Monday, May 19, 2003

Anyone but a cradle Catholic married priest, please....

When priests don't run the parish in the Diocese of San Bernandino

Though virtually every diocese in the country faces a serious shortage of priests that threatens to leave parishes without full-time clergy, the San Bernardino diocese, which covers San Bernardino and Riverside counties, is meeting the challenge on a scale not seen elsewhere.A dozen of the diocese's 110 parishes and missions — some among its largest — are being run by so-called parish coordinators, half of them lay persons. The rest are nuns and deacons.....

Lynn Zupan, 66, has been the full-time, lay parish administrator at San Gorgonio Catholic Church in Beaumont since last July.....

On Sundays she gets to church at 7 a.m. — an hour before a fill-in priest celebrates the first of two Masses, one in English and another in Spanish. "I'm here a half-hour early greeting people," Zupan said. But Sunday duties only scratch the surface. During the week, Zupan, who holds a master's degree in religious studies and had 12 years of experience in parish work in San Bernardino and San Francisco, supervises 11 volunteer and part-time staff members.She had the last word in shaping the parish budget, runs the business office, and fields telephone calls from the parish's 1,400 families. Planning weddings and funerals, caring for the sick and making sure parish buildings and grounds are maintained are all part of the job.

Diocese of Lansing places married former Episcopal priest as pastor

If we are going to discuss this, let us please skip over the preliminaries and all agree to agree on this: celibacy is an invaluable, irreplaceable charism, with a firm and vital place in Roman Catholicism. The celibate or consecrated religious is a sign of life in the Kingdom: a life totally centered on God. There is also immense practical value to the unmarried in ministry - believe me, as a former pastoral worker, who did so with three children, I will not argue with that for a second. At the same time, I have known many married couples - DRE and youth ministry teams, mostly - who have flourished in parish ministry and seem to have been made for it, as individuals, a couple, and as a family. And no, adjusting the rule would not "solve" any problems. Various Protestant denominations are experiencing clergy shortages as well - there is no way we can blame our clergy shortage totally on resistance to mandatory celibacy. So many other factors: a changed world in which the pursuit of material success is paramount, and is even a paramount value pushed on Catholic children by their Catholic parents; from a social and economic standpoint, the greater opportunities for education and success available to more people, and the accompanying decline of priesthood (and religious life) as a way up and out (sorry, but it's true), and so on...

But let's just look at this situation as presented to us from these two stories, especially the first. If celibacy is called for (as some argue) because it supposedly "frees" the priest or religious for service...why are we welcoming married people as pastoral ministers? In a previous thread, a couple of weeks ago, the argument was made to put permanent deacons in parishes in pastoral leadership when there is no priest. Setting aside the obvious problem that this is not exactly the purpose of a permanent diaconate, the same question arises. Say a permanent deacon is married and has children and is placed as a parish administrator...what are we saying?

I suggest that what we're saying is that this particular argument for mandatory celibacy is hogwash, and what we're doing to "solve" the priest shortage in terms of parish administration shows it. There are good, solid, theological reasons for a the presence of a celibate priesthood in the RC church -for those who are called to live out that sign to which I referred above. But it does not follow that then all pastoral or parish leadership and administration - and all that's a part of it - necessitates that all involved in those ministries be celibate. As I said, even our own Church, as it is presently coping, is demonstrating that this is not true. It seems to me that the Eastern churches figured this out a long time ago, and I really don't see why cracking the human genome was easier than the Western church's comprehension of this truth.

So that's what I want to discuss - how do these solutions support or undercut the RC church's adherence to the rule of mandatory celibacy for cradle Catholics?

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