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    Fr. Joseph Jenkins

  • The blog header depicts an important and yet mis-understood New Testament scene, Jesus flogging the money-changers out of the temple. I selected it because the faith that gives us consolation can also make us very uncomfortable. Both Divine Mercy and Divine Justice meet in Jesus. Priests are ministers of reconciliation, but never at the cost of truth. In or out of season, we must be courageous in preaching and living out the Gospel of Life. The title of my blog is a play on words, not Flogger Priest but Blogger Priest.

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Another Upset Woman About Married Priests, WHY?

CATHY: It is impossible to make such assumption that having a wife and children would be distraction to priests, bishops, cardinals and the pope when they were never allowed to have a family in the first place and many have fooled around anyway. To make people choose against a holy sacrament of marriage is to break the first commandment in the bible which is to be fruitful and multiply. You would take away some of the supposed scandal from the church if you would allow for men and women (nuns) to serve and be married. How can ministers of the word even begin to identify with parishoners if they have not lived through some of their circumstances especially since ministry begins in the home. Sex is not vile if done within marriage. It is a God sanctioned act. This not being married is a man sanctioned decree. Every prophet and most of the apostles including St. Peter were married. Their trials were due to the times they were living in. Now, unless you are living in pagan or atheist parts of the world, no one is trying to burn or stone you for being Catholic.

FATHER JOE:

You assert several serious falsehoods:

First, the Church in the West once had a married clergy and determined that celibate clergy best served the Lord and the Church. In other words, we have “been there and done that.”

Second, most Catholic ministers are faithful to their promises and do not “fool around” as you put it. You malign me and many good priests. How dare you do this?

Third, the command in Genesis is given to the species, not to every individual. Otherwise, you would have to force people to get married and mandate that all fertile females get pregnant. Such would be absolutely silly. Our Lord did not get married and neither did St. Paul. Deacons represent both married and unmarried clergy in the Catholic Church. Most priests and all bishops are celibate. We did not “choose against marriage” but rather “chose a spiritual marriage to Christ’s Church.” You minimize the sacrifice and the value of such single-hearted love. You should be ashamed of yourself for that.

Fourth, please, do not be silly; sick and unfaithful people are still sick and unfaithful if they are married. A majority of men who left priesthood for marriage subsequently divorced. Protestant churches may not have their dirty laundry paraded on the news, but they have their own scandals with married clergy. A Methodist minister and friend of mine had a large and vibrant church in Washington, DC. He had an affair with a lady in the choir and got himself fired and defrocked. A married clergy would only amplify the possibility of scandal, albeit with divorce, abuse, incest, etc. There is nothing unnatural or wrong with celibacy. The answer to our problems is not a married priesthood. Allowing nuns to marry violates the very nature of their calling.

Fifth, the family may be the little Church but there is no requirement that every man be an ordained priest. Priests deal with many families. There is marriage preparation, counseling, and confession. We see and hear it all. We know the plight of our people. Our celibacy makes us available to them. We might not have our own wives and families, but we belong to our many parish families. Priests are not fools.

Sixth, a celibate priesthood is no condemnation of human sexuality and marriage. Do you know nothing about Pope John Paul II’s theology of the body? The marital act must remain within marriage as the consummation and renewal of the marital covenant. But there is no requirement that we collect as many sacraments as possible. Most men will never be priests. Most Western priests will never be married. I will never have a child. But few men can stand at the altar and make Christ present with the words of consecration. The Priesthood with Mass and Confession are enough for me.

Seventh, celibacy is a discipline of the Church. But our Lord gave such authority to his Church and it is not for you or me to impugn or spurn it. The Church has the mind of Christ in this matter.

Eighth, the Jewish and Christian view of marriage was not the same. Jews tended to see God’s blessings in progeny, wealth and land. Christians are urged to embrace a poverty of spirit. It is in this light that St. Paul recommends celibacy as the better way. You would be hard-pressed to show a married background for all the prophets. St. Paul and certain others were not married. There is evidence that the early Church had a preference for perfect continence on the part of married men who became priests. Strict celibacy would relieve the tension caused by such a situation.

Nine, while I not entirely sure how this fits into the debate about priesthood and marriage, we are facing terrible trials today, too. I have parishioners with family members suffering violence and death in Asia and Africa. Churches are being bombed and Christians are being martyred. The news here at home is filled with daily assaults upon the Church and our religious liberty. Indeed, the government is seeking to shut us down or compromise our moral message. Sorry, but you really do not know what you are talking about. Not having a wife and family might free a priest from fears of retaliation against them or intimidation through them.  Men often feel that they must make compromises to secure their families.  Are you married Cathy? Does your husband agree with you about mandating married priests?

Cathy, you really know very little about men as priests or what matters to us. We have men and women friends but we save our intimacy for God. Marriage is a wonderful thing, but so is celibate love. Do you find that hard to believe? We do not need to be married. We do not want to be married. We are happy. Why is it that people like yourself want to mess with our lives? If a man is called to holy orders then God will give him the graces for this state of life.

Peace!