Monday, June 29, 2009

Married Priests too Liberal?

Rent a Priest ( has had quite a few good articles recently on married clergy and priests with families in African countries. They are worth checking out. It seems that in many parts of Africa, priests knowingly have families and as long as they are not too open about it, it is accepted. The most recent posting cites a priest who left the Catholic Church to openly marry his girlfriend/nun, because he felt it was dishonest not to be open about it.

Weakland also addressed the issue of a married clergy regularly in his book. So why does the Roman Catholic rite persist in not having a married clergy (with very few exceptions)? Only two reasons come to my mind. Sex and liberalism. At least with former clergy that I have met that are married, most seem to have a more liberal bend. While allowing married priests would not guarantee a more liberal clergy, I think it is a fear. There is also a persistant fear of sexual issues from the Vatican and I do not think that bishops want priests having sex. How would it look if your parish priests was using condoms? The few priests that are allowed to be married are converts from other denominations. In most cases, they are coming to the Catholic Church because they want to be a part of a more conservative church. Hence, the current married clergy are often more conservative.

And although I know that a married clergy has not solved the clergy shortage in other denominations, as conservative Catholics like to remind us, Catholics are different. Maybe it would work for us. It couldn't hurt, could it?

A Faithful Catholic

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

A Brief Summary of "A Pilgrim in a Pilgrim Church: Memoirs of a Catholic Archbishop"...

The book begins with a prologue devoted to the public revelation of his relationship with Paul Marcoux in 2002. Chapter 1 he devotes to his family heritage and early childhood. Chapter 2 covers his years in Latrobe, Penn. at St. Vincent Abbey as he went through high school and began college. Chapter 3 covers his education in Rome, the taking of his final vows, and his ordination. Chapter 4 is devoted to his years at Julliard and Columbia University and his first parish assignments. Chapter 5: his years as a priest at St. Vincent. Chapter 6: He is elected abbot of St. Vincent after the current abbot is seen as too harsh and uncompromising. Chapters 7-10 cover his years as Abbot Primate of the Benedictine Order in Rome beginning at the age of 40. Weakland was involved in liturgical reform and protecting his Order from some in the curia who want to create uniformity in a culturaly diverse Order with various forms of ministry. He also travelled A LOT. He tried to bring male and female Benedictine communities up-to-date. Especially with many female communities, he pushed for education in scripture and doctrine. Pope Paul would aid his effort in this when curia members tried to stop him. It was soon understood that Paul would always lend an ear to Weakland. Weakland points out that Paul always attempted to keep the peace between the traditionalists and progressives by appointing both groups within the curia and as bishops and cardinals.

Chapters 11-15: In 1977, Paul VI asks Weakland to go to Milwaukee. Weakland decides to follow the pope's wishes, partly because he is led to understand that being a bishop doesn't mean he needs to always keep his mouth shut. While rumors abound, it seems false to conclude that Paul was trying to get rid of Weakland. With the election of John Paul II in 1978, Weakland comes to understand keeping opinions to oneself is the preference of JPII. Weakland devotes time to the Economic pastoral, which he chaired and is obviously proud of (for good reason), and his numerous confrontations with curia officials. Their problem is not so much with his doctrine as it is with his attitude; they want his attitude to be one of total permissiveness to the papacy; there is no room for disagreement or dialogue. Weakland also spends a lot of time on the idea of collegiality among bishops from Vatican II that JPII has basically destroyed single-handedly (he carefully explains how JP II did this). JPII has basically made all bishops representives for the pope and prevented national bishops conferences from publishing pastoral letters without aggressive meddling from Rome.

He spends about 40 pages on the sexual-abuse scandal, but I wish he would have said more.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Weakland's Book is Fantastic... and sad.

Rembert Weakland's A Pilgrim in a Pilgrim Church is a fantastic book. It is a must read for anyone who wants an understanding of the renewal that was called for at Vatican II regarding collegiality, liturgy, ecumenism, renewal in religious orders, etc. He seems to be very honest and accurate in his assessment of pluses and minuses of both Paul VI and John Paul II, obviously favoring Paul VI.

The work that Weakland has contributed to economic, liturgical, laity, women, and collegiality issues cannot be over-emphasized. In these issues, Weakland has left a tremendously positive mark.

His sections regarding John Paul II and JP's agenda of centralizaiton in the Chruch is very discouraging, but it is an accurate portrayal of our current Church. I am not sure how to read his writings on sexual abuse cases in Milwaukee. I do not feel competent enough to judge how valid his responses are. And for those who want to know about his "affair," he also seems to be very honest there. I could hear him still struggling with how to appropriately handle the situation after the fact.

While I wish Weakland could have been a stronger man when it came to his loneliness, I think this book is important in writing an honest history of our post-Vatican II Church.

A Faithful Catholic

Monday, June 15, 2009

The Year of the Priest...

This Friday begins the Year for Priests, as announced by Pope Benedict. In one sense, I have no problem with trying to offer greater support for priests. There are so many good priests out there that suffer from alienation. But could part of this alienation be because some are forced down a path of celibacy that is too difficult for them. In addition, the decrease in priests since the 1950s now means that most priests live in their rectories alone, instead of with the two other priests that were serving at the parish. The second problem could be partially dealt with by allowing married priests and women priests or by more dioceses allowing their priests to live away from their parish. So although Benedict is asking us to support our priests, is he really doing his part to support priests to the fullest?

The other disturbing factor in all this is that I doubt we will be seeing a year for the laity in the near future. Most of the liturgical changes of late have been to remind the people that priests are special by making more specific rules to keep the laity out of the sanctuary during certain times and to make sure they are not too close to the priest. The sexual abuse scandal has not only hurt the image of the priesthood, but of all Catholics, meaning mostly the laity. We are seen as idiots for still being Catholic. So let me know when Benedict will be holding something to support the laity, but I think I might be waiting a while.

A Faithful Catholic

Monday, June 8, 2009

Sacraments still decreasing...

According to the U.S. bishops news service, infant baptisms were down 16,000 this past year, adult baptisms and confirmations were down 12,000, first communions were down 1,300 and confirmations were down 8,500. At the same time, the Catholic population stayed at 22% of the US population and rose by 1,000,000 people. The number of seminarians rose slightly.

It seems odd to me that the number of seminarians is rising as the number of those receiving the sacraments diminishes. Although any number of interpretations could be formulated, this seems to speak of a divide between priests and laity. This could also speak of a growing divide between a more liberal laity that is not happy with a growing conservative clergy. It should be pointed out that liberal clergy are not being allowed to grow right now because of ideological Vatican crackdowns and the continued ban on married and women clergy.

If the liberal clergy were allowed to grow, it would be fascinating to see if the sacramental numbers would be starting to grow rather than decrease. Unfortunately, we will never know for sure.

A Faithful Catholic

Monday, June 1, 2009

Pentecost in Scripture

I've always had a difficult time reconciling the two Pentecost stories found in the New Testament. The best-known is from Acts 2:1-4, where after Jesus spent 40 days on earth, he ascended to heaven and shortly after sent the Spirit. The second passage is John 20:19-23, in which Jesus appears to the disciples shortly after the resurrection and breaths the Holy Spirit on them.

The basic message is that Jesus sent the Spirit to be with the community after his crucifixion and resurrection. This variance in Scripture itself indicates that maybe the community at times confused these two persons of the Trinity. The same thing happens today. Most us of are christological Christians instead of trinitarian Christians. We find ourselves praying almost exclusively to Jesus, which is not wrong, but we often forget that Jesus sent the Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit that perfects our always imperfect prayers to God.

In relation to this issue, there are those who correctly point out the error of some Catholics of replacing the Holy Spirit with Mary. Although I am not against the cult of Mary, for some Catholics there is a sense that Mary perfects our prayers and brings them to God to the exclusion of the Holy Spirit.

A Faithful Catholic