Thursday, February 28, 2013


Today at 2:00PM we will no longer say, “Benedict our pope . . .” at the Mass.  I tried practicing that part of the Mass today skipping that part and blew it right away.  (One would think it would be so, so easy.)  I said, “together with Richard our pope . . .” who is our bishop.  Glad I made the goof now instead of at the weekend Masses.
I told the 400-some-odd children at the Mass today that this is a historic moment.  They were attending the last Mass at this parish in which Benedict’s name would be mentioned as pope (unless the next pope takes the same name of course) and that after such time, the Church will be without a pope until the next one is elected.  It has been so long since a pope retired (around 6 centuries) that nobody even remembers what to do.  This will be a remarkable thing for the history books for some time if not forever and we were alive to see it.


Of course the pope cannot just retire – at least not in the United States.  I spent much of yesterday driving around in the car and listening to various NPR stations.  Half of the reports I heard of Benedict’s retirement were absolutely salacious.  At some points stunning in their viciousness and outright misleading statements (from stations that claim to present the unvarnished truth for educated people by educated people) to other stories that were quite good in which the person interviewed would equally tell of Benedict’s great achievements, acknowledge that at which he was not particularly talented, and refusing to give in to the interviewer’s obvious desire for unsubstantiated dirt.
In any event, one interviewer stated that the media had an obligation to speculate on motivations of the pope when information is not available.  Funny how it invariably has to be negative.  The most obvious motivation – he wants to retire – is never one of them. 
In a way it is kind of a back handed compliment.  They are paying attention even if it is, in many cases, in a negative fashion.  Is there leader besides the president of the United States that gets this much attention in the U.S.?  (Possibly English royalty on a really good day.)
Today was meant to be a fond fair well post for the pope.  I am afraid I got sidetracked by paying too much attention to the news.  Actually, today there was a lot of decent and balanced coverage.  Thank you Pope (for a few more hours.)  I hope your first day after your prayers you have a good glass of wine, play the piano, and take a nice long nap.




I couldn’t let this one go though.  Yesterday in the Beacon Journal, they found it timely and necessary to run an op ed piece about priestly celibacy from the New York Times by Frank Bruni.  The crux of the article is that the next pope should rethink the whole priestly celibacy thing.  Fine.  After all it is only a discipline, not a dogmatic teaching essential to the priesthood.   I think it would be a mistake to get rid of it (I know, shock) but the Church would not end if that teaching changed.
However, the reasoning that he used is not tenable and uses poor science and reasoning to draw his conclusions.  Take the following points:
“The church’s (sic) leaders preach a purity that its own clerics can’t maintain.”
This is partly true.  It is a bit sensational to make it sound as though every single priest in the world fails at this, but it is very true that there are dramatic failures – and even many of them.  So by his reasoning, we should stop teaching about charity (love the Lord your God with all your heart, your neighbor as yourself, and your enemies) because if we can’t live it, it must be done away with.


He also maintains that it keeps too many men out of the priesthood who would fill dwindling ranks.  “It renders the priesthood less attractive, contributing to the shortage of priests.”  It is similar to the possibility of getting shot by going to war.  First, we want men who are willing to sacrifice to serve.  Second, if this would really be a solution, then mainstream non-Catholic Churches that have married, male ministers/priests should have PLENTY of men willing to serve.  Such is not the case.
Bruni also alleges that all sexual misdeeds in the Church can be attributed to the unnatural state of a sexless existence.  I am glad he cleared this up for us!  Now all we have to do is let all priests get married and have sex and there will be no more cheating on spouses, no child abuse, no divorce, no remarriage . . . wait . . . then . . .  why doesn’t that sound true?  Maybe we should stop preaching about marriage and fidelity too.  (Touch of sarcasm there.)
Now what might be true is that some men go into the priesthood to get away from sexual desires that they (and society) consider impure.  Bruni may be right about this.  On the other hand, even if priests are allowed to be married it would revert to the ancient customs where by celibacy is optional, not done away with.  There would still be a celibate tradition in the Church and these men of whom Bruni is afraid would still be there.  Further, a marriage would have to take place before ordination, the man would be barred from the episcopate, and he would not be able to remarry.
The rest of the article is full of antidotal evidence, conjectures, and “people have told me,” type writing that if it were turned in as a paper for a high school class, it would receive an “F” for failure to make an informed opinion that could be backed up with actual evidence.  The lesson to take away here is to remember to think critically when an “expert” is being presented to you.


Pat said...

Regarding marriage as a "cure" for sexual abuse, what woman would want to marry a man who has aberrant sexual desires? What woman would want to have him be the father of her children? What parents would want a man with these desires to marry their daughter?

Anonymous said...

Well, here is some more anecdotal evidence regarding priestly celibacy, nonetheless it might be an interesting perspective.

I am a convert who is also the daughter of an evangelical pastor (former Catholic). I must say I actually think that to be a married pastor one must be twice as sacrificial as a celibate pastor. Not only must he sacrifice for his church family but also for his own family. Over the years, I've seen my dad work well over full time running his own business, outside of his church duties just to make ends meet--all while going to school to earn his doctorate degree, and also keeping up with his hobby-- running marathons! He often goes with only a few hours of sleep! That being said, he has been a fantastic husband and father and a beloved pastor. He really does feel called to both and by God's grace is able to do it.

On the other hand, it is quite clear in the Bible that not all have this calling and are instead called to be celibate as St. John the Baptist, St. Paul, and Jesus.

The sensationalism that happens on both sides of the debate that if priests are allowed to be married all scandal will break lose and, if on the other hand, they are not allowed to be married all scandal will break lose is quite overdramatic. Neither can either situation completely heal all of the ailments of the church.

If there is any argument to make priestly celibacy optional, I think the only valid one is the priestly vocation crisis, but even then, it cannot fix it entirely, but if we even have five more priests than we used to--anything helps.

One last thing, if a priest marries, his wife and family in a sense would share in his priesthood and I imagine would help out with some of his work (outside of the sacraments, of course!) , so he would not be so busy. In the protestant setting, it is not unusual to seek out the wife of the pastor for counseling and prayer especially if you are a female member/parishioner.

Just my two cents! :) At the end of the day, the Holy Spirit knows best and He will guide us through the Pope. God bless!