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Archive for the ‘Apologetics’ Category

I am slowly deciphering some of the written materials left by the late Msgr. William J. Awalt. For review and comments, they are being posted at my BLOGGER PRIEST site.

http://bloggerpriest.com/category/awalt-papers/

Msgr. Awalt was the pastor of St. Ann’s Church in NW Washington , DC for just over 30 years, retiring in the year 2000. I was honored to preach at the Mass celebrating his 60th anniversary as a priest in 2007. His pastorate was marked by a deep devotion to the Eucharist and a never-ending preoccupation with preaching the Gospel and teaching the Catholic faith.

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Recently I entered into a heated discussion with Dennis on an assortment of topics. He is very negative to the Catholic faith. PLEASE NOTE that it is an apologetical dialogue that might make some readers uncomfortable.

To easily follow the discussion, it has been posted to the BLOGGER PRIEST Blog.

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1194984585936802019female_rollandin_frances__svg_medMary gave birth to a baby boy and named him Jesus.  Jesus grew up and he picked more boys to be his apostles.  They in turn ordained still more boys to be bishops, priests and deacons.  The priesthood is the ultimate boy’s club.  But radical feminists act as if it is a woman-hater’s club… it is not.  We all benefit from the ministry of priests.  Not all men are worthy of this vocation.  Women are called to other vocations, like religious life and motherhood.  Except for a misguided sense of egalitarian equality, a disproportionate focus upon one element of social jusitice and feminists hungry for power, there is little that commends a move to ordain women.  These dissenters would not only refashion the ministries but also Jesus would be remolded to their liking.  He would become an abstraction, a model for their agenda but not the historical Savior.  If God is not neutered, then he is likely made feminine.  Jesus becomes Jessica or the Kristi who hangs upon the cross, raped and defiled by male machismo.  They talk about equality; but this is a lie.  They seek dominance and payback for what they regard as past subjugation and oppression.       

I just read an article by Greg Archer over at THE HUFFINGTON POST entitled, “Roman Catholic Female Priests Growing in Numbers: An Insider’s Perspective.” I feel compelled to make a few comments. It is important that good Catholics not be confused by dissent on women priests or priestesses. There simply is no such creature within the Christian context. Christ has never given the Church the authority to ordain women. While our Lord counted women among his disciples, only men were selected to be his apostles. Jesus proved time and time again that he was willing to break the stereotypes of his day; however, upon this matter he retained a male leadership or hierarchy.

Many are surprised to find out that Catholicism only has one High Priest— Jesus Christ. Every man ordained to service is configured to Christ and participates in his one priesthood. The ordained priest is a living and breathing icon for Christ. His very flesh and his manhood resonate with that of Christ— making our Lord and his saving work present for the community. Historically, the Gnostic heretics had priestesses because they rejected matter as evil and denied the full incarnation of Christ as the God-Man. Catholics and/or orthodox Christianity take the incarnation seriously. Matter is not evil. Indeed, human nature is elevated and divinized by the coming of God among us as our brother. While the soteriological implications transcend gender, in baptism and faith all can know the gift of redemption; the parameters of sacerdotal ministry were clearly laid out. Only men could be bishops and priests. This did not deride the role of women. Holiness is available for all. It is just that God has intended that we fulfill differing roles.

Some have argued that the male-only priesthood gives balance to God’s life-giving love. Just as only women can physically conceive and give birth to a child; only a man (who is a priest) can spiritually confect the Eucharist and give us the bread of life. The Church also offers us the marriage analogy that passes down from Scripture. The priest signifies Christ who is the divine bridegroom; the congregation at Mass signifies the Church, his bride. Many of the centrist advocates for priestesses hate this analogy because it makes the notion of a woman priest into a kind of sacramental lesbianism.  Of course, the more liberal critics might like this analogy in that they also support the gay and lesbian lifestyle.

The article started off by mentioning Victoria Rue, a lady who “attempted” ordination back in July 2005. Although the author claims to be “an insider” he refers to the precious blood as a wine chalice. This might be Episcopalian terminology; but, it is not how informed Catholics would speak about the cup. In any case, his point is that she is only one of a quickly growing number of women who are becoming “priests”. I have to stop at that point and insist that he is wrong to assume that these women are truly priests. They can play dress up, but as far as the true Catholic Church is concerned, they are only posturing.

He pokes fun that the Vatican would solely acknowledge “those sporting an XY chromosome” and yet he fails to realize that gender is more than an accidental. Too many people have bought the lie that the sexes are interchangeable or essentially the same. Gender is more than facial hair and muscles; it is a core element of human identity. The saints in heaven will still be both men and women, not neutered monstrosities. The resurrected and glorified Christ was still a man. Mary, our Blessed Mother, is still a woman. Gender has more purpose and meaning than genital expression. It is who we are.

Seven women tried to become priests three years earlier on the Danube River, seeking to avoid canonical sanction from the immediate archdiocese. However, by January 2003, they were all rightfully judged  excommunicated. He also mentions Christine Mayr-Lumetzberger and Gisela Foster of a group called Womenpriests. They make a claim to ordination because their renegade bishop had apostolic succession. However, a woman constitutes “invalid matter” and cannot be ordained, even if the form is correct. They also like to confuse the issue of a celibate clergy (a discipline in the Church) with that of proposed women priests (which is doctrinally impossible).

Other women are also slowly joining the ranks of excommunicated wannabe priestesses. Rue claims that the Vatican has become quiet because they do not want an escalation. I suspect the real reason is because the Church has already made its position clear. There might also be an element of pity for these poor women who want something so desperately that they cannot have. The article gives the impression that this is all a game of strategy. But this is only the opinion of the dissenters. The Church is not playing. There is no game. It is a done deal. There can be no change… not today, not tomorrow, not ever.

These so-called women priests are really just creating their own church. They are Protestants with a few Catholic trappings. Some have gravitated toward the Episcopal communities that allow priestesses. As far as many of us are concerned, this movement is rather mute. Anglican orders, even for men, are probably largely invalid. Women priests merely represent the last nail in the coffin for a church that is no longer even Christian in its values. Adultery is routinely accepted.  Fornication is excused.  They welcome openly gay men and lesbians! What is left?  When mortal sin is regarded as a virtue, Satan has won the day!

The author cited a 2006 NATIONAL CATHOLIC REPORTER survey of U.S. Catholics that said 62% of those responding favored women priests. An AP poll in 2005 found about 65% supported the change. But the AP is hardly sympathetic to Catholicism and such numbers make good news. As for the NCR, it is a liberal rag that gets the answers it wants. Traditional Catholics would likely not even respond to such garbage surveys. Further, who are these Catholics? Are we talking about NCR readership? Just because someone was baptized or went to Catholic school does not make a person a “real” or “practicing” Catholic. Only a quarter of our people still go to Mass. The rest are victims of modernity with its secular humanism, materialism, hedonism, and ignorance of faith. In any case, the truth and Church teachings are not open to polls. The Church is not a democracy. Christ is king and still in his heaven. The Pope is his vicar on earth.

While the 1975 report of the Pontifical Biblical Commission noted “no scriptural objections to ordaining women,” this summation is somewhat misleading. All it means is there is no direct statement from Christ about it. However, we do have the Scriptural teachings about Christ’s relationship to the Church (see St. Paul) and his example in appointing only men as his apostle-bishop-priests. Further, Catholicism is NOT a “sola scriptura” religion. We also have Sacred Tradition. There we do find explicit statements against women’s ordination. The early council of Nicea forbade the laying on of hands upon women (ordination).

Rue asserts in the article that there is archeological and Scriptural evidence for priestesses, but this is not true. She and her organization Womenpriests put a spin on dubious materials that cannot be substantiated. Conveniently for her, too much so, she complains that there was more evidence the Church destroyed and that the canonist Gracian wrote them out of the Church’s legal books and history. Her organization also sometimes fails to distinguish early heretical groups from the orthodox. They try to argue that boyish icons of priests are really females. They grab for straws and the author of the article swallows it uncritically.

And who is this know-it-all Victoria Rue who functions as his chief source? She is an ex-nun, seduced by militant feminism and angry with the Church. She left the Catholic Church. Her theological training was at a Reformed Protestant school in New York. She studied Liberation Theology, inherently Marxist in regards to its dialectic analysis of poverty, but she pursued it under the umbrella of radical feminism and lesbianism. She also studied at the GTU in Berkeley, California, a so-called ecumenical school known for its adherence to religious indifferentism and relativism, even in regard to blatantly and/or pagan non-Christian religions. She, along with other Womenpriests, are deceitful to gullible Catholics about their standing. As a teacher of propaganda in “women studies” and “comparative religious studies” she feigned being a real priest and offered a “weekly Catholic Mass” at San Jose State University. We are told that the diocese in 2006 rendered this statement:

Rue is not a validly ordained priest of the Roman Catholic Church. Members of the Roman Catholic Church should not participate in celebrations of the sacraments that are conducted by Victoria Rue, as those celebrations are not in union with the local or universal Church.

The fact that she regularly celebrates so-called Masses at an Episcopal church in San Francisco says it all. They might be in communion with her but she is not in communion with the bishops of the Catholic Church. She is a Protestant. All priestesses are either Protestant or pagan (understood as a reference to the old religions prior to Christ). Some of them even say that they worship the goddess. There is a popular crucifix with a naked woman upon it. However, Kristi is a model of the divine that has no place in genuine Christianity. It is Jesus Christ who offers the saving sacrifice and who forgives sins, not Kristi suffering with a bad hair day.

At the end of the article we are told that Rue is a lesbian who has lived with her partner for many years— big surprise— NOT!

Scriptural prohibitions against homosexuality and lesbianism mean nothing to her. She cites psychological views to the contrary. Of course, the American Psychiatric Association once referred to perversion as a disease. It was only when gays poured into the field that this verdict changed. Divine positive law and natural law take precedence over human whim. Rue says that her sexuality is important to her identity as a priest. This is an interesting statement, given that she renounced the Church’s prohibition of women priests based upon the importance of male gender as an element of identity in the priest.

The article concludes by telling us that there are now five RC bishop gals and almost 100 priestesses in the U.S. This is hardly a number about which the Church needs to be worried. Few practicing Catholics take these ladies seriously. Many of them are also quite advanced in years. They will not be around for long. Meanwhile, the numbers of young men entering legitimate seminaries are on the rise. Nice Catholic girls and women are entering religious orders with traditional charisms and structure. Rue traded in her habit for a collar. But the former she prized too lightly and the latter does not belong to her.

The article ends with the acclamation, “Hail, Mary!” But Mary would not be pleased. She is about bringing us to her Son. These women are preoccupied about themselves and power. In reality, the priesthood must always be about humility and obedience— servanthood. However, Mary must indeed be brought into the equation. All these wannabe priests should repent and come home to the true Church.

“Holy Mary, Mother of God, Pray for Us Sinners!”

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Why Does the Fire Go Out?

People have their reasons, but there is no good reason for leaving the Church.  The majority in the area where I reside are probably Baptist and/or Evangelical.  Some of these communities target Catholics and many Catholics marry non-Catholics.  Not understanding their own tradition, many Catholics are inordinately moved by the music and preaching in Protestant churches.  Catholic reformed rituals might not be regarded as very entertaining.  Much of the music we sing is criticized as trite and unmoving.  When we borrow Protestant hymns or sing Gospel, it is usually a pale imitation of what our separated brethren have to offer.  Music enshrines preaching.  Particularly in the African-American community, services can go hours.  The importance of the minister is measured by his musicality and his effectiveness as a preacher.  Our gravity is upon the formulae of liturgy, not upon preaching. 

Masolino_Peter_Preaching2

Preachers and Priests, No Comparison?

Many priests were trained to keep homilies or sermons to ten minutes or less.  That is about the length of two or three MTV videos.  Time-wise, it cannot compare to the formation of the media or to the teaching sermons of our separated-brethren.  I knew one old man who went to Mass on Saturday night and to his wife’s Baptist church on Sunday.  He told me that he went to Mass for Holy Communion and to the Protestant church for good preaching.  This is a rather sad state of affairs.  Are we fully feeding our people?  Preaching outside the Catholic Church may be dynamic and meaningful; however, it is also fraught with religious error.

Sermons or Homilies?

I recall from preaching seminars that the priest should offer a homily based upon the Scriptures of the day.  This focus was understandable but I found the focus too narrow and absolutist.  The priest or deacon can preach upon the readings, the liturgical prayers themselves, upon the feast or memorial, or upon what his people (at that time and place) need to hear.  I had a vigorous dispute with a liturgist when I suggested catechetical sermons. It was and remains a contention of mine that many people stray to other faith communities because they really do not understand Catholicism and the full significance of the Eucharist.

Can Father Talk Too Long?

How long should the priest or deacon preach?  This depends upon many factors:

1.   What is the type of liturgy?

2.   What has to be said to make the message worthwhile?

3.   What is the capacity in patience and in comprehension of the listeners?

Given that Catholic sermons are usually shorter than Protestant counterparts, the priest might be able to amplify his instruction by linking his sermons from week to week.  He can also use the parish bulletin, special adult education and bible study, and invite people to use the cycle of readings themselves with missals they can take home.  If people look at the readings before Mass, their experience will not be cold when the priest or deacon speaks about them.  Instead of merely thinking about what Protestants have that we don’t, let us utilize our own strengths, the missal and the cycle of predetermined readings. 

Catholics might also do well to getting used to longer liturgies.  Of course, this runs counter to the Roman Rite tradition, known for being curter and more to the point than Eastern Rite liturgies and certain Evangelical Protestant services.  There is a basic dilemma with longer sermons, and that is the balance and rhythm of the Mass.  A long homily and a short Eucharistic prayer seems to switch the gravity away from the sacrament to the Word which is intended to dispose us for the sacrifice and Holy Communion.

I am concerning myself essentially with the Sunday homily.  Given work concerns and strained time issues, weekday Masses would probably have to remain little more than basic exhortations.  Such exhortations are similar to aspirations:  Jesus, Mary, Joseph save souls!  Do good and avoid evil!  Keep faith and hope alive!  Lord, have mercy on us!  God will not abandon you!

Messages Should Comfort and Challenge

Homilies more strictly revolve the Readings; however, sermons can touch upon all sorts of relevant topics.  Sermons might be moral exhortations, catechetical moments, inspiration rhetoric and stories, etc.  However, they should always connect the lesson, whatever the source, to the lives of the people listening.  The congregation should not be passive to the preaching but actively engaged.  A topic is explored, the message is ordered for coherence, examples or illustrations are made, and there is the immediate appliance.

The words used in preaching vary upon the setting.  When the clergyman marries a couple, he speaks about the joy and hopes of the couple.  He might also challenge them to keep the marital act free from the corruption of lust and artificial contraception.  However, many Catholic ministers are afraid to rock the boat.  When a priest or deacon officiates at a funeral, his words emphasize the consolations of faith to those who mourn, the promises of Jesus our gentle shepherd in regard to eternal life, and the need to go on with our lives.  Again, many Catholic ministers are afraid of the conflict that comes with challenging the congregation to see the death as a warning about their own mortality and the need to reform before it is too late.  Even evil men are temporarily canonized and little is said about Purgatory.  A number in the pews no longer even believe in Hell.  Sunday homilies are often pampering and grossly approving because many clergy are afraid of alienating the numbers in the pews and depleting the money gathered into collection baskets. 

Need for Courage and Trusting Providence

I knew a priest in the South who tried to integrate the two churches he pastured, one white and the other black.  White parishioners complained to the bishop and the man found himself stripped of his parish, reprimanded for making trouble, and reassigned to a teaching position in a college far away.  Decades later he was still not allowed to return to parish ministry.  But God writes straight with our crooked lines.  This priest ended up teaching seminarians.  He inspired another generation of men in ministry to struggle for social justice. 

How often have we heard certain priests speak about artificial contraception, abortion, divorce and remarriage, or even about fornication and cohabitation?  Some men in ministry are afraid.  But what chance do God’s people have when their shepherds are passive and fearful?  The late Pope John Paul II echoed our Lord’s words of wisdom, “Be not afraid.”

It may be that the priest shortage and the clergy scandals have drained the energy resources and joy of our priests.  This needs to be remedied.  The core message of the Gospel is not exhausted or angry.  Priests who show enthusiasm or excitement about the Catholic faith and Gospel are the most effective.  It is also a mentality which breeds vocations.  Young men do not want to join a confraternity of tired old men who only go on because of cold duty and obligation.  We have to be on fire with the faith if we want those in the pews to ignite!  It is very hard for a priest to give what he does not have.  God’s servants should be so in love with God that this love spills over in their service of others.  Preaching should reflect a life of prayer and a drive to save souls!

The preaching should move God’s people to greater faith and acts of service to our Lord and neighbor.  It assists everyone to better understand the Eucharist and disposes us to receive the Blessed Sacrament.  We take what we have been given in Word and sacrament as we go out in mission to the world around us.

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lightepbishopI grieve for the Church. It was bad enough that Father Alberto Cutie was living a secret life. He seemed more apologetic about being caught than about having his scandalous doings with his lady-friend photographed on a Florida beach. But now we are told that he has joined the Episcopal Church. My heart drops at the news.

The wayward priest spent his designated “retreat” time hanging out with his girlfriend. He did not even try to reform. We have all been deceived. While he asked forgiveness and said that he did not want to be the poster-boy for married priests, he has abandoned the true Church entirely. He has done the very thing which he promised he would not do. He has brought both Church doctrine and discipline to ridicule. He has hurt the faith of simple people. Given his popularity as a pastor and as a widely-known media priest, the danger of his defection is incalculable. Who knows how many will follow him out of the Catholic fold?

The picture of a bishop here is not that of Father Cutie’s true spiritual father, but rather of a robber who comes to steal from the flock.  In this case, he did not get away with sheep but with the shepherd.  The Episcopal Bishop Leo Frade (pictured here) should be deeply embarassed by his disrespect to the priest’s legitimate bishop, Catholic Archbishop John Favalora.  Ecumenism is dealt a serious set-back.  I would not be surprised to see lightning bolts from heaven about this travesty.  The good Archbishop would have us pray for his prodigal son in the hope that he might return to the fold.  The Miami Archdiocese has a beautiful short video online which brings home the wrongness of what Cutie and Frade have done:

THE SACRAMENT OF HOLY ORDERS

The news of his infidelity only broke recently but he was unwilling to give the matter the proper amount of time and distance for sober reflection. I have to wonder how much of this was premeditated. There is even speculation that his girlfriend may have had some prior involvement with the photographer on the beach. But I think it is reaching to suppose he was setup to force his hand. Regardless of the machinations behind the scenes, the blunt of the blame must be borne by Father Cutie.

Although supposedly orthodox in his teachings, this latest act shows quite the opposite. He broke trust with his bishop and brother priests but now refers to Episcopalian priests as his “many brothers… [who] serve God as married men and with the blessing of having their own families.” This act sickens me. Episcopalian priests may be good Christians, but he sees no difference between the authentic priesthood of Catholicism and the empty shell of Anglicanism. He is not the first.  But, almost every one of them abandoned Roman Catholicism, not for deep-seated doctrinal reasons, but because of the desire to bed a woman and still retain a public or ministerial persona as a spiritual guru.

Catholicism receives many Episcopalian priests into her ranks, but they are drawn by doctrinal permanence over fluctuating instability, moral absolutes over relativism and a humility coupled with obedience to God and his Church over a selfish and earthbound liberalism. Those who become Catholic often sacrifice much in the way of salary, standing and home. While a few married Episcopalian priests have been ordained in the Catholic Church; many have sacrificed their ministries entirely to be a part of the Catholic family. They placed a higher premium on divine truth than upon a capricious religion easily swayed by the fads and fashions of the day.

How could he give advice about faith and relationships to others on television, radio and in writing when he was so personally messed up? People came to him for life-giving water; but he was really an empty well. Many of his supporters seem more “on his side” than in harmony with the mind of the Church. He made disciples, inadvertantly I suppose, less for Christ and his Church and more for himself. Sometimes I think the Church should rotate clergy in media settings. Left too long in front of the camera or on the radio– and a personality cult frequently develops. We should not hero-worship our clergy. If a popular priest should fall, he might take many souls with him. This business with Father Cutie has re-ignited the married priest debate even though most active priests prefer the status-quo in favor of compulsory celibacy. Who knows how dire this will be for the Church in Miami?

A television station showed parishioners of St. Francis de Sales Parish marching around their church in support of their former pastor. Evidently they did not care that their pastor had broken his promises and had lived a lie. When interviewed they compared Father Cutie’s transgressions favorably against the terrible crimes of pedophiles. The real comparison is with good and faithful celibate priests.

The situation was intensely precarious. Today, it became a great deal worse. The woman is identified as Ruhama Canellis. She stood by his side at Trinity Cathedral where they both entered the Episcopalian church. The Episcopal bishop and priests in attendance dressed up for the event. They pulled all the stops. Even priestesses were in attendance. He is planning to marry his lover and to become an Episcopalian priest. I suppose it is fitting. King Henry VIII stole the English people from the Catholic Church so that he might divorce and remarry. Canellis is a divorced woman. Did Father Cutie miss the class in seminary on basic Christian morality?  Are not fornication and adultery still sins?  This should matter to them both.  In addition to these concerns, he is now a renegade Catholic priest. If he accepts Protestant teaching, and plans to expound upon it, then he will be a heretic as well. He is digging a big hole for himself. My fear is that thousands might fall into it with him.

Well, it is a sad thing, but if the Episcopalian church wants our rejects then that is their trouble. Look how quickly they grabbed this fallen priest. We would have taken more time with one of theirs. His legitimate Catholic bishop was not even notified about his reception into the Episcopal church.  That shows how little respect Father Cutie had for him and the ROMAN Catholic Church.  The Episcopal diocese should be ashamed of itself.  But given the current fragmented status of the Episcopal communion, are they even capable of shame?  This was all quite sleazy and I suspect it was in the works for some time. I have no respect for men who do such things.

Father Cutie described his new faith affiliation as “a new family” and yet we do not subscribe to any form of religious relativism. Father Cutie disowned his family today. That should be the real headline. All churches are not the same. The Holy Father was clear. The Catholic Church is the true Church; Orthodoxy is a defective church; and all Protestant groupings are ecclesial communities, but not properly CHURCH. Many Protestant communities claim no priesthood or Eucharist; Episcopalians claim both but the Catholic Church judged their orders invalid and their Eucharist as false.

SEE APOSTOLICAE CURAE   (Pope Leo XIII, 1896)

They are not a branch of Catholicism but a foreign misbegotten creature that has delusions of grandeur while feigning a pedigree it does not really possess.

What clouds the issue is the presence of former Catholic priests in the Episcopal church. They are still priests, even if in mortal sin and excommunicated. Father Cutie says that he will continue to proclaim God’s Word; but what is a Catholic priest apart from the Catholic Church? Will he preach the Word of God or the word of Cutie?  Father Cutie is rejecting the Pope, the authority of his lawful bishop, the seven sacraments as clearly defined by Catholicism, our view of priesthood, our moral teachings on sexuality and marriage, the prohibition against divorce and remarriage, and the basics of Catholic ecclesiology. Will he be happy? Can he close his mind and heart to the many differences we have with Episcopalianism? He will be obliged to accept women priests, gay bishops and same-sex unions, a tolerance for abortion, artificial contraception and divorce with remarriage. He is leaving the Church of commandments for the church of anything goes. He says, “I will always love the Catholic Church.” But, he did not love her enough. The Church was his bride. Now he has traded her for two paramours: the divorcee and the mistress church of Henry VIII and Cranmer the despoiler.

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thornIsn’t the Father Cutie scandal just further evidence that it is wrong and dangerous for Catholic priests to suppress their natural desires for sexual intimacy with women?

The priest in question admitted he had a long-standing serious struggle with his sexuality and need for a wife and family. It may be that he sought ordination without open full deliberation and resolution of this concern with those to whom he was entrusted for formation. He may have been chaste in his behavior for many years but failed to surrender dreams and hopes for a family of his own. The man who would be a priest must let these things go. His hopes and aspirations should revolve instead around his prayer life and his goals and service as a pastor of souls. Men in seminary must also be realistic about their drives. As St. Paul reminds us, it is better to marry than to burn. Priests must also be very wary of their fantasies regarding choices not made and how other men might live. The grass might seem greener on the other side of the fence; but priests must not trespass where they do not belong. They freely embraced celibacy so as to enter into holy orders and become priests. Had they become married deacons, they would still be clergy in the Church. They could have lived saintly lives as laymen. But they made a choice. They made promises. These promises should be kept. Before ordination is the proper time for deliberation and soul searching, not afterwards.

The business about Father Cutie should have no meaning beyond this one poor priest, himself. He is not representative of the thousands of other priests in the United States who have never compromised their promises or their celibacy. The impression from the question is that men cannot be expected to have any semblance of self-control. This is silly and shows just how far our society and its views have been contaminated and distorted by excessive nudity, immodesty, and eroticism. We even dress our little girls like whores and then wonder why there is child abuse. Teenagers have their bellies exposed and shorts up to their crotches. Parents sometimes object but then cannot find decent stuff in stores. Television and movies celebrate fornication and give us scene after scene of simulated sex acts. Pornography has gone main stream and sexual gratification is viewed as a necessary rite of passage. It is into this mix that we find the celibate priest. Mothers want their sons married because they cannot see how a man might otherwise be happy. Fathers want their sons married because otherwise everyone will think they are gay. The truth is that celibacy can be very rewarding and liberating. Celibacy is not a denial of love but a special way of loving.

The priest promises perpetual celibacy but even married men promise a fidelity to a spouse which will require periodic chastity. Those who follow Natural Family Planning would understand how one must be creative in love, perhaps reverting back from time to time to the romantic and chaste acts of courtship during fertile periods. Celibacy is not merely a matter of priests suppressing their sexuality; rather, it is redirected to a love of God and a love of neighbor in sacrificial service. Priests, who say their prayers and stay busy, have neither the time nor the interest to pursue an exclusive relationship. If men in general cannot be expected to control themselves, then what happens when a spouse is sick or incapacitated or away? If the husband has military duty abroad or the wife has to travel back home to care for an ailing parent or there is an extended business meeting, would the man control his sexual urges or be compelled to commit adultery? If his wife is sick and cannot have sex with him, does he necessarily turn to her pretty nurse as a proxy? An over-sexed society suffering from an epidemic of fornication, perversion, adultery, pornography, prostitution and child endangerment can hardly speak in a credible way about priestly celibacy and marriage. The trouble with these fallen priests is not the Church but the fact that they themselves are more formed and affected by the fallen world around them. Secularists and hedonists criticizing priestly celibacy are like drunk boozers telling teetotalers to take a drink.

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Choosing the Woman over the Altar

fallenIf any priest in a compromised situation with a woman attempts marriage then he places himself and a person he says he loves into a seriously sinful state. It angers or upsets me that men can reject Church law and teachings when it suits their selfishness. My upset or indignation is in reaction to the hypocrisy, dissent and scandal caused by fellow priests against the Church I love. I am not vindictive about it, only deeply disappointed. If he maintains a brother-sister relationship until (or if) laicization is offered, at least then he shows some respect to the Church and concern about her soul.

I have friends who are priests who left ministry to get married. I would not condemn them. But they would not seek to function without the legal faculties to do so. 

Discussion with revisionists who have burned their bridges is very difficult. We may be destined to communicate at cross-purposes due to very divergent premises and convictions. However, everyone on the right or left of such issues should want to facilitate genuine healing in the lives of others. Priests and the women with whom they have had intimate relations or attempted marriages might confess to something of a love-hate relationship with the Church, owning up to their anger, reckoned by them as justifiable.

I wish priests who leave ministry well. Once a man has defected with his beloved, I would hope that such couples would love and be faithful to each other. Laicization and release from the promise of celibacy are important; otherwise, no marriage would be recognized as either valid or licit. I would hope that priests who leave for a woman would reserve their romancing until that time they are deemed free to do so. As for shame, what kind of woman could take a priest from his altar and from the confessional and not feel some sort of remorse? How could a priest, albeit a fallen one, ever really love a woman who took so lightly what he would give up for her?

Doing the Right Thing

Healthy heterosexuals, rightly ordered priests in their sexuality, are attracted to women. They make a promise of celibate love and by discipline, prayer and grace they live out this life of loving service. They might fall in love… heck, they might fall in love with a number of nice women in their lifetimes, but they remain steadfast. Older and wiser men recognize the signs and make distance, even becoming gruff or mean to women they particularly like. This is often misinterpreted. But it has to be done. If a priest falls deeply in love with a woman in a romantic way, he must abandon her friendship and any affiliation with her. He must not play games that will lead the both of them into disaster. He must say goodbye. Often he will not and should not tell the woman why they cannot remain associates or ‘friends’.

Certain dissenters, who might see some small value in celibacy for misanthropes, refuse to accept that such a mandatory discipline could be in concert with God’s will. My view was clear and was voiced in an earlier post: “They have surrendered their intimacy and their sexuality to God— case closed.” A priest is not his own man. He belongs to God and the Church. Giving God his intimacy and sexuality means that he will not have an exclusive sexual or intimate relationship with another human being. Priests are still sexual human beings, but they love in a celibate way of service.

I can well understand how those who have become entangled with priests might suffer through my comments. I stand by my words. Celibacy is a sacrificial discipline which priests FREELY embrace. God does not return our gifts except as transformed. In this case, the priest belongs to God and to his congregation but not to a particular friendship or to an intimate sexual relationship. The salvation of souls is the fruit he seeks, not that of his loins.

Is it immature to be a faithful celibate? Is it misogyny to say that a man can be happy and fulfilled without a wife and family? Those who applaud fallen priests and their women are very quick to judge priests like me; they errantly place the greater maturity with those men who broke their promises, perhaps even committing mortal sin? I have many close friendships with women, but I am well aware of the boundaries and I do not play games with them. The trouble today is that many women mistake friendship and kindness as a summons to something more. Given the immaturity of men and women in our society, it is no wonder that there is a problem in this regard. Would we rate the men who stayed celibate as children and those who fooled around with women as the more well-adjusted and mature?

Defection and Redefining the Priesthood

Those who turn their bitterness against the so-called “institutional” Church, as if the properties of the Church can be practically dissected, often forfeit a sense of the sacred and the supreme importance of the sacraments. It is for that reason that renegades will often turn to ecclesial communities with dubious apostolic succession and a questionable or counterfeit priesthood and Eucharist. One critic referred to the sacramental role performed by a celebrant, his action at the altar “in persona Christi”, as an empty caricature of priesthood with no significant or enduring meaning. She would reduce the meaning of priesthood to show that it is a poor trade for a wife and family. Priesthood becomes less a vocation and more a job in this evaluation. But priests are more than clueless figureheads; they truly make Christ present in their own person and in their activity.

Every validly ordained priest shares in the one priesthood of Christ, this is where his ministry finds focus: in the sacrifice, in the consecration (real presence) and in the forgiveness of sins. Dissenters, renegade priests and the women, who run away with them, might embrace a defective religious confession and their rites or they might even brush off any definition of priesthood which places the gravity upon the dispensing of the sacraments. Poor lost souls, they lose a sense of basic Catholicism 101.

It may be that some women redefine the priesthood to blunt the blow that they have cost the Church a good priest. Of course, the priest has responsibility in all this, and must share culpability. One might feel less guilty if our vision of the priesthood is narrowed to activity that anyone might do. It is wrong to contend that when not saying Mass or hearing Confessions, he is no longer configured to Christ Jesus, the great high priest. A priest is always a priest. As a case in point and it might sound profane, I once heard a Confession in the stall of a bathroom. Yes, I prefer Church confessionals, but if a person is in serious sin, there is no time to waste. Priests are never really off duty. And definitely, there is never time for illicit fun and games with the girls!

Priests who are celibate and expect other priests to keep their promises are not rigid and deliberately hurtful. Every priest is called to be a healer. But excusing or ignoring or offering approbation for failure is not to render true healing. Such activity represents a false compassion. The priestly confessor of souls serves many functions: physician or healer, father, teacher, prophet, and judge. I would not judge myself any less severely than I would any other priest. Such a role is necessary to insure proper guidance and repentance. We are all sinners. We are all weak and poor instruments. But, God’s grace can work the miraculous in our lives.

Truth versus Dissent

I can only speak for God when I echo the teachings and disciplines of faith. I claim no moral superiority over others. I make mistakes and even errors in judgment. We all do. But I do not think my views about this are in conflict with the Good News of Christ. Our Lord has given us an infallible Magisterium to guide and govern the Church. Dissenters cannot speak for God if they oppose the Catholic faith. Dissenters believe they have a special enlightenment in regard to the truth. They do not even seem to fear God in making themselves into little popes in deciding what they will and will not accept. Such a dilemma is clear when dissenters argue for a version of love unhampered by the restrictions of the Church (like vows or promises). Challenge their special enlightenment and they will go further in denying the Church’s charism of truth and the qualifications of faithful priests.

While speaking as if they are a competing or parallel Magisterium, critics insult the Church and every good priest, and yet, seem blind to what damage they are doing. Their rhetoric betrays an anger that moves from the matter of married priests to that of women priests or priestesses. They insist that the Church is depicting women as the enemy and dangerous. They demand that men and women be treated equally. Priests and their women who marry outside the Church and/or move into other denominations are stamped as heroes and not as sinners. There are a few cases where former Catholic priests allow their “attempted” wives to serve as priests alongside them. The first has no faculties to minister and the latter has a counterfeit priesthood severed from apostolic succession. An imaginary and false line is drawn between faith in the true Church and faith in the Lord.

The conflict in such discussions between sides is divergent views of ecclesiology and vocation. Those on different sides of this question place the gravity in different areas. My emphasis would be upon the head and the spiritual power of will. I suspect that many women actively involved in an intimate way with priests would give the gravity to the heart and the corporal passions or emotions. On the other hand, I would stress the clear fact that the Church welcomes men to holy orders who promise or vow celibacy. The objective or external situation is that men do this and I feel they should remain faithful to their promises. There is no good escape clause. As far as I am concerned, that is where matters should end. They should behave themselves and if they should suffer emotionally, offer it up with Christ’s passion.

Those who later want out of their promises make all sorts of rationalizations. The business about the heart and/or emotions is only recognition that such seems to play a big part in the decision of priests and women who become romantically entangled. I may be wrong, but is this really such a large leap in reasoning? If this is overly presumptive, then I would apologize but I have dealt with many delicate situations regarding such things and it has been my experience.

We must not be naive about the fierce physicality in men and the sexual drive which men must daily sublimate to stay chaste. I have never said that priests must hate or fear or universally separate themselves from the female gender. However, there will come times when a priest must break off certain relationships because his heart and fallen nature is taking him in a direction he must not go. A priest is always a living ICON for Christ. The full gravity or weight of his sacramental vocation is manifest at Mass where he operates “in the person of Christ, head of the Church.” He signifies Christ the groom and the Church is his bride.

Critics will insist that the Church and her defenders violate a number of values. However, a clarification has to be made. EQUALITY in grace is not any kind of egalitarian view of humanity. JUSTICE for others also includes following objective norms, of the State, of the Church, of Nature, and of Divine Positive Law. Today many things we call RIGHTS are really just made up excuses for license and sin. Women have no right to priesthood. Celibate priests have no right to either wives or concubines. People of one gender do not have rights to sexual contact with those of the same gender.

What Do Priests Know of Love?

One critic argued recently that priests generally knew nothing about love. She contended that they were ordained merely to fulfill family expectations. But there are many reasons and such anger cannot invalidate the calling of good men validated by the true Church. The truth be said, most priests today entered the seminary against the wishes of family and friends. God is love; however, it is wrong to equate this love entirely with the romantic. Such critics fail to acknowledge human weakness and sin; rather, romantic entanglements with priests are wrongly interpreted as God’s will. This is ludicrous. God never desires sin.

It is not my intention to give a comprehensive treatise on divine love and how we share that love. I believe God can forgive and that he showers mercy upon priests who leave active ministry to marry women. It is rather insulting and “mean spirited” that certain critics think many priests have no notion of love. I counseled a woman many years ago against flirting and trying to seduce a man in seminary formation. She walked out shouting that I had nothing to say to her because I had never been in love! I challenged her on this assumption and she crudely blurted out, “Unless you have gone to bed with a woman, you do not know what love is!” The very reason why I and so many of my brothers embrace our celibacy is out of love for God and his people. The harshest critics are essentially saying that they do not care and that it is a waste of our time. Love brought me to the priesthood. It is love that beckons me to the altar, to the confessional, to the baptismal font, and yes to the sick bed of the dying. I am sorry that such lost people cannot understand or appreciate that.

Attacks against the Church and Her Messengers

What has been my reward for speaking about the value of celibacy and for insisting that good priests keep their promises? I have been assaulted personally as a misogynist and my view of human sexuality has been condemned as immature. Such judgments were not the result of sharing a detailed appreciation of vocations and human sexuality; rather, I was labeled precisely because I placed a negative value on the illicit unions and/or liaisons of priests and their paramours. I am not naïve about priestly formation and human development. Truthfully, I believe clergy should be emotionally whole and integrated. Priests should be comfortable with women. However, and here is the great divide, celibate priests should NOT have sexual relationships with women.

I would certainly not want to generate unnecessary anxiety for others, but sometimes bravery means not denying or running away from our guilt. Ridiculing Church teaching and discipline, breaking the vows of priesthood and/or marriage, are not positive in any honest estimation. However, speak about sin, and there are always many who will insist that no one can judge such things, despite divine commandments and objective right and wrong. Prophets who speak the truth of God are castigated by false prophets who speak their own mind. Broken promises, fornication and adultery, attempted marriages, illegitimate children, scandal… yes, I would say that such sins should make people feel ashamed, particularly for the unrepentant and the guilty.

They want every faithful priest or so-called right-wing Catholic to be caricatured as an angry homophobic and chauvinistic white male. While they excuse their own venom, any use of hyperbole to make a point or indignation about fallen priests and their women is viewed as the most outrageous insult. They share this with certain radical homosexuals who condemn Church teaching as hate-speech. Both camps contend that you cannot judge the sin without condemning them as sinners. They think that faithful and traditional priests value institutions and laws more than people— and yet, must there be a disconnect? However, it is NOT the institutional Church that denies people access to grace. People do this to themselves by their sins and by failing to preserve a disposition receptive of grace. Critics wrongly dismiss the Church’s discipline as just man-made laws. But the Church is both a human and a divine institution. Celibacy is not a purely human fancy but is an element of the divine plan.

I would contend that it is a pretty poor and simplistic synthesis against supporters of the status-quo to say that those who disagree with revisionists on this matter and their agenda are all angry men with a punitive outlook. We can be upset or disappointed without desiring any kind of harm to others. Most priests try as confessors to keep emotions in check. We hear everything, from the lurid details of abuse to murder itself. Our response is that of Christ. The penitent expresses sorrow for sin, makes an act of contrition, and then receives our absolution. Sometimes that healing is enough and at other times, they are placed on the road to recovery. Any upset I feel is precisely because the priesthood means a lot to me and we should not give poor witness.

The Effect of Scandals

Scandals are always thrown into the face of those who argue for no change regarding our discipline. Lately, the recent scandals around Fr. Marciel Macial have been their ammunition of choice. It is true that many regarded him as a conservative, i.e. orthodox. Critics of celibacy are having a field day with revelations that he purportedly fathered a child. This is bad news for the Legionnaires and for the Church. The questions about abuse in his regard are even more serious. However, such poor witness is no absolute invalidation of priestly celibacy. Most priests are faithful to their promises.

Critics point to the scandals and the fallen priests and ask the rhetorical question as to whether or not compulsory celibacy is a fallacy or myth? They think it is. Some well-meaning voices play into their hands by recommending optional celibacy. They feel that celibacy should only be permitted to those who feel called to it. However, most priests in the West freely promise celibacy. No one is forcing them into the priesthood. If they do not feel called to celibacy then God in his wisdom would not ask them to be priests. God is not in conflict or battling his Church; rather, he works in concert with the authority he established. The struggle here is to do God’s will, not what our selfishness would ask and not what the dissenters demand. Optional celibacy might see its day; but it will not solve the vocations crisis and it will create new serious issues in itself.

Many of us have had concerns about the secrecy and ultra-regimentation of the Legionnaires. I wonder how much of it reflected the secrecy that Father Macial utilized to cover his own scandalous indiscretions. It is a very sad business. Hopefully Rome will bring reform and healing to the situation.

Celibacy is not a myth, despite what the cynics might say. I believe that God works with his Church and gives the grace of celibacy to any who are truly called to his priestly service in the Roman Catholic Church. Yes, the Church could change this discipline tomorrow and make it optional. But no one should seek ordination with such an expectation.

Why Should We Care?

Why would a faithful priest be upset about those who violated Church rules? Well, first, one can be both upset and still show compassion and empathy. Second, good priests have a responsibility to admonish and to guide people in the moral life. Breaking promises to God and the Church is selfish and wrong. Third, while it is true that no one can absolutely read the inner hearts of others; this does not mean that the Church cannot render judgment about external actions. If you make promises and break them, you commit an objectively evil act. This is more than a sentiment or a temptation hidden in the heart and will. We would suspect that priests, of all people, would be fully cognizant of their behavior and the repercussions. They cannot claim ignorance. Bad priests agreed to the rules but later wanted to change them. Women who become involved with priests, and here I mean actively involved as in sexual encounters, mistresses and attempted marriages, should know full well that they have fallen far from what God and the Church demands. Ladies who have the heartstrings pulled and then do the right thing are entirely different. This latter group deserves our respect and continuing support.

Fourth, a fallen priest’s promises were made to his bishop and before God, not to me personally to other priests. The actions of one priest often affect all priests and thus, the misconduct of any one priest hurts all priests. That is why the abuse scandals have been so incredibly devastating to the morale of priests. It wounds every one of us personally. We are all sharers in the one high priesthood of Christ. We trust and look up to one another. We expect fidelity, courage, generosity, obedience and sacrifice. We believe all the jargon about the glories of the Roman Catholic priesthood. When men fall short, it pains us more than any of us could properly convey.

Every priest who keeps his promises feels hurt and betrayed by those who do not. This fuels the indignation, along with the insufferable arguments that question the teaching in hindsight. Often personal responsibility is minimized and the Church herself is made the culprit for making the celibacy requirement at all. Broken promises by priests are seen as a betrayal of our brotherhood. It breeches them from their spiritual father the bishop and their brother priests. Those who are not priests might not understand this element of family that is focused upon the presbyterate.

My indignation or upset or anger or resentment or whatever you want to call it is not misplaced, but justified. I may come across as somewhat judgmental, but such is often my response to dissent and attacks upon a celibacy which I believe is worthwhile and should be sustained as compulsory in the Western Church. I would and have supported men who left ministry. I see no contradiction in doing this quietly for individuals while taking a strong general position against romantic entanglements, defections, and laicizations.

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