Monday, December 19, 2011

The Catholic priest with nine children

by Joanna Moorhead
The Guardian

Father Ian Hellyer is a Roman Catholic priest – but far from being celibate, he's a father. Not just to a couple of children, either: in true Roman Catholic fashion, Father Ian has lots of them – nine, in fact, ranging from 18-year-old Clare to seven-month-old Rose – taking in Teresa (17), Angela (15), Martha (11), John (nine), Luke (seven), Simeon (four) and Gregory (two) in between...

For more information on Fr. Hellyer, a recent "pastoral provision" convert from Anglicanism to Catholicism, see full text of article.

Catholic splinter expands

By Hilton Otenyo
The Nairobi Star

A Roman Catholic Church splinter group, the Kenya Ecumenical Reformed Catholic Church has said celibacy forms the basis on which the church would grow and expand. Head of the church archbishop Godfrey S. Wasike said the rule requiring that catholic priests live a chastity life is promoting faster growth of his church. “The catholic church should re-look at the rule with a view of opening up to realities of nature and allow the church priest to marry and raise families if it expects to remain relevant to the dynamic world,” said Wasike. He said that celibacy in the church has rocked families of faithful and it was not good for the practice to continue.

He spoke during the ordination of four priests of the church in Kakamega. Wasike, an ordained Roman Catholic priest is married to Stella. Wasike conducted the ordination of Fr Lucas Musamali who now becomes the parish priest for the Ikonyero church in Kakamega, Fr George Musembi (Thika) Fr Gregory Maeke, lecturer at Masinde Muliro University and Fr John Muyore (Trans Mara). The church head also ushered in Saustine Nalianya from Bungoma and Protus Asiango (Shibuye, Kakamega East district) to become church deacons.

On Saturday, Rev Wasike conducted the wedding ceremonies for two priests; Fr Maeke who wedded Jackline Mumbi and Fr Chrisanthus Shikokoti who wedded a teacher Evelyn Nanjala...

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Between a rock and a hard place: love or the collar

By Carmen Villar (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Faro de Vigo

It's now been 14 years since former priest José Antonio Fernández lost his job as teacher of religion because he was married. It seems that a photograph in a newspaper in which he came out with his wife and children as a member of Movimiento pro Celibato Opcional was to blame. Now the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg is reviewing his case. What José Antonio Fernández denounces is the hypocrisy surrounding his dismissal since, he argues, the Bishop of Cartagena is hiding behind "respect for parents' feelings" in order not to renew his contract, when he states that he introduced himself in each class -- from 1991 to 1997 -- to his students and their parents as a priest who didn't hide his status.

Fernández Martínez isn't the only case among priests who formalize their relationships with women. Movimiento pro Celibato Opcional ["The Optional Celibacy Movement"], whose very name already proclaims one of its objectives, estimates that around a quarter of the priests who are working in Spain got married between 1970 and 1990 or 1995, a figure that one of its members, Ramón Alario, who represents MOCEOP in the European Federation of Married Priests, thinks can be extrapolated to Galicia. In some countries in South America, such as Brazil, the number would even increase to one third, without the Christian communities raising many objections. "Many believers accept it as normal that the priest would live a normal life, but since it isn't lawful, practical acceptance is limited to small communities," he states.

This man who has a degree in Philosophy and a doctorate in Theology from the Universidad Pontificia de Comillas is happy that, since this organization was founded in the mid-70s, "many married priests have come out of the closet", which he considers an "achievement". "From living clandestinely, in hiding, with feelings of guilt, they have managed in many cases to help people live normally and not have problems of conscience and many communities have no problem with having a married priest who lives a normal life," he asserts.

Alario, who compiled the book "Curas casados. Historias de fe y ternura" ("Married priests: stories of faith and tenderness" - MOCEOP, 2011) that pulls together 23 of these cases -- acknowledges, nonetheless, that the married priests "boom" happened from the 70s to the 90s. "From that point on, we have questions. The younger priests who have been falling in love, do it secretely. There's no way to contact them," he explains. For Alario, this situation can be explained in part -- but only in part, he stresses -- by two factors. On the one hand, the economic situation. "It's not that it was easy for us, but some more, some less, found a civilian job and that's how we lived. The current situation means that anyone who abandons the ministry has more problems when he enters the labor market," he says. On the other hand, he adds, there's the generation gap and the concept of what the Church is. "Today's priests are more obedient and submissive to the hierarchy," he says. However, the priests of MOCEOP, he emphasizes, "are priests, and if the community "needs" them, they're "available."

This is the case, for example, of Galician former priest Juan Caamaño, now a driving instructor, who left the priesthood, not for love but to devote himself to that profession. "I changed because of life circumstances; I felt that my work was valued more," he explains. Love, he says, came later, and the family too, "a plus I hadn't counted on that gives me a lot of satisfaction."

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Victorino Pérez Prieto: "God isn't jealous when the priest has a family"

La Opinion Coruña

He was born in León, but almost all the publications of theologian Victorino Pérez, a member of the Movimiento pro Celibato Opcional ["Optional Celibacy Movement" in Spain], are in Castillian Spanish. He studied in Santiago -- although he got his doctorate in Theology in Salamanca, he was ordained a priest in Mondoñedo in 1981 and he was a pastor for 25 years in Galicia until he got married.

Is the priesthood compatible with being married?

I think it's perfectly compatible. God isn't jealous if you have a family and, moreover, things are going to have to change in the Church with respect to that. The problem is that the change that is already happening in practice is very slow at the level of the judicial structure of the Church, which has an atavistic rule that keeps it from seeing that this is not an impediment to being a priest. In fact, the priests in the Eastern rite Catholic Church can get married and married Anglican priests with their families have recently been admitted into the Catholic Church. So you can see how absolutely secondary this is. Moreover, in my case, I'm a theologian. I'm married and I work in Theology as much as the Church will allow me.

What does the fact that they can't get married mean?

The most serious problem for the priests who have a partner and can't get married is the tragedy of having to hide something beautiful that should be in the light. This makes them suffer unnecessarily. To those who claim we knew this before getting ordained as priests, I would say that we human beings evolve in life. Like what happened to me and to other priests -- you meet someone you love, and the love is reciprocal. And what love seeks is to be out in the light, not having to hide itself in any closet.

Many are in these hidden situations.

The lives of the those who live as a couple and who, legitimately, don't want to give up either their partner or the normal priesthood, are tragic. Sometimes it leads them to a shameful, sad, and hard situation, and even more so for the women than for the priests. Because they are the biggest victims. They live in an abnormal situation and in certain cases feelings of sin or abuse because of the lack of a normal emotional life can occur. It's true that there's a higher percentage of pedophiles among non-priests than among priests, but in most of these cases it happens because of not having normal healthy emotional lives. Loving and being loved by someone is the most beautiful thing that can happen to a person. Having to hide it creates a violent situation that's disastrous. Although celibacy isn't bad per se -- it has its good aspects and some live it out well -- it being mandatory for all has caused a lot of unnecessary suffering that is harmful to the Church.

The younger ones think about it more when the time comes to give up the priesthood for love. Is that due to the crisis or a different mentality?

There's a growing tendency for the younger cleric to be more conservative. But certainly in the current crisis situation, not having a normal working environment is a reason to live as a hidden couple. A somewhat important part is that the young cleric is more ritualistic than vocational -- he's simply a performer of rites and services through which he earns a living, but there's also a lot in the young cleric that's vocational and is healthy and well. But what's serious is that the Church isn't making a decision that it could have already made over 40 years ago at Vatican II. John Paul II said that he knew that in the future priests would be able to get married but he didn't want it to happen during his papacy, and now the same thing is happening [with Benedict XVI]. They keep passing the buck and not making a decision and by not making it, more suffering and tragic situations will continue to occur. Not to speak about when there are already children...

Parishes usually don't take it badly when their priests get married. What happened in your case?

I was a priest in Ferrol, in a large parish. When I announced it to the parish, one of the more conservative women told me I was worth as much to them married as single and she asked me if they could talk to the bishop, even though I explained to them that it didn't depend on him. And it's not about whether the people are more or less progressive, but common sense -- what the people want is for the priest to serve them. If there were a referendum, there would be all sorts [of responses] but those who agree with married priests would win.

Where's the future heading?

There's no going back on the fact that priests will marry. Thinking the opposite is going against history. But it doesn't seem like it's going to change immediately. It's something that should have changed through reflexion, not because the shameful situation of the Church, which has mortaged itself economically because it has had to pay for the abuses of its members, is going to make it change forcibly. Meanwhile, I won't allow my human and moral quality to be judged for having done it.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

"Hi. My name is José Antonio Fernández and I'm a married priest"

by J.A. Aunión (English translation by Rebel Girl)
El País

"Hi. My name is José Antonio Fernández and I'm a married priest." That's how the teacher of religion introduced himself to his students in each course. To their parents too, since he always sought work as a tutor. Then he explained to them that he had been a priest for over 20 years and that he had asked for dispensation to marry -- "I fell in love", he says -- even though he still had not been granted it in 1991 when he began to teach in the public institutes in Murcia. By then he already had five children.

Therefore, Fernández didn't understand the reasons the diocese gave him when they fired him from his teaching job in 1997 -- they took away his Ecclesial Declaration of Eligibility, which is essential for teaching a religion class, when his situation was made public through a photograph of a Movimiento Pro Celibato Opcional ("Optional Celibacy Movement") action published in a newspaper, arguing that some of the parents might be offended. "Which parents?...since they all knew me", and moreover they wrote publicly in support of him, he says indignantly. In fact, it seems so deceitful to him that he has been fighting for 14 years for recognition of the injustice that he states has been committed against him. He has come to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, that today will review his case in open court. The Spanish Constitutional Court rejected his arguments in 2007.

"I want to show that it was an unfair decision, that I had always performed responsibly as a teacher, with respect for the Catholic faith." A respect and love he maintains, because of which this process has been twice as difficult for him. "I love the Church. My children have never heard me speak against it," he states, but he can't say the same about the Catholic hierarchy because, in their case, "lies have been told," he says in the local Red Cross in his town, Cieza, in Murcia. At 74, he gives training courses to future volunteers. He says the "scandal" business is a lie and so is what the Spanish Bishops' Conference is now arguing in Strasbourg -- that José Antonio "has held a position contrary to the faith he committed himself to teach."

In any case, the defendant at the European Court is not the Bishops' Conference, but the Spanish government which is, ultimately, who hires teachers of religion, but only from among those who have the bishops' approval, according to 1979 agreements between Spain and the Holy See. A power that has already caused hundreds of lawsuits and millions of euros in compensation -- paid, for the most part, by the government -- in cases in which the bishops had decided on dismissal, for example, for marrying a divorced man or exercising the right to strike. "No accord can be above the Constitution and the law," Fernández complains.

Now his life is quieter. Nothing like that period when, in his fifties, he left the priesthood after more than 20 years, nine as a missionary in Ecuador. It was complicated then -- he worked in a jam factory while getting a degree in Classical Philology.

Once he had his degree, the then bishop of Cartagena called him and said: "Why don't you work as a religion teacher? We need people like you." It was 1991 and José Antonio had already been married six years and had five children, but he still hadn't been granted dispensation. "When I left, the bishop said to me: 'You're a poet, and all this will pass,' but it didn't pass. From the moment I asked for the dispensation [in 1984; he got married the following year] I acted as a layman; I took the silence to be a concession," he says. The dispensation came almost at the same time as the dismissal, in 1997.

One year earlier, he had been invited to a Movimiento Pro Celibato Opcional meeting which he attended. "It was a sort of field day, so I went with my whole family." When he, his wife and five children, got out of the car, a newspaper photographer took a picture to go with a news story on optional celibacy. "You're in the newspaper; you're important," one of his students said to him. But the photo deeply disturbed some people in the Catholic hierarchy and they fired him. "Can you believe that we have spent 15 years showing that going to a meeting of the optional celibacy movement isn't a crime? I am truly amazed."

Now, Strasbourg will decide if Fernández's rights to privacy and freedom of ideology and expression have been violated. The Church argues that it's its job to establish the moral criteria with which religion teachers must comply and that the Spanish government doesn't have the voice or the vote to select them or withdraw their approval.

US Melkite bishop urges study of ordaining married men as priests

By Mark Pattison
Catholic News Service
November 16, 2011

To address a shortage of priests in his nationwide eparchy, the Melkite Catholic bishop of Newton, Mass., is exploring the possibility of ordaining married men as priests.

Bishop Nicholas J. Samra of Newton notes that of the 40 parishes in his diocese, eight have no resident priest. And, while the answer is more priests, the question is how to get them.

The strategy Bishop Samra prefers is to develop priests from within the diocese rather than ask Melkite Catholic bishops from the Middle East, where the rite has its roots, to supply priests.

Bishop Samra made his views clear during an address he gave Aug. 23, the date of his installation as bishop.

"God calls men and women to religious vocations. And I believe he also calls married men to the priesthood," he said in his remarks. "We need to study this situation in our country and develop the proper formation for men who are truly deemed worthy of this call."

He added, " The (diocesan) deacon formation program is a good program; however, (it) is not the back door to the priesthood. Married men who are called to priesthood need the same formation as those celibates who are called. I have already discussed this issue with those involved in priestly formation and hopefully soon we can see the growth of properly formed married clergy. Of course there are also major financial issues to be looked at and we will embark on this also."

In a Nov. 9 telephone interview with Catholic News Service, Bishop Samra said his comments should not provoke any surprise at the Vatican.

"This is not new that I said this. I've said it before. They must have known this when they named me (bishop)," he said, adding he has even published his views in a book. "I know a copy went to Rome and I'm sure they saw that.

"I haven't hidden the fact that it's a necessity for our church," he said, noting that any such initiative would need to be "properly managed, and not just ordaining somebody who thinks they have a vocation."

The Vatican began placing limits on the ordination and assignment of Eastern Catholic married priests in the West in the 1880s. In 1929, the Vatican, at the request of the Latin-rite bishops of the United States, ruled that married priests could not serve the Eastern-rite churches in the United States. The ban was applied to Canada in the 1930s and to Australia in 1949.

But by the early 2000s, the Vatican had stopped suspending married men ordained to the priesthood for service in the Eastern Catholic churches of North America and Australia.

Archbishop Cyril Vasil, secretary of the Congregation for Eastern Churches, told CNS in Rome that the Vatican reconfirmed the general ban in 2008, "but in individual cases, in consultation with the national bishops' conference, a dispensation can be given" allowing the ordination.

Eastern Catholic bishops say the Second Vatican Council's call to respect the traditions and disciplines of the Eastern churches, and the 1990 Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches affirmation of that call, in effect nullifies the ban, or at the very least makes the ban a "disputed question" and therefore not binding.

But practical questions abound for the Melkites. "The Melkite Church never had a married clergy (tradition) in the USA," Bishop Samra told CNS.

"We have a bunch of people who want to be ordained, yeah, but we need to have men who have the credentials," he said, adding there are priests in the diocese who have complained, "If I had to go through all that training to get it (ordination), why shouldn't they?" To that end, Bishop Samra said he planned on meeting with representatives of the Byzantine Catholic seminary where Melkite seminarians are educated to work out those issues.

There are some married priests serving the diocese; four are assigned to small parishes that struggle to pay the expenses incurred by the priests' families. To address that, Bishop Samra said he would like to reinstate a dormant philanthropic arm of the diocese, and apply 30-40 percent of the funds raised as an escrow account to have the dioceses pay the costs of a priest's family, leaving the individual parish to pay the same costs whether the priest is celibate or married.

One solution Bishop Samra said he would no longer pursue is bringing in Melkite priests from the Middle East. "Everyone we brought over we had problems with, and they're all gone," he said, noting they did not adapt to U.S. culture.

He added that he has told his brother Melkite bishops, "I'm a little afraid now of requesting priests from the Middle East. I'm just afraid you're going to send us people who have problems and those problems are going to be multiplied."

Bishop Samra is the Melkite Catholic diocese's first U.S.-born bishop.

He said other approaches include having "working priests" who make a salary outside the diocese staff parishes during the weekend, and "asking a couple of our birituals to help out a little more." Biritual priests have permission to celebrate Mass in two rites, often the Latin rite and an Eastern rite.

Melkite parishes have been closed, not for a lack of priests but for a lack of parishioners, according to Bishop Samra. He said Melkite Catholics without a priest will typically worship at a Latin-rite church, but that the longer they attach themselves to a Latin-rite parish, the harder it is to bring them back to the Melkites once a priest becomes available.

"I haven't had people calling me up complaining they have no priest. They just don't understand modern-day assignment procedures," Bishop Samra said. "I'm a bishop, but that doesn't mean I can be a dictator. ... Although they sing 'despota' in the liturgy, I can't be a despot."

He added, "God provides, and that's my faith. We're working on it."

Monday, November 14, 2011

The need for new kinds of priests

by José Manuel Vidal (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Religión Digital

The data is chilling. It was unveiled yesterday during the presentation of the Diocesan Church Day in Zamora: The average age of its priests is over 68. Specifically, the Diocese of Zamora is composed of 111 active priests, to whom can be added another 50 retired ones, whose average age stands at 68.7, although most of the priests are aged between 70 and 80. And Zamora is not an exception among the Spanish diocese.

The average age of the Spanish clergy as a whole isn't clear. Various statistics circulate which place it at 64 and go up to 67. In any case, twice as many priests die as enter, while about two hundred leave the priesthood each year. There are clerics who have to care for twenty-five parishes and towns that see a priest only once a year.

The priests are coming to an end and increasingly fewer remain, but the institution still stands idly by, living nostalgically in the past and gambling on a single model of how to be a priest and on mandatory celibacy. If the Eucharist is the center of Christian life and we don't want to leave the faithful without it, it's essential to open the door to new priestly models.

Repealing the law of mandatory celibacy and establishing optional celibacy is no longer enough. It's urgent to take steps toward new models of priests, from married priests to women priests. From priests (viri probati) elected by the community and at its service to a kind of minister-priest, who is not even remotely official, to become truly the servant of the community.

If the Church will not make the transition gradually, reality will force her to make it suddenly. Or even rebellion itself by grassroots faithful which has already begun, as evidenced by the Catholics of Austria. And they'll have to put up with it. It's no longer worth looking elsewhere, not even patching with imported vocations. New ministries for a new era. So that the salt of the Gospel doesn't lose its flavor.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Choosing love in the Netherlands

An 81-year old Dutch priest, Fr. Jan Peijnenburg, and his 85-year old woman friend, Threes van Dijck, have been ordered to separate after having lived together for 46 years. The Eindhoven couple have been given until December 1 by the Diocese of Den Bosch to end their relationship or Fr. Peijnenburg will have to leave the priesthood.

The diocese acknowledged that it was quite common for priests to be living with partners, implying that it usually turns a blind eye to such matters. According to the couple, the Church knew about their relationship for dozens of years. Peijnenburg and van Dijck were targeted because they were open about their relationship and had written several pamphlets critical of the Church's celibacy requirement. Michiel Savelsbergh, a spokesperson for the diocese, told Agence France Press that the brochures "confirmed what we already knew....We gave him a choice: either he leaves his companion or he leaves the priesthood. We can't allow this priest to do what is forbidden to others." He called celibacy a "tough choice" but said it was one the priest accepted when he was ordained.

Fr. Peijnenburg plans to stay with his partner. "Naturally, I'm choosing Threes. We're staying together." A family friend, Harrie van Tuijl, has told the press that the priest is looking into legal avenues, specifically whether the Church's mandatory celibacy policy can be challenged under the country's human rights laws. According to van Tuijl, who described the diocese's stance on the matter as "pretty traditional", church members feel like the priest is being left out in the cold.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Is this the beginning?

About one month after the last time a group of Catholics from a closed Roman Catholic parish contacted RentAPriest to ask for help, members of the small parish of St. Patrick in Dougherty, Iowa contacted us asking for help as they expect to receive a closure announcement at a meeting the parish council has with diocesan officials Tuesday November 15, 2011. First, please keep these catholics in your prayers. Second, RentAPriest is actively looking for married Catholic Priests from the area of North Iowa, or bordering states, that might be able to directly assist the people of St. Patrick's as they step out to take a new Journey of Faith. We will know more and keep everyone posted after the meeting November 15, 2011.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Turning to a Support Group to Deal With Celibacy

We've seen countless reports about how the Church is not doing enough to provide priests with the training and ongoing support to live out their commitment to celibacy. Now some priests are taking matters into their own hands by organizing celibacy support groups. From the New York Times 10/14/2011:

"Publicly, he is a religious brother with a Roman Catholic order.

Privately, although he took vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, he said, at 23 he was a sex addict, anonymously cruising bars, parks and Cook County Forest Preserves for quick hookups.

Six years ago, his superiors found out and encouraged him to seek help...

...Now 49, a California native with a singsong lilt to his voice and John Lennon-style wire rim glasses, he is a founding member of one of the country’s few celibacy support groups for priests and religious....

...“Unfortunately, the church has embraced the notion that once you’ve chosen this profession your sexuality goes away,” Brother Patrick said. “But it doesn’t. God would never expect something so absurd as that.”

Instead, he added, you have to nurture it in different ways. “If you can’t and you’re afraid to talk about it, and your sexuality becomes a big, dirty secret, then eventually, somehow or other, it’s going to get vented in an unhealthy way,” he said...."

Full text of article

For more information about the celibacy support group mentioned in this article, which meets at the Claret Center in Chicago, visit the center's website.

Saturday, October 08, 2011

The Holy Spirit's calling.

Because of some very interesting correspondence from a member of a group of Roman Catholics who lost their parish three years ago, and the discussions on the RentAPriest site about growing into a post-denominational or more inclusive spirituality and faith. I have begun thinking about how these two ideas might work together to answer the Holy Spirit's call to us as priests and to the people of God who find themselves hurt and without their long established parishes. The following questions quickly come to my feeble mind:

1. If a group of Catholics actually reaches out and (using the 21 Canons) calls on a resigned/married priest to minister to them is the priest required to respond as the community expects?

2. If the resigned/married priest decides to respond and offer his pastoral care and the community accepts does his vision and beliefs as pastor form the main focus of the community's parish life (as in the past) or does the calling community' s faith experience and beliefs become the main focus of parish life?

3. If there is a great difference between the priest's vision/faith/belief and the community's vision/faith/belief, how is that negotiated especially since the people and priest do not have the option of seeking relief from a diocese or bishop?

4. Again using the 21 Canons that support the people's right to call a priest to ministry how is this experience or process different (or is it) than the Minister hiring process as practiced in many Protestant denominations?

5. Is it important that there be a difference?

6. The call and position of RentAPriest seem to be clear, at least to me, about the use of Roman Catholic Canon law to keep Roman Catholic faith communities Roman Catholic and Eucharistic when the diocese closes their parish. Why do so few communities use this option?

Friday, October 07, 2011

Tough Love: Wives of Priests Speak Out

by Noemi Ciollaro (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Página 12

They question the Catholic Church hierarchy, demand a place for women in the structure that not only forbids them from the priesthood but also from any other possibility to influence decision-making and, above all, they call for celibacy to no longer be mandatory for nuns and priests. These four women, two Argentinians, a Brazilian and a Mexican, are married -- civilly in one case, blessed privately by another priest in the others -- to priests and belong to a movement that, they state, is more and more numerous and represents many of the concerns of the majority of Catholics. But, they say resignedly, change will not happen as long as Benedict XVI is pope. Nevertheless, they and their husbands continue to demand a place in the same Church that denigrates and marginalizes them.

The priests' wives receive us in the old house on Calle Gaona, in the Caballito neighborhood, where the meeting of the Latin American delegates of the Movimiento de Sacerdotes Casados y sus Esposas (Movement of Married Priests and Their Wives) took place.

In the library of the home that Bishop Jerónimo Podestá, who died in 2000, and his wife Clelia (85) shared for years, between religious carvings and secular craftwork, photos and books, some of the priests who participated in the conclave are reading.

Our chat takes place around the table in the big kitchen that evokes the past, huge families, meetings of wise women used to weaving the fabric of their lives with dignity and rebellion, ritually cultivating boldness and freedom.

They are women who have had to leap over barriers and move boulders aside, bear slurs and face their choices about love, as intrepid as they might seem.

"Saint Paul said clearly that the apostle has the right to bring a wife with him; those are his words, not mine. And Jesus picked the apostles who accompanied him from among married men. In the Church today we are experiencing a time of darkness, but we have also had times of great light such as Medellín and Puebla," says Clelia, the founder and president for life of the movement that promotes optional celibacy for priests and nuns.

With her at the meeting are Aglesia Gonzaga, a Brazilian woman married 37 years to Gilberto Gonzaga, Adriana Di Tomaso, an Argentinian married for 30 years to José Farías, and Teresa De la Torre, a Mexican woman who has been married 8 years to Lauro Masías. Their husbands are still priests, even though they're married because "once ordained, you're a priest until death," they explain.

At the meeting of the Movimiento, couples from Ecuador, Mexico, Brazil, Paraguay, Chile and Aregentina, with membership in Colombia and Guatemala, analyzed the situation of their churches and alternatives in the economic, social, political, and human rights areas. And they discussed the situation of married priests and their spouses, at the same time as they reitereated their commitment to the poor, the oppressed and the people, stressing their willingness to dialogue with the Church and the bishops on these subjects.

"During these days, we reviewed our position within the Church, which none of us has quit. We would like to be in a different place within the Church, not in the exclusion we are experiencing today," Adriana stressed.

It has been estimated that there are about 150,000 married priests worldwide, although it's known that is many countries these situations don't come to light because of fear of reprisals and media scandals. The number of nuns who have left religious life to get married is unknown and hushed up by the Church, and since they aren't "in the ministry" (women can't perform marriages, baptize, or officiate at Mass), they pass unnoticed.

Dispensation from celibacy

When a priest or a nun wants to get married or leave the religious life for other reasons, they have to solicit what is known as a "dispensation" from church auhtorities. It isn't always granted.
The dispensation keeps the priest from ministering in public. He can do so privately, but never in a church or a parish.

"They can continue to minister in the base communities. In Spain, for example, there are priests who celebrate Mass and the bishops don't say anything," Clelia explains.

Aglesia stresses that in Brazil her husband, Gilberto, "performs baptisms, weddings, and celebrates (Mass) too. Not in church, but in homes, halls, and meeting places."

Many married priests continue to minister this way in poor neighborhoods and communities with the support of a priest who registers the weddings and baptisms that require the signature of a parish priest.

Clelia and Jerónimo Podestá's house was the scene of countless weddings, baptisms, and blessings. The issue is that celebrating isn't prohibited; what's prohibited is doing it in parishes or public places.

"We respect celibacy and celibate priests who fulfill what they set for themselves. Our husbands were celibate; being against celibacy was never our thing. What we want, and what we'll get some day, is optional celibacy, and voices are being raised in many countries; there are petitions worldwide. But with this Pope it's difficult. If celibacy were optional, the seminaries would be fuller, because young people no longer agree with mandatory celibacy. We don't lose hope. The movement is prophetic; it denounces and announces. And this is something that also has to do with human rights, because it's a prohibition of the human right to love one another and be a couple," they point out.

Clelia and Jeronimo

They met in 1966. After ten years of marriage and pregnant with the youngest of her six daughters, Clelia left Salta where she had practiced preventive medicine among the native people and developed her Christian service vocation. She separated and came to Buenos Aires where she met Jerónimo Podestá at a meeting with the Brazilian bishop Helder Cámara. He was bishop of Avellaneda and his questions about the Church, his involvement with the worker priests, and his popularity contributed to the rise of the Movimiento de Sacerdotes del Tercer Mundo (Movement of Third World Priests). So an intense friendship began. At the time, she started to work as Podestá's secretary and the love grew that led him to leave the diocese among intense arguments and sanctions from the Church leadership, to get married in 1972. Podestá thus became the only married bishop in the world, and Clelia, his wife. There was a major media scandal and, rather than hiding, they decided to fight and promote optional celibacy.

"Well, obviously it was a hectic life, since in the middle of the dictatorship in '67, Jerónimo was declared an enemy by Onganía. Ultimately they asked for his resignation because of his theological and political stands. And thus began a life of struggle, persecution, threats from Triple A [an Argentinian right wing paramilitary group in those days], poverty, and exile in Rome, Mexico, and Peru. I was always struggling, Jerónimo in Peru and me with my daughters here. And Jerónimo and Clelia were always a couple. He was 'the bishop' and I was Clelia, but... we always lived publicly as a couple. In those days it was huge, but nowdays it's normal and people are now asking for priests to get married. We're in a different cultural situation. We love each other deeply, and he is still present in this house, in my life, in this kitchen itself among us...Unfortunately, Jerónimo is gone. He died at a very sad and dark time for the country, in 2000. He was never able to experience the political resurgence of today, or the Latin American union. He was a patriot and a prophet; we always struggled. The country and the Church caused us suffering. Pepe Sacristán once said to us ‘but they strike you and you stay in the Church’, and I asked him 'and you, why do you stay in the Communist Party?' 'Because I want to change it,' he told me. 'Well, we want to change the Church too,' I answered. That's why I go on today with the hope that some day, not too far off, when this Pope finishes his term, a big change will come. Our movement is prophetic. It's prophetic because it denounces and announces what is to come, an open and renewed Church, because the world is changing and the younger generations don't accept medieval issues," she concludes.

They both had to bear strong pressure from the Church leadership and the Vatican where she was taken by Jerónimo and argued in person with the authorities who were determined to separate the couple. Deprived of her name, she came to be known in the media and in public opinion as "that woman" or "that lady". Jerónimo in turn shouted that his relationship with her was "a grace, not a sin."

It has been many years since then, however Catholicism keeps the obligation of celibacy for priests and nuns, grounded in "the Platonic idea that the soul is a prisoner of the body and the body is bad," the Brazilian representatives said during the meeting, mentioning the economic issue. "The Church never considered the possibility of maintaining a priest with his wife and children." In fact, those who get married remain priests for life, but they're excluded from any compensation or work that depends on the ecclesiastical structure.

Adriana and Jose

Adriana entered the novitiate at 17 and was over 30 when she met José, who was a priest in Córdoba too.

“I was working in vocational ministry in my religious life, and he was working with a group of young people. We met there and it was a whole complex process to resolve our respective vocations. I had worked with the neediest since I was very young, I had devoted my life to that. Well, we fell in love and said why not have a life together...", she says, serene and unhurried.

Ordained women also have to seek dispensation when they decide to leave religious life whether to get married or for another reason, and it isn't a simple step "because the Catholic church structure is absolutely vertical and we women don't have a voice or carry any weight. In other faiths like the Lutheran or Anglican ones women are recognized and have an active role. But in the structure of the Church, it's the priests, the pastors, who rule. It's very closed and if a nun leaves, everything happens silently."

The road to the decision wasn't easy because asking for dispensation to some extent means being exposed to the elements in many ways. Adriana and José left their respective orders and "a lot of difficulties came up. Even though José was a pharmacist before becoming a priest, he had to look for work. We were in the interior, in Cordoba, and we came to Buenos Aires. I began to work in teaching and he, as a pharmacist. We didn't know anybody and we got in touch with Jerónimo and Clelia. It was very hard because the Church didn't make even a little bit of room for us, even if it were just to keep sharing what had been so strong for us in faith, in service to others. But this house became a place where we could immerse ourselves little by little in the new life."

Adriana and José have two children and they relied on the support of their families in the most difficult moments of decisionmaking when doubts, uncertainties and fear for the future got mixed in.

“I had problems in the religious community I was in, but some time later I was able to get in contact with some of the women who had been my companions and they told me honestly that we should have had the freedom to choose whether we wanted to be celibate or not. As Clelia says, we are prophetically announcing something that for now, isn't for everyone but which, well, we have experienced. My papa used to say to me 'it took me so long to accept you going into religious life and now you're telling me you're leaving...well, you know I support you.'"

Adriana is a clinical psychologist "in a poor suburban neighborhood, in family strengthening, a lot with women in violence situations. I'm retired from teaching; I taught for 31 years. I'm a teacher of theology and philosophy, so I could cover religious formation in some of the poorer areas, but under these conditions I don't want to. Yes, of course I think that women could be priests, of course. Why not? If Catholicism would accept optional celibacy, women could also get to a different place. That's why our movement is for married priests AND their spouses, for couples, it's in our statute. We have the same rights and responsibilities. But the Church structure is extremely harsh to women. In the area of intellectual production, we have distinguished theologians, doctors, but they are never quoted or consulted. And if they know you left the religious life, you don't participate in anything. It's 'Get out of here', to sum it up," she states.

Aglesia and Gilberto

She is tiny, restless, dynamic and expeditious. He shows up every now and then in the kitchen, smiles, and at one point he comes over and she stands up to give him a kiss or a caress. They have been married for 37 years and are Christian activists with an option for the poor in Brazil.

"When Gilberto and I met, I was a teacher. He went to get therapy in Rio de Janeiro shortly after our relationship began. He needed to know what he really wanted. It's very disturbing for a priest to fall in love when he has planned a life of celibacy, service and dedication to God and religion. Guilt is inevitable," she states.

For the women the choice isn't simple either, especially when they share the religious beliefs and feelings. Celibacy as a taboo weighs heavily.

“The one who gave me the most grief was my father. My mother and father were very pious, very religious, so for them it was a shock when I fell in love with a priest almost forty years ago. However, my father now has Alzheimer's and the only person he recognizes is Gilberto," she says.

Aglesia spins out memories as a mischievous light dances behind her glasses. "Gilberto was one of the most advanced priests, a leader of the New Church. When he finished his therapy and clearly knew what he wanted, it took two months to obtain his dispensation. We do everything together in Brazil. For our people, he is 'Father' and I 'Mother'. We work with a lot of freedom and respect. A very significant number of bishops support us. Gilberto worked three years at the National Conference of Brazilian Bishops. They all say 'priests should marry'. It's true that in our country we have better conditions and a degree of freedom in terms of the limitations imposed by the Church."

She's a social worker. "I have a lot of dedication to people living with HIV, on a voluntary basis. Also in a women's league that fights against cancer. And we're putting an enormous effort into a team of volunteers that we set up in Portobello for individualized work with children with addictions. It's a tourist place of great poverty where the resource is fishing. The boys work on the boats, six months at sea, fishing. They need help and support. Gilberto and I have two sons and a granddaughter. He's also a social volunteer, a group leader. That's how our life is. We aren't rich; we live with what is necessary and our house is always full of people, so we're happy." She smiles brightly.

They both edit a monthly magazine, Rumos ("Directions"), in which the issue of mandatory celibacy is discussed regularly and articles critical of the Vatican's rigid stance are published. Themes such as the need for women in the priesthood, optional celibacy, the importance of revising the training of priests, and the need to reform the hierarchy, are the order of the day, indicating a sidereal difference from the situation in the rest of the Latin American countries, including Argentina.

Teresa and Lauro

"Our story is a little different," this Mexican mix of Maria Felix and Frida Kahlo, with piercing eyes, a sensual figure, and confident statements, announces.

"I began my relationship with Lauro after he celebrated the marriage of one of my daughters. We're both divorced. The year after my daughter got married, I separated and when Lauro, who had gotten divorced, learned that I was separated, we met and began a relationship. It was a little difficult for me to make the decision because I had to break from many of my notions. My divorce from the father of my children was difficult, very painful. My children accept him perfectly, they love him, and if they want advice, they turn to him, not their father. It's sad, but that's how it is. Lauro's children from his previous marriage also look favorably on me. We've been together eight years."

The weight of ancient Mexican religious culture is evident in Teresa's speech, and repression filters out beyond the desire and willingness to keep on breaking the established rules.

"Sadly, in Mexico the movement is a little bit asleep, as if tired because everything is very hard there; the diocese is very closed. Many priests don't even want anybody to know they're married because they could lose their jobs. If the bishop knows that they're teaching in a religious institution, they order the nuns to fire them. Everything is very difficult for us. But we mustn't throw in the towel; we keep on fighting for this. As companions and wives of the priests, we have a dual commitment to stand by them through thick and thin. We are committed to their ministry, we want it to stay alive to work for the Kingdom of God, which is what we're looking for after all," she says.

Teresa draws a very different picture of the work she's developing in Mexico and it's clear that the situation of women is light years behind the Brazilians and even the Argentines. "In Mexico, I do what I can because I'm a merchant and Lauro is director of a school. The task I have proposed is to seek out women, ladies who have relationships with priests, but where they have been relegated, hidden, told 'you shut up if you want me to keep you, you can't say you're my wife, you can't say that our children are mine', given orders. We have also encountered cases of nuns who have been raped by priests. They are very difficult cases and we've tried to integrate them into our group. One of them became pregnant from the abuse, but there was no consideration from the convent or the bishop. They ran her off as if she had been the one guilty of rape. It was awful. There's a lot of chauvinism. Through one of my sisters who's a nun, I know about situations of women who need help. Another brother of mine was in seminary and left because he felt insecure and wanted to try a year away. He went to study at the University of Guadalajara, met a girl and fell in love with her, and said 'I'm not going back to the seminary again unless they tell me they'll accept me as a married man and then, yes, I would get ordained. Otherwise not, because I want to have children'."

Teresa recalls that her father "lost the ability to speak in 2000. His expressions are now gestural, shaking hands, hugging you, and when he sees Lauro, it's clear that he's showing him affection. When I ask him what he thinks of all this, in his own way he makes it clear that it's something from God...My grandmother used to say to him, 'you have to be content because God didn't give you a priest son, but He gave you a priest son-in-law, give thanks to God.' Lauro's mother was distant from him for a while because of his decision, but now she has accepted him. Our children are proud of us because of our love and our courage," she concludes.

To the reiteration of a question which they had avoided answering throughout the interview, they answered demurely that, yes, "at the beginning they felt like sinners, not all of them, but in general there's a period of crisis through which we need to go, each one by themselves and then together."

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Married priest gets Human Rights Court hearing over termination

The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg has set November 22nd as the date when it will hear oral arguments in the case of José Antonio Fernández Martínez, a former priest from Murcia, Spain, who was fired from his job as professor of religion at an institute in Caravaca de la Cruz because of his activism in support of optional celibacy and the right of priests to marry.

Fernández Martínez, who has five children, turned to the European Court of Human Rights, represented by lawyer José Luis Mazón, after his appeal to the Constitutional Court of a lower court ruling in Murcia was dismissed. The Spanish courts dismissed his lawsuit against the Diocese of Cartagena over his firing. The higher court dismissed the claim because it did not believe the priest's rights had been violated.

The plaintiff was ordained in 1961. In 1984, he asked for dispensation and got married. Later, in 1991, he began to work as a professor of religion in an institute in Caravaca de la Cruz and then in another one in Mula, but was terminated in 1997, after his involvement in the optional celibacy movement Movimiento Pro Celibato Opcional (MOCEOP) became public.

Monday, October 03, 2011

Let dispensed priests play active parish role, Vatican urges bishops

By Madeleine Teahan
Catholic Herald (UK)

The Vatican has appealed to diocesan bishops to encourage priests who have left ministry in order to get married to play a more active role in parish life.

In a copy of a letter seen by The Catholic Herald Cardinal Ivan Dias, the prefect for the Evangelisation of Peoples in Rome, placed more discretionary power in the hands of bishops for discerning a dispensed cleric’s involvement with parish life. The letter, dated February 2 2011, was sent to a priest, who had written to the congregation on behalf of an Australian missionary society that is seeking a relaxation of the prohibitions on dispensed clergy.

Cardinal Dias wrote of his confidence that the Vatican’s reforms would enable dispensed priests to lead a more active life in the Church as committed Catholics under their bishop’s guidance. The usual mode of laicisation and dispensation from the priestly vow of celibacy is through a “rescript of the Apostolic See”, meaning a response from the Pope or a sacred congregation granting a favour and the conditions upon which it is granted.

The rescript permitting the laicisation of a priest prohibits celebrating Mass, delivering homilies, administering the Eucharist, teaching or working in seminaries and places restrictions on teaching the faith in schools and universities. The cardinal’s letter means that the enforcement of half the prohibitions stipulated in the rescript will now come under the discretion of the local bishop.

Prohibitions that are no longer absolute include teaching theology in schools or universities, both Catholic and non-Catholic, contact with the parish where the priest used to serve and administering the Eucharist.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Latin American married priests and wives call for end to mandatory celibacy

By Gustavo Sarmiento (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Tiempo Argentino

"The Church has been growing apart from the community. It needs to change and hasn't renewed itself in a long time." That reflection was heard during the meeting of the Federación Latinoamericana de Curas Casados y sus Esposas ("Latin American Federation of Married Priests and Their Wives"), which opened on Wednesday with the participation of 30 representatives from six countries at the home of Clelia Luro de Podestá, widow of Monseñor Jerónimo Podestá, the former bishop of Avellaneda, who has been promoting the organization that today represents some 150,000 priests worldwide, although the Vatican only acknowledges 60,000.

During the meeting, which will end today, the couples analyzed the churches in the region, the economic, social, political and cultural movements, the relationship with each community, with the hierarchy and with the political sectors of each country.

One of the main demands was that the Vatican agree to optional celibacy, something that 75% of priests support, according to a survey commissioned four years ago by the Argentine Bishops' Conference. "Celibacy emerged in the 4th century, when marriage was common among priests. The Bible says nothing about it. On the contrary, Jesus chose married apostles," said Mario Mullo, the current president of the Federation, who is from Ecuador. João Tabares, from Brazil, thinks that "if priests marry, an economic factor comes in. It's easier for the Church to keep a priest with a minimum wage than his whole family. The Church's assets are safeguarded and not passed down. Originally, there was this platonic idea that the soul is the prisoner of the body, which is evil."

Father Lauro Macías, who came from Mexico with his partner, Tere, recalls that it "came to be decreed that priests who didn't leave their wives were jailed, and that the wives and children would be sold as slaves."

The Eastern rite Catholic Church allows marriage, but in the West, the heads of the Church have refused to discuss it. According to them, John Paul II said to one bishop who consulted him on the issue, "change the subject or our conversation ends here." Sebastián Cozar, from Chile, remarked: “We're asking for dialogue, like Vatican II talks about. We don't want confrontation and we're not doing this out of any resentment but out of love for the Church. The married priest is one more contribution to the Church."

According to the Federation's data, more than 60% of its communities are in favor of married priests, and don't consider marriage to be an impediment to vocation. For Mullo, "it's equally essential to conceive of a Church that's renewed, open to the world and to the social organizations."

Marriage is not the only thing that unites all the participants. The main thing is their commitment to their communities -- the fight for social justice and human rights, and the search for a gospel anchored in the barrios among the neediest classes, anchored in liberation theology. "upon leaving the ministry, many turned the page but others participated in parish and community activities, seeking a new church, which is what we need today," those present stated.
Lauro, father of three children, founded the second ecumenical church ever in a Mexican jail and he still celebrates the Eucharist at funerals of his friends or weddings at which the Catholic Church has refused to officiate. "I left the clerical state but not the priesthood," he explains. For Cozar, "the new church should have more community participation, more charity; it should be a church of freedom that doesn't impose, but should be open."

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Sr. Marie-Paul Ross "would like to talk to you about love...and sex"...and celibacy

Dr. Marie-Paul Ross, a Canadian nun in the Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate Conception, sexologist and founder/director of the Institut de Développement Intégral, is already making waves with her new book, Je voudrais vous parler d'amour... et de sexe ("I would like to talk to you about love...and sex", Michel Lafon, 2011), which is due to come out this week.

In her book, Dr. Ross alleges that 80% of priests and religious violate their celibacy vows at some point in their lives. She argues that many priests suffer because they really are not able to live their celibacy requirement well.

While she roundly condemns pedophilia and suggests that the celibacy requirement should be lifted, Dr. Ross doesn't consider allowing priests to marry to be the answer to pedophilia. "With all these people in sexual distress who can't fulfill their celibacy requirement, it destroys the message," she says. "The Church should hurry up and give diocesan priests the freedom to choose between married life and celibacy." But she adds: "A pedophile priest would make a bad husband and a worse father. For one simple reason: he is sick and dangerous person who must be treated."

Dr. Ross's book also contains eyewitness accounts of sexual activity between priests and nuns and instances she has learned through her practice of nuns who have been raped by priests.

The Quebec Catholic Bishops Conference has already responded to Dr. Ross's allegations, saying that, rather than indicating a need to lift the celibacy requirement, they reflect a need for a better selection process for candidates for the priesthood. "There are priests who are not in the place that's right for them just as there are fathers and mothers who never should have had children," says Mr. Germain Tremblay, assistant to the secretary-general of the bishops' conference. "We must modify our approach. Perhaps one of the mistakes has been to call men to the priesthood and then teach them to be celibate and chaste, while the opposite should have been done instead." He acknowledged that such an approach would probably yield even fewer vocations than the current one.

In a separate interview, Dr. Ross said that she feels that a lot of the problems have come from the fact that the Church has historically not adequately prepared priests and nuns for celibacy. She said that consecrated religious were simply told to "be careful" without any instruction in how to deal with sexual impulses. She said that the resulting tensions have led to depression, suicidal urges, and sexual deviance, among other behavioral issues.

Dr. Ross knows that her book, with an initial printing of 6,000 copies and plans already in place for more, will cause a major uproar. She has met with her provincial superiors to discuss the controversial topics in her book and says that she has their full support. "They agree with me that it's time for this hypocrisy to stop," she says.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Fr. Rémi Bouriaud and Michèle: A Double Life Comes to an End

By Juliette Demey
France Soir

From La Baule to Pornichet, they have called him "Rémi" for a long time. From now on, it will be the only name that Fr. Rémi Bouriaud will be allowed to use. On September 4, this 70 year-old priest was suspended a divinis by Msgr. Jean-Paul James, bishop of Nantes. He isn't allowed to celebrate Mass or perform any sacrament. His mistake? Having chosen to "live with a woman companion" for 11 years, putting into question "the commitment to celibacy he made when he asked for and received ordination," the diocese said in a communique on Thursday.

Father Rémi Bouriaud, who was ordained in 1967, has always wondered about "women's place in the world, in the Church, and in his life." He had already had a five year relationship with a woman when, in 2000, at almost 60, he met Michèle. "We gambled on trying to live together while knowing the Roman Catholic Church's position on celibacy for priests," he told the Presse Océan. Though not showing off, he never really hid this relationship. In the parishes of La Baule and Pornichet, where he had ministered since 2006, the faithful knew about his double life. The priest often left at night to join his companion, who lived a couple of dozen kilometers from there. Nobody was really offended. They understood, and they didn't talk about it.

"The Church is ten centuries behind"

Today, they no longer understand. "He's just a man who had a girlfriend. He had informed his peers, even the bishop, and he continued to do his job. We're going to miss him," said one of the faithful in the presbytery. He was a priest who was "friendly, open", "not preachy", "convivial." Father Rémi looked after the high school students. He asked them to call him by his first name and "didn't wear a Roman collar." A modern priest, "like they all should be," a parishioner from La Baule said. "Among the parishioners, there are always some self-righteous folk. They preach morality, but they know nothing about charity."

This nonconformist priest, who confessed to RTL that he had always had "a need for affection, for physical touching, for solidarity with the feminine world", ended up in trouble. Why today, when he asserts that he informed his hierarchy years ago? It was an anonymous letter, sent this summer to the bishop of Nantes, that stirred up the hornets' nest. "I think it's because I was always frank that I'm being punished," he said. Both disappointed and relieved, Rémi is still heavy-hearted: "There were married priests pretty much everywhere until 1450. The Church is ten centuries behind on this issue," he complained.

"This relationship makes us happy"

Some hope that his story will relaunch the debate on celibacy for priests. According to the European Federation of Catholic Married Priests, approximately one in four priests has (or has had) a clandestine relationship. "It's time for the Church to think. At least this priest knows what life in a couple is like, like pastors and rabbis do. Enough of the code of silence," said an angry parishioner. To Bernard, a priest who resigned from the priesthood forty years ago, "it's total hypocrisy. When you talk to the bishops, they understand. But if they want to keep their position, they have to keep quiet, exclude, not question the Church." Dominique Venturini, former companion of a priest, who runs the organization Plein Jour, has written a letter to Benedict XVI demanding an end to the celibacy requirement for priests. "Let the Church grant the same freedom, the same human rights to everyone!," she urges.

Rémi Bouriaud doesn't want to become a standard bearer. "It's going to be very hard for him," Bernard sympathizes. "As a human being, having spiritual responsibilities, he must feel destroyed." Bouriaud says he doesn't regret anything. "This relationship makes us happy. We knew that sooner or later this double life might end," he admitted to Presse Océan. At La Baule, the other priests organized a lovely farewell meal for him. At his last Mass on Saturday, he was given a standing ovation by the faithful. A few days ago, he came back to pick up his few belongings from the rectory. He can now live his love affair with Michèle in the open.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Former Bishop of Derry calls for end to clerical celibacy

UPDATE 9/14/2011: The Association of Catholic Priests has supported calls by the former Bishop of Derry Edward Daly for a removal of the compulsory celibacy requirement where Catholic priests are concerned. (Irish Times, 9/14/2011)

The Journal (Ireland)

The former bishop of Derry Dr Edward Daly has called for an end to mandatory clerical celibacy for priests in the Catholic Church, saying that removing the requirement would “ease the church’s problems”.

Daly, one of the most well-known figures in the Church, describes the issue of celibacy as “the other conflict” in his memoir, A Troubled See: Memoirs of a Derry Bishop.

Daly said he believed that not allowing priests to marry was causing potential candidates to turn away from their vocations, writing: “I believe there… should be a place in the modern Catholic Church for a married priesthood and for men who do not wish to commit themselves to celibacy."...

Click here for the full article and also be sure to vote in the newspaper's poll: Should priests be allowed to renounce vow of celibacy?

More quotes from the book from the Irish Times:

“I ask myself, more and more, why celibacy should be the great sacred and unyielding arbiter, the paradigm of diocesan priesthood?...Why not prayerfulness, conviction in the faith, knowledge of the faith, ability to communicate in the modern age, honesty, integrity, humility, a commitment to social justice, a work ethic, respect for others, compassion and caring?...Surely many of these qualities are at least as important in a diocesan priest as celibacy – yet celibacy seems to be perceived as the predominant obligation, the sine qua non."

Celibacy is “an obligation that has caused many wonderful potential candidates to turn away from a vocation, and other fine men to resign their priesthood at great loss to the church.”

Thursday, September 01, 2011

"Sex, Celibacy and Priesthood"

By Donna Beth Weilenman
The Benicia Herald

While pursuing a degree from the University of San Francisco, then-doctorial candidate Lou A. Bordisso wrote his dissertation on “The Relationship between Moral Development, Sexual Orientation, and Roman Catholic Priests.”

He took vows with the Society of the Divine Savior (Salvatorians) in the Roman Catholic Church, but changed his alliance when his mother became critically ill and his father was diagnosed with cancer, because he didn’t want to be assigned to another state while his parents were ill.

Attracted to the American Catholic Church, under the umbrella of the Old Catholic Church, Lou Bordisso became a member of the Order of Saint John Vianney. After becoming an ordained priest, he was named Presiding Bishop of the Diocese of the California American Catholic Church until his retirement in 2010, when he became Bishop Emeritus.

He had long considered writing a follow-up to that dissertation, perhaps incorporating and Richard Sipe’s 25-year study of 1,500 Catholic priests that indicated that 50 percent or fewer attempt celibacy, and only 2 percent achieve total chastity, he said.

But Bordisso didn’t want to write just a sequel or make a new study. Instead, he wanted priests to relate anonymously how they deal with the vow of celibacy they take on their way to priesthood.

Recent health issues that led to his retirement also convinced him “to put the rubber to the road” and get the book written.

And a diagnosis of dementia caused the bishop to begin “living in the moment,” he said.

“It’s a spiritual gift: ‘Be still and know that I am God,’” he said of his diagnosis. “I’d been putting (writing the book) off, but there’s no better time than now.”

Bordisso said the diagnosis caused him to shed unimportant battles and focus instead on new priorities.

One of these is hosting the public access program “Political Inquisitions,” which can be accessed online at the Vallejo Independent Bulletin.

And of course the book, to be released later this year, has been another priority.

It’s titled “Sex, Celibacy, and the Priesthood,” though Bordisso said he wanted it called “The Elephant in the Middle of the Sanctuary,” because, he said, few care to comment publicly about celibacy.

In researching the book, the Mare Island priest cast his net wide to hear from the largest number of North American Roman Catholic priests. Though he openly gay, he sought responses from all orientations.

He spoke at conferences, placed advertisements in the National Catholic Reporter, posted requests on message boards and sent letters to schools of divinity.

He sought a cross section of priests rather than a single pool, he said, before sending his questions. The primary one: How do you resolve conflicts, if any, between your sexuality and vocation?

Because the American Catholic Church doesn’t require priests to be celibate, Bordisso sent the questions to Roman Catholic clergy. He offered those responding anonymity in exchange for their stories, so the priests could be truthful about the ways they deal with their vows when challenged by human sexuality.

Some told of professing celibacy publicly while having relations with men or women — in some cases, both — in secret. One declared, “I have a right as a person to healthy sexual expression” — though he elaborated it was his right “as long as I am prudent …”

Some described how they realized the promise to refrain from sexual relations would be impossible for them to keep. But instead of having affairs, they chose to leave the priesthood, instead.

Others, Bordisso found, have yet to resolve their struggle.

One priest told of his regret he would never have children. Another called the requirement a “foolish law,” saying it guarantees that noncelibates would become priests.

“I think I am one of these, and have wrestled with the question of leaving the priesthood for years,” the priest wrote. Saying he was happy to be a priest, he added, “In no way, though, am I a true celibate,” saying he would consider a long-term commitment though he no longer engages in “anonymous sex.”

Bordisso also heard from priests who accepted the vow as their calling, and through prayer and meditation lived chaste lives.

One told him that personal growth and experience made celibacy a free choice after mistakes. Another compared his vow of celibacy to the promises made by those who marry, except that his commitment is to the priesthood. Others cultivate a support system.

Bordisso waited until the end of the book to offer his own reflections, including that of the definition of “celibacy.” He said that members expect it to mean that priests won’t marry, and that they aren’t to engage in sexual activity.

But the priests’ own response showed him they are at odds with what Bordisso called “the orthodox and traditional definitions of celibate chastity.”

“This is not a scholarly book,” Bordisso said. “My review is not exhaustive, but it has substance.”

One topic it didn’t cover is pedophilia, another issue with which the Roman Catholic Church is wrestling.

Bordisso said those engaged in pedophile behavior aren’t just people who are involved with minors. Comparing it to rape and saying it was more about violence and power than sex, he said it can involve others over which a person in authority has power.

And when priests are involved, it’s comparable to marriage counsellors who take sexual advantage of vulnerable clients, Bordisso said.

For his book, Bordisso said he wanted to explore only relationships between consenting adults — for priests, alternatives to celibacy.

“The purpose is to contextualize the reality versus the ideal,” he said, explaining he wanted the book to have “a sense of integrity, and movement away from duplicity, and toward the value of transparency in the church.”

Bordisso has suggested that churches that impose celibacy redefine it as a continuum rather than an absolute. And he added, “I don’t take a position in the book — on purpose. I wanted the voices of the priests to speak for themselves.”

Friday, August 26, 2011

40 Catholic priests quit over church celibacy rule

By Mathews Ndanyi
Nairobi Star

More than 40 priests have in the last two years defected from the Catholic Church in Kenya seeking freedom from celibacy. The priests have joined the Ecumenical Catholic Church headed by Bishop Geoffrey Shiundu who also quit the Catholic church after he married against rules of priesthood.

Shiundu says his church is growing stronger and more priests were seeking advice from him on the celibacy issue. He, however, said that his church was ready to work with the Roman Catholic Church if Pope Benedict agrees to change the constitution to make celibacy optional. Shiundu said many priests are under pressure to marry and have families. He was speaking in Kitale during the ordination of a priest from Uganda, Fr John Angelo Msaazi. Said Bishop Shidundu: “It’s right to allow those who want celibacy to remain so but for those who want to marry let them also enjoy their rights," said Shiundu.

Meanwhile, Shiundu has criticised a proposal to change the constitution to remove the clause providing that women take a third of elected positions. Bishop Siundu said that together with his priests were among the first group of church leaders to have endorsed the new constitution because of the provisions that favour marginalised groups especially women.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

One man's long and lonely crusade against Vatican opposition to married priests

by David Rice
Irish Times

One night in 1952, a German boy of 19, in the throes of a youthful romance, became overwhelmed with the certainty that God wanted him as a priest. In the following days he felt he could not pray “Thy will be done” if he refused the call.

And yet during those same days he found himself weeping uncontrollably, “shadowed with darkness because, for the sake of the priestly vocation, I had to accept the renunciation of marriage”.

Heinz-Jurgen Vogels stayed with his vocation all the way to ordination, for the call had taken place “with such inner force that it carried me over the threshold of priesthood, yet only to drop me burnt out immediately after that.”

The couple of years that followed Vogels’s 1959 ordination were years of unrelieved depression, inability to function in his priesthood, leading him eventually to the brink of suicide.

“Only years later was I able to recognise that my subconscious, at the ordination, had concluded: ‘Now, finally, the door to marriages has closed; now there is no longer any rescue for my desire to have feelings for the other half of humankind, which is, however, part of my nature.’”

The crisis came in his little Cologne room overlooking the Rhine: “The abandonment in the colourless grey room was felt so greatly that I stopped again and again at the washstand, and took the razor blade to cut open the arteries in my wrist. Only with extreme effort could I return it to the glass plate. The window, the Rhine, the rail tracks, everything attracted me almost irresistibly.”

Vogels was sent to a rest home for a while and then resumed duty, living with an understanding old parish priest in a village in the Eifel mountains.

“It was a time of long conversations in the evenings, seated in comfortable armchairs. Yet it should take another five years before the fog was dispelled.”

It happened after a pilgrimage to Kevelaer: “It may sound strange that during my prayer I found rising in my soul the dear wish: ‘Oh would I be allowed to use sexuality!’”

And then came the revelation in a verse from St Paul’s first epistle to the Corinthians: “Have we perhaps not the right to take a wife along with us, like the other apostles . . ?” (1 Cor 9:5) – the word “mulier” being open to interpretation as “wife” as well as “woman”.

That linked up with the sudden realisation that there were already married priests in the Catholic Church – all the Eastern Catholic churches in union with Rome had their married priests, and even here in the West, Protestant pastors could become Catholic priests and then live openly with their wives and families.

The rest of Vogels’s life has been a one-man crusade to convince the authorities in Rome to abolish compulsory celibacy. This story is told in his extraordinary book, Alone Against the Vatican , now available in English.

Unfortunately the publishers have chosen a less striking title, Catholics and their Right to Married Priests, with the subtitle, Struggles with the Vatican. It’s readily available in paperback from Amazon and is also on Kindle eBooks.

Those struggles make for a fascinating story. The first declaration of his views in a sermon led to such a rumpus that he was diagnosed with “endogenous mania”, church authorities holding that anyone with such views had to be round the bend. But Vogels stayed sane, dangerously so, grew as a theologian and disputant and gradually his crusade developed.

Inevitably came marriage to Renata, plus a challenge to Vatican authorities to declare his marriage invalid, which they declined to do.

All these years later, Vogels is still fighting his case, alone against the Vatican. The kernel of his argument is that the gift of priesthood and the gift of celibacy are separate, and only rarely are bestowed on one person.

Hence the horrors that we see around us here in Ireland, when attempts at staying celibate fail. Vogels even has the support of Vatican II, which declared that celibacy “is not required by the very nature of priesthood”.

This fascinating book is just Vogels’s latest salvo. But what comes out most clearly is the steadfastness, devotion, support, indeed heroism, of Renata. She, indeed, is the best of all arguments for what a helpmate could be for a priest.

David Rice directs the Killaloe Hedge-School of Writing. His books include the best-selling Shattered Vows: Priests Who Leave.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Married priest: 'Single clergy better placed to serve God'

by Joe Wilson
BBC News

"Father Paul Blackburn is the most recently ordained priest into the Salford Diocese. He is married with three children. A former Anglican minister, Father Paul embraced Catholicism after growing dissatisfied with the direction the Church of England was taking on some moral issues. He said single priests are better placed to serve God by giving their entire life to his ministry...

...Many Catholics believe that a married priest is a more rounded priest whose experiences can help deal with family issues better than his single colleagues. Father Paul disagrees. "A celibate priest can give so much more," he said. "They can give themselves and everything about them. They can give to the church and to the service of God. I can give what I give but a proportion of my time will always go to my family."..."

Well, you get the idea. For more, click on the link to get the full article. It always amazes me that these Pastoral Provision guys embrace celibacy for other priests and it makes me wonder: If they had to separate from their wives and children as a precondition for becoming Catholic priests, would they have joined the ranks and would they be so enthusiastic about the celibacy requirement? Just asking...

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Celibacy and the Church

A letter to the editor from Dr. Daniel Maguire, a former Jesuit priest now professor of theology at Marquette University, in the New York Times, 7/25/2011:

To the Editor:

Re “In Philadelphia, a Changing of the Guard in the Shadow of Scandal” (news article, July 20):

The problem of Roman Catholic sexual abuse by priests will not be solved by the appointment of a new archbishop, especially by an archbishop like Charles J. Chaput, with his blunt-instrument approach to discipline. The root of the problem is mandatory celibacy.

There is a reason religions with a married clergy have no comparable problem — not that they are problem-free. Celibacy is not a bona fide occupational qualification for ministry. To insist on it insults the institution of marriage, branding it as an impediment to religious service.

Also, as recently publicized priestly scandals and crimes around the world attest, this attempted suppression of human sexuality in priests does not work and is arguably an invitation to pathology.

Milwaukee, July 20, 2011

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Married priests: A Few Reflections

by Antonio Duato (English translation by Rebel Girl)
July 12, 2011

Speaking of married Catholic priests is not an issue for the future, something that could one day be allowed in the Catholic Church. Or a marginal issue -- the Eastern Rite priests or those who have come from Anglicanism. It is a reality that already exists, one with which there is vast experience already present in every diocese in the world and in statistically significant numbers -- that of the priests who have left their priestly ministry because of having chosen married life. Sociological studies are beginning to appear on this subject, which gather not only statistics but, above all, vivid stories of those lives [1] .

Based on these accounts, on knowledge of many other lives and on my own experience -- I was an active Catholic priest for 34 years and have been married and a family man for another 20 years -- I would like to offer some reflections on the life of a married priest:

There is the clandestine married priest. He doesn't leave his ministry although he lives a full married life, sometimes even with children and some sort of civil recognition of the marriage contract. And although this situation is known, often the bishop's permissiveness and the community's understanding allow him to continue in ministry, while the cohabitation is disguised as some other supposed family tie. It seems that this kind of married priest is increasing, avoiding the departure of many priests needed for the care of communities. Married life and fatherhood often makes the priest a more understanding and centered person in his ministry. However, I believe that true love demands making it public, to the leaders and members of the Christian community before anyone else. Having to hide it is a cruel violence. And it is especially unfair to the spouse who, even though freely, gives everything to her loved one without being recognized and taken into account in his priestly work or social life.

There is the married priest who, despite having made his family life public, has not requested a reduction to lay status or resigned from continuing his ministry. It is usually because the Christian community he serves, even if it's an official parish, defends him against the bishop's attempt to send a substitute. The parishioners have full confidence in him, as his married status is fully accepted and positively valued by most of them. In these cases, the love is not secret and the presence of the woman is recognized, but there is an unhealthy tension between maintaining the institutional character of his ministry and expressly contradicting a legal norm of that institution. It is possible, as in the previous case of clandestine married priests, to justify this violation of a canonical rule on the basis of fidelity to the Christian community to whose service he feels devoted. But it means continually rethinking why he is acting officially as a minister of an institution whose norms are manifestly instilled. And I don't feel this is psychologically or spiritually healthy. I would add for Atrio that this option of not giving up ministry, even after the engagement to the partner is public, should perhaps be valued more strategically. Sometimes it happens with impressive serenity and consistency, as in the case of Julio Perez Pinillos in Spain.

The situation on which I would like to reflect further is, however, the priest who at some point in his life has been fully open to conjugal love and parenthood, making it public in his church and in society, with all the consequences. This involves a formal application for or the de facto practice of laicization, with the loss of any position in the church that is linked to priestly ministry. Usually it also involves the loss of teaching jobs in church schools and even in civilian centers if he was a professor of religion. This priest doesn't regard remaining in the Church as a layperson as punishment. For him, it is rather a choice and liberation, despite the many sacrifices it entails. This is the type of married priest I will be referring to in the following reflections:

1. The choice of lay status made by a Catholic priest should be a fully free and well thought out act. For a person who has been marked by ministry for many years (ten, twenty, and even thirty or forty) it isn't a trivial matter, nor can such a decision be made under pressure of events or other people, in a state of depression or at a "time of turmoil." The person should have sufficient background knowledge and emotional intelligence to analyze the complexity of that change at a given moment of his life. He should consider his own good (including his feelings and inner stirrings) and also the spiritual good of those who depend on him. Discerning the best path to follow should be done alone. In any case, he can follow the classic rules for discerning of spirits, such as those St. Ignatius puts forward in the Exercises. But I don't recommend raising it with the bishop and fellow priests or others until the personal decision has been made. It's also important to be fully honest with oneself. And if the idea of changing status has emerged from the encounter with a woman, opening a new life project, one should take this factor into account and not try to put the emphasis on other motives. Falling in love is not a weakness but a moment of light and creativity. And the woman is not there to be a temptress, but a life partner.

2. Communicating the decision to one's superior, peers, close friends and the community is usually done naturally and with the utmost openness. Fortunately the days are gone when these difficult situations would lead to social stigma, being characterized -- which is sometimes internalized -- as a traitor and usually a secret flight to a distant place. It is appropriate at this early stage not to let negative judgments come to harm one's conscience and self-esteem. Nor let praise or the mere curiosity of others make such a priest a hero or a visionary. I think at that time of rupture, with all the energy that a vital decision of this kind provides, it's appropriate to retreat a bit from the public and build the foundation for the future life --the family and civilian work above all.

3. It is important that ties with the church community be kept in the new life so as not to feel completely displaced from it. In my experience, many colleagues have found a new dimension of being a Christian and a member of the church community from this new perspective -- participating in the Eucharist, but as one among others without presiding, taking some responsibility for catechesis or social assistance, continuing with a base community or with a theological working group ... Leaving the ministerial priesthood, new experiences of being a Christian and the common priesthood are discovered.

4. What those who have gone through this experience most tend to agree upon is that they have matured as adults, knowing what it is to work like anyone else to feed a family, being responsible for very specific beings with very specific needs. Life becomes more real. The married priest realizes that his clerical life took place in an unreal setting of privileges. Theoretically, he was deprived of a family to better serve others, but in practice he was a capricious bachelor. It seemed that he was once a busy person, but he has now learned that one can do much more than he did. Many called him father, but he was nobody's real father.

5. The married priest fundamentally changes the understanding of what women and sexuality are. There may be priests who live out their celibacy with full integrity and peace. Very often, the married priest recalls that the occasional or professional relationship with a woman represented an awakening of sexual attraction, a temptation that required control and made normal treatment difficult. But now, his life being centered on a woman, he treats other women with ease as colleagues or friends. Moreover, the married priest suddenly notices that a certain undefined and unacknowledged attraction his persona used to have for women, especially celibate ones but also unsatisfied married ones or those with maternal instincts, suddenly disappears. He stops being the hidden desire of many women because it is public knowledge that his life belongs to a particular one. With a few exceptions I take for granted, although I have known very few, celibacy is usually a mechanism for sexual obsessions, both active and passive. Each one deals with them through dreams, playing, substitution, sublimation or repression, as he can. It's all very human and understandable, as long as it's not an abuse of power, which often occurs and not only with children. But the married priest learns for the first time what is really normal between a man and woman and realizes with regret how much time and spiritual energy he has had to use for so many years to face the unresolved issue of sex and women.

6. Even with difficulties -- because since adolescence and youth he wasn't prepared for a healthy couple relationship but the exact opposite -- the married priest usually arrives at the essence of conjugal love, total mutual gift of life, in body and soul. Experiencing the realism of this boundless love, in which the most corporal and the most spiritual vibrate in unison, is a unique experience for personal fulfillment. The Christian spirituality that we have experienced made flesh the enemy of the spirit and sexual inclinations, a disordered passion. Paul and, above all, Augustine have much to do with it. And there has been much talk about love, without taking into account that the analogatum princeps of love has been and will always be specific marital love, in which eros and agape unite. From this basic experience, the person is naturally open to love and respect for other people. Speaking of this, a famous theologian used to tell me: "I understand your way, but I realize that I have not been called to the love of proximity." Unwittingly, a lucid but extremely anti-gospel expression had come out of him. [2]

7. But if the married priest has received the gift of being a father, this experience changes the deeper structures of his personality even more than conjugal love. If marital love is experienced as a novelty by the priest, the experience of actually being a father was generally not expected by him prior to his change in status. If this experience is transformational for the lives of even the youngest, it is much more so for the one who comes to it with the maturity of years and experience. That long ongoing process, hour by hour, day by day, in the closeness and complete self-giving to the child that makes you a father from the moment of conception, is the big surprise for most married priests. That which is most yours is least yours. The begotten son is totally dependent on the parents, but he isn't for the parents. When you are a father, you understand God, you feel that you are a creator like God and at the same time the recipient of an unexpected gift that in and of itself gives meaning to your entire life. Responsibility arises, with no need for any other basis, from the experience of paternity. It's absurd that an organization like the Church universally deprives its cadres of this experience as a matter of principle. Any attempt to assume that same sense of responsibility with respect to spiritual children cannot substitute for the primary experience of actual paternity. Any married priest who has lived the dual experience of pastoral and paternal responsibility can attest to this.

8. Finally, the spirituality of a married priest tends to be deeper and more realistic. It is possible that some, in the traumatic moment of rupture, may have prefered to leave faith or spiritual work in a corner. Many others, from the outset or later, have continued the search for the God of Jesus in their new lives. In that case, the married priest experiences his faith being purified and made stronger. He will reject beliefs and practices that he no longer believes in. But the deep sense of adoration of the mystery that is at the depths of his real life and that of all people, will be bonded in him.

The married priest who has gone through the process described here, absolutely aspires to return again to priestly ministry, as it is conceived in the Church today. But he doesn't stop feeling responsible for the future fate of his original community of faith. So he suffers when he sees those responsible for the latter --bishops and hierarchs who were often his companions or disciples -- living so far from reality, awaiting the return of a premodern world and leading the Church into a ghetto. They dare not take the steps that are now necessary to make the church a real hotbed of believing followers of Jesus in the 21st century. The married priest would be willing to make available his experience and journey, which could surely be very useful to them.

[1] In Spain, Núñez i Mosteo, Francesc. Les plegades. Capellans secularitzats. La identitat dels Ex. PhD thesis presented at the School of Sociology, University of Barcelona in 2005. The full text (in Catalan, with abstract in English) at (accessed 09/23/10). AA. VV.: ¿Por qué nos salimos los secularizados? Carena Editors, Valencia 2009, ( Fifteen laicized priests (including the author of this article) relate their experience. Also Moceop-España ( is about to publish a book of 23 similar stories.

[2] On this and other points I have in mind both the analysis of E. Drewerman (Clérigos. Psicograma de un ideal, Trotta, Madrid 1995) on clerical life and Marcel Légaut (El hombre en busca de su Humanidad, AML-, Madrid 2001) on the foundational experiences of the human person.

Antonio Duato is a married priest and theologian. He is the publisher of Iglesia Viva and promoter of the Spanish progressive theological online forum