My World of Religion, Politics, Entertainment and Social Issues

If you are visiting my blog, expecting to see 'Toward a Progressive Catholic Church,' I have changed my title to reflect my wide assortment of interests. Having retired from my secular job, I hope to devote the rest of my life to my hobbies, ministries and perhaps a part-time job that makes good use of my communications skills. This blog will be designed to address my multi-faceted interests.

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Location: Rochester, New York, United States

I have an M.A. in Theology and an M.Div (Master of Divinity) from St. Bernard's School of Theology and Ministry. I am currently a media consultant and promoter of classical music. I am also certified as an officiant by the Federation of Christian Ministries for baptisms, weddings and funerals and minister independently of the Rochester Diocese. My life has encompassed many interesting paths: broadcasting, free-lance writing, video-production, music, ministry and a secular job in government. In addition to this blog, I have a YouTube site at www.youtube.com/priestray and I have a Facebook page.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Celibacy: The Elephant in the Room

The topic of priestly celibacy has correctly been called 'the elephant in the room.' While I don't blame celibacy for the sexual abuse crisis in the Roman Catholic Church, there is every reason to believe it is a contributing factor.

It would be extremely helpful if American bishops removed the 'fear factor' from public dialogue on discussions relating to the Roman Catholic priesthood. However, the reality is that some bishops will go to any length in an attempt to suppress or squash open and honest dialogue on an outdated poliicy that continues to place our sacramental system in severe jeopardy.

To cite an example of suppressed conversation, Archbishop Timothy Dolan has forbidden public discussion amongst priests on the topic of clerical celibacy in Milwaukee. (When petitions were circulated nationwide in favor of optional celibacy, 185 priests from Milwaukee were the first to sign.) In the meantime, my contacts in Milwaukee have informed me that Archbishop Timothy Dolan has threatened to punish any priest who publicly states he is in support of optional celibacy. (You may also recall that he disciplined a pastor for allowing a meeting to take place in his parish on the issue of the ordination of women, and Dolan further threatened to shut down the diocesan newspaper for covering the meeting.)

When priests are not allowed to speak to reporters about the issue of optional celibacy, when diocesan newspapers are not allowed to print stories about optional celibacy, and when priests face removal from their ministries for pursuing honest and consensual relationships, it is no wonder that we are seeing so many problems emerge in today's church climate.

We have an excellent 'religious issues' reporter in Rochester, New York and I would love to see her do a story on the celibacy issue. Yet, the reality is that I would have a very difficult time getting local priests to speak with her on this topic. I suppose there is potential for a story about the imposition of mandatory celibacy, and related problems it causes for married persons such as myself who are called to the priesthood. However, this in itself would not make for a very interesting story. What would make the story powerful would perhaps be interviews with priests who made commitments to celibacy, but are nevertheless called to relationships.

My sense is that the only Rochester priests who would be willing to talk to a reporter are those who would defend the discipline of mandatory celibacy, for priests making such statements of defense would not find themselves in trouble. However, the sad reality is that as much as I like and respect Bishop Matthew Clark, I have no doubt that he would discipline any local priests who spoke to reporters in favor of optional celibacy. (The Vatican would require him to discipline priests in such a case.)

Tragically, everyone realizes that celibacy is the 'elephant in the room.' However, noone in a position to make an impact on the topic is allowed to speak about it. I want to extend my sincere thanks to the Milwaukee priests who had the courage to articulate their desire for change. It is indeed a shame that Archbishop Timothy Dolan saw fit to threaten them with the hammer of hierarchical authority.

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