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.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

CLERICAL DISPENSATION: FAVOR OR PUNISHMENT?

In recent television interviews, I have heard members of the hierarchy refer to priestly dispensation as a "favor" granted by the Church to priests who wish to marry. Excuse me, bishops and cardinals, but I hardly see anything in a dispensation letter that amounts to anything close to a favor. What I do see, however, is what amounts to a list of punishments.

It is no wonder that many priests choose not to apply for the laicized state when marriage is desired. Instead, they have found ways to continue as married priests, but unfortunately are not allowed to continue in this capacity within Roman Catholic diocesan parishes.

I have never been a priest, but pray for ordination every day. As discussed in many of my writings, I spent several years in discernment prior to my marriage, whereby those responsible for formation in my diocese felt I would be a good candidate for the seminary. Although I eventually married, I did earn an M.A. in Theology and an M.Div and my call to priesthood continues. While I have found many meaningful lay ministries in which I can utilize my gifts, it is the sacramental responsibilities of the priesthood to which I am called. This realization allows me to sympathize with dispensed priests who are no longer allowed to be part of the ordained ministry in the Roman Catholic Church they were called to, for the simple reason they fell in love and entered into sacramental unions.

Since I have never been a priest, I had not seen a dispensation letter until recently. A married priest was very kind in that he allowed me to have a copy of his. The legalistic language in the first few paragraphs is fair enough. However, it wasn't long before I came across the 'punishments.' I spent several days reflecting on these punishments and continue to be angered over a disgusting paradox: Pedophiles have been routinely shuffled from parish to parish, while at the same time, GOOD priests who entered into marriage were removed from their ministries, and in many cases, were asked to move from their communities. Additionally, dispensation letters prohibit these good people from teaching in Catholic institutions. Something is very wrong here!

My heart goes out to priests who applied for dispensation and received the list of punishments I referred to. I also support married priests who chose not to apply for the laicized state, and instead found ways to serve in either independent parishes or found ways to provide baptisms, weddings and funerals in a manner independent of local dioceses.

For those who have never seen a dispensation letter, allow me to quote a few paragraphs, inclusive of a personal commentary following each paragraph:

1.) "A priest who has been dispensed by this process itself loses the rights proper to the clerical state, and the honours and ecclesiastical offices; he is no longer bound by other duties connected with the clerical state."

WHILE THIS MAY GOOD NEWS TO SOMEONE WHO TRULY WISHES TO BE RELIEVED OF THE CLERICAL STATE, THIS IS A VERY PUNISHING STATEMENT TO SOMEONE WHO DESIRES BOTH THE PRIESTHOOD AND MARRIAGE.

2.) "He remains excluded from the exercise of the sacred ministry, with the exception of those matters in Canons, and therefore cannot give a homily. Moreover he cannot perform the extraordinary ministry of distributing holy communion nor can he undertake a leading office in the pastoral sphere."

NOTICE THE EMPHASIS ON THE WORD 'CANNOT.' IT IS THE HIERARCHY'S WAY OF SAYING: "NOW THAT YOU HAVE BEEN DISPENSED, HERE IS WHAT YOU 'CANNOT' DO.

3.) "Essentially a priest dispensed from priestly celibacy, and more so a priest who has married, ought to keep away from places where his previous state is known."

ISN'T THIS A VARIATION OF A CLASSIC WESTERN MOVIE WHEREBY THE SHERIFF TELLS A PERCEIVED SCANDALOUS PERSON TO "GET OUT OF DODGE?" IN THE CASE OF DISPENSATION, HOWEVER, ALL A 'GOOD' PRIEST IS GUILTY OF IS ENTERING INTO MARRIAGE. (THIS IS HARDLY A SCANDAL!)

Earlier, I mentioned Catholic academic institutions. It is indeed a shame that we are losing some brilliant professors for the simple reason that the Vatican feels it would be "scandalous" for students to be taught by priests who entered into marriage.

In summation, I have concluded that the application process for priests seeking the laicized state is indeed demeaning. Therefore, it is no wonder that many choose to avoid this process. There is a simple solution: AN INCLUSIVE PRIESTHOOD!!!

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