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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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Priestly Celibacy: Too High a Price for Women?

Given how we understand the priesthood and the demands that we make upon our clergy in the Roman Rite, would the allowance for married priests constitute a violation of human justice? If there is the fear of breaching the seal of confession while talking during sleep, would the couple not be obliged to keep separate bedrooms? The demands of parishioners would take precedence over the needs of his wife and children. Is this fair to them? Given that his first wife, the Church, must always be given her way; what resentments might emerge from the second wife and his family? There is a moral quandary because spouses and families should not be deprived of their due. Right now we have a few married priests (approved of course) who keep their families in neighborhoods apart from where the men serve. Their salaries are enhanced and they are treated differently than celibate clergy. Indeed, I have known several over the years who housed their families in adjacent dioceses or across state lines. What if all priests were treated the same? Could married clergy raise families on a salary rated below poverty level? I was assigned to one parish that was surrounded by drug pushers, pimps with prostitutes and crack houses. My deacon was pistol whipped outside the church doors, the rectory was robbed and dealers shot two bullets through my bedroom window. Would we send a married priest into such an environment? Would they obey and go?

Knowing the life of a traditional Catholic priest, would it really be love to want to subject a woman to the sacrifices and absences that would come along with marriage to one? Even the military man has a term of service. The situation with the priest would be permanent. Several years ago we had a crisis with our local police. The tremendous strain on relationships gave the officers a high divorce rate. It was bad enough that their women had to accept the dangerous profile of their jobs but then the city mandated that police employed had to live within the boundaries of the District. Housing in the better part of town was expensive. The men did not want to house their families in the ghetto or where gangs might identify their wives and children for assault and kidnapping. A number of men tried to skirt the new rules by taking out post office boxes in the city and lying about where they actually lived. They were desperate but good men. Priests have always lived where they worked. The late Archbishop Sheen pressed upon priests that they should live no better than the people they serve. This has often been a point of comparison between Protestant ministers and Catholic priests. Priests must always be accessible or available. They do not work strictly assigned hours. What might this do to a family? The demands are quite different, but the Lutherans have married ministers and they are rightly distressed about the high divorce rate among their pastors. Do we really want to go this way? I noted before that the first married Episcopalian priest who was received and ordained in the United States is now divorced. His wife left him, saying that his prior ministry did not prepare adequately for his life and ministry as a Roman Catholic priest.