Friday, June 21, 2013

Third Irish Roman Catholic priest commits suicide

"The death by suicide of Belfast-based Fr Matt Wallace has stunned many people. He is the third Irish priest to take his own life in the last 18 months. People are understandably shocked by the particular circumstances of each tragedy. But when the dust settles around the death of Fr Wallace, and his brother-priests and parishioners begin to pick up the pieces, it’s vital that some good can be brought out of this tragedy. There is a danger that when the shock dies down, we all get back to business as usual and there is no discussion about the wider questions."
So writes Michael Kelly, editor of The Irish Catholic, in a profoundly moving and sensitive piece entitled 'We need to talk about priests'. Please read it. In fact, read it before reading this post any further, or what follows in matters of theology or ecclesiology will be devoid of emotional, psychological and sociological context.

This is not the suicide of one priest in 10 years, which would be statistically irrelevant. It is not even the suicide of two or three priests globally over three or four years, which may find more correlation. We are talking here about the suicide of three priests in Ireland alone over a period of just 18 months, which researchers may hypothesise suggests correlation if not a causal relationship.

According to Émile Durkheim (Suicide, 1897), Protestants are more inclined to commit suicide than Roman Catholics. A more recent study corroborates Durkheim's findings:
"The way we came to work on this issue in the first place," Becker explained, "is we read about Durkheim's thesis where he made the point that Protestants more often have an individualistic religion than Catholics and Catholics more often rely upon the congregation as a group so that in times of trouble, Protestants are more on their own than Catholics."

In addition to this hypothesis, Becker and Woessman also suggest that the different suicide rates may be due to different emphases in Catholic and Protestant understandings of grace. Catholics will more often emphasize the rewards that come with good works or the punishment that comes with sin. Protestants, on the other hand, will more often note that God's grace cannot be earned through good deeds. As a result, it may be that Catholic teachings on suicide are stricter and those teachings become internalized among Catholics.

A third hypothesis has to do with Catholic confession, or the act of regularly confessing sins to a Catholic priest. Protestants do not recognize this sacrament. Since suicide is the only sin that could never be confessed to a priest, a Catholic who finds confession important to avoiding Hell may be less inclined to commit suicide.
The theology of grace is perhaps of greatest relevance. Roman Catholic teaching on suicide is clear. As set out in John Paul II's Evangelium Vitae (#66):
Suicide is always as morally objectionable as murder. The Church's tradition has always rejected it as a gravely evil choice. Even though a certain psychological, cultural and social conditioning may induce a person to carry out an action which so radically contradicts the innate inclination to life, thus lessening or removing subjective responsibility, suicide, when viewed objectively, is a gravely immoral act. In fact, it involves the rejection of love of self and the renunciation of the obligation of justice and charity towards one's neighbour, towards the communities to which one belongs, and towards society as a whole. In its deepest reality, suicide represents a rejection of God's absolute sovereignty over life and death, as proclaimed in the prayer of the ancient sage of Israel: "You have power over life and death; you lead men down to the gates of Hades and back again" (Wis 16:13; cf. Tob 13:2).
His Grace took this to mean that suicide is a mortal sin. If it be not only 'as morally objectionable as murder', but 'always' so, it is difficult see understand how it might be forgiven before the Throne of Judgement.

But Louise Mensch (via Twitter) set His Grace right on the matter. These priests who commit suicide may not possess an informed intellect (ie know that suicide is wrong); and they may not have given full consent of the will (ie intended to commit the action). If they killed themselves out of fear or psychological imbalance or emotional stress, there cannot be full consent since these impede the exercise of the will and mitigate responsibility. The Catechism states: 'Grave psychological disturbances, anguish, or grave fear of hardship, suffering, or torture can diminish the responsibility of the one committing suicide' (#2282). Louise Mensch is right in this: although suicide is a 'gravely immoral act', it is not necessarily a mortal sin. Thanks to Mrs Mensch, His Grace is enlightened.

But in these three suicides over 18 months there is something which ought to alarm the Roman Catholic Church at the very highest level. If we were talking about the third suicide in 18 months of the oppressed sweatshop slave in India or China, there would be rather more noise from the anti-capitalist media. We would hear an awful lot from the BBC and the Guardian about how Apple or Microsoft or Nike treat their workers 'inhumanely, like machines'. But there's not a lot of concern about Irish Roman Catholic priests. Are they worth less than iPad manufactures in Shenzhen and Chengdu? Is the Roman Catholic Church less culpable than Apple?

All suicide is tragedy. We who daily find the will to go on living cannot begin to grasp the depths of despair, hopelessness and loneliness which must be felt by those who resort to the ultimate rejection of God's absolute sovereignty over life and death. But does it not bear a little consideration that this desperate loneliness might be slightly eased by permitting those priests who wish to marry to do so? No doubt Church of England vicars occasionally commit suicide, but is not a life-long partnership of mutual companionship, love and support more likely to guard against intolerable sexual, emotional, psychological and social burdens? As God said: "It is not good for man to be alone." He did not exempt the priesthood. If this were an Apple or Microsoft condition of employment, there would be outrage. It is merely man-made tradition, first mandated at the First Lateran Council of 1123. So, yes, 'We need to talk about priests'. But let us not do so apart from institutional systems, outdated dogma and overbearing hierarchy.

249 Comments:

Blogger Corrigan said...

Here's a turn-up: for once, I'm seeing eye to eye with Cranmer (it gets easier when you don't assume he's just having a go at the Church). The key paragraph in the Irish Catholic article is this one

Many priests are also over-burdened by expectations of nominal Catholics who no longer attend Mass or practise their faith. While not regular Massgoers, most Catholics in Ireland still want their children baptised, want to get married in the Catholic Church and want a Catholic funeral. Most of these people have little or no awareness of the challenges facing the local priest since they rarely – if ever – darken the door of the church. Yet, the sense of expectation that a priest will be available at a moment’s notice is palpable. Many parishes are also under financial pressure since many of those who avail of the services on an infrequent basis don’t contribute to the parish.

I have repeatedly said on this forum that too many people think they are entitled to a piece of the Catholic Church, almost all of them non-Catholics. For an Anglican, Cranmer himself has shown a ridiculously keen interest in our affairs, and I include lapsed-Catholics, nomininal Catholics and Catholics who never cross the threshold of a church except for christenings, weddings and funerals, under the heading "non-Catholics". If you're not playing the game, don't expect those who are to leave the pitch to accomodate you. Bury your own dead; get married in a registry office; have private "naming ceremonies" for your children, but leave us - and our priests - out of it. In short, stop being such bloody hypocrites.

That last especially goes for the so-called "spirit of Vatican II" Catholics, the ones who write for the Tablet and attend the Soho Masses. More than any other, these people have been a poison in the bloodstream of the Church, weakening her, distracting her from her mission and sucking the life force out of her. To quote that (other) arch-Protestant, Oliver Cromwell, "Depart, I say, and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go!" When you do, we might have a much smaller, but actually committed Church with a clear voice, a clear message and a clergy who are not crushed under the impossible burden of accomodating every sin in the Cathecism in the name of so-called "compassion".

21 June 2013 at 11:51  
Blogger Archbishop Cranmer said...

"For an Anglican, Cranmer himself has shown a ridiculously keen interest in our affairs," says Corrigan, a rather vocal and frequently ungracious Roman Catholic who shows a keen interest in this distinctly Anglican blog every single day..

21 June 2013 at 12:02  
Blogger Corrigan said...

In short, stop being such bloody hypocrites.

Apologies. The word I meant to use was "parasites".

21 June 2013 at 12:04  
Blogger Corrigan said...

Ungracious? That's fightin' talk, Cranmer, and I'm merely bringing the fight into the enemy camp. Can't blame me for that, now, can you?

21 June 2013 at 12:06  
Blogger Bob said...

A terrible tragedy, Your Grace. I hope people will take time to reflect on this sad occasion, and practise compassion with open hearts.

:)

Peace.

21 June 2013 at 12:08  
Blogger Gareth said...

A good friend of mine, who was until recently a Catholic Sister (she now works as a lay chaplain), described as she walked down a street in her habit being approached by strangers who accused her of being a paedophile.

Priests and nuns are the new folk devils for the secular, post-Christian age, and our enlightened and tolerant society is not slow to let them know.

Depressing though it is, I think we can expect more of these suicides in the months and years to come. Time for all Christian brothers and sisters to pray.

21 June 2013 at 12:25  
Blogger E.xtra S.ensory Blofeld + Tiddles said...

Corrigan said...

Blah blah blahdee blah!!

" More than any other, these people have been a poison in the bloodstream of the Church, weakening her, distracting her from her mission and sucking the life force out of her."
Is that not what 'The Spirit of Vatican 1' started centuries ago was all about... injecting poison into the Body, veering off into strange pagan mysticism and strangling or burning the very life force literally out of Christ's body of believers?

Is there not a village somewhere in Ireland in dire need of a compassionate Inquisitor, to put them back on the strait and narrow, 'old school' style, old sport?

Blofeld

21 June 2013 at 12:53  
Blogger carl jacobs said...

Enforced celibacy is indeed the elephant in the living room. A wife would simultaneously solve two problems:

1. Loneliness.
2. The expectation that a priest is always available because he has no family.

A man with a wife and children must take regard of his wife and children.

carl

21 June 2013 at 13:00  
Blogger AnonymousInBelfast said...

I think too, we need to talk about these suicides in the knowledge that mental illness and distress are close to ubiquity in Northern Ireland (something like one-in-four).

Not that that precludes the discussion or invalidates the point you make Cranmer - but it should be borne in mind.

21 June 2013 at 13:31  
Blogger Brother Ivo said...

Brother Corrigan,

One assumes that your visits to this site, like those of others visitors is because it is one of the few places where daily intelligent discussion occurs on matters of religion and its daily interaction with the secular world.

Perhaps one might say that your apparent earlier sense that the blog exists to "get at " your Church means that you don't " get" the Cranmer blog.

It is because the Roman Catholic Church is important substantial and interesting that it rightly features on a regular basis. Would you not rightly be puzzled and complain if it were routinely ignored.

Sometimes it is your best friend who can tell you the hardest truths. The Catholic Church does have a discipline over its members and attracts a defensive loyalty which makes it hard for members to raise concerns themselves. On such occasions , why not rejoice that there are those of us who take your Church seriously, respect it , and wish it well in its mission and perhaps acknowledge that we can occasionally play a symbiotic role in improving it through offering a fraternal critique.

On a specific point on the article. Is it not striking to see the coffin carried by priests? Does this not powerfully make the point that there was the human love, respect, and support potentially available, but the Church being run by fallible humans, it is not always actively available in those dark nights of the soul that come with depression or anxiety.

21 June 2013 at 14:04  
Blogger Julia Gasper said...

Yes the Roman church should allow priests of both sexes to marry, so long as they marry a suitable singleton of their own faith who is prepared to support them in their vocation.

21 June 2013 at 14:35  
Blogger LEN said...

It is tragic than anyone should feel that suicide is the only solution to their suffering.

Some people in some professions feel unable to talk to their peers as it might be seen as a 'weakness' or an 'instability' and try to 'go it alone'.

We do indeed need to talk to Priests and try to resolve whatever problems they are encountering.'Celibacy' is against all natural laws and perhaps this could be part of the problem?.

21 June 2013 at 14:48  
Blogger John Thomas said...

My own thought is that the constant lambasting of the RCC, by such organisations as the BBC and many of it so-called "comedians" (the "sneerocracy", I call them)is the actual cause of the low morale of RCC priests (and particularly in Ireland, where the deceptions and duplicities of the Pro-Death lobby are bringing the culture of death nearer every day) - rather than the priest's absence of wives.

21 June 2013 at 14:49  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

In this sophisticate world, it is intolerable that a man on his own, as most Catholic priests are, should shoulder the responsibilities of a parish completely alone. It is just not on.

A fellow will save his breath now as the Catholic Taleban appear and curse him in the name of the Lord. Interestingly, the motley members of this medieval organisation will: NOT be in holy orders. Have NO intention of taking holy orders. Be invariably married themselves.


21 June 2013 at 15:05  
Blogger Julia Gasper said...

Corrigan writes "Apologies. The word I meant to use was "parasites".

Sure it wasn't parachutes? Or stalactites? or parokeets?

21 June 2013 at 15:55  
Blogger John Thomas said...

"bringing the fight into the enemy camp" (Corigan, here). Oh dear me, Corrigan! We're not your enemies (Anglicans, that is)! - as you seem yourself to realise, your real enemies are the Tablet-style Catholics ("Catholics"). Whenever I talk to an RC person tempted by "liberalism", I ask them to take a few minutes (2 should be sufficient) looking at just where "liberalism" leads - the Episcopal Church USA - point made?

21 June 2013 at 16:49  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

John Thomas. One is rather hoping Corrigan has those words liberally dosed with tongue in cheek.

Besides, there are some comments so ludicrous that when a fellow comes across them, the only thing to do is to clear your throat and continue as you were...

21 June 2013 at 17:03  
Blogger DanJ0 said...

Len: "'Celibacy' is against all natural laws and perhaps this could be part of the problem?."

They expect it of people like me though for as long as we live.

21 June 2013 at 17:12  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

DanJ0, that’s because the way you types do it frightens the horses...

21 June 2013 at 17:16  
Blogger Peter D said...

" ... institutional systems, outdated dogma and overbearing hierarchy."

On a point of clarification, celibacy is not a "dogma" of the Church; its a discipline and can be changed.

This surely isn't about the absence of a sexual, close partner for Priests. It is about the support network available to them. One remembers that when Jesus sent His disciples into the world to evangelise, He sent them in pairs. He also advised them not to tarry were they were not well received.

Ireland is a nominally Catholic rapidly losing the faith. Recent studies have indicated a disconnect between those self identifying as Catholic and the doctrines of the Church. Attitudes and practice towards abortion, contraception, divorce and homosexuality are 'liberal'. Mass attendance is irregular.

According to the teachings of the Catholic Church, such members are placing themselves outside the Church and risking eternal damnation. Try carrying that burden as a Priest as you encounter people who approach you asking for the Sacraments of Baptism and Marriage or who share these sins in Confession but may be unrepentant.

On top of this, is the loss of respect in the Priesthood. Priests are now subjects of suspicion in Ireland following the sex abuse scandals. Add to this the on going doubt about the extent of homosexuality and its influence within the institutions of the Church and on a personal level being a Priest is an isolated role.

Would these problems be solved by permitting Priests to marry? Possibly. However, it may bring other problems with it. There was a time when two or three Priests shared responsibility for Parish and lived together; often they had the support of Sisters in nearby Convents.

Priests marrying will not solve these problems. Catholics have to take responsibility for supporting their Priests and assisting them in their mission and in their daily lives.

21 June 2013 at 18:44  
Blogger Darter Noster said...

Inspector,

"A fellow will save his breath now as the Catholic Taleban appear and curse him in the name of the Lord. Interestingly, the motley members of this medieval organisation will: NOT be in holy orders. Have NO intention of taking holy orders. Be invariably married themselves."

There's no particular reason for that to happen; the Church itself admits on a routine basis that celibacy is a Church-imposed discipline, and not a theological requirement.

Priestly celibacy should have an honoured place in the Church, but many Catholics, including some increasingly high up the ladder, question whether it should be compulsory (Ratzinger himself called for a debate on the issue in the 70s).

It finally became mandatory in the 11th century (though it had been normal before) when a series of monastic Popes, reacting to a terrible period of corruption and sinfulness in the Church, reshaped the priesthood along the lines of a monastic order.

Many ordinary Catholics no longer see it as necessary or even desirable; in the Eastern Catholic Church it has never been a requirement. I think it will come to an end, though not for quite a long time, sadly.

21 June 2013 at 18:45  
Blogger Ivan said...


Hear, hear John Thomas has hit it on the nail. A priest friend of mine was in Ireland a few years ago. While there he took some photographs with his old mentor, but was told that there should be no hands around the shoulders, hugs, that kind of thing. Some insane rules that came in the wake of the pedophilia scandal. Imagine the utter loneliness of these men, the most innocent of fond gestures are denied them, they are open to suspicion everyday. Where previously a priest would think nothing of planting a kiss on a kid's forehead as Jesus would have done, now they have to shy away from children as though they were plague-bearers. The image that comes to mind of an English speaking priest or nun is that of a leper. But hierarchy that is in full panic mode, is it supportive of these men and women? No they are heading for the hills to be waylaid by some ass from the BBC or the NYT. In another thread the Inspector alluded to the strong camaraderie that grows and sustains the all-male institutions so necessary for society such as the army, and the priesthood, the natural brotherhood that supports all its members through thick and thin, that enabled Vietnam veterans to endure taunts and humiliations for years, returning German and Soviet soldiers their bleak, painful existence, that brotherhood going back to Ulysses, King David and the Apostles; has this heavenly band come through for these priests, lonely men wondering why Eleanor Rigby, McCartney's dirge had to be based on their lives.

No, quite unfortunately it has not. The homsexual lobby and the bloody cowards who quail before it have seen to it. They do not care whom they destroy, including homosexual priests, in their quest to bury the Roman Catholic Church.

John Paul II was a heroic priest, sustained at all times apart from his great piety, by the knowledge that it fell on men like him, to maintain the flame of Polish nationalism and the Catholic culture that sustained it. But even he had the support of countless heroes, many of them ordinary people, who through their prayers and well-wishes sustained him through both Nazism and Communism. Were these unfortunate priests, the recipients of even a simple thank-you from the majority of so-called Catholics. Even as great a Catholic as Mother Theresa has written that she often did not feel the Presence of God when she prayed for hours. What then can lesser humans expect. Allegedly if only priests were allowed to marry, all this would not happen. I ask, what good is it for a married priest and his wife in a parochial society like N Ireland, to know that the rest of society regards them as child-molesters and rapists. If anything such a burden - knowing that hissing serpents with handbags trail his wife in the market and the cakeshop - for a man of honour, would drive him to a much earlier suicide.

21 June 2013 at 19:21  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

Well Darter Noster, unless it ends soon, your next parish priest might be an African. This man recalls the reading of a bishops letter during mass emphasising that priests should wherever possible be raised from the local congregation. A recruit drive, of course, but with a message too.

Peter D. Priests marrying will not solve these problem. That will be your ‘concerned’ approval for the celibacy rule to continue then.

When you retire tonight with your wife, do think of the priests that carry their burden to the next day alone. There’s a good chap...

21 June 2013 at 19:23  
Blogger The Explorer said...

This question of celibacy...

It's been said that the ideal judge for a Mafia trial would be one with a terminal illness and no loved ones. You can see the point: imagine the tempering effect of a photo of your spouse and children through the post. Easier if your accountability is only to yourself and God. This, I imagine, could have influenced Paul's decision to remain single. Christ said some would be called to celibacy for the sake of the Kingdom.

Peter, on the other hand, was married. "...not good for man to be alone"; "...better to marry than burn."

Article XXXII of the C of E says, "At their own discretion": recognising the validity of either option. In this case, I think the C of E has it right.

21 June 2013 at 19:46  
Blogger Corrigan said...

Priests are expected to carry far too big a load. It would be so much easier if the Church just accepted that, for whatever reason, Europe is a pagan society inhabited by savages as it was 1500 years ago and proceeded on that basis to begin its work all over. That way, any young man thinking about the priesthood would be under no illusions about what was facing him. No more kidding themselves about the basic decency of their flock; they are there on an evangelizing mission to pull pigs up out of the muck and they're likely to be martyred for their trouble, if not physically, then psycologically. And yes, a huge amount of the blame rests on the shoulders of lay Catholics. I don't deny that. The more conservative ones like myself do take them too much for granted, and the liberal ones expect ridiculous compromises from them in the ever popular liberal parlour game called "validate me".

In the end, there is one massive difference between Protestantism and Catholicism: they're trying to bring the gospel to the world; we're trying to bring the world to the gospel. Since Vatican II, our liberal co-religionists have lost sight of this fundamental difference, and because of that have poisoned the Church. The Catholic Church is the most radical, incendiary organization in the history of the planet, and it doesn't do compromise - when its footsoldiers begin to remember that, maybe they'll replace despair with resignation. Or better yet, with fire.

21 June 2013 at 19:58  
Blogger Darter Noster said...

Inspector,

My last parish priest was an African. Thoroughly nice chap and an excellent priest.

21 June 2013 at 20:04  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

There you go Darter Noster. One is without doubt the African priest was an excellent sort. But the point remains – we are not producing enough home grown priests. Haven’t been for decades. In this age, we are running short of voluntarily celibate men...

Corrigan. You are a soldier for the faith alright. A Guardsman no less. One hopes that Cranmer sees in you the same zeal his namesake had, and continues to allow you here, as no doubt he himself would wish to continue if he were posting on an RC site...


21 June 2013 at 20:31  
Blogger Peter D said...

Inspector said
"That will be your ‘concerned’ approval for the celibacy rule to continue then."

I can see merit in celibacy, certainly. I also acknowledge it has its challenges too.

The problems I was referring to are caused by nominal, cultural Irish Catholics who do not follow Church teaching and put great pressure on Priests. Also, the ridicule and lack of respect shown the Priesthood in Ireland and the climate of suspicion surrounding them.

You really think marrying will solve these issues?

21 June 2013 at 20:37  
Blogger OldJim said...

I would append my own agreement to those in the comments who stress that the greatest factor here is the mockery and vilification of Catholic priests, and not their lack of wives.

As has been noted, Roman Catholic priests have given oaths to remain single since 1100. If His Grace wants to demonstrate his point, then he needs either to show that

a)Catholic priests everywhere have consistently had a higher suicide rate than the population since that time, something that I find remarkably unlikely, or

b)that fewer priests in Ireland have in recent years been flouting their oaths, which I do consider plausible from the set of anecdotes I have accumulated from friends and family, but I do not think substantial enough an effect to account for the variance.

AND that where levels of priests' suicide have not concomitantly increased, it is because they are still flouting these oaths.


On the other hand, I think that it is trivially easy to demonstrate that the sheer nastiness that a Catholic priest encounters both personally and impersonally through the media is cresting higher than it has since the times of Titus Oates. It is certainly worse today, than, for example, in the late nineteenth century, when the worst that was said were the coded accusations of "effeminacy" made by Charles Kingsley and the overt accusations of mental slavery made by a spittle-flecked Gladstone.

Catholics may in some circles have been considered subversives, and their priests scheming jesuitical gays back then, but today those priests are much more widely portrayed as bigoted closeted gay child abusers -- a set of unpleasant smears masterfully encapsulated in the accusation that they are all presided over by a "leering villain in a frock".

If you're looking at why priests are committing suicide -- well, I'd think that the more natural place to start.

21 June 2013 at 20:39  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

Peter D. The following point this man seeks to make should in no way be added to his already firm belief that priests should be married if they so wish. It doesn't need it to be valid.

The Inspector too has received the condemnation of others after the child sex scandals. As you can imagine, this man strongly pointed out that it was homosexuals who abused the children. Men who due to their handicap, tore up their vows of priesthood. Fell on deaf ears. It was priests who did it, so the herd said. Implying ALL priests are suspect. Understandable to a degree, as RC celibacy is well known. Anyway, that slur cannot be pinned down on a church that allows married priests. And no, this is not in response to the latest fashion, if you will, of knocking RC priests. It is just addressing cause and effect.



21 June 2013 at 21:09  
Blogger Patrick said...

You touch on the Catholic theology of grace, but you do not have it right. I would refer you to the Council of Trent's Decree on Justification, which took a middle position between the extremes of Pelagianism (which Protestants mistakenly thought was the Catholic teaching) and sola fides, the teaching of Luther. The Catholic teaching is that we are wholly dependent on God's grace; we cannot earn grace, which is a free gift from God; but then it us up to us to manifest that gift, once received, in good works.

Grace is an ongoing relationship with God, the indwelling of the Holy Trinity within our souls. What struck me about both passages - your article and the (yes,moving) one from Michael Kelly - was the absence of any mention of Jesus Christ. Surely before any works in the parish, a priest must maintain a close relationship with the Lord? How could any priest, with such a relationship, even contemplate an action that amounts to the most desperate and radical rejection of God's love?

Nevertheless, to quote further from the Catechism:

"We should not despair of the eternal salvation of persons who have taken their own lives. By ways known to him alone, God can provide the opportunity for salutary repentance. The Church prays for persons who have taken their own lives." (CCC 2283)

21 June 2013 at 21:33  
Blogger Nick said...

OldJim

I think you have a good point that these suicides ar more likely due to persecution than loneliness. After all, nobody is made to be a Catholic priest. It is his own choice, and he will know in advance that it means a life of celebicy.

I certainly think the paedophile label is overused in the media. Notwithstanding the genuine cases of child abuse, it seems that "Catholic Priest" has become synonymous with "paedophile" in organisations such as the BBC. But there again, as we all know the BBC loves bad news and as such, is capable of brainwashing its audience with a distorted view of reality.

It is surprising how the stress of an insult such as being (wrongly) branded a paedophile, can tip the mind off balance and into a state of hopeless despair and irrationality.

Many of us are resilient enough to cope with this, but some, unfortunately, are not. I think the Roman Catholic church should (a) take a zero tolerance approach to genuine paedophile priests and (b) having cleared them out, concentrate on supporting those who are suffering because of the way society has stigmatised them

21 June 2013 at 21:36  
Blogger Peter D said...

Inspector
"And no, this is not in response to the latest fashion, if you will, of knocking RC priests. It is just addressing cause and effect."

Of course it is a response to worldly pressure on the Church!

There are sound arguments for and against celibacy. That isn't one of them.

21 June 2013 at 21:43  
Blogger Peter D said...

Nick

Spot on. The modern priest is ministering in a hostile environment.

21 June 2013 at 21:46  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

Peter D. One of these days you are going to surprise this man by actually giving due thought to your reply before you post. Stock answers are so old hat in this day of immediate communication, don’t you think ?


21 June 2013 at 22:02  
Blogger Albert said...

Terribly tragic.

However, I think to be able to draw conclusions, one would need to know how the suicide rate among priests compares with the general population. One would also need to know how it compares between countries. Is the Irish rate particularly high? My guess is that it is. If we do not get the answers to that right, we will miss the real problem and that of course, might mean more suicides that could be prevented - and that would be more tragic still.

The Irish situation has been particularly bad for priests as a result of the enormous number of people who have used the abuse crisis for their own purposes. In order to promote the kinds liberal attitudes to sexuality that enabled the abuse crisis in the first place, they have tried to make it seem as if the Church is riddled with paedophiles, when all the evidence says the Church has far fewer abusers of minors than society as a whole. Those who have joined in this unpleasant and dishonest chorus, for their own political or theological desire, are more likely to be responsible for these deaths than the ban on marriage.

The other point that needs to be made is that surveys of priestly celibacy tend to suggest priests are more satisfied with celibacy than married people stay married.

As God said: "It is not good for man to be alone." He did not exempt the priesthood.

That's a bit over-simplistic isn't it? There are plenty of Bible passages which commend celibacy. Granted, they do not actually link celibacy with priesthood, but then the Bible doesn't talk about the ministerial priesthood.

21 June 2013 at 22:27  
Blogger carl jacobs said...

There is of course an ontological difference between the discipline of celibacy and the restriction of actions based on illicit desire. The presence of desire does not imply that one may act on that desire. Neither should the restriction of that desire be considered a sacrifice.

carl

21 June 2013 at 22:27  
Blogger ardenjm said...

The Devil is keenest to corrupt that which is most precious.
I think we have ample evidence of how far he has succeeded over the last 50 years when it comes to the Catholic Priesthood and consecrated life.

This is no way exonerates various members of the clergy of responsibility for their own moral shipwreck (Cardinals O'Brien, Mahoney, Law and yer man in Ireland come to mind). Nor do I want to minimise the things that are within the reach of parishes, dioceses and the wider Church in order to support their priests.

In these three cases, however, I guess I'd want to know how often they had the grace of sacramental confession and spiritual direction. Whether they still had a personal prayer life (no matter how dry) and whether they had friends. Not mates. Not acquaintances. But friends....

More generally, there is a question about formation and about candidates for the priesthood. Since around 2/3 of our Priests are homosexual the clerical celibacy ruling is a bit of a red-herring. I'd also like to know if these three men struggled with their sexuality (though I appreciate this sounds pretty purient).

Why did these men kill themselves? Is it because they were priests or in spite of being priests?
But the further question remains - short of mental breakdown: why wasn't being a priest enough to stop them from committing such a terrible act?

21 June 2013 at 22:42  
Blogger Albert said...

Since around 2/3 of our Priests are homosexual

Do you have a source for that?

If true, it might, by itself explain a higher suicide rate - if there is a higher suicide rate, and that hasn't been shown.

21 June 2013 at 22:48  
Blogger ardenjm said...

My only source is what priests responsible for formation in seminaries and religious communities have told me. And, of course, I only mean in the relatively vocation-free world that is the West.

I doubt very much that 2/3 of Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese or African vocations are amongst gay men.

But, yes, (I make no reference to these three Irish men) given the fact that most of the cases of clerical paedophilia where gay men looking for teenagers I expect there are very real questions the Church will have to address in the years ahead.

21 June 2013 at 22:54  
Blogger OldJim said...

We are told that the basic and most fundamental imperatives of life are "survive and reproduce" and I do not think it any coincidence that in this context the Head of our church is a Man who had no children and offered Himself up to die. Nor do I think it a coincidence that the spine of our church has been formed by martyrs, monastics and priests. To accept death and to eschew the opportunity to have children whilst retaining and insisting on the value of life and of kids is radically counter-cultural.

And celibacy has long been of great import to the Christian Church. Hierax, in the third century (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hierax_(Ascetic)) went so far as to consider virginity the characteristic Christian virtue. This is surely overstatement; the greatest cult of ancient Rome was that of the Vestal Virgins, and surely the virtue most characteristic of Christianity is Charity, but that this could be said at all should be sufficient to show that this strain of Christian thought is far from a recent fixation.

So that is the context in which my post above must be read, and yet my post above would hold were it not for the fixations of the modern world.

Because the modern world is obsessed with what I would call the Doctrine of the Necessity of Sex. It is the lynchpin that underlies everything. It is why, when it is found that a couple of fifteen year old girls find themselves pregnant, the response is not to consider the existing culture but simply to teach sex education at an earlier age, because "they're going to do it anyway" because of the necessity of sex.

It is why in contemporary discourse, to demonstrate that homosexuals feel attracted to members of the same sex is to demonstrate that they are compelled to have sex with members of the same sex because of the Doctrine of the Necessity of Sex

And when Danj0 points out that this chastity from which we would free priests is precisely that chastity to which we would enjoin him, he is precisely right. Here: http://archbishop-cranmer.blogspot.co.uk/2012/10/is-homosexuality-really-skin-deep.html#1688837277292413288
at 23 October 2012 15:14 I pointed out exactly that: that priests were capable of enjoining chastity on those who were as yet unmarried, on homosexuals, on those who had a living spouse from whom they were divorced; because they are asking nothing of their parishioners that they do not willingly do themselves.

21 June 2013 at 23:01  
Blogger OldJim said...

Because then we get to the most obvious thing: when the paedophile scandal broke, the solution suggested was that priests should be able to marry. When we examine the relative frequency of abuse in related professions, we find that the question of priests' marriage has very little to do with it. Ok, no matter.

And then we find that priests are suddenly committing suicide, and the solution enjoined upon us is that priests should marry. When we scrutinise the thing of course, we find that it is highly unlikely that the thing has anything to do with whether priests have wives. Ok, no matter.

When a solution is enjoined regardless of the problem posed, we are best advised to be wary of this solution preferred. If priests marrying is genuinely a solution to a given problem, why does it turn up as the solution to any old "problem in the Catholic Church"?

In those circumstances, it becomes clear to me that people want priests to marry because priests being unmarried remains a standing reproach to the dominant culture. As long as this is the case, as much as I'd like married priests in an ideal world, I will stand against the concession.

21 June 2013 at 23:01  
Blogger Peter D said...

Inspector

I completely agree, "Stock answers are so old hat in this day of immediate communication, don’t you think ?"

Here's your apparent 'argument' for removing the near 1000 year old discipline of celibacy:

" ... running short of voluntarily celibate men..." and, Heaven forfend, we may have more African priests in Britain!

" ... an already firm belief that priests should be married if they so wish", with no substantive arguments given for said belief.

And, finally, the slur of paedophilia, " ... cannot be pinned down on a church that allows married priests."

Not much is it?

21 June 2013 at 23:05  
Blogger Peter D said...

Old Jim

What an excellent answer.

21 June 2013 at 23:10  
Blogger OldJim said...

Oh, it looks like a post got lost somewhere in the internet ether. Basically, I said that I am a natural ally of the idea of a married priesthood, begrudgingly turned dissenter.

In an ideal world I should like to see married men enter the secular priesthood, whilst the Religious Orders retained their vow of chastity. Religious Orders could then nurture their distinctive forms of spirituality and provide the fruits of celibacy within the church, taking a more active approach in Parish life (when I was growing up, my parish was ministered to by three Carmelite priests, for example; I should like to see more of that in this model).

Secular priests, on the other hand, could marry, as could priests continuing a tradition that fostered spirituality in a married context - Churches of an Eastern rite in communion with the Holy See, when practicing in the West, as well as the Anglican Ordinariates, come immediately to mind.

I should like this model in an ideal world because I think it quite possible that men could find themselves called both to be married and to be priests, and because I think that married priests could offer a distinct set of aptitudes and experiences to Church life. I emphatically do not advocate this model because I think it is absolutely necessary for people to regularly have sex.

And it is precisely because I think that that belief is why the world currently wants priests to marry that I cannot currently advocate relaxing the practice of clerical celibacy.

21 June 2013 at 23:18  
Blogger The Way of Dodo said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

21 June 2013 at 23:24  
Blogger Peter D said...

In an "ideal world" there'd be no call for priests.

We'd still be in Eden!

21 June 2013 at 23:25  
Blogger ardenjm said...

Well, I for one, have the moral certitude that these men didn't end their lives because they missed having a Mrs. Priest at home with them....

It's pretty clear - Old Jim is quite right:
Clerical Celibacy is discomfiting to the wider secularised culture. Those attitudes have penetrated the thinking of many Catholics in the pews - and so, whatever the problem, the solution will be: "allow priests to marry."

Thomas Cranmer, the Catholic Archbishop turned Protestant got married.
And look what happened to him.

21 June 2013 at 23:33  
Blogger Archbishop Cranmer said...

Yes, indeed. He was martyred for his faith: he didn't commit suicide for want of love and support.

21 June 2013 at 23:35  
Blogger OldJim said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

21 June 2013 at 23:37  
Blogger OldJim said...

Thank you, Peter D

I think you might understand what I mean by "ideal world" though -- I don't necessarily mean that the world must be perfect in order for a married priesthood to be viable.

If contemporary culture had drifted into a different, ascetic form of Paganism where sexuality was actively held to be repulsive, or even in a culture where the focus of hedonism were somewhere else, I think I should be a natural ally of a movement to have a charism of married priests enter the Church. I think that they'd offer distinct things and that the calling to marriage and the priesthood aren't always in opposition.

At the same time, I would always temper that impulse with the understanding that celibacy is basically rooted within Christianity and is a necessary expression of the Christian faith, coming ultimately from the example of Jesus and mediated by development of monastic life as a normative expression of the practice of Christianity.

What tips the scales for me is that whilst many Christians and Catholics might share both my natural temperament and reasoning in good conscience, I can see precisely why the fellow-travelers of the dominant culture want married priests. That is precisely the situation in which we cannot afford to have them.

21 June 2013 at 23:38  
Blogger carl jacobs said...

The benefit of a wife is that she is always in your corner. When a priest encounters all the travails that have been described on this thread, he would know that he at least has one person to help him carry the burden. He wouldn't be alone. You can say "The parish can provide that support" ... but ... no, it can't. It's not the same. So, yes, a married priesthood is not a complete answer. But it is part of the answer.

carl

21 June 2013 at 23:48  
Blogger ardenjm said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

22 June 2013 at 00:01  
Blogger Archbishop Cranmer said...

Ardenjm

Cheap, smeary and insulting.

If you cared a jot about these priests, you would be constructive, sensitive and spiritually discerning.

If you can't be bothered, please go elsewhere.

22 June 2013 at 00:03  
Blogger carl jacobs said...

Old Jim

You make an interesting argument. Here are a couple of things to consider however.

1. If you think many secularists attack celibacy because they think sex an imperative of life, then understand I get the impression that many RCs defend priestly celibacy simply because they don't want to admit the RCC could be wrong about it.

2. The arguments for sustaining it tend to be practical. It makes for a cheap flexible priesthood unencumbered by relational ties. It also protects the value of the sacrifice made by those who adopted the discipline in the past. These don't seem to me particularly compelling arguments in light of the unnecessary imposition being made.

3. There is nothing - absolutely nothing - normative about celibacy in the Christian life. We are created sexual creatures. We are created to desire sex. The normative model of life is to marry, have sex, and raise children (OK,OK. In the modern world it's "Have sex, get pregnant, decide to live together, split up, hook up with strangers for a while, pretend to be a father to your kid by visiting every other weekend, meet someone new, live together, get married, have another kid, meet your soul mate, commit adultery, get divorced, marry again...").

4. If the Lord Jesus did not follow this pattern, it is because of the uniqueness of his person and purpose.

carl

22 June 2013 at 00:04  
Blogger Peter D said...

Carl
"When a priest encounters all the travails that have been described on this thread, he would know that he at least has one person to help him carry the burden."

Surely Carl all Christians know we have a friend to turn to?

We know from the Gospels Jesus withdrew from the world to be alone with His Father when faced with the burden of His mission on earth.

"I get the impression that many RCs defend priestly celibacy simply because they don't want to admit the RCC could be wrong about it."

Maybe that's true. The Church may be wrong about the discipline of celibacy. I happen to think not at this time. However, it is not an infallible doctrine as many seem to imply. What irritates this particular Catholic is when protestants claim celibacy contradicts scripture, is unnatural and is not rooted in proper theological thinking. There is a valid biblically based set of arguments in its favour.

"The arguments for sustaining it tend to be practical."

I am unaware of such an argument ever having been advanced by the Church.

"We are created to desire sex. The normative model of life is to marry, have sex, and raise children."

Are we? What do you say to those who are not married and have no desire to marry? Or to those who are drawn to those of the same sex? We are also asked to make sacrifices for the sake of the Kingdom. Jesus and Saint Paul certainly didn't comply with this normative model.

"If the Lord Jesus did not follow this pattern, it is because of the uniqueness of his person and purpose."

He was fully man with all the desires and passions of manhood. Catholics believe priests are called to emulate Christ. Didn't Jesus called His Apostles out of the world - to leave their homes, their families and fishing nets on the shore?

22 June 2013 at 00:38  
Blogger Darter Noster said...

Peter D.,

""The arguments for sustaining it tend to be practical."

I am unaware of such an argument ever having been advanced by the Church."

Perhaps not in an official policy statement, but two points are regularly made by people within the Church:

The first is that married men with families will be less focused on their parishioners, which is a questionable argument; married priests in the Roman Catholic, Eastern Catholic, Orthodox and Anglican churches show as much dedication as their celibate colleagues, and celibate priests still have families and private lives. You can get brilliant married priests and bloody awful celibate ones.

The second is that married priests are more expensive, because they have wives and children to support and need to be paid enough to ensure their families a reasonable quality of life.

This is a more difficult one, because the Catholic church's payments to clergy can vary widely and are not always clear, but most estimates I have seen put the average cost of a priest, both in cash wages and living expenses, at anywhere between £15,000 and £30,000 a year.

The average UK salary for people in permanent employment is around £24,000 a year, (with many actually earning a lot less than that because a relatively small number of people on much higher wages skew the average) so there doesn't seem to be any reason why married clergy should cost the earth; this is not apostolic Israel, and celibate clergy don't make do with nothing more than a robe and a pair of sandals either.

A further financial factor is that married priests whose wives work can undertake non-stipendiary ministry; the Church of England is increasingly staffed by non-stipendiary ministers who can only do what they do because their wife/husband/civil partner/live-in lover(s) - this is the C o E we're talking about :o) - earns enough to support them in their vocation.

"Didn't Jesus called His Apostles out of the world - to leave their homes, their families and fishing nets on the shore?"

Yes, but we know from the letters of Paul that the Church of the Apostolic age did not expect its ministers to be celibate.

I've heard and read more hard-line theologians attempt to argue that priestly celibacy was basically compulsory from the very beginning, but to reach that conclusion they either have to use the same sort of implausible exegetical gymnastics that they regularly condemn in those who campaign for gay marriage, or they have to suggest that those bits are just unexplained, one-off aberrations in a sea of otherwise inspired and infallible Scripture. None of it stands up to much scrutiny.

Mandatory clerical celibacy is dying the death of a thousand cuts, at the hands of scandals, priest shortages, public opinion, lay Catholic opinion and increasingly ecclesiastical opinion. The only thing stopping it from being put out of its misery is a hard core of die-hard supporters at HQ.

22 June 2013 at 08:30  
Blogger Sister Tiberia said...

Frankly like OldJim I also lean towards the "no good reason not to have married priests" and I agree with Peter D that there is no doctrinal reason not to have them, the reasons are historical and practical.

Yes, I think there are a lot of bad arguments about why a married priesthood would have prevented the whole sex abuse scandal (it wouldn't, it took major institutional failings all the way up to get us to the mess we're in). Yes, I think the modern emphasis on sex is pathetic, and the idea one might only marry to relieve ones sexual frustrations is ridiculous in the extreme.

To quote from His Grace's own Book of Common Prayer - the Solemnization of Matrimony :

"First, It was ordained for the procreation of children, to be brought up in the fear and nurture of the Lord, and to the praise of his holy Name.

Secondly, It was ordained for a remedy against sin, and to avoid fornication; that such persons as have not the gift of continency might marry, and keep themselves undefiled members of Christ's body.

Thirdly, It was ordained for the mutual society, help, and comfort, that the one ought to have of the other, both in prosperity and adversity."

Take a long, hard look at the third reason.

In a world where parish priests are alone mentally, physically and spiritually in a way that they never would have been if the system was less dysfunctional, then there becomes a stronger and stronger argument to permit the God-given state that offers the support and love they need.

I also see a time coming where there will be both a celibate priesthood and a married priesthood. And frankly I don't think the day can come soon enough.

22 June 2013 at 08:56  
Blogger Cressida de Nova said...

I agree with Sister Tiberia on this one. In the past in Europe at least, the parish priest used to be part of the family . My grandmother's brother was a priest and he was always a part of family celebrations,Sunday Lunch and played tennis with my uncles.The family used to help organise functions and the admin of the Church. As the extended family disintegrated and priests were dislocated from their relatives things changed.I think Catholics could be more welcoming to their pastors. I live in a third world country for part of the year and the Vicar General and some nuns from the local orphanage dine with me every week for entertainment
and discussion about future projects.I am the only lay Catholic who does this they inform me and I think this is a great pity so I imagine a lot of priests are very isolated. Priests should be allowed to marry if they wish.Of course the priesthood is going to attract homosexuals and pedophiles,if it insists on celibacy the same way as the geriatric care industry and infants school teaching is going to attract male abusers if men are permitted to work in these professions.Just a fact of life.

22 June 2013 at 09:41  
Blogger Tom Mushroom said...

I’m grateful to the Archbishop and Brother Ivo @ 14.04 for raising this issue. I’m an inactive priest from an English diocese. There isn’t space here to explain the reasons why I went but celibacy was not one of them.

Now very happily married, I don’t believe that marriage must be THE solution to what ails priestly life. Married people with the most loving spouses commit suicide too.

Undoubtedly there is something very shocking about a priest – of all people – killing himself. But Louise Mensch is right in her merciful explanation.

Part of the immense sadness of suicides is that they leave so many unanswered questions. So we’ll never know if marriage could have helped Fr Wallace.

But what does need answering is DanJo’s comment @ 17.12: “Len: "'Celibacy' is against all natural laws and perhaps this could be part of the problem?" They expect it of people like me though for as long as we live.”

DanJo, I disagree profoundly with what the Government proposes for Same Sex Marriage, but you’ve raised a very profound question: how should homosexuals live chastely (as we all should) and not be alone?

22 June 2013 at 09:51  
Blogger clive holland said...

I'm going to come at this from a different angle. It is quite possible that because of the sacrament of confession and the unbreakable vow of silence that priests can be burdened with information that they find impossible to live with. An example would be where one priest confesses to another that he is a paedophile or in Northern Ireland in particular that he has committed mass murder. The priest may see this person every day, perhaps behaving as a pillar of the community and finds this intolerable and cannot live with the knowledge that the sinner will go on sinning with impunity.
Just a thought.

22 June 2013 at 09:52  
Blogger Darter Noster said...

Tom Mushroom,

"DanJo, I disagree profoundly with what the Government proposes for Same Sex Marriage, but you’ve raised a very profound question: how should homosexuals live chastely (as we all should) and not be alone?"

It IS an important question, but Peter D. is spot on when he points out that we live in a considerably more sexualised society than we used to. In present society being able to abstain from sex is considered akin to insanity, but for much of human history that has not been the case and people who went without for all sorts of reasons - including just not having met the right person to marry - were much more common.

True, we humans have an evolutionary drive towards sexual activity, but rarely in history has society been so utterly in thrall to that instinct as ours is, to the point at which anyone who is still a virgin at 18 is considered behind the curve, 7 year olds are taught about prophylactics, and school-age children think exchanging indecent images of themselves is a hobby.

Whilst life-long sexual abstinence is not for everyone, humans are much more capable of even the most basic sexual continence than our society seems to believe.

22 June 2013 at 10:22  
Blogger Tom Mushroom said...

Darter

I agree! I think you must have missed my point about living chastely.

22 June 2013 at 10:31  
Blogger Darter Noster said...

Tom,

Sorry if I've misunderstood you.

You said DanJo's point needed answering, but DanJo's point is about expecting gay people to abstain from sex; I don't think encouraging gay people to form life-long chaste partnerships was really what he had in mind.

22 June 2013 at 11:01  
Blogger Darter Noster said...

Chaste according to the Church's definition, that is, where chastity means 'no sex outside wedlock'; a chaste gay relaationship that involved sex would need a sacramental marriage, which from the Church's point of view cannot happen.

22 June 2013 at 11:08  
Blogger DanJ0 said...

Tom: "DanJo, I disagree profoundly with what the Government proposes for Same Sex Marriage, but you’ve raised a very profound question: how should homosexuals live chastely (as we all should) and not be alone?"

I've been sitting on my hands for most of this rather than turn it into yet another gay marriage thread but a large proportion of the comments have been inadvertantly arguing for it on much the same ground as I have at various times in the past. I've found it hugely ironic.

Darter: "I don't think encouraging gay people to form life-long chaste partnerships was really what he had in mind."

Actually, I think we should be encouraging and celebrating the notion of life-long, monogamous relationships for gay people. I'd rather people aspire to that, whether homosexual or heterosexual. It's the notion of sanctions, implicit or explicit, that I turn my nose up at.

22 June 2013 at 11:39  
Blogger Peter D said...

This runs deeper than permitting priests to marry.

Christians are aware we're in the midst of spiritual warfare and in our age in the West it is manifesting itself in hedonistic secularism.

Priests are on the front line in this unrelenting battle and, as in all conflict, there will be casualties. We pray Christ will welcome home and comfort those who fall through extreme mental and psychological exhaustion.

The Church has a sacred duty of care towards all of its members and none more so than those who encounter and combat evil on a daily basis. Just imagine the pressures on the priesthood in Northern Ireland as Catholics there abandon their faith and absorb the secular values of our times.

Priests should not be alone - agreed. The Apostles, disciples and Christians formed close bonds of spiritual and emotional support. The Church will have to consider how to structure spiritual support to those who are fighting the Satan in the front line in our times.

This mounting call to permit marriage, I fear, is yet another 'tactic' of the enemy planting the idea that a loving wife and happy family will provide the necessary emotional support to a priest. It puts doubt in the mind of the priest where resiliance is needed. Let's not forget marriage and parenthood bring trials and struggles too and there will inevitably be a conflict between a priests first duty to God and his flock and secondary duty to his spouse and children. What father would his 'job' before his family in this way?

With good leadership, and under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the Church will recover from its current crisis. We can be confident of this because Jesus Himself has promised it will be so.

22 June 2013 at 13:17  
Blogger carl jacobs said...

Peter D

Surely Carl all Christians know we have a friend to turn to?

Surely, Peter, He to whom you refer also said "It is not good for man to be alone." One relationship does not render the other relationship superfluous.

We know from the Gospels Jesus withdrew from the world to be alone with His Father when faced with the burden of His mission on earth.

What has this to do with living alone? What has this to do with marriage at all?

What irritates this particular Catholic is when protestants claim celibacy contradicts scripture, is unnatural and is not rooted in proper theological thinking. There is a valid biblically based set of arguments in its favour.

The argument isn't about celibacy but mandatory celibacy. There is no biblical basis for the practice of forbidding marriage. Anywhere. At all. You place yourself with the Gnostics for whom Paul had no good word. Let therefore a man do as he thinks right for himself. But the RCC does not do this. And the suspicion in many Protestant eyes is that RCs somehow consider human sexuality to be carnal; that married life is spiritually inferior. That the aesthetic of the monastery is greater than the desire of the marital bed.

Are we?

Yes, we are.

What do you say to those who are not married and have no desire to marry?

I would say "Do as you think right." What has this to do with nature of created man? "Male and female created He them." The only purpose for separating man into male and female is to establish human sexuality. It is inherent in the created order. Perhaps you have noticed that seventeen year-old boys share a common fixation. That's why fathers of daughters shoot them on sight. (The shooting part was a joke.)

Or to those who are drawn to those of the same sex?

I would say what Paul said in Romans 1. "Your desires are unnatural and not part of the created order. They originate in your sinful nature." God did not create homosexuality. It is a man-made corruption of man's created sexual nature.

We are also asked to make sacrifices for the sake of the Kingdom.

Yes. But you haven't given any reason for such an imposed sacrifice. What spiritual purpose does mandatory celibacy serve? I recognize the very real practical advantages of cost and flexibility. But what spiritual benefit accrues from forbidding marriage?

Jesus and Saint Paul certainly didn't comply with this normative model.

And the other Apostles? Peter, for instance?

He was fully man with all the desires and passions of manhood.

Who said otherwise? That has nothing to do with why He never married. He had a unique purpose. He was a unique man. He is also already betrothed - to the Church.

Catholics believe priests are called to emulate Christ. Didn't Jesus called His Apostles out of the world - to leave their homes, their families and fishing nets on the shore?

All believers are to be conformed to the image of Christ. Yet virtually all of us are non-celibate. Where else in the Christian world do you find this practice of mandatory celibacy except for religious vocations in the RCC?

carl

22 June 2013 at 14:07  
Blogger Albert said...

Carl,

There is no biblical basis for the practice of forbidding marriage. Anywhere. At all. You place yourself with the Gnostics for whom Paul had no good word.

Don't be ridiculous, Carl. Celibacy is plainly commended in scripture. Celibacy is not mandatory in the Catholic Church since the priesthood is not mandatory. It is no implausible to suggest some kind of "order of widows" is to be found in 1 Tim.5.

22 June 2013 at 14:34  
Blogger Peter D said...

Carl

I outlined my reasons for priests remaining unmarried @ 13:17.

"He had a unique purpose. He was a unique man. He is also already betrothed - to the Church."

Do you believe a man can place God and his Christian ministry above his duties as a husband and a father without in some way neglecting one or both?

And do remember celibacy is freely chosen by those entering the Catholic priesthood. In that sense, it is not an imposition. It's freely chosen for the sake of the Kingdom.

22 June 2013 at 14:41  
Blogger carl jacobs said...

Albert

Don't be ridiculous, Carl.

I'm not being ridiculous.

Celibacy is plainly commended in scripture.

Do you think you can make your case with a sleight-of-hand trick? Do you think you can turn 'commended' into a case for mandatory celibacy? Paul did not lay this burden on men. Only the RCC presumes to do so.

Celibacy is not mandatory in the Catholic Church since the priesthood is not mandatory.

But it is mandatory for the priesthood, isn't it? And that is the subject of conversation, isn't it? Why should Priests be forbidden to marry when Paul clearly and explicitly permits it?

carl

22 June 2013 at 14:44  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

Peter D. Your input to this site is important. In the 2 years since this man has been posting, he has yet to find you wavering one iota from the Magisterium position. From that, we can draw the disappointing probability that the Magisterium will not vary on YOUR position also.

To repeat himself from his opening remarks, on the subject of priestly celibacy and the continuation of the status quo, the extreme wing of the lay church will: NOT be in holy orders. Have NO intention of taking holy orders. Be invariably married themselves.

It would have been so much easier if Christ had told his 12 to forsake marriage for themselves, but he didn’t, did he ?

Reading Carl’s post at 00:04, one advantage of a married priesthood would be to give the parish at least one visible example of a successful marriage. In this time of frequent marriage failure, troubled married parishioners would have an immediate and obvious resource to advise them if they needed it.

22 June 2013 at 14:44  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

Peter D. Do you believe a man can place God and his Christian ministry above his duties as a husband and a father without in some way neglecting one or both?

It’s called being professional. Must introduce you to one’s GP. He’s rather good at it, and has grandchildren as a result, if you substitute the care of ill people for the ministry.



22 June 2013 at 14:50  
Blogger Albert said...

Carl,

Do you think you can make your case with a sleight-of-hand trick? Do you think you can turn 'commended' into a case for mandatory celibacy?

No, and that is still ridiculous - and beneath you. I did not do that. When I say celibacy is commended, I mean that and nothing more.

But it is mandatory for the priesthood, isn't it?

But the priesthood isn't mandatory - therefore celibacy is not mandatory. It follows of logical necessity.

And that is the subject of conversation, isn't it?

Yes, but you cannot make that case by saying "celibacy shouldn't be mandatory" when celibacy isn't mandatory.

Why should Priests be forbidden to marry when Paul clearly and explicitly permits it?

Paul didn't make confession that Christ is consubstantial with the Father mandatory, but that doesn't mean we can't require that. Paul didn't require that everything we teach be provable from scripture, but that doesn't stop you.

22 June 2013 at 14:56  
Blogger carl jacobs said...

Peter

... there will inevitably be a conflict between a priests first duty to God and his flock and secondary duty to his spouse and children. What father would [put] his 'job' before his family in this way?

This is the only relevant argument that you made in your post at 13:17. And this argument might have some credibility if Paul hadn't already explicitly repudiated it. Paul consigns the choice to the individual conscience. He doesn't impose it from above.

Do you believe a man can place God and his Christian ministry above his duties as a husband and a father without in some way neglecting one or both?

Paul certainly thought a man could live in both worlds, since he explicitly commended those who did so.

And do remember celibacy is freely chosen by those entering the Catholic priesthood. In that sense, it is not an imposition. It's freely chosen for the sake of the Kingdom.

But why can't the choice be revoked? Why can't a man change his mind? Who is the RCC to bind a man against such a decision?

carl

22 June 2013 at 14:56  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

I say, there’s Albert, with his 3 cups and one pea trick !

22 June 2013 at 15:07  
Blogger Darter Noster said...

"Peter D. Do you believe a man can place God and his Christian ministry above his duties as a husband and a father without in some way neglecting one or both?"

Gordon Bennett, no wonder priests are committing suicide if this is the standard expected of them at all times. If I were a Bishop, I'd be on constant suicide watch!

Celibate priests don't suddenly cease to be human; they need friends, and families, and hobbies, and holidays, and private lives in general. When God decided to institute a human priesthood as the means of passing on his Grace to humanity, do we seriously think he did not take human nature and human frailty into account?

We need to be realistic both as to what we expect of our clergy and what they are capable of delivering - otherwise they will start dropping like flies. The clergy is a difficult vocation, but expecting the clergy to be super-human is to just set them up to fail.

22 June 2013 at 15:10  
Blogger Peter D said...

Inspector
"It’s called being professional. Must introduce you to one’s GP. He’s rather good at it, and has grandchildren as a result, if you substitute the care of ill people for the ministry."

Except he priesthood isn't a profession with a code of conduct and ethics, dear man! Neither are priests paid £100k+ per annum; nor are they backed up by an 24 hour emergency service.

The priesthood is a total, all consuming, dedication of one's whole life to God and promoting His Kingdom. It a live long sacrifice in the service of others. In that sense, it is a form of martyrdom.

22 June 2013 at 15:21  
Blogger carl jacobs said...

Albert

I said ...

There is no biblical basis for the practice of forbidding marriage. Anywhere. At all.

Who forbids marriage? The RCC. Who does it forbid to marry? Priests in the RCC. What is the Scriptural case for this practice? There is Paul's reference in 1 Corinthians 7. Except Paul explicitly rejects the idea of forbidding marriage in 1 Cor 7. That is where Paul commends celibacy. But he explicitly states that he is not making a command of it. Where else? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? So I repeat my assertion. There is no case for forbidding marriage in Scripture. If you think there is, then make it.

No, and that is still ridiculous - and beneath you. I did not do that.

You said I was being ridiculous. How was I being ridiculous? I asserted that there was no biblical basis for marriage. Here let me quote it again.

There is no biblical basis for the practice of forbidding marriage. Anywhere. At all.

That is the statement that you quoted and called ridiculous. Your defense of your assertion of 'ridiculousness' was that ...

Celibacy is plainly commended in scripture.

Yes it is. Right there in 1 Cor 7 where Paul also commends those to marriage who desire to marry.

When I say celibacy is commended, I mean that and nothing more.

That's fine. How then does this statement relate to my assertion that there is no biblical case for forbidding marriage? 'Commending celibacy' does not render my assertion 'ridiculous.' It doesn't say anything at all about forbidding marriage.

But the priesthood isn't mandatory - therefore celibacy is not mandatory. It follows of logical necessity.

To become a priest, you must male a mandatory vow of celibacy. If you refuse to make the vow, you cannot become a priest. The RCC has levied that requirement. But you haven't given any good reason why a man should have to make this vow in the first place. You haven't explained why he can't change his mind. It it not within the scope of the church's authority to demand such a vow. It is an illegitimate exercise of authority. He is free to live as he desires. If he decides to be celibate, well and good. If he decides later to marry, well and good. Who is the RCC to deny that which God explicitly permits?

carl

22 June 2013 at 15:25  
Blogger Peter D said...

Darter Noster

Don't you believe God will strengthen those He's called to serve him?

And where did I suggest priests couldn't have friends, interests and hobbies?

I was referring to the inevitable conflict that must arise between one's duty to God as a priest and one's responsibilities as a husband and a father.

22 June 2013 at 15:28  
Blogger Peter D said...

Carl
"It it not within the scope of the church's authority to demand such a vow. It is an illegitimate exercise of authority."

What do you base this assertion on?

22 June 2013 at 15:31  
Blogger carl jacobs said...

Peter

What do you base this assertion on?

You mean besides Paul's clear and explicit statements in 1 Corinthians 7? You mean besides Paul's statements in the Book of 1 Timothy about forbidding marriage? You mean besides Paul's statement that an elder is to be the husband of one wife?

If you want to state that the determinations of the Magisterium stand above the Scripture then you can find your authority. At least it will be clear what the RCC is truly doing.

carl

22 June 2013 at 15:44  
Blogger LEN said...

Carl... Who is the RCC to deny that which God explicitly permits?


Good question.

The very same RCC which permits that which God denies.

22 June 2013 at 15:46  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...


Peter D, It a live long sacrifice in the service of others. In that sense, it is a form of martyrdom.

A sort of 24 hour round the clock care system then. Rubbish !

“others” are quite capable of standing on their own 2 feet - It’s called being alive. “others” don’t need a priest rushing to their assistance on a daily basis. Whatever makes you think that ?



22 June 2013 at 15:50  
Blogger Albert said...

Carl,

In brief (I am about to go out):

To become a priest, you must male a mandatory vow of celibacy.

To become a priest, you also have to have a CRB check. Paul doesn't require that. It is required by every single church community in this country that has any kind of ministry. But CRB checks are not required of all Christians. Therefore, CRB checks are not mandatory.

Except Paul explicitly rejects the idea of forbidding marriage in 1 Cor 7.

Paul is speaking of the Church as a whole - what we would call laity. The question of clergy (or widows) is not being addressed here.

Who can deny that for some celibacy is a requirement? It was a requirement for Elijah, for John the Baptist, for Our Blessed Saviour. It was a requirement fore Our Lady, at least until she had borne Jesus. We can all say that, and say, hand on heart, all the things said in 1 Cor.7.

Moreover, where has this requirement come from that the every requirement must be found in scripture? It isn't in scripture.

Putting all these things together, it seems to me that the duty of determining which states of life are consistent with marriage, in any given time, is the duty of the Church.

As Jesus says:

every one who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name's sake, will receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life.

And Peter says in the same chapter:

Lo, we have left everything and followed you.

22 June 2013 at 16:04  
Blogger Darter Noster said...

Peter D.,

"Don't you believe God will strengthen those He's called to serve him?"

Strengthen, yes. Relieve of all human needs and frailties, no.

"And where did I suggest priests couldn't have friends, interests and hobbies?"

Well, this bit - "The priesthood is a total, all consuming, dedication of one's whole life to God and promoting His Kingdom. It a live long sacrifice in the service of others. In that sense, it is a form of martyrdom." - doesn't leave an awful lot of scope for RnR does it?

If a priest who is fulfilling the ideal you suggest has time for extra curricular activities, why cannot raising a family be one of those? The priesthood may not be 'just any job', but let us not forget that there are many people who work 40-50 hours a week and, with their spouses, successfully raise families. It's not physically possible to work much more than that for any extended period of time without burning out.

"I was referring to the inevitable conflict that must arise between one's duty to God as a priest and one's responsibilities as a husband and a father."

I don't recognise the inevitability of any such conflict. Experience of human fatherhood might give some priests a valuable pastoral insight, for one thing. For another, there are married priests in the Roman Catholic, Eastern Catholic and Orthodox churches right now; there is no evidence that they are inadequate relative to their celibate colleagues, celibacy is no guarantee of dedication or sanctity, and as we both seem to agree celibate priests have the same need for time away from their work as any other human being.

22 June 2013 at 16:11  
Blogger Peter D said...

Ah, I see we're back to the old chestnut of "scripture alone" and the protestant claim to be able to exercise private judgement in interpreting it.

Scripture certainly commends celibacy as a higher state than marriage. Are we agreed on this?

"The unmarried man is anxious about the affairs of the Lord, how to please the Lord; but the married man is anxious about worldly affairs, how to please his wife, and his interests are divided .... So that he who marries his betrothed does well; and he who refrains from marriage will do better”
(1 Cor 7)

The Church has a perfect right to order its internal affairs as it pleases. Nobody is compelled to be ordained. Rather, what the Church does — and has a perfect right to do — is tell the prospective priest that he is welcome to consider the priesthood but that if he does, consecrated virginity is part of the package. There's nothing illegitimate about that at all, especially in a Church based on Apostolic authority.

22 June 2013 at 16:17  
Blogger LEN said...

Peter(the apostle not dodo) was a married man as were other apostles.
Celibacy seems to have featured in some of the pagan religions I do not see why Christianity should adopt pagan customs?.

22 June 2013 at 16:21  
Blogger Peter D said...

Darter Noster

"If a priest who is fulfilling the ideal you suggest has time for extra curricular activities, why cannot raising a family be one of those?"

Being a husband and a father involves a little bit more than being an extra curricular activity - wouldn't you agree?

22 June 2013 at 16:23  
Blogger Peter D said...

Len

What a ridiculous comment! The celibacy commended first by Christ and then Paul was not based on pagan Gnosticism.

22 June 2013 at 16:25  
Blogger LEN said...

Peter was married.Fact.If celibacy was a requirement then Peter would have obeyed.Presumably?.

22 June 2013 at 16:31  
Blogger carl jacobs said...

Albert

Paul is speaking of the Church as a whole - what we would call laity.

Ah, yes. It's the old "Assert an artificial divide in the church so that those requirements don't apply" trick. "Paul wasn't talking about the sacramental priesthood." (Well, I'm not surprised Paul wouldn't be talking about the sacramental priesthood since the sacramental priesthood doesn't appear anywhere in Scripture, but I digress.) Do you have any exegetical basis for this assertion? Because this sounds just like the "Paul wasn't talking about committed loving monogamous homosexual relationships in Romans 1" kind of argument.

Besides which. Perhaps you could explain why Paul failed to mention this significant restriction of celibacy in the Pastoral epistles? Instead he asserted that an elder had to be the husband of one wife.

Who can deny that for some celibacy is a requirement?

Who laid the requirement and for what purpose? You are imposing a blanket requirement on a class of people. Prophets as a class were not celibate. Specific instances cannot be extrapolated into a general principle. The fact that John the Baptist was not married says nothing abut anyone or anything except for John himself. The Scripture and the created order defines the general principle. Else like Hosea we should all be looking to take an unfaithful wife.

Moreover, where has this requirement come from that the every requirement must be found in scripture?

The point being that you are explicitly forbidding what Scripture explicitly permits. It's not a juxtaposition with silence. It's contradiction.

It isn't in scripture.

Thou hast said it.

carl

22 June 2013 at 16:36  
Blogger Darter Noster said...

Of course it's more than a hobby, I would never suggest otherwise. By extra-curricular activity I mean something that doesn't count as working hours.

There are many jobs which require extraordinary committment and very long hours; unless you're suggesting that the people who do them are all inadequate parents I fail to see why the clergy, and the clergy alone, should have such a work commitment that they are incapable of parenting during the time they are not working.

22 June 2013 at 16:38  
Blogger LEN said...

Roman Catholicism ...you just couldn`t make it up!.

They did?. well there`s the problem!.

Meanwhile their Priests are dying.. what a sad tragic religion.

22 June 2013 at 16:39  
Blogger carl jacobs said...

Peter D

The Church has a perfect right to order its internal affairs as it pleases.

A church under the authority of Scripture is not free to order its internal affairs as it pleases. That is the fundamental point. And the RCC is (at least nominally supposed to be) under the authority of Scripture.

The arguments presented on this thread in support of the current discipline have been so astonishingly weak, it should not surprise that people begin to wonder at the true motivations. There are questions below the surface:

1. How will the extra costs be financed?

2. How many children 'should' a priest have?

3. What if the Priest's family situation gives evidence of birth control?

4. What do you do with a divorced priest?

5. What does my vow of celibacy mean if he doesn't have to take it?

6. How could the Magisterium have gotten this so wrong? What else did it get wrong?

I think fear is at the root of this argument. It doesn't have anything to do with service or mission. It's about fear of the implications of letting go.

carl

22 June 2013 at 16:55  
Blogger Darter Noster said...

Carl, if I may...

1. How will the extra costs be financed?

There's no reason to believe that the extra costs will be in any way excessive; a celibate priest already costs the Church the equivalent of a living wage per year, and non-stipendiary ministers, supported by their wife's income, would be a bonus.

2. How many children 'should' a priest have?

See question 3...

3. What if the Priest's family situation gives evidence of birth control?

Unless the priest's family is extraordinarily indiscreet, there's no specific reason why it should. There are already priests who show evidence of not living their lives in perfect harmony with Church doctrine, and it doesn't cause an insoluble problem.

4. What do you do with a divorced priest?

Not a lot; as far as the Church is concerned he's still married. If the Church doesn't defrock adulterous or paedophile priests I fail to see why it should start with divorced ones, even if they are the guilty party.

5. What does my vow of celibacy mean if he doesn't have to take it?

That's a big one; how do you explain to relatively recent ordinands, who have sacrificed a family of their own to follow their vocation, that if they'd only waited a few years they'd have been alright but now they're stuck with it? That said, many priests and ordinands I've met have said that they wouldn't have a problem, as they knew what they were taking on when they signed up, but I think some problems might be inevitable.

6. How could the Magisterium have gotten this so wrong? What else did it get wrong?

It didn't; it's not a question of a supposedly infallible doctrine, it's a standard of discipline, which in the opinion of many has had its day.

22 June 2013 at 17:11  
Blogger Peter D said...

Carl

"How could the Magisterium have gotten this so wrong? What else did it get wrong?"

Well, that was the standard ploy of the reformation. Attempt to undermine a Church teaching or discipline in order to undermine the very Magisterium or the Papacy. Except this isn't a dogma but a discipline and the Church can set it aside whenever it so chooses.

"A church under the authority of Scripture is not free to order its internal affairs as it pleases. That is the fundamental point. And the RCC is (at least nominally supposed to be) under the authority of Scripture."

Er ... the Catholic Church does not subscribe to the unbiblical notions of 'scripture alone' or private judgement in interpreting it.

The Church holds the Truth and rests on this:

"And I say to thee: That thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven. And whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth, it shall be bound also in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth, it shall be loosed also in heaven."

The Church has been given Christ's authority, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, to determine doctrine and, as an organisation, to order its internal affairs.

"The arguments presented on this thread in support of the current discipline have been so astonishingly weak, it should not surprise that people begin to wonder at the true motivations."

I think the arguments in favour of the discipline have been very strong. A principle one being the celibacy of the Catholic priesthood is a sign of great contradiction in our time.

As G.K. Chesterton wrote:

"There exists in such a case a certain institution or law; let us say for the sake of simplicity, a fence or gate erected across a road. The more modern type of reformer goes gaily up to it and says, “I don't see the use of this; let us clear it away.” To which the more intelligent type of reformer will do well to answer: “If you don't see the use of it, I certainly won’t let you clear it away. Go away and think. Then, when you can come back and tell me that you do see the use of it, I may allow you to destroy it”
(The Thing: Why I Am Catholic)

22 June 2013 at 17:56  
Blogger Peter D said...

Len @ 16:39 - you appear to be gloating at the tragic suicides of three Irish Catholic priests in order to score points.

Shame on you.

22 June 2013 at 18:05  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

Darter Noster. Powerful stuff at 17:11 ! A joy to read...

22 June 2013 at 18:42  
Blogger carl jacobs said...

Darter Noster

1. Paying a single man is considerably different from paying a married man. The costs could easily multiply by a factor of four. His demands will increase according to his needs. He has a wife and kids to account for. Especially if he is correctly modeling Catholic family life. And there shouldn't be any non-stipendiary priests. Sending out a wife and mother out to work so the church doesn't have to pay her husband a reasonable salary is a crass and selfish act. Which leads to ...

2,3,4. If Catholic priests don't live out Catholic married life according to RC rules, then they will tacitly undermine the rules, and by extension the authority of the RCC. "If the priests don't bother, why should I? [Insert here an extension of this principle in any direction you might prefer.]" So it's going to matter how many kids a married Catholic priest might have. There is going to be an unofficial standard, because if too many Catholic priests have the ideal Western norm of two children, people are going to start making inferences. It's also going to matter what happens with divorce. You can't wink at scandal in your own organization and not expect consequences. That's what got the RCC in trouble over homosexual priests seducing teenage boys.

5. This I think is the unspoken elephant in the living room. You said "It's time has past." The question is "Why did it ever seem like a good idea in the first place?" What has suddenly changed to make it a bad idea from say 30 years ago? It's much easier to confront something in the abstract than in the particular. The men who would reverse this decision would be saying to themselves "It was all unnecessary. I didn't have to do it." Let's see of they can pull that trigger.

6. Yes, I know it's not dogma. And yet Rome tenaciously defends this practice as if it was. There is real cost in reversing course. It will become the default counter-example for every other non-dogmatic issue about which Rome holds a controversial counter-cultural position. "Yes, you said that about celibacy once as well." But the RCC is wrong on this issue. It has always been wrong. It imposed this burden for its own self-interest and somehow it has to extricate itself from its own snare. That process won't be cost-free or painless.

carl

22 June 2013 at 19:17  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

Rather interesting no one has mentioned the RC priests who came over to Rome with wife and possibly children in tow.

22 June 2013 at 19:38  
Blogger Darter Noster said...

Carl,

1) No it isn't. My employer will not pay me a penny more no matter how many children I have. Many people raise families on low wages; where does it say that the Church is obliged to keep the clergy in a comfortable middle class life style no matter how many kids they have? No one else has that entitlement. In any case, I'd be amazed if the Church didn't insist that married candidates for ordination were at least 40, with no children under, say, 16, and financially independent. And why should people not be able to undertake the duties of a priest for free if they are willing and able?

2,3,4) But celibate priests have been doing that for the best part of two milllennia, have hardly distinguished themselves by their rigorous obedience recently, and will continue to do it until the end of days. Priests are human, and we might not like it but we're just going to have to accept that clergy are only human. Why does it make any difference if married priests do it? In any case, my parents never used birth control, but I am an only child. Not every woman gets pregnant every time she does it, and have you ever heard of natural birth control? The RCC has been recommending it for years.

22 June 2013 at 19:47  
Blogger Darter Noster said...

Inspector,

"Rather interesting no one has mentioned the RC priests who came over to Rome with wife and possibly children in tow."

I did!

It is interesting that people arguing for the impossibility of married priests with families neglect the fact that the Church has them already.

Married clergy with kids haven't bankrupted the Church of England, Orthodoxy or Protestant denominations; why should they suddenly cost the RCC the earth? Celibate clergy already cost the Church more in wages and living expenses per year than many working families have to live on - where's the problem?

22 June 2013 at 19:55  
Blogger Albert said...

Carl,

As far as I can see, you are confusing two completely different questions:

1. Should priests be celibate?
2. Can the Church require that priests be celibate?

I am only arguing about the second question. I'm reminded that in the CofE it used to be the case that clergy could not get married without their bishop's permission (in fact, it used to be the case, that all sorts of people could not get married without some higher permission - I had a friend who was born in 1899, she was a teacher. As soon as she got married, she had to give up her job! I don't think this was right, but I think it a bit odd to claim 1 Cor.7 is against it!).

Well into the 20th Century, this permission was sometimes not granted by Anglican bishops (at least not immediately). Given that a bishop has material care for his clergy as well as their spiritual well-being, this is reasonable. He needed to know that a priest had a home and an income to get married, and until the second half of the 20th Century, arrangements were variable - curates were often in digs etc. Now, we can clearly accept both that position and that of 1 Cor.7.

Do you have any exegetical basis for this assertion? Because this sounds just like the "Paul wasn't talking about committed loving monogamous homosexual relationships in Romans 1" kind of argument.

You are the one trying to claim (it's so implausible that I don't ever heard the argument before) that you can demonstrate that 1 Corinthians, not only permits marriage, but forbids any requirement for people freely entering a particular life to be required to be celibate.

Apart from the fact that you haven't given any quotation in support of this assertion, it seems plainly to be contradicted by 1 Timothy 5:

Let a widow be enrolled if she is not less than sixty years of age, having been the wife of one husband...But refuse to enrol younger widows; for when they grow wanton against Christ they desire to marry, and so they incur condemnation for having violated their first pledge.

Clearly, there is a group of women who have freely pledged to remain single, having been widowed. These widows are not women whose husbands have died, they are a distinct group, with a pledge. If this is acceptable for widows, why in principle can it not also be the case for clergy? If widows do not contradict 1 Cor.7, then why should priests? That doesn't mean priests should be celibate, but it is enough, I think to falsify your claim about 1 Cor.7.

Now we know that celibacy is commended in scripture. We used to hear Protestants deny that, but not so much now. We know that we have at least one order of celibates. We know that the greatest in scriptures were celibate. It would appear, that the apostles, at least during the time of our Lord's ministry had left their wives behind. It is plainly reasonable that a bishop, with material responsibility for a priest and his dependants should require celibacy of a priest. It is also reasonable that a bishop, planning a mission to some dangerous place, may choose only to send in celibate clergy. So why in principle can a general requirement for priests not be possible?

Moreover, given that celibacy is commended where is it in the Protestant communities? There will be people are single by choice, but where are those who respond to the call of Christ in this way? They are about as visible as Protestants who think it is wrong for married couples to use contraception to remain childless.

And if it comes to that, here you are banging on about priestly celibacy, when the marriage discipline of Protestants, is, as a whole, a disgrace. Ecclesial communities bless unions which, by our Lord standards are plainly adulterous, and they do so, using marriage services which speak of the union of Christ and his church. Your priorities are bizarre.

22 June 2013 at 20:00  
Blogger Albert said...

My second to last paragraph has an error. I mean Protestants who are single not by choice - those who simply haven't found the right person. Also those who just choose a single life. But where is the disciple of celibacy commended in Protestantism, as in scripture? It never occurred to me to be celibate. No one ever talked of it. But the teaching is plain in scripture.

22 June 2013 at 20:06  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

So you did Darter Noster !

This thread is absolutely fascinating, one of Cranmer’s best, and you are on par excellence form. This fellow is left well out of it - you chaps are covering everything and anything...


22 June 2013 at 20:06  
Blogger carl jacobs said...

Darter Noster

No it isn't. My employer will not pay me a penny more no matter how many children I have.

Your employer isn't the RCC. A Priest's salary isn't exactly set by market conditions. It is set according to some established notion of acceptable standard of living. Currently that is made easier by a vow of poverty that applies only to the priest himself. If you add a wife and children to that mix, you must adjust the scale upwards. Men are not going to make a vow of poverty for their wife and kids.

The RCC also doesn't have to worry about competition for labor from the church down the street. You are currently depending upon men willingly accepting low pay as a service to the church. That will change radically if men have to pay for a wife and kids. If you think you have a vocations crisis now, wait until you try to get married men into the priesthood without increasing their salary. You will suddenly be subjected to market competition as men weigh the needs of family against the desire to serve. The trade will become "Can I support a wife and kids on that salary at what I consider an acceptable level?" If the answer is 'No' then he will go elsewhere. Some men will accept a lower salary. Not many.

where does it say that the Church is obliged to keep the clergy in a comfortable middle class life style no matter how many kids they have?

I don't know what 'middle class comfort' is. The issue is not the level of lifestyle maintained but the amount of money the prospective priest is willing to accept. I might also point out that you will expect a Catholic marriage to be fruitful. Three or four children can be expensive. Do you want the scandal of a Catholic priest's family living in destitution because the church refuses to pay him? Talk about destroying a church's credibility. The laborer after all is worth his wages.

I'd be amazed if the Church didn't insist that married candidates for ordination were at least 40, with no children under, say, 16, and financially independent.

I am sure they will be lining up at the door. Seriously, how many people do you think will occupy this pool of applicants? Three? This is no solution. It's a tacit admission of the problem. Your arguments demonstrate exactly why the RCC struggles so much with extricating itself from this trap. The current system is cheap. It allows the organization to avoid many significant financial responsibilities. It does so by burdening its priests. Getting out is going to cost a lot of money.

carl

22 June 2013 at 20:27  
Blogger Albert said...

Carl,

Have you ever chatted to a priest about the value of celibacy? I have. His answers were Christ-like. They had nothing to do with money.

22 June 2013 at 20:39  
Blogger Darter Noster said...

Carl,

The amount the RCC can already spend on CELIBATE clergy per year would not leave a small family in poverty, especially not if there were two salaries. The RCC already employs married priests with families.

Once again, neither the C of E, nor the Orthodox, nor the Eastern Catholic Church, has any financial difficulty paying a reasonable graduate salary to its clergy, no matter whether they are single, married, or married with kids; why should the RCC not be able to do it? Lack of money is not something, to my knowledge, that the RCC has EVER been accused of.

How do the Protestant denominations manage Carl, if paying married clergy a living wage is impossible?

I have never suggested that married clergy would in and of itself solve the priest recruitment problem, I just don't see why married clergy should be prohibited. I personally wouldn't agree with the restrictions which I strongly suspect the Church will put on the recruitment of married priests; I'm just guessing, from the restrictions already placed on married permanent deacons, what they will be.

22 June 2013 at 20:51  
Blogger Albert said...

DN is right about the finances. Catholic congregations are vast compared with Protestant ones. Probably Catholics have not been so good at giving because they have never needed to. But there's no doubt the congregations could raise the funds for married priests and their families.

22 June 2013 at 21:14  
Blogger Peter D said...

Carl

It is no trap at all. This is something you are constructing for your own purposes. There is a Christian tradition concerning priestly celibacy dating back to the very early centuries. And you're so materialist in your views! Can you really see no spiritual merit in sexual continence or sound reasons for the Church requiring this of its priests?

"Amen, I say to you, there is no man that hath left home or parents or brethren or wife or children, for the kingdom of God’s sake, Who shall not receive much more in this present time, and in the world to come life everlasting."

Priests should have their focus on the life to come - not on salaries and incomes in this life. In addition, the seperate vocations of married and family life and the priesthood each require total availability and self-emptying.

The Church teaches that the priesthood is a ministry conformed to the life and work of Jesus Christ. Priests as sacramental ministers act in persona Christi. Thus the life of the priest conforms to the chastity of Christ himself. The sacrifice of married life is for the "sake of the Kingdom" (Luke 18:28–30, Matthew 19:27–30), and to follow the example of Jesus Christ in being "married" to the Church, the "Bride of Christ" (Ephesians 5:25-33 and Revelation 21:9, together with Mark 2:19-20, and Matthew 9:14-15).

As I suggested with the Chesterton quote, first recognise and understand the sound reasons for and advantages of celibacy before arguing to cast it aside.

Pope Francis may well consider revising the discipline. As Cardinal Bergoglio
he commented that celibacy "is a matter of discipline, not of faith. It can change ... For the moment, I am in favour of maintaining celibacy, with all its pros and cons, because we have ten centuries of good experiences rather than failures ... Tradition has weight and validity." This use of equivocal and conditional language, with phrases like "for the moment" and "pros and cons", is not, in my opinion, a good sign.

22 June 2013 at 21:17  
Blogger carl jacobs said...

Albert

As far as I can see, you are confusing two completely different questions

I am not confusing anything. I am denying that the RCC has any authority to forbid marriage as a condition of ministry. I have specifically stated that celibacy can be voluntarily adopted. The key word is 'voluntarily.' The RCC is imposing an irrevocable vow without legitimate cause.

all sorts of people could not get married without some higher permission

Yes, it used to be the case that a young enlisted man couldn't get married without his CO's permission. There is a difference between exercising paternalistic authority with the intent to prevent a bad decision and demanding a permanent vow.

You are the one trying to claim ...

My question was directed at your assertion that 1 Cor 7 didn't apply to the clergy. You didn't make that argument by accident. What exegetically justifies your assertion besides the fact that you need it to be true?

that you can demonstrate that 1 Corinthians, not only permits marriage, but forbids any requirement for people freely entering a particular life to be required to be celibate.

It would be unbelievable to make that argument. If in fact I actually made that argument. But I didn't make that argument. I haven't said any such thing. I said Rome doesn't have the authority to require a man to permanently forego marriage as a condition of ministry. You say he can freely choose to enter into the life. You won't say why he isn't free to leave it in accordance with the Christian freedom that Paul asserts in 1 Cor 7. People can change their minds. There is no good spiritual reason to demand this vow.

None of this has anything to do with the voluntary choice of celibacy - which is mostly what you talked about. A perfect red herring. I understand that some priests will make it. That is their choice. But you are demanding an irrevocable choice without any cause in the face of Paul's explicit permission allowing the choice. You need to explain why the choice must be irrevocable. You need to explain why the RCC can lay a greater burden on men than Paul.

carl

22 June 2013 at 21:21  
Blogger Peter D said...

Darter Nosta

If men already married were admitted to the priesthood, would your wife and you be willing to live in chastity? This was the early origin, as I understand it, of prohibiting priests to marry.

22 June 2013 at 21:22  
Blogger Peter D said...

Carl

Here's the basis of the Church's authority:

"And I say to thee: That thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven. And whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth, it shall be bound also in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth, it shall be loosed also in heaven."

The Church is entirely at liberty to apply its understanding of Scripture and the words of Our Lord and Paul when they commended chastity. It has the authority that goes with the responsibility to order its affairs as it sees fit. The Church does release priests from their vows - it means they must reliinguish the priesthood too.

22 June 2013 at 21:30  
Blogger Darter Noster said...

Peter D.,

I wouldn't worry too much - I suspect celibacy will remain the norm, even if they do relax the discipline. That said, Latin America, Asia and particularly Africa have a reputation for not bothering to enforce celibacy too strictly at the moment anyway.

Most clergy are part of this world; that's why they call them secular clergy. Having a child you love and care for can make you more aware of the pastoral role of a priest, and of what it truly means to call God "Father". Having clergy able to participate in the full range of what it means to be human cannot be such a bad thing can it? A mixture of celibate and married priests would strengthen the clergy, not undermine it.

22 June 2013 at 21:32  
Blogger Darter Noster said...

Peter D.,

"Darter Nosta

If men already married were admitted to the priesthood, would your wife and you be willing to live in chastity? This was the early origin, as I understand it, of prohibiting priests to marry."

I sincerely hope my wife and I would be willing to live in chastity regardless of whether or not I could become a priest. Chastity within marriage does not mean abstaining from sex with each other.

Priests were not finally prohibited from marriage until the 11th century, though before then celibacy had been the norm in the West.

22 June 2013 at 21:39  
Blogger Albert said...

Carl,

This is what you said:

Except Paul explicitly rejects the idea of forbidding marriage in 1 Cor 7. That is where Paul commends celibacy. But he explicitly states that he is not making a command of it.

Actually, what Paul says is that he does not forbid it. He does not say it may not be forbidden by anyone to anyone in any circumstance. Unless you are able to make that point, it does not seem that the Catholic Church even has a case to answer. You cannot now change direction because of how the discussion has gone. You want to appeal to 1 Cor.7 to show that the Catholic Church may not require freely chosen celibacy of priests.

My question was directed at your assertion that 1 Cor 7 didn't apply to the clergy. You didn't make that argument by accident. What exegetically justifies your assertion besides the fact that you need it to be true?

Paul was speaking in general terms. We could all say what he is saying. As so often, when speaking in general terms, however, we will later admit of exceptions. Paul says one thing in 1 Cor.7 and another in 1 Tim 5. What he says in 1 Cor.7 clearly applies all other things being equal. But they are often not equal - as in 1 Tim 5. Why then can the Church not decide they are not equal when it comes to ordained ministry (not ministry per se as you have it)?

Compare with celibacy. In Galatians he seems to condemn those who choose to be circumcised. In Acts, he circumcises Timothy. The fact that Paul in general terms permits marriage - as a concession - hardly entails he has forbidden mandatory, but freely chosen celibacy in all circumstances.

The idea that the Church may require celibacy is not fobidden in scripture. Not in 1 Cor.7 nor anywhere else. You haven't given any evidence for it, yet you expect me to answer your argument. I am not going to dignify your argument in that way.

You won't say why he isn't free to leave it in accordance with the Christian freedom that Paul asserts in 1 Cor 7. People can change their minds.

Errr...well if you think that they can't get permission to leave it, then you're not discussing the reality. But aren't you arguing against 1 Tim.5.11-12?

There is no good spiritual reason to demand this vow.

Nothing you have ever said compromises you more, in my sight, than that. As I asked before, have you ever talked to a priest about the value of celibacy? What reasons do they give? - not the kind of deeply cynical reasons you have given - but the reasons they give. Have you nothing to learn from anyone else? Are you the only one to whom the gospel has come?

And as before, I am wondering why you ignore so many failings within Protestantism, so many clear scriptural teachings which are just forgotten, to worry about this on the most specious of grounds.

22 June 2013 at 21:49  
Blogger Peter D said...

Darter Noster

That wasn't the meaning of chastity I had in mind. Would you and your wife be willing to live together in sexual incontinence? This was, as I understand it, the expectation of the early Church and developed into the requirement that priests should not marry and then married men could not be admitted to the priesthood.

Hope you don't mind my saying so, but you appear to have a very laissez-faire approach to priests breaking their sacred vows.

And don't be too sure about the future of the Church under Pope Francis. He has already demonstrated some worrying behaviour and made some concerning remarks.

Albert

This attack on priestly celibacy is an indirect assault on the authority of the Magisterium and the Papacy. The issue was possibly as controversial as indulgences during the reformation.

Protestants obsess over individual passages and words in Scripture. Catholics, on the other hand, know the Church holds the Truth and then look to Scripture to understand the teachings.

22 June 2013 at 22:20  
Blogger Albert said...

Peter,

The attack certainly comes before the rationale. Look at how people attacked (and still attack) celibacy as the cause of paedophilia despite the fact that there is no demonstrable connection and that the rates of abuse are in fact lower among our priests.

I find it all very peculiar. Look at the errors the have: contraception, remarriage after divorce, homosexuality, women's ordination, no value of celibacy as a vocation (even though lip service is paid to scripture on this), and yet it is celibacy is under attack.

The reason for this is the usual reason: men having lost God worship sex. Mandatory celibacy, rightly challenges the deification of sex. That is why it needs to be dethroned. The odd thing is the number of Protestants who attack celibacy.

22 June 2013 at 22:47  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

Oh shit !

The Inspector just walked into a Catholic Taleban meeting. Will close the door behind him on his way out gents...

22 June 2013 at 22:50  
Blogger carl jacobs said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

22 June 2013 at 23:39  
Blogger carl jacobs said...

Albert

Actually, what Paul says is that he does not forbid it. He does not say it may not be forbidden by anyone to anyone in any circumstance.

Right. Paul - who wrote with divine authority - refuses to forbid marriage. He in fact condemns those who would forbid it. He explicitly makes it a matter of individual conscience. But there is another with greater authority, and he may prohibit marriage. There is another who is greater than Paul here. There is another who may bind the conscience in a way that Paul refused to countenance. I think we have finally reached the nexus of the problem.

You say "He freely agreed." I ask "By what authority did you make the original demand on his legitimate Christian liberty?" Peter says (truthfully) "We are the RCC and we can do what we want." That at least is honest. You say ... or rather ask (because asking allows you to avoid answering) ...

... have you ever talked to a priest about the value of celibacy?

If it is so valuable, then why do you have to compel it? Why do you not accept it freely? No matter how often you try to make this an issue of celibacy versus married life, this is in truth an issue of voluntary celibacy as opposed to obligated celibacy. Why do you demand it? It is not a necessary condition to serve the kingdom of God as clergy. Because it would certainly be no burden for me to produce name upon name upon name of married men who have well and faithfully done precisely that.

I will ask plainly to see if you will answer. "Why must a priest cease to act as a priest simply because he gets married? What deficiency accrues to him because he acquires a wife?" Do not tell me that his ministry is somehow compromised, for Paul said no such thing. He states the opposite in the Pastoral epistles. An elder is to be the husband of one wife. If that is all you have the you have nothing.

carl

22 June 2013 at 23:43  
Blogger Peter D said...

Albert
In my experience, for most of the more enthusiastic protestants, it really has little to do with celibacy. Rather, its an attack on the authority of the Apostolic Church based on 'sola scriptura' and individual judgement in interpreting Scripture.

Strange really as the authority of the Church is so very clearly stated in Scripture!

22 June 2013 at 23:51  
Blogger carl jacobs said...

Darter Noster

The amount the RCC can already spend on CELIBATE clergy per year would not leave a small family ...

define 'small.'

... in poverty ...

So that vow of poverty. Is that just for show then?

... especially not if there were two salaries.

Yes, this is the Western norm these days. But should it be? Is it better to have a Mom at home? Or is it preferable to consign children to the tender mercies of daycare where they may be raised by their peers?

How do the Protestant denominations manage Carl, if paying married clergy a living wage is impossible?

I didn't say it was impossible. This ios a norm in Protestant churches. It's obviously possible. I said rather it would cost a lot of money. And it will. The Catholic laity will have to make up the difference in contributions. That is going to be a severe culture shock to a laity that is not used to contributing large sums. The problem will be instituting that culture change. In addition, the whole structure will become much more inflexible. The bishop won't be able to send a priest wherever the bishop might desire whenever the bishop might desire. There will be a household in tow, and that priest is going to consider the impact on his family. As in "I'm not moving my kids there." It's not just him anymore.

See these are the real issues. It's not about the 'value of celibacy' to the priest. It's about the temporal value of an unmarried, unencumbered, inexpensive priest to the bishop and the diocese. It makes things so easy. That's why they demand it. But it is an unlawful imposition on his Christian liberty. He carries the burden that others might be at ease.

carl

23 June 2013 at 00:05  
Blogger Peter D said...

Carl

The Church does not have to prove from Scripture that it is acting legitimately in requiring the voluntary discipline of celibacy from its priests.

The reasons for celibacy have been given above. In my opinion, they are sound. So you don't agree. Well, you're not a Catholic and so don't accept the nature of the Catholic priesthood.

"Peter says (truthfully) "We are the RCC and we can do what we want." Now, now, I didn't exactly say that! What I said was:

"The Church is entirely at liberty to apply its understanding of Scripture and the words of Our Lord and Paul when they commended chastity. It has the authority that goes with the responsibility to order its affairs as it sees fit."

The Church does what it understands God wants from it. And, of course, it is assured the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

23 June 2013 at 00:09  
Blogger carl jacobs said...

Peter D

Rather, its an attack on the authority of the Apostolic Church based on 'sola scriptura'

DING! DING! DING! DING! DING! DING! DING! WE HAVE A WINNER!

carl

23 June 2013 at 00:10  
Blogger carl jacobs said...

Peter D

The Church is entirely at liberty to apply its understanding of Scripture

Even if it means denying what the Scripture says.

Mr Laity: "It is the sun, for it is midday and I am hot."

Bp Magisterium: "No. The Magisterium has applied its understanding of Scripture and declared it to be the Moon. It is dark and you are not hot."


As I said. We have reached the nexus of the problem.

carl

23 June 2013 at 00:15  
Blogger Peter D said...

Carl

You've just confirmed one of my arguments in favour of celibacy!

Compare your statement:

"The bishop won't be able to send a priest wherever the bishop might desire whenever the bishop might desire. There will be a household in tow, and that priest is going to consider the impact on his family."

With Our Lord's words:

"Amen, I say to you, there is no man that hath left home or parents or brethren or wife or children, for the kingdom of God’s sake, Who shall not receive much more in this present time, and in the world to come life everlasting."

A priest must be completely dedicated to God and to fighting the spiritual battle in this world. No one would take a wife and children to the front line in a battle. Priests are God's foot soldiers.

23 June 2013 at 00:18  
Blogger Peter D said...

Carl

The Church has never denied any part of Scripture!

23 June 2013 at 00:23  
Blogger carl jacobs said...

Peter D

First of all, I have been saying all throughout this thread that the temporal advantages of a celibate priesthood to the organization are the actual reasons this discipline has been invoked.

Second, that statement from Luke does not indicate that a man's responsibility to his family is somehow mutually exclusive with his responsibility to God. A man's responsibility to his family is in fact a divine responsibility.

Now, you are correct. An unmarried man does not have to take account of a wife and children. That provides certain advantages (as well as disadvantages) in ministry. But that is not sufficient cause to intrude upon his legitimate Christian liberty to marry. You have no Scriptural warrant to impose on him like that. There is nothing in Scripture that prohibits clergy from marrying. There are explicit scriptural warrants for clergy marrying. Now, you say "We don't need Scriptural warrant." The problem remains. You are directly imposing a burden that Paul specifically and explicitly repudiated.

carl

23 June 2013 at 00:45  
Blogger Peter D said...

Carl

Firstly, the benefits to the Church are spiritual not temporal in having a celibate clergy who minds are focussed on God's Kingdom.

"The unmarried man is anxious about the affairs of the Lord, how to please the Lord; but the married man is anxious about worldly affairs, how to please his wife, and his interests are divided."
(1 Cor. 7)

Secondly, there is a distinction between a lay Christian and a minister of God. Marriage itself is a Divine institution, agreed. As I read Paul, marriage was a concession to the temptation of lust:

"It is well for a man not to touch a woman. But because of the temptation to immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband ... Do not refuse one another except perhaps by agreement for a season, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, lest Satan tempt you through lack of self-control. I say this by way of concession, not of command. I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has his own special gift from God, one of one kind and one of another."
(1 Cor. 7).

And finally, the Church is not imposing a burden a at all. You say there is nothing in Scripture that prohibits clergy from marrying. So what? And then claim there is explicit Sriptural warrant for clergy marrying. Where? Not in the passages you cite, as the Church understands them.

Since Jesus was celibate, and since, as Paul says, celibacy for the sake of Christ is a higher state than marriage, and since a priest is an alter Christus when he is standing in the place of Christ to celebrate the Eucharist, its not surprising that the discipline grew up spontaneously, of more and more priests choosing to be celibate.

The Church has a perfect right to order its internal affairs as it pleases. Nor is anybody compelled to be ordained. The Church has a right to tell the prospective priest that he is welcome to consider the priesthood but that if he does, consecrated virginity is part of the package.

23 June 2013 at 01:34  
Blogger carl jacobs said...

Peter D

the benefits to the Church are spiritual

Yes, that cheap unencumbered unattached flexible priest is a very large spiritual benefit to the church. Tell me again. Why are you experiencing a vocations crisis?

Secondly, there is a distinction between a lay Christian and a minister of God.

Where? There are qualifications for a minister of God but they don't include mandatory celibacy. So where is this distinction made?

As I read Paul, marriage was a concession to the temptation of lust

Umm ... Peter. Marriage predates the Fall. Human sexuality predates the Fall. Sexual intercourse predates the Fall. It is all part of the created order and God called it good. It therefore cannot be a concession to lust. I will however just note here in passing my earlier statement about RCs considering human sexuality to be carnal - almost a product of sin itself.

And finally, the Church is not imposing a burden a at all.

Right. How many priests would marry if they were allowed to marry? f you removed the requirement of celibacy, how many priests would choose to adopt it voluntarily? That is the measure of the burden.

You say there is nothing in Scripture that prohibits clergy from marrying.

Yes, and I see you are going to tacitly admit this by saying ...

So what?

It is not an area of life over which the church can exercise legitimate authority. That's why "So what?" It's not the church's call to say "No." Each man is free to make his own decision.

And then claim there is explicit Sriptural warrant for clergy marrying. Where?

Well, here.

The reason I left you in Crete was that you might put in order what was left unfinished and appoint elders in every town, as I directed you. An elder must be blameless, faithful to his wife, a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient. Titus 1:5-6

This is Paul's generic instruction for appointing generic elders. You will note the use of the words 'wife' and 'children.' Please point out the imposition of celibacy in this verse.

Not in the passages you cite, as the Church understands them.

Is there some unique understanding of 'wife' and 'children' in the tradition of the RCC?

since a priest is an alter Christus

I wondered when that would come up. But of course Paul puts paid to that argument in the verse I just cited.

The Church has a perfect right to order its internal affairs as it pleases.

Yes, it does. But it can't do as it pleases and still necessarily be consistent with Scripture.

carl

23 June 2013 at 02:16  
Blogger Peter D said...

Carl

Are you being serious?

" ... cheap unencumbered unattached flexible priest is a very large spiritual benefit to the church. Tell me again. Why are you experiencing a vocations crisis?"

You're such a materialist cynic. The 'crisis' is in the secular West; worldwide there are plenty of vocations.

"Marriage predates the Fall. Human sexuality predates the Fall. Sexual intercourse predates the Fall. It is all part of the created order and God called it good."

Well, you don't know what the pure, pre-fall state of conjugal love was like, do you? And Paul most certainly considers marriage a concession to overcoming the temptations of immorality and Satan. Trust you agree.

"How many priests would marry if they were allowed to marry ... how many priests would choose to adopt it voluntarily?"

The bible informs us the call to celibacy is a gift from God.

The passage of Timothy you've cited doesn't demand priests be married. The standard you're applying means that Jesus Himself could not have been a priest and neither could Paul! And we're talking here of the very early Church when people converted and may well have been married before doing so. It doesn't mean they were sexually active after their conversion - does it?

" ... it (the Church) can't do as it pleases and still necessarily be consistent with Scripture."

It isn't being inconsistent with Scripture on this point, is it? Paul isn't saying priest must be married. He is commending celibacy right at the dawn of Christianity and writing in a time when 'elders' will have come to the Church married and with children.

And celibacy is voluntary. It's not a human right to be a priest. It's a calling from God and, at this time, will be accompanied by the gift of celibacy.

23 June 2013 at 03:31  
Blogger carl jacobs said...

Peter D

You're such a materialist cynic.

Yes, well, you have to admit it's easy to become cynical about the RCC. btw, is Cardinal Law ever going to return to Boston or is he going to keep hiding out at the Vatican like Roman Polanski in France?

But, seriously, yes I am being serious. I am just supposed to ignore all these issues that I bring up? Are they in fact false? No, every single one of them is true and you know it. You can dress it up in spiritual clothes if you like but the fact remains that removing the discipline of celibacy would cause severe trauma and disruption. Things would have to change and those changes would be both painful and permanent. And do you think I don't hear these things from RCs? The problem of celibate men having to undermine the meaning of their own vows was told to me by a conservative RC priest. It had never occurred to me before he mentioned it. I didn't invent these issues.

Well, you don't know what the pure,pre-fall state of conjugal love was like, do you?

I see we have now entered the desperate Twilight Zone of RC apologetics. I don't know what I don't know. I do know that the Lord Jesus appealed to Genesis in his defense of marriage - citing its unitive and procreative and permanent nature during His Earthly ministry. Which was after the Fall. So I think I am on solid ground saying what I said.

And Paul most certainly considers marriage a concession to overcoming the temptations of immorality and Satan. Trust you agree.

Yes, this is Paul declaring the incomprehensibility of a celibate marriage. As in "Do not abstain from sex for long periods of time or you will subject yourself to temptation." That is not a concession about the nature of marriage at all. It's an assertion that marriage is by nature intended to be a sexual relationship. Instead it's a concession to the sinful nature and the power of human sexuality. But it does have some significant implications for RC dogma somewhere.

The bible informs us the call to celibacy is a gift from God.

Yes, well. Do they really have the gift? And would they need to exercise it if they were not placed under compulsion? But wait. Paul exercised the gift and he was not placed under compulsion. So why should men in this day and age need to make a compulsory vow to stay celibate? Wouldn't they just need to exercise the gift? Unless you think they need the vow to help them exercise the gift ... in which case, why should I believe they have the gift in the first place?

The passage of Timothy you've cited doesn't demand priests be married.

Umm ... no it doesn't. Paul after all wrote the requirement and Paul wasn't to my knowledge married. You can certainly pound the desk and say "Priests don't have to be married!" like you have made some significant point. Perhaps you have, but not against me. You asked me a question.

And then claim there is explicit Sriptural warrant for clergy marrying. Where?

So I pointed out where that claim may be found. It is clear as dawn.

And we're talking here of the very early Church when people converted and may well have been married before doing so.

Ah. The old "Speculate and then assume the speculation is fact" trick. You can't just attach non-scriptural conditions to the text like this. How do you know this? Justify this assertion from the text.

It doesn't mean they were sexually active after their conversion - does it?

Well, yes, actually it does. The instruction applies to a generic elder candidate in a generic marriage. And a marriage is presumed to be sexual. In fact (as we just saw) Paul warned against extended celibacy in marriage. No, a reference to wife and children means 'non-celibate.' It's right there in black and white.

And celibacy is voluntary.

Except for that vow. Why do you require that vow? I haven't heard an answer yet.

carl

23 June 2013 at 05:55  
Blogger OldJim said...

Carl,
There is nothing - absolutely nothing - normative about celibacy in the Christian life. We are created sexual creatures. We are created to desire sex. The normative model of life is to marry, have sex, and raise children

This in response to:

celibacy is basically rooted within Christianity and is a necessary expression of the Christian faith, coming ultimately from the example of Jesus and mediated by development of monastic life as a normative expression of the practice of Christianity.

So please note that I am not claiming that celibacy is the "normative model of life". I am not even claiming that celibacy is "normative... in the Christian life", especially not in the sense of "normative" as "most common, standard"

but Celibacy is certainly part of the heritage of the normative practice of Christianity, in the same way that poverty is:

"Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” Matthew 19:21

For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let the one who is able to receive this receive it.” Matthew 19:12

"So then he who marries his betrothed does well, and he who refrains from marriage will do even better." 1 Corinthians 7:38

It is clear that there are some acts prescribed in the Gospels the omissions of which are not sinful. These counsels of perfection are normative not in the sense of "standard" nor in the sense of "morally binding" but in the sense of "reflecting the deepest character of Christianity", in the same sense in which the impossible injunction to be Christlike is normative.

It is clear that the scriptures refuse to condemn or to denigrate sex within marriage; but it equally remains clear that chastity is reserved for special praise.

That is the context in which any discussion over the authority of the Church to "forbid" marriage to a voluntarily constituted class of people takes place.

23 June 2013 at 06:04  
Blogger OldJim said...

Carl

To become a priest, you must male a mandatory vow of celibacy. If you refuse to make the vow, you cannot become a priest. The RCC has levied that requirement.

No, to become a REGULAR priest, that is, a member of an order consecrated to the religious life, you must take vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. As far as the scriptural basis of consecrated life goes, Albert has already referred to 1 Timothy 5:

Let a widow be enrolled if she is not less than sixty years of age, having been the wife of one husband, and having a reputation for good works: if she has brought up children, has shown hospitality, has washed the feet of the saints, has cared for the afflicted, and has devoted herself to every good work. But refuse to enroll younger widows, for when their passions draw them away from Christ, they desire to marry and so incur condemnation for having abandoned their former faith.

It's all there: if people want to be enrolled into a distinct part of the Church where they take oaths to maintain their celibacy, then let them; but only ensure that they will be of a kind who will solemnly keep these vows.

I therefore do not see that you are on solid ground to rebuke this practice, and it cannot be that to which Paul is referring when he condemns groups who "forbid to marry".

What you are objecting to I think is the compulsory nature of celibacy in the secular priesthood.

23 June 2013 at 06:17  
Blogger OldJim said...

Carl

And the suspicion in many Protestant eyes is that RCs somehow consider human sexuality to be carnal; that married life is spiritually inferior. That the aesthetic of the monastery is greater than the desire of the marital bed.

This is telling, I think.

But of course the religious perspectives with which Catholicism has come into contact have always been split down the middle, and sometimes even on both sides of the fence, on the question of whether Catholicism is an ascetic nightmare or hedonistic debauchery.

Your spiritual ancestors themselves were pretty confused of course: we were idol-worshiping, wealth-justifying, wine-swilling, power loving debauchees. Who were also monkish, self-flagellating, sex-hating, laity-denigrating, works-obsessed Manicheans.

The long and short of it is that we are never and were never going to pour scorn on marriage, as much as the Manichees and Cathars of history themselves might have wanted us to do. Instead we held up Marriage as a Sacrament.

But equally we are not and will not deny that scripture is quite clear on the spiritual value of the practice of celibacy, as much as you might want us to. Instead we'll build some new monasteries and found some new orders.

And if that's a contradiction of some kind, it's a contradiction that we've retained from the Scriptural text itself, rather than ironing it out into one position or the other.

23 June 2013 at 06:56  
Blogger OldJim said...

As far as the question of the requirement of celibacy in the secular priesthood goes, it is worth quoting Paul VI himself in Sacerdotalis Caelibatus:

The gift of the priestly vocation dedicated to the divine worship and to the religious and pastoral service of the People of God, is undoubtedly distinct from that which leads a person to choose celibacy as a state of consecrated life.

But the priestly vocation, although inspired by God, does not become definitive or operative without having been tested and accepted by those in the Church who hold power and bear responsibility for the ministry serving the ecclesial community. It is, therefore, the task of those who hold authority in the Church to determine, in accordance with the varying conditions of time and place, who in actual practice are to be considered suitable candidates for the religious and pastoral service of the Church, and what should be required of them.



There we have it: the Charism of Priesthood and the Charism of celibacy are distinct and have different roles within the Church; but it is within the competence of the Church in practice to require only those who have the latter to discern in themselves and practice the ministry of the former.

You see, there is not wild disagreement amongst Catholics on this issue:

Peter D will not claim that the retention of Celibacy for the secular priesthood is anything more than a discipline, though one he considers extremely valuable.

and Sister Tiberia and Darter Noster will not deny the special value accorded to celibacy in both scripture and tradition, but will only question the retention of the discipline as a matter of necessity in the present circumstances.

Some of us do not differ by even that much: as I have said, I should be pleased if married men were free to enter the secular priesthood, and that those who chose to enter the religious priesthood should retain and foster the special charism and spirituality of celibacy within the Church. But I think that were we to do that, it would be best done any time other than now. The reason why the world pines for us to change now is that this is the time at which the witness of priestly celibacy counts for the most. When that ceases to be the case, I will resume my more natural position.

23 June 2013 at 07:10  
Blogger Darter Noster said...

Carl,

"So that vow of poverty. Is that just for show then?"

You're confusing priests and monks; most diocesan clergy do not take vows of poverty. They are paid a salary and allowances, which will often be better than the one some of their parishioners, with kids, will be expected to live on.

""... especially not if there were two salaries."

Yes, this is the Western norm these days. But should it be? Is it better to have a Mom at home? Or is it preferable to consign children to the tender mercies of daycare where they may be raised by their peers?"

Sorry, Carl, I must have missed the bit in the RC priest employment contract which reads "The Catholic Church hereby undertakes to ensure that at no point will the priest be compelled to make the sort of decision that lay people everywhere have to make on a daily basis."

It may be - and call me crazy, if you like - that married priests will just have to make these sorts of decisions for themselves, like everyone else does. Contrary to commonly-held beliefs, Catholic priests can choose certain things, like the colour of their underwear or what breakfast cereal to have, without consulting the Bishop first.

I don't deny that married clergy will entail some sort of culture shock, but most of the practical arguments against them tend to be produced by out-of-touch senior clerics who've been insulated from daily life by years in religious organisations and Church bureaucracy, and they don't stand up to prolonged scrutiny.

Considering the standards of accomodation enjoyed by many Catholic Bishops and celibate priests, the idea that the Church cannot provide a married priest and his family with anything other than a plastic shack and a tin of beans a day just doesn't stack up.

As for the working hours, we've already acknowledged that the reason for celibate priests working 100 hours a week is not because that's what priests do, but because parochial ministry is critically understaffed in some areas. Celibacy does have advantages in certain roles, particularly missionary activity, but it is a valuable spiritual discipline, not a way to cover up staff shortages and poor planning.

23 June 2013 at 09:13  
Blogger Darter Noster said...

Peter D.,

"Would you and your wife be willing to live together in sexual incontinence? This was, as I understand it, the expectation of the early Church and developed into the requirement that priests should not marry and then married men could not be admitted to the priesthood."

Erm, do you mean continence? :oD

"I don't know" is the honest answer. I suspect my answer would vary with age; at 30, definitely not, but at 50, if I'm anything like my parents, I probably will be anyway.

Such a requirement was included in the Canons of at least one, two I think, 4th century Councils, though I forget which off the top of my head, which are the first indication of we have of any form of imposed abstinence on the clergy.

Nevertheless that requirement, like the later requirement for celibacy, is an ecclesiastical discipline which was not present in the Apostolic Church and does not have to be brought into force again. If it was, I wouldn't put myself forward for ordination unless unless I was sure I could comply, but that's not really the issue.

Can you imagine how ludicrous the Church authorities would look if they tried to make married clergy permanently abstain from sex, for no apparent reason other than the fact that certain crusty clerics, who've been covering up for kiddy fiddlers for decades, can't so much as conceive of sex between a man and a woman without shuddering?

Not that that would stop them, mind you, but I hope they wouldn't be stupid enough bring in such a pointless rule for which there is no need at all.

Parts of the Church have got to get over this schizophrenic and theologically unjustified attitude that anyone who has sex is somehow polluted and unclean.

We can't tell gay people that marriage is this beautiful sacrament of love and procreation, established by God and the model for the relationship between Christ and the Church, only available to men and women, and then turn round to married men and say that the only reason for marriage is to help them control their impure lusts and that they're by definition not holy enough to serve God at his altar.

23 June 2013 at 10:09  
Blogger Darter Noster said...

Oh and:

"Hope you don't mind my saying so, but you appear to have a very laissez-faire approach to priests breaking their sacred vows."

I don't have a laissez-faire attitude towards priestly sin, I'm just not naive enough to believe that the half million or so clergy needed to run the RCC worldwide will all be saints, hermits, social workers and nurses rolled into one.

God and the Church have never been that naive either - that's why the Church teaches that the sacraments are not invalidated by priestly misconduct; God knows human fallibility, and his promises to his faithful people cannot be rendered worthless by the human failings of the priesthood he specifically chose to work through.

I've known a fair few priests, Anglican, RC and Orthodox. Some of them were good friends of mine at University before they decided on their calling, and I know for a fact that they're flesh-and-blood human beings like the rest of us.

Instead of viewing the clergy as the spiritual equivalent of the SAS - an elite unit, capable of virtually super-human feats - we would be better off looking at them as the equivalent of the First World War volunteers; brave men who, despite their flaws and failings, have answered a vital call and will do their best to do their duty under very difficult circumstances.

23 June 2013 at 10:27  
Blogger Albert said...

Carl,
I will ask plainly to see if you will answer. "Why must a priest cease to act as a priest simply because he gets married? What deficiency accrues to him because he acquires a wife?"

The Catholic Church permits married priests. The Greek side of the Church has always had them, and even the Latin half permits them in some circumstances (i.e. convert clergy). In effect, what the Latin half of the Church is saying is “We hold both marriage and priesthood in such high regard, that, in practice, we think it is best if they are not embarked upon together. We also hold that by having a visible celibate clergy, we point to the eschatological goodness of God beyond these present times, and we attack the pagan culture that sex is divine.”

This being the case, the objection has to be that in order to maintain that sign of celibacy, priests who make such an oath must keep it. If they don’t then they are also subject to 1 Tim.5.12. Moreover, a priest who just left and got married would, by that very act, have an invalid marriage, and would thus be committing fornication.

Paul - who wrote with divine authority - refuses to forbid marriage. He in fact condemns those who would forbid it.

Of course he does. Those who forbid marriage are guilty of some kind of dualist heresy. But you render the scripture contradictory if you do not admit that nevertheless, there may be some states in life, freely entered into, which require celibacy – I mean Paul says as much in the next chapter (I’m talking about 1 Tim.4-5 if it isn’t clear). This is your quandary: scripture does not say there cannot be states which require celibacy, on the contrary, it allows for such states. So either you raise up 1 Cor.7 and 1 Tim 4. to a level that they contradict 1 Tim.5 or you have no argument.

I have already given one other example of this kind of untidiness in scripture – circumcision. There are others. Compare Galatians with Acts 15. And if all we had of 1 Cor.7 were the opening verses, we would probably draw the opposite conclusion we must draw if we read the whole chapter. This is why the Church must have authority in matters of order.

If it is so valuable, then why do you have to compel it? Why do you not accept it freely?

It is as free, and as compelled as it is in 1 Tim.5, so take your complaint to St Paul.

23 June 2013 at 10:30  
Blogger LEN said...

The Catechism of the Catholic Church describes 'celibacy' thus: "All the ordained ministers of the Latin Church, with the exception of permanent deacons, are normally chosen from among men of faith who live a celibate life and who intend to remain celibate "for the sake of the kingdom of heaven." Called to consecrate themselves with undivided heart to the Lord and to "the affairs of the Lord," they give themselves entirely to God and to men. Celibacy is a sign of this new life to the service of which the Church's minister is consecrated; accepted with a joyous heart celibacy radiantly proclaims the Reign of God." (CCC paragraph 1579).

(Seems pretty clear to me)

It appears that those who encourage 'celibacy' within the 'RCC priestly system'are somewhat like those behind the 'Pharisaical'system. 'They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people's shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them'(matthew 23:4)

Of course one may be celibate(unmarried) then wish to get married and live' a normal life'which the Word of God encourages us to do.

Perhpas binding ourselves with oaths to practices which have no basis in scripture is a dangerous occupation which needs reviewing.



23 June 2013 at 11:46  
Blogger Darter Noster said...

LEN,

"It appears that those who encourage 'celibacy' within the 'RCC priestly system'are somewhat like those behind the 'Pharisaical'system. 'They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people's shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them'(matthew 23:4)"

I haven't agreed with you on much, LEN, but I can definitely see how people get that impression - particularly when the same Church hierarchy that opposes married priests has turned a blind eye to the sexual abuse of children, seminarians and young priests for decades.

23 June 2013 at 12:24  
Blogger Albert said...

Len,

Perhpas binding ourselves with oaths to practices which have no basis in scripture is a dangerous occupation which needs reviewing.

Or perhaps those Christian bodies which have nothing equivalent to the widows of 1 Tim 5, with their pledges, need to ask if they are really scriptural. Presumably you think the author of that chapter was a Pharisee:

'They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people's shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them'(matthew 23:4)

23 June 2013 at 12:28  
Blogger LEN said...

Don`t follow your reasoning Albert?.

23 June 2013 at 12:34  
Blogger Albert said...

Darter Noster,

particularly when the same Church hierarchy that opposes married priests has turned a blind eye to the sexual abuse of children, seminarians and young priests for decades.

I think that's pretty outrageous for you to say. Certainly there have been examples of bishops doing that - and any example is too much and utterly reprehensible. However, when you use the term "hierarchy" you make it sound as if that was the norm - or even the policy. The evidence of the John Jay Report is that that was not the case at all. For the most part, bishops did not know about the abuse until much, much later, and then the number of bishops who turned a blind eye and did nothing turns out to be very small.

Every Catholic has a duty to speak up against abuses in the Church at whatever level, but I do think that they also - especially if they are clerics - need to be fair, just and informed in their accusations.

We also need to be clear again as to the causes of the abuse and the failures to handle it properly: a failure to follow Catholic teaching, a failure to apply Catholic canon law and instead a liberal attitude to sex and general social change. I don't see identifying that as providing grounds for removing the celibacy law.

23 June 2013 at 12:35  
Blogger Albert said...

Len,

Scripture clearly has some kind of group of widows, who are not just women who have lost their husbands, but seem to be bound by some kind of oath or pledge not to marry. So I ask:

1. Where is such a community found in your religious tradition (indeed, is celibacy valued in any practical way, except for those who want to get married but haven't yet)?
2. Isn't this community of enrolled widows the kind of thing you are calling Parisaical?

23 June 2013 at 12:37  
Blogger Darter Noster said...

Albert,

Don't shoot the messenger - I'm only stating how the Catholic Church is perceived, largely as a result of its own actions, by a large swathe of the people Christ commanded it to go out and bring to the Gospel of Salvation; having worked in political PR I know very well that fairness rarely plays much part in public perception.

The actions of a tiny minority have created the impression of a Church leadership in Rome which not only does not practice what it preaches but has actively conspired to keep the sexual misdeeds, and out-and-out crimes, of its supposedly chaste and celibate clergy a secret for all time, whilst simultaneously condemning and ostracising lay Christians who have sinned.

Do I think that is a fair perception? No, but what has fairness got to do with it? The leadership of the Church has to face up to the fact that, fairly or otherwise, there are many, many people out there who see its staunch defence of mandatory celibacy as being more about protecting a secret haven for sexual deviants than the spiritual value of abstinence.

If Christ had commanded the Church to rest on its laurels and wait for the unbelievers to realise how fantastic it is, that might be less of a problem, but he didn't, and like it or not the Church has a massive PR problem which hinders its mission to the world.

Do I think clerical celibacy caused the abuse scandal? No. Do I think married priests aren't just as capable of child abuse as celibate ones are? No. Do I think the child abuse cover-up and other sex scandals directly implicate more than a relatively tiny number of churchmen? No. Do I think that the Church leadership is a conspiracy sexual deviants? No.

But I'm not the one the Church needs to convince.

All I said was that I could understand how the deliberate cover-up of sexual deviancy over the years makes, in the eyes of the general public, the calls of leading Churchmen to continue excluding men who have sex with their wives from the priesthood look ridiculous, hypocritical and self-serving. There's no point in pretending that the Roman Catholic clergy is held in high public esteem at the moment is there?

23 June 2013 at 14:15  
Blogger Corrigan said...

Has anybody else noticed the dynamic of this thread? Wrong-footers like Carl and Len are picking the bits of scripture that suit their bias and ignoring what doesn't, while Albert (good Catholic that he is) is arguing it in its entirity. It's a living picture of the difference between Catholicism and Protestantism.

23 June 2013 at 14:15  
Blogger LEN said...

We seem to be flying off on a tangent here[again']. 'Albert' [when cornered] does his' slippery eel 'impression worthy of those Lawyers who specialise in 'difficult cases.
The dynamic of this thread seems to be wandering in and around the houses steered by Albert and cheered on by Corrigan to suit their own particular ends.

Whenever Catholic 'traditions' are challenged this seems to be their particular course rather than straight answers to very simple questions.

23 June 2013 at 14:37  
Blogger LEN said...

Albert, I suppose you will eventually run out of your supply of'red herrings' and diversionary tactics and start to answer questions directly?.



23 June 2013 at 14:51  
Blogger Albert said...

Darter Noster,

I do not object to your assessment of public perception. But this is what you said:

I haven't agreed with you on much, LEN, but I can definitely see how people get that impression - particularly when the same Church hierarchy that opposes married priests has turned a blind eye to the sexual abuse of children, seminarians and young priests for decades.

Now it seems to me that your obvious and plain meaning is that the hierarchy turned a blind eye - not just that it is the public perception that they did so.

The reason the Church has bad public image is not really to do with the abuse scandal. The reason the Church has a bad image is because the Church opposes the pagan god of sexuality that is worshipped in secular society, and to a degree among those Christians who have not the value of celibacy. The abuse scandal is simply the instrument the public uses to justify its rejection of Christian moral teaching - ironically so that the public can return to precisely the same patterns of immorality which occasioned the abuse in the first place.

There's no quick fix to this - Satan prepared the ground well - not only in the abuse and cover-ups that occurred, but also in creating culpably deaf ears and blind eyes, not to ask the obvious question about the causes and occasions of abuse. Apart from a proper clear up exercise, proper punishment of those involved, and proper care for our children, we also need to clear and truthful about what happened: neither denying the truth, nor accepting or promoting as truth, what is false. Beyond that, we need repentance and prayer.

The trouble with your post is that it certainly gave the impression of what you now deny. And as you are a deacon, that carries a great of weight with the enemies of the Church.

So I'm sorry if I misunderstood you, but I hope you will agree your post did mislead in the direction of interpretation I gave.

23 June 2013 at 14:57  
Blogger Albert said...

Len,

I suppose you will eventually run out of your supply of'red herrings' and diversionary tactics and start to answer questions directly?

Which questions have I not addressed? Here are a few:

1. Where is such a community found in your religious tradition (indeed, is celibacy valued in any practical way, except for those who want to get married but haven't yet)?
2. Isn't this community of enrolled widows the kind of thing you are calling Pharisaical?


Oh no. Those are the questions I asked you to address, and which you have ignored.

23 June 2013 at 14:58  
Blogger Albert said...

Thank you Corrigan!

23 June 2013 at 14:59  
Blogger The Explorer said...

Albert:

That 1 Timothy 5 example you quoted a while back.

Looking at the extract in question (and trying to prevent my own potential misreading by the help of a couple of commentaries) the passage seems to be about who needs financial help and who doesn't.

If a young widow can remarry, let her do so. If an older widow has relatives, they can support her. If a widow is over sixty, and in fincial need, help her out.

I know you said 'in principle', but the principles here seem to be more about finances than about sex.

If I've misunderstood you, and all this is irrelevant to your argument, then my apologies. (It's just that the passage quoted in relation to the celibacy issue rang alarm bells in my mind).

23 June 2013 at 15:02  
Blogger Albert said...

Explorer,

No, I think you are right in your exegesis, but only up to a point. Clearly these women are making some kind of pledge to remain unmarried - Paul says as much. This is not a small thing, but something that incurs condemnation if it is violated. Now, if that is the case, it cannot just be about financial care - else why would you need such a scary pledge? Moreover, remember Paul's words that if someone will not work, they may not eat. Why also, if this is just about providing financial support is it necessary for her to be known as a woman of good deeds? Are we not commanded simply to be merciful to those in need - as God is merciful to us?

It seems evident therefore, that what is proposed is some kind of financial care, in return for some kind of "consecrated" service. And that of course, raises questions about your commentaries: they seem to be saying it cannot be about a pledge of celibacy. Even though it is.

The simple fact is, that the biblical value of celibacy has been largely (though not completely) lost in Protestantism (with Anglicanism in particular offering some impressive counter examples).

23 June 2013 at 15:11  
Blogger Darter Noster said...

Albert,

Yes, sorry, my post did give the impression that I thought that the hierarchy as a whole was implicated, now that I read it again.

I don't think that - I was trying to state the public perception that the senior clergy is in it up to their necks, but it came out as if I thought that.

Where I do think the hierarchy as a whole is implicated is in failing to take a lead early enough in cracking down on the actions of the few Bishops who were covering things up, but there's plenty of other organisations, including the Church of England, other religious groups and the BBC who made much the same mistake at the same time.

23 June 2013 at 15:16  
Blogger Albert said...

Darter Noster,

Thank you. In that case, I suspect we are of one mind. Yes - I'm pretty furious about the failings involved in this - but the failings are in not being Catholic enough. Apparently, when they first wanted to punish priests by canonical standards (alongside the criminal proceedings) canon lawyers did not know how to do it. The laws were there on the books, but no one had attempted such a thing since the Council. Law and punishment are such a horrible things in a society of grace and forgiveness, you see. That was the culture, and we are more useful, I think, if we locate the problem precisely.

23 June 2013 at 15:23  
Blogger Albert said...

It's also worth distinguishing between mistakes made wickedly and callously (for whatever reason) and misjudgements made in good faith, and by the best light available at the time, but which, with hindsight, were inadequate.

23 June 2013 at 15:27  
Blogger The Explorer said...

Albert:

Thanks for that. The translation I'm currently using (NIV) does make the point that a widow eligible for financial support must have earned it (by fidelity in marriage, and a range of good deeds).

I can't find the specific pledge bit, but that may be the translation I'm using.

Regards.

23 June 2013 at 15:49  
Blogger Albert said...

Explorer,

It's 1 Tim.5.12. The RSV reads:

they [enrolled widows who subsequently marry] incur condemnation for having violated their first pledge.

The Greek is particularly forceful:

ἔχουσαι κρίμα ὅτι τὴν πρώτην πίστιν ἠθέτησαν

The word usually translated "pledge" is πίστιν - the word for faith. It is the same word used when Jesus says Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a little, I will set you over much; enter into the joy of your master.'

Similarly, πιστὸς ὁ θεὸς (1 Corinthians 1.9) "God is faithful."

So I think we are dealing with a pretty serious and loaded word. Moreover, if it is just about financial help, why is it necessary to wait until the widows are 60? Paul's reason is his fear that having been enrolled they might then get married. But if it was just about financial help, that would be a good thing - one less widow to look after.

My Cambridge Bible Commentary - the first on my shelf that I consulted, written by a good Anglican - is clear about the nun-like order envisaged here.

23 June 2013 at 15:59  
Blogger LEN said...

We are discussing nuns now?.

I though we were still on Catholic Priests.

So Albert how would you deal with a Catholic priest who didn`t wish to remain celibate?.Or even those who didn`t want to be celibate in the first place?.

23 June 2013 at 16:29  
Blogger LEN said...

There may be another reason why the catholic Church is in favour of Celibate Priests; 'Celibacy was popularized by the early Christian theologian Origen and Augustine. Another possible explanation for the origins of obligatory celibacy revolves around more practical reason, "the need to avoid claims on church property by priests' offspring". It remains a matter of Canon Law (and often a criterion for certain religious orders, especially Franciscans) that priests do not own land and therefore cannot pass it on to legitimate or illegitimate children. The land belongs to the Church through the local diocese as administered by the Local Ordinary, or Bishop.(end of quote)

Also the scriptures say;' 1 Timothy 4:1 "In the last times, some will turn away from the faith by paying attention to deceitful spirits and demonic instructions through the hypocrisy of liars with branded consciences. They forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving for those who believe and know the truth.'


23 June 2013 at 16:39  
Blogger The Explorer said...

Albert:

That clarifies it. Thank you.

Guthrie suggests: "special duties in the church were reserved for some of the older widows receiving aid, and some official recognition of this fact was given."

Regards.

23 June 2013 at 16:44  
Blogger Albert said...

No Len, I said "Nun-like". I meant women who have taken some kind of pledge of celibacy in return for some kind of service to the Church. We are discussing the text. Do you wish to comment on it - or say that my reading of 1 Tim 5 is wrong?

So Albert how would you deal with a Catholic priest who didn`t wish to remain celibate?

Not a question I've had to address directly - I don't even know a priest who has left to get married. But I would imagine a lot of care would go into discerning what was going on. Was he just going through a dry-spell in his spiritual or priestly life? Had he just had enough of priestly ministry? Someone in such a position could very likely assume the problem was with celibacy, even when it wasn't.

But if a priest really decides he cannot carry on in the celibate life (or just as a priest) he can be dispensed and then he can validly marry. That presumably means more discernment, it would be a careful process - unless there is some disciplinary reason for it to be quicker.

Or even those who didn`t want to be celibate in the first place?.

Such a person should not have been ordained, but if they have, I would recommend the course given in the previous paragraphs.

But I'm not actually discussing whether priests should be required to be celibate. On blogs like this, I tend to defend the Catholic Church (you may have noticed!!). Catholicism permits a range of practices and therefore a range of views on this matter. All I wish to defend is the view that the Church is able to decide the matter in principle. I cannot see any argument against that, that does not (a) force scripture (e.g. 1 Cor.7) to say what it does not say and then (b) set it in contradiction with other parts of scripture.

That being so, I think the Catholic Church retains far more faithfully the general motifs of scripture on this question.

23 June 2013 at 16:45  
Blogger Albert said...

Explorer - Guthrie seems on the right lines (if perhaps a little minimalist) - and that's all I need the text to say.

Regards to you!

23 June 2013 at 16:46  
Blogger Albert said...

Len,

"In the last times, some will turn away from the faith by paying attention to deceitful spirits and demonic instructions through the hypocrisy of liars with branded consciences. They forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving for those who believe and know the truth.'

I think you've just used Paul in 1 Tim 4 to condemn Paul in 1 Tim 5. This is what I find perplexing about some Protestants. So desirous are you to condemn Catholicism that you make scripture condemn itself.

23 June 2013 at 16:50  
Blogger Peter D said...

Albert

You must be exhausted! Commendable responses that I will reflect on again.

Oh, nearly forgot to say, don't waste too much energy on those who want to attack the Church by throwing isolated passages of Scripture around like hand grenades. Let their nonsense stand as testimony to their motives.

23 June 2013 at 16:59  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

And the Lord spake, saying, 'First shalt thou take out the Holy Pin. Then, shalt thou count to three. No more. No less. Three shalt be the number thou shalt count, and the number of the counting shall be three. Four shalt thou not count, neither count thou two, excepting that thou then proceed to three. Five is right out. Once at the number three, being the third number be reached, then, lobbest thou thy Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch towards thy foe, who, being naughty in My sight, shall snuff it.'

23 June 2013 at 17:02  
Blogger Albert said...

Thank you Peter

23 June 2013 at 17:07  
Blogger Peter D said...

Inspector

Good evening to you.

One hopes certain types might hold their particularly randomly chosen hand grenades well past the allotted number three.

23 June 2013 at 17:25  
Blogger LEN said...

Albert.
Some scriptures may APPEAR to contradict other scriptures but(as you well know )but they don`t when taken in the proper context.

Peter.... you should take your own advice?. The Catholic church is built on ONE scripture taken out of context.

'Hoist with your own petard'..yet again.DOH!.

23 June 2013 at 17:41  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

Good evening Peter D. Sunday nights the night for smiting, what !

23 June 2013 at 17:43  
Blogger LEN said...

Inspector careless talk and all that.....heard of prism?.

23 June 2013 at 17:47  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

It’s hoist BY your own petard, you idiot.

23 June 2013 at 17:49  
Blogger Albert said...

Len,

Some scriptures may APPEAR to contradict other scriptures but(as you well know )but they don`t when taken in the proper context.

Indeed, but my interpretation holds all passages together - it's your interpretation that seems to create a contradiction. The simplest thing would be to let go of your interpretation - it wouldn't suddenly make you a Catholic or any less Protestant. It would simply make you scripturally consistent. Isn't that a good thing? (All you lose is a stick to beat Catholics with - but surely that's a fair price to pay for being biblical?)

23 June 2013 at 18:02  
Blogger Peter D said...

Inspector said ...
" ... you idiot."

One of your more perceptive recent observations, that man.

Albert
But the man's faith depends on untruths about Catholicism. Scriptural consistency is therefore secondary to attacking the Church.

23 June 2013 at 19:06  
Blogger LEN said...

Inspector I think you might be the 'idiot' in question?.
Good luck anyway.

23 June 2013 at 19:45  
Blogger LEN said...

I think your' splitting hairs' and backtracking shows the weakness of your argument Albert.

Albert you state;
'But I'm not actually discussing whether priests should be required to be celibate'.
surely THAT was the whole point of the discussion (refer back to top)
this (sigh) is why I said you had veered of a tangent using( smoke and mirrors) somewhat like an old battleship trying to conceal itself.

23 June 2013 at 19:52  
Blogger Albert said...

Len,

I think you need to blame Carl for that. This is what he wrote that set me off:

There is no biblical basis for the practice of forbidding marriage. Anywhere. At all. You place yourself with the Gnostics for whom Paul had no good word.

I think we've seen that 1 Tim.5 is sufficient for Catholic purposes.

23 June 2013 at 19:55  
Blogger Peter D said...

Len
Did you actually finish your secondary school education? I have my doubts given your inability to comprehend the written word or follow the themes of a discussion.

Albert said:
"But I'm not actually discussing whether priests should be required to be celibate."

He made that clear near the top of this thread, by the way.

"All I wish to defend is the view that the Church is able to decide the matter in principle."

Do you understand the difference between the right to make a decision and what factors one might consider in doing so? They are two separate issues.

Then he goes on to explore those Bible verses used by Carl (and leapt on by you) to present the view the Church is actually contradicting Scripture in requiring the discipline of celibacy at all.

"I cannot see any argument against that, that does not (a) force scripture (e.g. 1 Cor.7) to say what it does not say and then (b) set it in contradiction with other parts of scripture."

And to think you consider yourself able to read the Bible and understand it through personal judgement!!

23 June 2013 at 20:08  
Blogger Peter D said...

Len said...
"Inspector I think you might be the 'idiot' in question?."

See what I mean?

23 June 2013 at 20:10  
Blogger LEN said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

23 June 2013 at 20:16  
Blogger LEN said...

Inspector..... sorry to have to contradict you again me being uneducated and you guys being so clever an all but here goes;'hoist with your own petard also hoist on your own petard to be harmed by something that was intended by you to harm someone else The most enjoyable moment in any action film[Dodo in this case] occurs when the villain is hoist with his own petard. Etymology: based on the literal meaning of hoist by your own petard (blown into the air by your own explosive device), an expression made popular in Shakespeare's play, Hamlet.

The word 'fart' was also mentioned in the data but but I don`t think I will go there you being so 'old' an connections might be made?.
Anyway its always nice to talk to such [clever] people...thank you for considering my comments.

23 June 2013 at 20:27  
Blogger Peter D said...

Len - excellent. You've actually started a course in English comprehension. Good man.

23 June 2013 at 20:45  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

Make that anally retentive idiot....

23 June 2013 at 20:52  
Blogger OldJim said...

there's no need for personal attacks

23 June 2013 at 21:04  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

A fellow is only flesh and blood OldJim. Besides, he’s anti organised church, and in this man’s book, that put’s him down as one of the anti-Christs.

23 June 2013 at 21:09  
Blogger Albert said...

OldJim is right - I'm rather fond of Len, and even if I wasn't, personal attacks are out of order. Besides Inspector, in some matters you are anti your own organised Church. Len is at least consistent.

23 June 2013 at 21:40  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

Albert, Len is as much the anti Christ as the devil himself. The Inspector’s criticisms of his own church outlook are merely that – criticisms. Your man on the other hand is wilfully dismantling Christ’s benefice to the world, to wit, his church. The man is well beyond protestant. You know that and yet so say little. So you are fond of him, that’s your weakness. The rest of us can see him for what he is, the disruptive and divisive influence upon Christ's flock.

23 June 2013 at 21:57  
Blogger Peter D said...

Albert
You're correct about personal attacks, of course. However, this is a dubious statement:

"Len is at least consistent."

In his loathing of the Catholic Church, certainly. In his beliefs he's all over the place.

One day he argues against the Trinity; the next he questions the Divinity of Christ; then its the hypostatic union he challenges. He even had the front to propose Paul may have encountered Satan rather than Christ on the road to Damascus - then later bases his attacks of Catholicism on Paul! And I won't mention his theory about Baptism and amniotic fluid!

23 June 2013 at 22:29  
Blogger carl jacobs said...

So it hasn't been a great day.

1. My elbows hurt from tendinitis.

2. I fell on the basement stairs (no permanent damage other than pride.).

3. My traitor quisling squealer of a daughter ratted me out to my wife about the fall. Some things a wife shouldn't know.

Are there any loose ends I want to tie up on this thread? Because in general I am quite content. Corrigan was right about one thing. It clearly demonstrates the difference.

I must admit I was surprised to see the RC attitude of celibacy as purifying/sexuality as corrupting so clearly expressed. The idea that celibacy is a deeper, more authentic expression of the Christian life is incomprehensible to me. Certainly it is no part of Scripture. The monastery is a cloistered abnormal existence - separated from the world and isolated from those of the opposite gender. Man wasn't made for such an existence. I find it neither spiritually nor aesthetically superior. If the value of celibacy was only demonstrated in the monastery then I would find no value in it at all.

The first commandment was to be fruitful and multiply. It would seem the vast majority of humanity is consigned to this messy putrifying world of carnal desire and procreation while a special few rise above to the the purity of celibacy. The most angry I ever made a RC was when I questioned the perpetual virginity of Mary. It was if I had called her a whore. How could she have been tainted by sex once she had been set apart as the Theotokos? Seems Gnostic to me. But consistent.

carl

23 June 2013 at 23:06  
Blogger carl jacobs said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

23 June 2013 at 23:27  
Blogger carl jacobs said...

Albert

The reason the Church has bad public image is not really to do with the abuse scandal. The reason the Church has a bad image is because the Church opposes the pagan god of sexuality that is worshipped in secular society

I wouldn't pursue that "RCC as victim" analysis too far. The choir might listen. No one else is going to buy it. The RCC's bad public image is directly caused by the public revelation that authorities in the RCC covered up what was going on. The public understands that trusted agents will go off the rails from time to time. They won't forgive authority failing to act on its duty to protect. You can say "It was only a few." But the organization didn't act against those few. That's what counts.

The RCC has cultural enemies, that is true. And the RCC handed those enemies a huge club with the abuse crisis. They consider the RCC (well, all purveyors of traditional sexual morality) to be hypocrites who use rules on sex to exercise power. And the RCC confirmed every single stereotype its enemies possess. Now you are going to say "Our enemies only did it because they hate what we stand for." You might as well paint a target on your forehead and say "Hit me here."

carl

23 June 2013 at 23:29  
Blogger Peter D said...

"The idea that celibacy is a deeper, more authentic expression of the Christian life is incomprehensible to me."

Well it is in the Bible as an example of overcoming desire for the sake of the Kingdom, if care to recognise it.

And let me add lest you believe Catholics see sex as corrupting, the Catholic Church also promotes the joy of marital sex and its purpose of selfless-giving and loving union between spouses.

23 June 2013 at 23:56  
Blogger OldJim said...

Carl
I must admit I was surprised to see the RC attitude of celibacy as purifying/sexuality as corrupting so clearly expressed.

Are you using the two expressions ("Celibacy as purifying/sexuality as corrupting")interchangeably? Or do you mean you feel you have found evidence for both? Because what I suppose we are trying to communicate is that we are led to affirm the former without affirming the latter.

The idea that celibacy is a deeper, more authentic expression of the Christian life is incomprehensible to me.

That's completely understandable; many of us Catholics occasionally struggle with it too, I have myself before. It's completely alien to the modern world, of course. When Cranmer kept a wife and Luther married his nun, they might not have realised that that gesture would arguably prove the most successful of the reformation.

Certainly it is no part of Scripture.

But that's an assertion. We've tried to show that in Matthew 19:12, Our Lord commends perpetual continence to all those who are capable of receiving it; that in 1 Corinthians 7:38, Paul stresses that Marriage is a good, and celibacy better; that in 1 Timothy 5:12, Paul worries that if younger widows are "enrolled", they will remarry, so breaking their "pledge".

That's not trivial.

Seems Gnostic to me.

And to Jovinian
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jovinian
who asserted that there was no difference of merit between the married and the celibate state, in contradiction to the teaching of Tertullian, Ambrose, Hilary, Origen, Eusebius, Epiphanius and others. He also, incidentally, denied the perpetual virginity of Mary; the two doctrines often stand and fall together. When pressed on the issue by a tract written by Jerome (which, incidentally, did go too far in actually denigrating the married state), he out and out accused the Church of Manicheanism.

Augustine replied in "On the good of Marriage"
http://www.augnet.org/?ipageid=1355
celebrating the married state, but affirming the special value of celibacy. I don't think that the converted Augustine can be accused of dualism, being as he by then was its most ardent opponent.

Apart from that, I can only point out that the actual Manicheans and Cathars were quite as sure that they had Catholicism pegged for what it was as you are, and that they naturally and obviously came to the opposite conclusion.

Catholicism nonetheless remains as committed to the celebration and praise of marriage as it does to the fostering of a spirituality of celibacy.

And accusations of Gnosticism can cut both ways. I can see exactly what you are trying to get at, but the assertion that the practical advantages in availability to do what God would want from us conferred by celibacy are merely "temporal" in nature, extrapolated to its end point, also finishes up as Gnosticism. Because what are you then asserting is purely "spiritual"?

24 June 2013 at 04:04  
Blogger OldJim said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

24 June 2013 at 04:24  
Blogger OldJim said...

Ultimately, Catholicism is full of the praise of love and marriage. One need only think of medieval civilisation, with its epic romances: the love of Tristan for Iseult, Abelard for Heloise; the oaths of loyalty, the impossible tasks performed as proof of sincerity; finally, the development of the modern Catholic wedding. Then think of the size of Catholic families and wonder how much we could possibly disdain sex, or think on the traditional extended family of the Latin countries. Compare and contrast with the Roman Republic that Catholic Christianity overthrew, where Pompey's being in love with his wife Julia was considered a matter of scandal.

Again, it is Catholic Christianity that has held the line longest on the subject of divorce; a catholic understands this to ultimately stand on Our Lord's affirmation of the permanence of marriage of course, but it is given shape and vitality by the developed Catholic conception of the beauty of the ideal of marriage.

And Catholicism doesn't celebrate bare virginity, as a dualist sect necessarily would. Rather, it celebrates consecrated virginity. The idea of something worthy and worthwhile being sacrificed is necessarily implicit.

Song of songs is still part of our scriptures, after all!

But of course it is a culture shock and I am sure it looks bizarre from the outside looking in. All that I can say is that it works and has worked for a long time. And I don't think it too much for you to acknowledge that what's going on here is not quite as straightforward as the denigration of one state to the greater glory of the other; marriage is raised to the level of a sacrament, and celibacy is enjoined as the high calling of the new covenant.

Sorry to hear of your fall and of your perfidious daughter. Hope all is alright and that your pride is on the mend.

24 June 2013 at 04:49  
Blogger OldJim said...

Also, I think that Catholic culture has historically done bawdy much better than either Protestant or Orthodox culture. You might say "Yes, to the great consternation of your clerics", and you'd be right, and in fact this stuff often is just plain smut.

But it's often interesting to see the characteristic deviations from orthodoxy in a culture, as well as the characteristic fruits of that orthodoxy itself, because they can often tell you the way that the culture tends, if allowed to go off in its own direction unbounded.

And Catholicism left unbounded, with the exception of some medieval and renaissance Dominican monks, certainly doesn't seem to go off towards hatred of sex or of the female body; quite the contrary.

When we think of Victorian prudery, we don't think of... France or Spain or Italy....

Jus' sayin'.

24 June 2013 at 05:00  

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