The Worker-Priest Model/Concept
Dear Blog Visitors:
I have been very busy with my secular job the past few weeks, which has left very little time for blogging. However, I want to share with you an article I wrote for publication, which is currently in the May/June edition of 'CORPUS Reports.' In this article, I tried to promote the concept of worker-priests.
One of the excuses the Vatican continues to articulate for not utilizing married priests is that the church cannot afford them. In response, I have tried to argue the point that most priests who have entered into marriage and raised families have good-paying jobs as well in the secular sphere. Many would be happy to simply avail themselves to dioceses for weekend assistance (Masses and sacraments).
Here is my article on the worker priest model/concept:
THE WORKER-PRIEST MODEL
By Ray Grosswirth, CORPUS Media Liaison
May/June Edition of ‘CORPUS Reports’
One of the highlights of the annual CORPUS conference for me is the ability to interact with members about their current lives, and what they have done in general since leaving the canonical priesthood for marriage. I am always intrigued with the many stories I hear, and I look forward to similar conversations at this year’s gathering in Providence, Rhode Island.
For the past thirty-three years, CORPUS and the Vatican have exchanged contrasting theologies over the Roman Catholic priesthood. The Vatican, for its part, has insisted that they have grounded their policy of mandatory celibacy in solid theological arguments. In the same spirit, CORPUS members have articulated in writing and in public speeches our arguments for an inclusive priesthood, also utilizing theological and historical tools that have enhanced our credibility.
It is perhaps time for the Vatican to stop theologizing about celibacy, and instead take the time to carefully examine practical considerations. However, even in this area of practicalities, the Vatican has dismissed the idea of married priests, articulating the argument that the Roman Catholic Church is in no position financially to support families in rectories. Likewise, the Vatican ignores practical realities concerning the leadership abilities of women, whereby the hierarchy utilizes the feeble argument that since there is no precedent for women priests, they cannot ordain them. In the meantime, while the Vatican is in a state of gridlock, the Catholic faithful are faced with the prospect of Eucharistic famine, church closures and clusterings, and the herding of multitudes into warehouse-sized mega-churches.
Since becoming part of the CORPUS Board and staff in recent years, I have tried to bring credible arguments for both the ordination of women and the integration of married priests into parish ministries. Yet, these are arguments that have fallen on deaf ears at the hierarchical level of the church.
If our pontiff, curia and bishops won’t listen to arguments at the theological or practical levels, I continue to pose the question: What is left to discuss?
As stated in my opening paragraph, I am always inspired by stories told to me by married priests and their spouses about how they have gone about their daily lives since leaving canonical priesthood behind. While in many cases, the yearning for active priesthood continues, many married priests have found careers in academia, industry, counseling, chaplaincy, and multiple other enterprises, while at the same time ministering creatively via certification by either the Federation of Christian Ministries or CITI (Celibacy is the Issue).
As I thought about the many careers married priests and their spouses have settled upon, I began to think about the married-priest model. This is a model that is worthy of bringing to the Vatican for discussion. In fact, there is ancient precedent for this model in the Apostle Paul, who was a tent-maker by profession and minister of the Gospel in his spare time.
If I had an opportunity to have a private conversation with Benedict XVI, I would speak to him about the many worker-priests we have in CORPUS. I would then present an argument to him that these priests could be of great service to the universal church, with a very low cost factor.
A few years ago, I conducted a survey amongst CORPUS members. I asked how many members would return to full-time canonical ministry if given the opportunity. The response was approximately 50% YES and 50% NO. However, when I asked how many CORPUS members would consider part-time canonical ministry, there was an overwhelming affirmative answer.
Perhaps the worker-priest model is a place to begin a discussion about integrating married priests into active, canonical ministry. This would allow the people in the pews to see that married priests have many gifts to offer, and the laity would not need to be subjected to a Eucharistic famine, simply because celibate priests are in short supply.
Most married priests would be very grateful if called upon for weekend assistance at diocesan parishes, and would ask very little in the way of monetary compensation. It would simply be a way for married priests to return to ministries they were called to by the Holy Spirit.
I find that even the most conservative Catholics will buckle when faced with the prospect of losing their parishes. Correspondingly, if asked which option they would prefer – a closed parish or a married priest, most would welcome a married priest with opened arms.
It is very easy to become discouraged, when it seems that the Vatican will not listen to credible arguments for the implementation of married priests and the ordination of women. So, perhaps it is time to consider some new strategies. The worker-priest concept is one that might find a sympathetic ear.
When the Vatican states that the church cannot afford to support married priests and their families, all we need to do is emphasize that most married priests have found careers, and are willing to return to active canonical ministry with very little cost to the powers-that-be. If the Vatican will not listen to this argument, perhaps we need to make this valid point: The Roman Catholic Church has paid out far more money in sexual abuse settlements than it would cost for the use of married priests in parishes.
I look forward to continuing the fight for inclusivity amongst the ranks of the priesthood. Let us pray that the Vatican will open its ears to some new innovations.