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    Fr. Joseph Jenkins

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Celibacy, Married Priests & Vocations

This is the fifth post in an extended discussion about married priests and the breakaway group founded by Archbishop Milingo.

MATTHEW

Part of the answer to the problem of low response to vocations is to improve the Church’s approach to advertising the “product.” You get more potential buyers with an effective ad campaign. It has been my experience that the Church doesn’t advertise for candidates in an effective manner.

FATHER JOE

There are many programs for vocations that would seem to agree with you. However, I suspect the fads they follow to recruit men will only have short-lived results. The real answer is happy and holy priests. The scandals have hurt morale, not to mention the widespread dissent that exists even in Catholic families. Families need to have children and they should encourage them to be priests and nuns. Priests must be men committed to prayer, worship and service. Celibacy is a wonderful way to embrace this calling and it has given the Roman Catholic priest of the West a special charism as a man single-heartedly in love with God. Celibacy is a plus, not a deficit in the equation.

MATTHEW

Not enough positive encouragement is given to young people who are at the point of selecting a career to opt for a consecrated life.

FATHER JOE

This is true, and yet when they see others mock or disrespect priests, it is no wonder that they might also become cynical or close the door to such a vocation as priesthood or consecrated life. There are also way too many rascals in the ranks.

Note also that the priesthood is not simply a CAREER; it is a way of life. All day, each day, everywhere he goes– the priest is a priest!

MATTHEW

When was the last time you went to a high school career night (other than at a Catholic high school) to encourage young men to take up the challenge? When was the last time your bishop went on such a mission? This is a mission activity and it looks like one that is invisible to the hierarchy. Remember, not all committed Catholics attend Catholic schools.

FATHER JOE

You are very presumptuous. I am the product of public schools and know well the challenges of outreach to the community outside the parochial system. However, sometimes there is active resistance to allowing priests and religious a forum in the context you mention.

MATTHEW

I know that I applied to the seminary when I was young, but for no given reason they wouldn’t take me.

FATHER JOE

I cannot say why they did not take you. Did you try somewhere else? Were the problems in the psychological screening? Did you have the proper recommendations? Did you show respect to the Church and the clear capacity for obedience? Were you committed to celibacy? But in any case, the priesthood is not for everyone. I have some close friends who studied to be priests but for one reason or another, did not complete the formation. We may think we have a calling, but that vocation must be confirmed by the Church herself— another form of regulation.

Sometimes this regulation fails, either because of incompetence in those placed over seminarians or because the candidates themselves conceal serious problems or reservations that later explode.

MATTHEW

I also know a number of men who attended seminary because they wanted to be priests and dropped out because they didn’t feel called to celibacy.

FATHER JOE

It is a good reason to drop out. Celibacy is a terrible and a wonderful sacrifice. Compared to other men, it makes the priest the “poor” man, unfulfilled in the ways that the world considers important. Nevertheless, celibacy is a great treasure and a hallmark of the priesthood in the West. I am not threatened by a few married clergy. However, I would grieve if this wonderful gift that God bestows his priests was minimized or dismissed as accidental or inconsequential. You might see it that way, but most celibate priests do not. The majority of priests I know in ministry would oppose a change in the discipline, so would I.

MATTHEW

According to Catholic theology one charism can exist independent of any other.

FATHER JOE

Yes, charisms can be distinct but they are rarely if ever independent. They flow one into the other. Such is the case with a celibate priesthood.

MATTHEW

Why do we insist that God triple the charism of priesthood with celibacy and masculinity?

FATHER JOE

I am a faithful Roman Catholic priest. That is why I take these views. I believe that what the Magisterium teaches must be believed. Further, speaking for myself personally, that violation of this trust would bring me disgrace as a priest and forfeit my immortal soul.

  1. The priest must be a man. Christ did not select women to be among the twelve and his example has been followed for two thousand years. He has not told us that we could do otherwise. Gender is not an accidental but has core meaning to our identity and importance for the priest in regard to the incarnation. The priest is a living icon for Christ who functions at the altar as “alterchristus” acting “in the person of Christ, head of the Church.” The priest is Christ, the bridegroom of the Church which is his bride.
  2. The discipline of celibacy, while not intrinsically necessary for the priesthood, certainly has roots in the practice of the ancient Jews, the early Church, the life of Jesus and the witness of St. Paul and others. It is a beautiful way to make a priest a sign of contradiction to the world, a man who offers not only cultic oblation but the sacrifice of his own flesh for the good of the Church.
  3. The priesthood is God’s great gift to the Church. It makes possible the re-presentation of Calvary on our altars, Holy Communion, the absolution of sins, and so much more. It is not a gift that one can merit or for which one is entitled as upon a social justice agenda. No one is worthy of it and yet all of us, on both sides of the sanctuary, benefit from it.

MATTHEW

As you admit these are arbitrary disciplines of Rome. They are not mandated by divine scripture or tradition. Get a better ad campaign. You might surprise yourself.

FATHER JOE

Did I say arbitrary?

Celibacy is a discipline, but it is a long-standing practice that has colored our understanding of the priesthood. The priest belongs to the Church. This is the family that receives his first loyalty and all his time and strength. There should be no competition.

As for the all-male priesthood, it is a matter of unchangeable doctrine. Women cannot be priests and their so-called Eucharist is invalid! The marriage analogy at the altar is distorted by priestesses into a perverse sacramental lesbianism.

The Scriptures and Sacred Tradition lend much support to the current Roman Catholic position. Revisionists pretend otherwise and do not have the high ground.

If all you want are better sales gimmicks then maybe you would prefer one of the breakaway churches? But I hope not, because I am convinced they will incur almighty God’s terrible judgment for harming the mystical body of Christ.

God bless and keep you.