Thursday, November 16, 2006

For the last time...

Well, you know how it goes, I am watching the news, reading the newspaper via the internet and then you read reports which suggest the absolute zeroing of IQ points when it comes to reporting about religious topics. The celibacy question is quite controverted in some people's minds because celibacy flies in the face of the general cultural assumption that maturity equals sexual experience. This of course is how people interpret celibacy -- you can't have sex -- which it isn't. Celibacy is a sacrifice of the married state for the greater gift of self to the work of Christ. Because you have given up the married state, it follows that sexual continence comes to the fore.

Anyway, media folks immediately interpreted the conversation between Benedict and the curia about the ongoing Milingo situation as an opening of the door to a married priesthood. However, the truth is far different.

Celibacy has a powerful theological message to communicate to the Body of Christ which suggests why celibacy as the general norm of the Church's practice ought to be maintained. I can suggest a practical reason to maintain celibacy which is not as good as the theological one but immediately clarifies the implication of the question. That reason is money.

Most Catholic parishes don't contribute financially on a par with their Protestant counterparts. To have a married priest as the pastor of the parish would require that contributions would have to at least quadruple. Think about it. House, car, education, insurance, children, it would add up pretty quickly.

Then what about divorce? (Yes, Catholic married priests could make poor choices for their spouses.) Don't you think that a divorced priest would have to be moved because the acrimony (potential or realized) as the parish sides some with the pastor and some with the ex-wife?

I hate to say it, but the push for married clergy (at least to my mind) conceals a resistance to sacrifice. Ordained Sacramental Ministry should require a great gift of self because it is a great and tremendous work. That is not to say that problems don't appear. But a thousand problems do not denude this vocation of its greatness; the problems point up its greatness. A great life in which you are at the service of the salvation of so many is worth giving everyone and it should surprise us that when the stakes are so high, the problems and obstacles are just as high.

To my readers who might be discerning a priestly vocation, don't be afraid. Entrust yourself to the Lord and He will provide all things.

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