I’m hoping not to weary the reader by ceaseless pondering on the problems and issues experienced by the Catholic Church recently, but there was an editorial in the Santa Fe New Mexican the other day, which really required some response. Many of you may have seen that editorial, and it is my hope that the response submitted will clarify some of the teaching/positions of the Catholic faith if nothing else. But … as I have no idea whether the SFNM will actually publish that submission, it is offered to you below. Many readers will no doubt disagree with the Church’s teaching, but at least you will be more knowledgeable about WHY she teaches what she does.
In regard to the SFNM’s editorial board’s piece, “For the Roman Catholic Church, it’s time” calling for the Catholic Church to reform itself by allowing married and women priests, I could not help but wonder if members took the time to find out WHY the Church is structured as she is … whether they even glanced at the documents that discuss why women are not priests—found particularly, and probably most recently and succinctly, in Pope John Paul II’s apostolic letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis. Even though women (for theological, not arbitrary, reasons) are not ordained, they remain invaluable nonetheless to the operation of parishes, hospitals, various ministries and to the global Church, so the board’s “Let women serve” call is rather moot; they serve in essential and myriad service and leadership roles already.
Regardless of what modernity promotes, the Church is not a “club” seeking the newest people-attractor. First and foremost, the broader Church desires to stay faithful to what Jesus taught by His words and example; no “broadening of its appeal” is worth departing from that. Pandering for parishioners is the proverbial “slippery slope”, reminding of scripture: “…they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.” (John 12:43 RSV), and “Peter and the apostles answered, ‘We must obey God rather than men.’” (Acts 5:29 RSV)
As far as “married priests”, while not a theological requirement, priestly celibacy is a discipline to which the Church has held for many hundreds of years, in large part due to the teaching of St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 7, which speaks of how the unmarried man/woman is freer to be concerned of the things of God, unburdened by inevitable demands of spouse and family. Secondly, few families could live on what priests are paid; in fact, the two married, formerly-Anglican priests of our Archdiocese have positions elsewhere (teaching college and Army chaplain) for that reason. Additionally, a former married Anglican priest has often told me that the stresses and demands on Catholic priests make it much more difficult to rear a family than when he was an Anglican priest. Fr. Dwight Longenecker (a married, former Anglican priest) had a thought-provoking article in the National Catholic Register in December 2015 entitled “Should We Have Married Priests?”; take a look.
As far as child molestation being due to priestly celibacy, such a claim would seem to indicate that such crimes are not committed by married persons, which is certainly not true. The website childmolestationprevention.org cites studies that indicate at least 1 in 20 men to be sexual abusers, and that, of admitted molesters, 77 percent either were at the time, or had been, married. Would the editorial board therefore oppose marriage? Since it’s estimated that about 5-ish percent of clergy have been abusers/molesters, that’s about the same rate as the general public—just so much more heinous due to the positions they hold. I have few doubts that many such inclined men became priests because they saw those positions of trust as a predatory opportunity.
Neither married nor women priests would be a panacea for the Church’s failings—failings, by the way, found in every segment of society. If anything, Church leaders must simply have/get the backbone to remove and prosecute all who do such evils, following the advice of St. Paul: “As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear.” (1 Timothy 5:20 RSV)
If you ever wonder about what/why the Church teaches as she does, the Catechism of the Catholic Church is easily available online to satisfy your curiosity.