if celibates are part of our history and of Catholic culture, the church can reflect on the question of celibacy, because it's not a dogma but a disciplinary norm,” Hummes said.

Hummes, a Franciscan, recalled that several apostles were married, and that the discipline of priestly celibacy in the Western church developed several centuries after the institution of the priesthood itself.

"The church is not stationary, but an institution that changes when it has to change,” Hummes said. "The church must first discuss if it's necessary to reconsider the norm of celibacy.”

Hummes acknowledged that the priest shortage in Europe and other parts of the world has created new pressure for a reexamination of the discipline of celibacy.

Ultimately, any decision to reevaluate the question of priestly celibacy would be made by Benedict XVI himself, not Hummes. Nevertheless, the fact that the pope's choice for the top job on the priesthood would raise the question reflects a growing openness to discussion at senior levels of the church.

Hummes also discussed the scandals of sexual abuse by priests which have rocked parts of the Catholic world in recent years.

“Even if we were talking about just one case, it would be a great source of concern, above all as regards the victims,” he said. “But it's unjust and hypocritical to generalize the scandals of pedophilia, because 99 percent of priests have nothing to do with it.”

"Pedophilia is not just a problem for priests, but of the entire society,” stating that “there are cases of sexual abuse of children even within families.”

Hummes said it's the responsibility of bishops to take ever greater care with the “rigorous selection and demanding formation” of candidates for the priesthood.

"Priests are a strategic group for the church,” he said. “They are the ones who give life to the church, and for that reason, they deserve the support and affection of Catholics.”

On Monday, the Vatican issued a declaration offering clarifications from Hummes on his comments in the interview.

"With regard to the echoes created by my words reported by the newspaper Estado de Sâo Paulo, I'd like to clarify the following," it said.

"In the church, it has always been clear that the obligation of celibacy for priests is not a dogma, but a disciplinary norm. It is also clear that this is true for the Latin church, but not for the Oriental rites, where it is normal that priests are married in the communities in union with the Catholic church.

"However, it is nevertheless clear that the norm of celibacy for the priests of the Latin church is very ancient, and is based on a consolidated tradition and on strong motivations, both of a theological-spiritual character and also practical-pastoral, confirmed by recent popes.

"Also in the recent Synod of Bishops, the most common opinion among the fathers was that a change in the rule of celibacy would not be a solution for the problem of the priest shortage, which results from other factors, beginning with the secularized modern culture, as the experience of other Christian confessions demonstrates, which have married priests or pastors.

"This question is therefore not actually under discussion by the ecclesiastical authorities, as was recently confirmed after the last meeting of the heads of dicasteries with the Holy Father."

Hummes' comments on celibacy come at a moment of growing tension on the question. On Nov. 16, Benedict XVI convened a meeting of top Vatican officials in the wake of Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo's illicit ordination of four bishops as part of his campaign to relax the celibacy requirement.

After that meeting, the Vatican issued a statement indicating that “the value of the choice of priestly celibacy according to Catholic tradition was reaffirmed,” but it did not address if the pope might be open to reconsidering mandatory celibacy.
Currently, priestly celibacy is mandatory in the Western church, with the exception of a handful of priests who converted to Catholicism from another Christian denomination where they were already married. In the 21 Eastern rite churches in communion with Rome, however, married priests are common.

During the Synod of Bishops on the Eucharist in October 2005, there was a vigorous debate on the celibacy question. In the end, the synod upheld existing discipline, adopting a proposition that read: "The Synod Fathers have affirmed the importance of the inestimable gift of ecclesiastical celibacy in the practice of the Latin Church. With reference to the magisterium, in particular Vatican II and the recent popes, the Fathers have asked that the reasons for the relationship between celibacy and priestly ordination be illustrated adequately to the faithful, in full respect for the traditions of the Eastern churches. Some made reference to the viri probati, but this hypothesis was evaluated as a path not to follow.

Milingo, meanwhile, plans to lead a "convocation in Parsippany, New Jersey, Dec. 8-10, where he intends to ordain three married priests, further deepening his rift with the Vatican.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Vatican Said Not Revising Celibacy Rule

Today: December 04, 2006 at 7:10:10 PST
By Frances D'Emilo
Vatican City (AP)

A Brazilian cardinal who appeared to suggest the Vatican was open to revising its celibacy requirement for priests stressed Monday the question was not on the Holy See's agenda and contended that allowing them to marry wouldn't solve the clergy shortage.

Cardinal Claudio Hummes issued a statement on the day he arrived in Italy to take up a senior Vatican post in charge of priests worldwide.

On Friday, in an interview with a Brazilian newspaper, Fohla de S. Paulo, Hummes noted that celibacy was not church dogma but a rule, sparking some speculation, including in the Italian media which the Vatican closely follows, that the Holy See might relax its requirement that Latin rite priests be celibate.

The Vatican press office's release of the statement as Hummes was heading to the his new post indicated that the Holy See wanted to dampen any more such speculation.

Revising the requirement of celibacy "is not currently on the agenda of church authorities, as recently restated after the last reunion of (Vatican) department heads with the Holy Father," Hummes said in his statement.

He was referring to a summit, led by Pope Benedict XVI two weeks earlier, which reiterated the value of the requirement of celibacy for priests and made clear the policy wasn't about to be changed.

The Vatican summit was a response to former Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo, a renegade married clergymen from Zambia who is leading a high-profile crusade in the United States for the Roman Catholic Church to allow priests to wed.

Men in the Eastern rite of the Catholic church who are married can become priests, and the Vatican has accepted into the priesthood some married Anglican priests who converted to Catholicism.

In the statement issued by the Vatican, Hummes that it was "clear that the rule of celibacy for priests in the Latin church is very ancient and is based on a consolidated tradition and strong motivations ... reiterated by popes as well."

The cardinal described the motivations as theological, spiritual, pastoral and practical.

Hummes said that among a recent gathering of bishops, "the most widely held opinion was that loosening the rule on celibacy would not be a solution, not even to the problem of the scarcity of vocations, which is to be linked, rather, to other causes, starting with the modern secularized culture."

In the newspaper interview, Hummes said: "Certainly, the majority of the apostles were married. In this modern age, the church must observe these things, it has to advance with history."

Married priests were permitted in the church in its early centuries.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Let priests marry, say Portuguese

LISBON, Dec 3, 2006 (AFP)

Four in five people, or 80.3 percent, in predominantly Roman Catholic Portugal feel the Vatican should allow priests to get married, a poll published Sunday showed.

Only 15.5 percent oppose the measure while the remaining 4.2 had no opinion, according to the survey published in daily newspaper Correio da Manha.

Support was widespread among practicing Catholics, 74.6 percent of whom came out in favor of allowing priests to marry.

"The official position of the Church on this issue does not coincide with what the vast majority of people, including practicing Catholics, think," sociologist Jorge Sa told the newspaper.

Last month the Vatican rejected calls for the Roman Catholic Church to allow priests to marry after Pope Benedict XVI called a rare meeting with the top leaders of the Holy See administration to discuss the issue.

Advocates of allowing priests to marry say it would help reverse a global shortage of priests but the Church argues priestly celibacy is an important symbol of a person's commitment to a higher reality.

The telephone survey of 550 people was carried out by the Aximage polling firm for the newspaper between November 15 and 17.

A blog visitor's thoghts about Archbishop Milingo

This is a comment written in reply to removed post and Fr. Paul Mayer's comment to it.:

Fr. Paul Mayer – thank you for your comment,

Your link to the NGO article did not work for me so let me try it here …as it is a very important article. Sheds some light on how Moon operates.

The deceptive Moon organization will tell you that the article is written by communists. That is BS. It is funny how Moon gets away with selling himself as an anti communist until he decides he wants to build businesses in N Korea and then he funds NK with billions. Fact is, Moon says he is anti communist when he is also anti democracy, capitalism and anything which is not Godism, his form of theocracy in which God rules the world directly through believers. When his group of spinners tell people anything about that they don't mention that Moon believes he is God incarnate and as such his every utterance is that of God's. Moon even says he is better than God.

Fr. Paul Mayer, I think there is a Biblical sized blindness taking hold here and I am afraid your words will fall upon closed ears. Moon will have his witting and unwitting tools. As far co-opting the Married Priests movement goes, HE ALREADY HAS. Look at this blog's postings and news reports on the subject Milingo, Milingo, Milingo. Moon is not a clown, he knows exactly what he is doing.

I have studied the Moon organization for years. Anyone who remotely thinks that Milingo isn't Moon's tool by design is uninformed or lying to themselves to make their support of him IN ANY MANNER ok to their consciences. Moon only needs your acceptance and your credibility; he does not need you to say you are an open follower. He'll use your likeness and credibility to open other doors.

Everything, let me repeat, EVERYTHING Moon does, funds, pushes, supports is done for the purposes of promoting his ideology and to mesh the world's religions under his influence. That is ALL he does. Working to push Moon's goals is ALL his followers do, all they do. They have one mindset, one goal, to put Moon and his organization into control of the direction of world events. That is all they do.

For instance, Moon has created his own personal United Nations, the Universal Peace Federation(UPF), because the current UN would not go along with his plan to theocratize the UN. Moon proposed that the UN add an entire theocratic body to the UN structure. This body, in Moon's vision, was to be run by the religious and be superior to the current body. Of course Moon just happened to have a front group to serve as the "senate" for this body which has now morphed into Moon's own UN, the UPF. If you think I am nuts because only a member nation can make such a proposal to the UN, note that the Philippines makes these proposals and the Speaker of the House for the Philippines openly admits Moon is "leading" their efforts.

Moon outspent anyone, including Richard Mellon Scaife, promoting right wing, theocratic politics in America; Moon has had an inordinate amount of influence on our nation's politics and he will do the same to the Catholic Church. Moon openly brags that he has "influenced America" through his multi billion dollar losing propaganda paper, the Washington Times. That's just one effort.

He's funded many players on the right - the Bush family, Falwell, LahHaye, Viguerie – key players. A Moon funded and created political front, The American Freedom Coalition, was considered one of the two most powerful conservative organizations in the country when fully active in the 80s and 90s. US News and World Report stated that by 1989 virtually every conservative organization in DC had ties to Moon's "church". Now that Moon has added "Peace" to one of his front group's names, liberals are even opening up to him. How sick is that? Moon has spent billions in overseas cash promoting right wing, theocratic, homophobic, anti union, authoritarian politics in America and now some liberal politicians send his front groups greetings.

I point this out so you will know how he is using Milingo and the Married Priests movement is nothing new, he has been using people and groups for decades.

This is an organization which has been found responsible for swindling hundreds of millions, in not billions, of dollars from the Japanese, literally targeting widows with their scams. This is a "peace" organization of which 700 members recently busted up a newspaper's offices in Korea and threatened the life of reporter who had the audacity to be critical of this deceptive organization.

I was told by one observer Moon was picking a fight with the Catholic Church, he is. He is also loving every minute of it. IMO, anyone who works with Moon and claims to be religious is a fraud or a blind fool. If you are old enough, think back 30 years and tell yourself that back then you would openly work with Moon to achieve his goals one day and be proud of it.

Milingo under Moon's spell? Well when Milingo said he was not about creating a schism and now he says he just wants a "church within a church" – that is Moon rationalization going on there folks. I am still not convinced that the Pope and the RCC realizes what they are up against.


This will not go away. All you folks who have spent years working to have the RCC allow married priests - you HAVE just had your whole movement absorbed by Moon whether you like it or not. Milingo will always be the one associated with pushing this agenda now. He will suck up all the press, he will back the Pope further and further into a corner. You haven't seen anything yet. Moon will not stop and you have yourselves to thank for this. America has allowed Moon to play his games and use his laundered money to influence our nation and gain face the world over for decades now, and ministers never spoke up in force. No, in fact, many ministers greeted Moon when he got out prison, fed his delusion that he was persecuted. Now you are reaping what you ignored for thirty years.

One thing is for sure,

From the removed post--

It is time to stand with Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo and time for him to stand with his married priest colleagues in CORPUS, FCM Roman Catholic Faith Community Council, CITI, the various International Regional Federations of Married Catholic Priests, the Women's Ordination Conference, Women's Ordination Worldwide, and the youngest prophetic community, Roman Catholic Womenpriests.I for one am grateful to the Reverend Moon for his support of Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo and his mission on behalf of the renewing of the Roman Catholic priesthood.

That is one of the most nauseating statements I have ever read. Truly sickening. Kiss your "religion" goodbye as you knew it.

Do you even own a Bible?

John 5:43 and the 2nd chapter of 2nd Thess, might be a good place for you to start.

Milingo's mind must have been jumping through some big uninformed hoops when he said he shared a view of Jesus with Moon. Moon says Jesus failed, that He is Moon's dead son's servant in the spi8ritworld and that Jesus couldn't get into heaven without Moon marrying Him to an old Korean woman.

Part of Moon's support system for Milingo is Moon's ACLC ministers; I have seen pictures of ACLC members lying prostrate before a huge picture of Moon and his wife in Korea. Another thing the post didn't mention when Mrs. Moon made her contacts with Milingo - obviously he was targeted when they saw he would work with them - anyway, Mrs. Moon is considered a "co-messiah" with Moon.

I have to run, please read my comment Sun Myung Moon's little toy bishops. for more on how Milingo and ALL WHO HELP MILINGO are Moon's tools.

Of that, there is no doubt. You can rationalize all you wish, you can tell yourself any damned uninformed lie you want, you can want to believe whatever you wish...but make no mistake, if you stand with Milingo, YOU STAND WITH MOON. You might as well be lying prostrate before him yourself.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Lets be candid about the candidates

by Rev. Paul Stanosz

To shed some light on the crisis in seminary formation today (see “Tomorrow’s Priests,” November 3), let me describe a priest I know, a man I will refer to as Fr. Bo. Ordained after barely scraping by in the seminary academically, Fr. Bo identifies strongly with John Paul II. The first in his class to own a cassock, he has a strong devotion to Mary, never misses a papal youth rally, and prides himself on his theological orthodoxy.

He also recently began cruising gay bars.

Bo did not realize he was sexually attracted to males until his mid-thirties. Not sufficiently challenged to face this issue in the seminary, he has remained in many respects an adolescent. He was once a strong proponent of mandatory celibacy and continues to oppose the ordination of women, but he now supports optional celibacy-because “priests need fun too.” Besides the sense of spirituality that drew him to the priesthood, Bo found the role appealing because it meant he would never have to look for another job, worry about money, clean house, or otherwise fend for himself. And because he was compliant and did little to draw attention to himself, he managed to be ordained.

Intellectually unformed, personally immature, Fr. Bo is by no means a rare exception at seminaries today. Indeed, his is a personality one encounters often among the newly ordained. And that’s the problem.

Few organizations take the training of their personnel as seriously as the Roman Catholic Church. Since the Council of Trent, the formation of priests in the Catholic Church has included lengthy periods of seminary training attending to nearly every detail of a candidate’s life. The duration and scope of this formation process have traditionally aimed at assessing the candidate’s ability and developing his commitment to the church’s mission. Yet despite this rigorous process-and increased Vatican scrutiny following the clergy sexual-abuse scandal-my recent doctoral research in several East Coast and Midwest seminaries has made me seriously question our ability to produce mature, intelligent leaders for tomorrow’s church. I reluctantly concluded that we are seeing a decline in the quality of applicants, which, when combined with other dilemmas facing the church, may forecast long-range and deleterious effects on the U.S. Catholic Church.

To be sure, many fine candidates continue to enter seminaries, and not a few seem certain to become holy, caring priests who will serve with devotion and even distinction. Still, growing numbers of seminary faculty are frustrated and alarmed by the declining intellectual ability of the applicant pool. (This is something they would say to me only behind closed doors.) Statistics support their concern. In Educating Leaders for Ministry (The Liturgical Press, 2005), Victor J. Klimoski, Kevin J. O’Neil, and Katerina M. Schuth reported that only 10 percent of today’s seminarians are highly qualified, while 50 percent are adequately qualified, and the remaining 40 percent are impeded in their ability to do successful academic work. Catholicism is not alone in its struggle to attract top candidates to the ministry; unlike Protestant and Jewish denominations, however, it has not benefited from the inclusion of women candidates, who substantially outperform their male counterparts on the Graduate Record Exam (GRE). And so, as average GRE scores for all U.S. test takers rose during the 1980s, the scores of prospective seminary students fell, and today, are significantly lower than the national average on the verbal portion of the test. In recent years, some seminaries have been forced to institute pre-theology programs to address the significant shortcomings of their entrants’ theological background.

Seminaries, moreover, are called not only to help students master theology, but to help them grow in maturity. John Paul II’s influential 1993 exhortation, I Will Give Them Shepherds, wisely added human formation to the seminary’s traditional concerns about spiritual, academic, and pastoral development. Indeed, formation on the personal level was to serve as the foundation for all other areas of priestly training. John Paul II noted that a priest’s personality had to act as a bridge, rather than an obstacle, if others were to encounter Christ through his ministry. And so, psychosexual development and affective maturity came to be seen as central to effective seminary formation.

How well are our seminaries succeeding in promoting this maturity? The example of Fr. Bo does not augur well. Though he was ordained in the 1980s, Fr. Bo is representative of what I found in seminaries today. Many of the men in my study entered the seminary in their thirties and forties, yet-like many younger candidates-they frequently seemed to lack well-developed social and relational skills. Many had been away from the church for years before having a conversion experience, and some reported being moved to seek priesthood by the charisma of Pope John Paul II. Faculty members I interviewed noted that today’s seminarians are frequently drawn to theologies that exalt the status and distinctiveness of the clerical role, and are more interested in consulting the Catechism of the Catholic Church for clear answers than in exploring the wide breadth of Catholicism’s theological heritage. My sense from my research visits is that a significant number of seminarians are looking for a religiously saturated environment that will bestow a special sense of sacred identity. Their rooms often have the appearance of shrines, and their days are spent in study and prayer among peers who share their worldview.

My hope is that Fr. Bo resolves the issues related to his arrested development before he gets himself into other kinds of trouble. I am not sure this is likely. While he complains that it is the media’s fault that the clergy sexual-abuse scandal has created the “depressing picture” of the church for people, Fr. Bo seems unaware of the extent of the problems and of his own inconsistencies. What I find depressing is the church’s own lack of candor. Desperately needed are priests who are forthright, not only in terms of their own sexuality, but of their personal integrity.

Are today’s seminaries fostering such an ethos? I have my doubts. Many of the seminarians I conversed with seemed like impressionable, religiously disposed men who were seeking regimentation, self-abnegation, and an institutionally prescribed identity. Such authority-dependent men are likely to frustrate bishops and vicars-not because they will sexually abuse minors or fail to honor their vows, but because they will take little initiative on their own. Followers rather than leaders, they are not likely to show the creativity required for effective parish work. In the past, they might have gotten by serving as associates at larger parishes, but now they will be called on to pastor parishes after only a few years of experience as associate pastors.

The well-being of any organization relies on its ability to attract the best and brightest to its leadership ranks. This clearly isn’t happening in the U.S. Catholic Church. The admission of women into the clergy by other denominations has raised the overall aptitude of their seminarians, but Rome has ruled out this possibility for Catholics. While one wonders what effect optional celibacy would have on the number and quality of men entering the Catholic priesthood, Rome has been intransigent on that option too. The Vatican appears to prefer modestly gifted celibate men over brighter, more capable women or men who want to marry.

While Catholics know that the number of newly ordained priests is down, not enough has been said about the characteristics and abilities of those who are entering the seminary. With fewer well-prepared, gifted, mature men seeking ordination, why aren’t seminary administrators and faculty members publicly calling for a discussion of the quality of applicants to their schools? What will become of a church that settles for mediocre leaders and excludes many who feel called to priesthood simply because of their gender, sexual preference, or desire to marry?

Choruses of bishops, vocation directors, and Serra Clubs calling for priests and laity to promote vocations have not addressed the quality of seminary applicants. Given how acute the priest shortage is and the unwillingness of the Vatican to discuss solutions to the problem, the U.S. Catholic Church is likely to face a continuing crisis of ordained leadership, long after the sexual-abuse crisis abates.

Rev. Paul Stanosz is a priest of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee and the author of The Struggle for Celibacy (Herder and Herder/Crossroad).Also by this author: Gay Seminarians