Points to Ponder:
If I had to do it over again, would I become a celibate priest? Or, if I was a young man with the option between celibate and married priesthood, would I choose celibate priesthood?
These are tricky questions. Obviously I didn't leave the priesthood when it was possible to do so and marry. I know now far better reasons for celibacy than were ever given us in the seminary. The priest is a specially trusted confidant. The priest is a sign of mystery and fascination, pointing to a world beyond himself (hence people's fascination with my novels about priests); the priest is perhaps the most fascinating man in the world, potentially at any rate. He has more freedom for more total commitment. Spare me any comparisons between celibate Catholic priests and married Orthodox priests or Protestant ministers...
A zealous married man will accomplish a lot more than a lazy celibate, but just as obviously a zealous celibate has more time for more extensive and more intense relationships than does a married clergyman with proper commitments to his wife and children..
Som unlike many of my collegues, I think celibacy is one of the treasures of the Western Church and would hate to see it lost...The strength and the independence and the vigor of the celibate Catholic priesthood (when it is lived to the fullest and does not become an excuse for irresponsibility, insensitivity, and laziness) is a strength and a glory for the Western Church, a strength and a glorgy for which, unfortunately, the Western Church does not bother to make many theological or psychological arguments because for the last thousand years it had blindly enforced celibacy as a rule.
My own solution to the celibacy problem is a limited-term priesthood, a "Priest Corps," not unlike the Peace Corps. In the not-too-distant past, to be a priest forever meant to be a priest for ten years because, on the average, priests died at about thirty-five (in nineteenth-century Chicago, from cholera epidemics). Can we not create an environment in which, after someone has fulfilled a commitment of five or ten years to the priestly ministry, he may go forth with dignity and honour and gratitude - still a priest but not in the active ministry save in times of emergency? Would not such a man be a specific kind of husband and father in the world because of his years of service in the priesthood? Given the fact that young men now become priests with far more awareness of withdrawing from the ministry than we did, it would seem to me that such a strategy would merely make a virtue of necessity, and would give us far more priests than we presently have.
Moreover, the demands made on a parish priest these days are so intense that many of us burn out by the time we are forty. There is no point in constraining someone to stay in the priesthood when he has given his best for a long time and really has little left to offer. If you are able to work with teenagers after forty, for example, it is a special grace of personality and biology, not something that can be routinely expected. It is a hideous mistake to keep men in the priesthood who are not happy with the work. They do enormous harm to the unfortunate lay people of God on whom they take out their frustrations and unhappiness. My limited-term "volunteer" priesthood would seem both to protect celibacy and to give those priests who want to marry an option of doing so with dignity and honour when their term of service is finished.
Our sociological research shows it would also solve the vocations shortage overnight. [Fr. Andrew M. Greeley: Confessions of a Parish Priest pgs. 117, 118, 119]
Labels: Points to Ponder