Married Priesthood?

Phil Sevilla <>Fri, Feb 1, 2019 at 10:18 AM
To: “Bp. Rene Gracida” <>
IMHO it will be a disaster for the Roman (Latin) Church to change the Church’s discipline on the celibate priesthood.  

I have read and possess a booklet written by Fr. Anthony Zimmerman, STD, published by Human Life International in 1994 titled “Celibacy Dates Back to the Apostles“. The discipline was formally adopted by the Church in the 4th century. Fr. Zimmerman’s monograph was summarized in an article in Homiletic and Pastoral Review in April 1995 and available on the EWTN website which I recommend to you. THE LOGIC OF PRIESTLY CELIBACY

 I have been a member of two parishes with married priests – St. Thomas Aquinas in Rio  Rancho, NM and, currently, Our Lady of the Atonement in San Antonio. My understanding is our three married priests at OLOA who entered the Church as married Anglican priests are opposed to a married priesthood. I’d like to do an informal interview with them about this some time.  

Prior to 2009, we had the Episcopalian Bishop of the Rio Grande, Jeffrey Steenson, convert to the Catholic Church and was posted as vicar to our parish, St. Thomas Aquinas in Rio Rancho, New Mexico. He was married with three children. We had a second married Episcopalian priest convert with a wife and small children assigned in Rio Rancho as well. He served in the military and during his short time in our parish, he was mostly gone on duty as a military chaplain overseas. 

I can think of several reasons  in my experience in parishes with married priests and from just plain common sense, why priests should not marry and have two families. Prior to the apostolic constitution establishing the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter in the US (and two others in Australia/Japan and England) in 2009, there was a pastoral provision granted by Pope John Paul II in 1980  for priests from the Anglican communion to enter the Catholic Church (some married) and ordained as Catholic priests. Fr. Phillips, founding pastor of the OLOA was a pioneer founding a pastoral provision parish using the traditional Anglican liturgy modified by Pope John Paul II and the CDF under Cardinal Ratzinger for Catholic use. 

Financial Costs:Our parish in Rio Rancho, NM provided for 100% of the living expenses (including homes) for the families of both priests including the time the younger priest, Fr. Jeff, was serving overseas in the Army for a year while not providing pastoral services to the parish. His family was fully supported financially in his absence.   

Our three priests at OLOA have families and have three separate homes and salaries. One with children who are educated at the Atonement Academy. Parishioners essentially are supporting their families.   

Two Families:We are all aware that fathers and husbands have a vocation as married men which is a full time responsibility especially when you have children at home.As a priest you are a father, a shepherd to spiritual children perhaps in the thousands, many very needy for your attention and time. Like doctors and first responders, your time is not your own when you’re called out to emergencies in hospitals, hospices, bedsides to comfort and administer the sacraments to the sick and dying, couples with domestic problems. 

 I’ve found that married priests are not as available or open to spending time with you because they have other pressing family matters. We can understand their obligations and would not desire that they neglect their family’s needs. The younger married priests seem to make the least time and they’re rushed; older priests with grown children have more time. It’s a difficult challenge for them to juggle these two “families” and joint responsibilities. Obedience to the Bishop and Assignments:Our bishops have challenges during this extended period in the West with the priest shortage in assigning priests to different duties. The married priest may have a serious challenge with his spouse and children resisting and unhappy with assignments to remote locations and relocations. Unmarried priests may resent these married priests because they get the “challenging” assignments while the married clergy stay in “comfortable” preferred locations due to concern for their families. Bad for morale. We’re all human.

A close priest friend of mine, unmarried, had difficult assignments traveling all the time to serve mission parishes in the boonies of New Mexico. He also was in charge of the statewide Pro-Life Center based in Albuquerque.  It would have been very difficult to assign a married priest with a family to those mission posts.  

Workload and Family Stress:Married priests  especially with young children have a very FULL plate. Fr. Phillips was exemplary in pioneering not only a parish church but an exceptional Catholic school. But I suspect it took a toll on his family life and his accomplishments are truly exceptional. Most younger unmarried priests I doubt, could not achieve what he has done enduring terrible burdens, sacrifices, and even persecutions. What does the Church do with married priests with troubled marriages or serious problems with their children?  They are human. How do they divide their time when serious problems arise with their family members at home and, at the same time, their parish family members experiencing some crisis? Who takes priority? Quality of Pastoral  Care:
Many married men with spouses and children at home have serious stresses and challenges balancing work and family life. But typically it’s a 40 hour week and weekends free. Married priests don’t get that break even on their days off. It is a challenge to concentrate on their spiritual growth to sustain and strengthen their priestly vocation with the challenges of their expanded obligations and responsibilities. These are some of my experiences and thoughts about married priests … these challenges are related and consequential, I believe, and will cause greater damage to a church in crisis if the doors are flung open for married men ordained as priests.   Pope Francis better be careful about opening wide this Pandora’s Box. I think it will be a disaster. 

Let us pray,

You cannot give the right treatment with the wrong diagnosis   The following comes from a Jan. 24 story on Life Site.ROME– Church leaders who reduce clergy sex abuse to “clericalism,” while failing to acknowledge how active homosexuality has contributed to the crisis, “don’t want to confront the true reasons” why “minors, boys and young men” are abused, Cardinal Gerhard Müller has said. It is widely expected that efforts will be made at the Vatican’s Pan-Amazonian Synod next October to relax the Latin Rite’s discipline of priestly celibacy, by way of an “exception” that will then open the door to married clergy in other regions of the world.  Cardinal Müller said that blaming the sexual abuse crisis on “clericalism” is “very unjust [to] Jesus.”  The Lord “gave spiritual power and authority to the apostles,” he said, adding that such abuse is “not due to the sacrament of holy orders, but to sexual incontinence, a false understanding of sexuality, [and] not respecting the Sixth Commandment.” “If you are a priest, you must preach the Decalogue and respect it. Where is it written in the Holy Bible or a book about the priesthood, or the Church Fathers, that because you are a priest, you are outside morality? On the contrary, you must set a good example,” he said. Asked about his hopes for the February Vatican meeting on “the protection of minors in the Church,” Müller said what’s needed is a “diagnosis of the true reasons of the crisis.”    “You cannot give the right treatment with the wrong diagnosis,” he said. “We must confront reality in the light of the Gospel, the Church’s doctrine and discipline, and the spirituality of the priesthood.” He said Pope Francis was “absolutely right” when he said in a recent interview that priests who practice homosexuality should consider leaving the priesthood. “Homosexual practice is not acceptable, not with adults and absolutely not with minors. More than 80% of the victims of sexual abuse are young boys, adolescent male minors, over 14 years. This is a homosexual act,” he added. “The abuse of females is just as terrible.” The cardinal distinguished between “same-sex attraction” and “homosexual practice,” but noted that “same-sex attraction in no way justifies homosexual contact.” “We don’t need a new interpretation of this doctrine but, rather, more obedience to the word of God. 

About abyssum

I am a retired Roman Catholic Bishop, Bishop Emeritus of Corpus Christi, Texas
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