ON PRIESTLY CELIBACY AND THE PRESENT CRISIS IN ROMAN CATHOLICISM:
OBSERVATIONS OF A MARRIED PRIEST OF THE ORTHODOX CHURCH.
So the American Roman Catholic Cardinals gather in Rome with the Pope. Roman Catholicism in America is threatened with bankruptcy as more and more file lawsuits for paedophilia.
Yet it all sounded such a good idea - 'a celibate priesthood can devote itself to God and His people much better than a married priesthood'. As a married priest with six children, I can assure you that I keep very busy. Yes, such a good intention, this celibacy idea. But, as they say, the road to Hell is paved with good intentions.
The Orthodox Church does not deny a celibate priesthood, that is why priest-monks exist. Only in the Orthodox Church, which has faithfully guarded the Christian traditions of the First Millennium, celibacy is voluntary and never imposed. I just wonder what proportion of Catholic priests, offered the choice, would marry. An awful lot did after the Reformation in Protestant countries, almost overnight, it would seem. Or perhaps they were already 'married' before the Reformation, only unofficially...
A married priesthood was maintained in the Orthodox Church, East and West, on the insistence of a fouth-century Egyptian monk, St Paphnutius the Confessor (feast: 11 September), Bishop of Thais. He had suffered the gouging out of his right eye and other torments in the persecution of Maximinian in 311. A strict virgin himself, at the First Oecumenical Council in 325, he rose up against a proposal in favour of a celibate priesthood and supported the holiness of married life. He foresaw the difficulties and temptations compulsory celibacy would bring. He urged the Church to maintain Her traditional condition that, once ordained, clergy could not enter into marriage. On the other hand, he urged that the Church continue to ordain already married men. The support of marriage by a monk should not surprise - monastics know only too well the weaknesses of human nature.
Since the official and unilateral introduction of compulsory celibacy by Roman Catholicism some 900 years ago in the 1070's, contrary to the decisons of the First Oecumenical Council of 325, what, honestly, have the results been?
1 The alienation of women. Most married priests understand family problems far better than celibate priests. And priests' wives often provide invaluable help in parish life. Where priests are not married, there are no wives to give support. And the inevitable consequence is that some women ask to be ordained priestesses.
A great many priests throughout the Western Middle Ages continued to
3 In Northern Europe, for example in France and Austria, statistics show that at least 20 per cent of Roman Catholic priests have 'wives', i.e. mistresses or 'housekeepers' and children.
4 In Germany many Roman Catholic priests tend to overeat to compensate, in Ireland many drink. These are not stereotypes but realities I have seen time and time again in travelling around Europe.
5 In the USA, the seat of the current crisis, it has been estimated that some 50 per cent of Catholic priests are practising homosexuals. No doubt elsewhere the figures are also high.
Worse still the cases of paedophilia. The recent case of the Archbishop
As a result of compulsory celibacy, there is a chronic lack of Catholic
8. And finally the hypocrisy of it all. Kept hidden in the shadows are all the Catholic priests of the Eastern rite, married, but not allowed outside the Middle East or Eastern Europe. Similarly Anglican convert clergy are allowed to be married, but are kept hidden away as hospital chaplains and second-class citizens.
O, Cardinals of America, may you speak with wisdom in Rome, for the errors of nine hundred years are coming home to haunt you.