And it came to pass we were once again informed, from a very high place, that the discussion about priest celibacy is a legitimate one. Which is, obviously, absolutely true, though priest celibacy has had a very special place in the Church for a very long time.
Let's discuss, then.
Think of the post of Father Ray Blake that caused the recent controversy, and the kind of situations he described then and in the following days. Drug addicted in your kitchen at two in the morning, vomiting around, desperate people of all kind; many of them, as always, thinking they are entitled to whatever they need at the moment.
This is Brighton in 2013, and is not without an element of danger. You would not let a desperate drug addicted at 2 am in your home – actually, not at any hour -; particularly not, if you had wife and children. If you had wife and children, your wife would be the first – and rightly so! – to tell you to avoid dangerous people in your children's home, or to put yourself in dangerous situations.
Many places on earth are more dangerous than Brighton in 2013; and many of those are evangelisation territory; many more that aren't could soon become, if priests for the job are to be found.
Crude as it may be to say so, the priest is celibate not only because he can be free to be entirely focused on his mission, but because his celibacy makes him more expendable. Wife and children make things more complicated, introduce a double loyalty – you can't avoid, if you are a father and husband, to be concerned about your children and wife: nature has appointed a father as the provider and protector of his wife and children – and makes difficult choices more difficult.
Then there is the economic factor, with a priest then required to have the money to maintain a family, and possibly a numerous one. The same difficulties would present themselves is said priest were to be moved, with much higher costs. And who would ask a priest with wife and children to move to, say, Iraq or Syria? Would the family be split, then? Or would they all be required to move to the danger zone?
Two priests are required to obey the Government and disobey Christ or go to jail, or to obey the government and betray their priesthood or be executed. For whom is it easier to stay with Christ?
For whom is it easier to deal with the junkie at 2 am? For whom is it easier to be transferred the other side of the planet at short notice? For whom is it easier to be despised, threatened, perhaps beaten with a stick, perhaps killed?
For whom is it easier not to be blackmailed with what would happened to his wife and children: the one who has them, or the one who hasn't?
I know what some think. Priesthood is not really like that. Priesthood is a job for a nice chap with an assured income for life, telling people to rejoice in their inevitable salvation and celebrate their own goodness.
This may apply to Anglicans wannabe vicars. It certainly does not apply to Catholic priests.
The priest is not his own. He belongs to Christ first, second, third and last. He is and must be – crude as it is to say that – expendable; and in order to be more easily expendable, it is best that he is always aware of the One to Whom he has already given his life; without distractions, and without other loyalties and obligations. Priesthood is a vocation, not a profession. It is a choice of self-sacrifice, not of quiet family living.
Certainly, the Church can – and did; and does; let's think of the Ordinariates – in particular occasions allow a married man to become a priest. But these are exceptions, and sub-optimal solutions, chosen after weighing very special circumstances in very special cases. Extreme circumstances make bad laws, and the tiny minority of married priests must not lead us into believing if it is allowed, then it must be the right things to do. It is allowed, but it's not the best thing to do. It may be the practical solution in some particular circumstances, but it is the less efficient one.
Priest celibacy served the Church so well for so long, it is astonishing the debate should take place in the first place. But you see, we live in V II times; that is, in times of confused Catholicism. Times that cause a crisis of vocations in the first place, and then suggest to further weaken the priesthood as a remedy to this crisis; a remedy which would cause a further crisis of vocations, as opposed to the application for a job.
Look at the Anglicans. They can marry. Half of their so-called ordinations are of women, and many of the men are – for their own admission – homosexual. It doesn't look like the ability to marry plays a big role among those who would be the only ones eligible for the (real) priesthood: heterosexual males.
No, the general ability to have married priest would cause great damage, rather than help, the Church. It would deprive her of the ability to have an army of soldiers who choose the priesthood as a very radical choice in their life, and the hinge of their entire existence and, if it must be, end of it. If you question the quality of vocations today, think what it would become if such a huge accommodation to the world was made.
And in fact, the entire concept of the “advantage” of married priesthood is contradictory. The idea that you have more vocations if you make the priesthood better adapted to the world outside is exactly the contrary of what priesthood should be. It is like saying “in order to have more priests, you must make them more similar to the world they are supposed to reform”; but the priest must not be of this world. His celibacy alone is a huge testimony of this.
The priest is celibate because God gave him the very special grace of a vocation to a celibate priesthood. To ignore this is to belittle, if not outright insult, the choice of celibacy made by the priest. a priest does not choose to become such notwithstanding the celibacy it imposed on him. A priest chooses celibacy as an integral part of his priesthood.
Priest celibacy worked so well for so long, and whilst the quality of the individual vocation varies greatly in the individual cases, on the whole it is clear it was this celibate priesthood that allowed the Church (and particularly the Roman Rite, with his strong accent on celibacy) to expand all over the planet.
Priestly celibacy is darn good. Instead of trying to sabotage the work of the Holy Ghost in inspiring vocations , we should promote a vision of the Church that promotes Them. Not a church of public servants concerned for their families, but a church of heroes ready to sacrifice everything, and showing this in front of the whole words by sacrificing, for the start, what would be the biggest obstacle to their “expendability”: a wife, and children.
Let us pray for our priests. Let us pray for more vocations. Let us appreciate them when they admit the junkie in their kitchen at 2 am, uncaring for their own safety; let us present them as an example of true manhood, and true faith, to our children. Let us recover the priest as a saver of souls, rather than a platitude spitting social worker. Let us recover proper liturgy and proper instruction; let us reconquer the sanctuary for male altar boys.
Then, you will see, vocations will not be a problem.
The old slut who seduced an Argentinian bishop (certainly not the best of them, either; in the end, it takes two to tango) up to the point of him leaving the habit is the last one of those who claim vicinity to Pope Francis. The female (please let us not call these people “ladies”, or “women”; ask your grand-grandmother how she would call the female, and know she is right) is now well in her Eighties and on a wheelchair (we know the Pontiff loves wheelchairs), but it does not look like age had any improving effect on her. At her ripe age, the female now claims not only she is thickest friends with the Pope (phone call once a week, like yours truly with his parents), but also that the Pope might now move towards the abolition of priest celibacy. Well, she must know something of celibacy…
One understand at what the old female is aiming: if priests are allowed to marry, she will not be a slut anymore, but a love heroine ahead of the times. Like a suffragette with the suffrage, or Martin Luther King without the racial discrimination. Or so she thinks, and it's a pity no one informed her that celibacy for bishops is de fide, and not even an extremely ill-instructed Pope like Francis (see his utterances concerning capital punishment, if confirmed) will ever be able to do anything for her reputation in this or, I am afraid, any other respect.
Popes have many friends, but I would very much warn from taking the words of self-appointed friends at face value. There was the Anglican chap saying the then Archbishop had told him “the Church needs them as Anglicans”, and this female is now basically saying the Pope thinks the Church needs her as slut. I would discount the second as heavily as I discounted the first, unless and until the Pope says something in the matter of priest celibacy as Pope.
As to the many embarrassing statement apparently contained in his equally embarrassing book written together with his pro-faggotry Jewish pal, it's for him to put a patch on his stupidities as well as he can, but the PC statements of an ill-thinking, ill-instructed Cardinal (make no mistake, many of those: search this blog for Policarpo, Woelki, or Meisner to mention only three; unless it's worse of course) can on no account be automatically considered the programme and platform of the now Pope Bergoglio.
Pope Francis was, so much is clear, the wrong type of Cardinal on many issues (including his book-writing pals, his liturgical brainlessness and his ecu-maniacal attitude). His past sons are now causing a run to him from the side of people who want to highjack him for their own purposes, like the mad nuns. All of them aiming at creating a new image for themselves (the Anglican chap, and now this old pathetic vecchia malvissuta) or to push their cause.
I do not think the mad nuns will be the only ones to get disappointed.
The most remarkable trait of V II prelates seems to be that very few of them manage to know Catholic teaching with the same level of expertise of, say, a thirteen-year-old boy circa 1953.
The last one to make an ass of himself is Cardinal O’Brien.
His words according to the above mentioned “Homograph”:
“In my time there was no choice and you didn’t really consider it too much, it was part of being a priest. When I was a young boy, the priest didn’t get married and that was it.
“I would be very happy if others had the opportunity of considering whether or not they could or should get married.
“It is a free world and I realise that many priests have found it very difficult to cope with celibacy as they lived out their priesthood and felt the need of a companion, of a woman, to whom they could get married and
raise a family of their own.”
Yours truly, who was never married and – sinner as he is, of course – never found it so difficult to cope with celibacy (particularly after seeing some of those who are married; but that’s another matter entirely…), is rather stunned at these affirmations for the following reasons:
1) Last time I looked, it was de fide that a priest cannot marry. One can become priest when he is already married (look at the Anglican converts: for the Church they are no priests, and therefore they can become priests whilst being previously married) but no one can marry after he has become a priest. One of us two is wrong, then, and I think it’s the one with the funny hat…
2) “It is a free world”. What on earth does this mean. Freedom isn’t anarchy or licence; celibacy isn’t more or less difficult under Cameron than under Mussolini; I do not know of many contemporary priests forced to take orders in a dictatorship and now finding it difficult to cope with celibacy because there is freedom.
3) “In my time there was no choice”. Well neither there is now, actually.
4) “You didn’t really consider it too much”. What? The man took a solemn vow of celibacy and now he tells us that was something one just didn’t think about? And then they say today’s youth is irresponsible? Who made this man Cardinal? (Answer: John Paul II…).
5) “companion etc”. Look, I though that a priest was married to the Church? That the celibacy is what allow himself to be completely dedicated to his life of service without having extremely time-consuming (and emotionally exacting) distractions like, erm, “a woman to whom they could get married and raise a family of their own”? That this dedication and self-sacrifice is exactly was makes the priest respected in his community, and trusted to care for Christ and for his sheep above all else? Am I wrong?
6) “found it difficult to cope with celibacy aas they lived out their priesthood”. Oh for heaven’s sake. Are we talking of men or children? You make choices like a man, you carry on with your life and the choices you have made like a man. Can a soldier say “I am tired of Afghanistan”?
7) “I would be very happy etc..”. Dear Cardinal, the opportunity is already there. Either one wants to become a priest, and then he cannot marry. Or he wants to marry, and then he cannot become a priest. A priest can never, could never, will never “have the opportunity of considering”. Once a celibate priest, always a celibate priest and no, the “free world” is nothing to do with it.
In this very matter, it is refreshing to read that a couple of very good priest bloggers have become rather impatient with the Cardinal’s remark. I understand them very well, then the Cardinal lets all celibate priests look like people who didn’t really think about it, have no clear idea why they are celibate, and should well reflect a bit whether to have the “opportunity to consider” wouldn’t be a fine thing indeed.
For one, Father Ray Blake has a rather explicit post on the matter. Among the commentators, EF Pastor Emeritus – another excellent priest and blogger – is no less explicit. Third is Father Hunwicke, a convert from the Anglicans (and therefore, crucially, not a priest when he married), who says it very beautifully with the words: “Wherever did the Cardinal, whom I greatly respect, get the idea that priests like me are allowed to make up our own mind about getting married?”
Interesting question, actually.
Wherever? If you ask me, from the madness called Vatican II, that wanting to “renew” everything ends up wanting to demolish, sooner or later, everything. That’s where.