Saturday, August 30, 2003

Problems of the Married Priest?

I found this interesting, please read the entire article by Father Wilson. But I did want to comment about some of the objections.

1)Living off campus. This already is happening in many dioceses in the US with the celibate clergy.

2) Office hours. Ditto and for some years. I remember when the pastor in my parish posted office hours in the 1970's people were scandalized. But now this is pretty standard. A married priest can respond to an emergency just as well as a celibate one. Do we think that parents don't respond to the emergencies of their children if they don't occur during "office hours." Ever hear of doctors, dentists, etc responding to emergencies. The fact is I know of plenty of cases where celibate clergy haven't been available in emergencies, have been impossible to reach (employing answering services off campus, etc.) This is a red herring.

3). Divorced Priests. Father mentions one that he thinks exists in TN. I wonder how many people are aware of the presence of not a few "celibate" priests who were once married and have divorced. There are divorced priests serving right now, a few have been very public about it, a pastor in a large Florida parish had an article written about his strange path to ordination a few years ago.

4) Compensation. Another red herring. Almost every parish in the country now employs a heft staff of married people to function as business managers, DRE's, Youth Ministers etc. The average salary of celibate priests is $18,000 including food and housing, plus stipends for weddings, funerals and other additional means. Parishes can afford and in fact do pay out a lot more than is commonly realized. Recently a "celibate" priest in Florida was jailed for having embezzled $400, 000 dollars over a period of three years in a rather small parish. This went unnoticed until an audit of the parish. If a parish of that size didn't miss that much money, I think it is clear that this is a non issue.

Father Wilson rightly notes that there have always been married clergy in the Church and that this is not an innovation. It is something that has been the exception in the West but it is nothing akin to other issues that it often gets lumped with that are clearly against the tradition of the Church.

Anyway give it a read.

From The Wanderer, Father Joseph Wilson:

"For one thing, Catholics would need to get used to their priests living off-campus (in the northeast at least, this is still unusual), away from the parish plant, and many priests serving in troubled areas would be living significantly far away in places where they could raise their families. Compensation would have to be looked at, stewardship and Catholics’ poor level of giving addressed. In Protestant congregations, typically far smaller than ours, individual parishioners know that if they do not give significantly, their churches will not be able to afford a full program and, likely, a pastor. Catholics who are members of large congregations can avoid feeling that same responsibility.

Catholics would have to get used to the fact that their priest would have something approaching 'business hours,' and live with the consequence of troubled clergy families if they didn’t. We’d also have to face the fact of clergy family divorce (there already is a divorced Catholic priest, I think in Tennessee — a married former Episcopal priest who divorced after being received into the Church and ordained)."