The 800 Pound Gorilla in the Sanctuary

On balance, the visit of Pope Benedict XVI to the United States achieved its basic goals of stating remorse for … Continued

On balance, the visit of Pope Benedict XVI to the United States achieved its basic goals of stating remorse for the pedophilia scandal and showing solidarity with the vigorous cultural diversity of the U.S. Catholic Church. What the papal visit lacked was a direct encounter with the 800 pound gorilla in the Catholic sanctuary: vocations to the priesthood.

It rehearses stale news to point out that the number of priests has dropped drastically in the past three decades and that the median age of those who remain is in the retirement home range. Moreover, most priests will confidentially tell you that because of the lack of priests, candidates are accepted in today’s seminaries that in other years would be rejected as unworthy. A more selective priesthood would probably solve a lot of other current church problems like dwindling attendance, stifled ministries and scandal.

Priestless parishes deny the faithful sacraments. Without a priest, there can be no celebration of Mass, and in many places, new rites led by women or deacons are substituting today for the sacramental liturgy. So, addressing the issue of priestly vocations has become a matter of institutional life or death for Catholicism.

Pope Benedict XVI did ask Catholics to pray for priestly vocations. I have nothing against prayer, but I do not think it appropriate to expect a heavenly miracle each time we pray. As the saintly Pope John XXIII pointed out, the Holy Spirit speaks through “the signs of the times.” What he meant was that sociological and cultural changes are often used by God to send a message.

Of course, he was right. We can diagnose the ebb and flow of priestly vocations by social changes in history. For instance, under feudalism only the elder son inherited land or property, so a clerical career assured education, status and survival to younger offspring. (A military career did the same.) The predictable result was an abundance of priests (and knights) in feudal times. I am not saying that all vocations in the Middle Ages were attributable to material security. However, it seems hard to deny that social conditions in that epoch encouraged many to enter the priesthood.

Closer to our own day, the sons and daughters of a largely working-class American Catholic population coming of age after World War II viewed the priesthood and the convent as upwardly mobile choices affording education and professional standing their parents could not otherwise provide them. Not surprisingly, the 1950s marked a high water mark for the US Catholic priesthood. In our 21st century society, however, a priestly vocation is no longer the only route to education and useful social service. (Latino Catholics may be the current exception.) Lifetime commitments to the priesthood and celibacy (or to the convent and celibacy) are less likely in a world filled with career options that pay better and demand less. It’s time for reassess the game plan.

As a believer, I am sure that the Holy Spirit will guide the Church in its adaptations to new circumstances, just as has happened at crucial moments in past centuries. But as a concerned Catholic, I fear the decision may take too long. In future days, I will explore on this blog some of the possible responses to the “signs of the times.” For now, let’s not use prayer for vocations as an excuse to drown out the Holy Spirit.

  • John

    Mr. Stevens-Arroyo has hit the nail on the head! The Holy Spirit has been well and active in our church, literally shouting at the hierarchy on several fronts: the drastic decrease in the celebate priesthood, the increase in numbers of Catholics, the radical increase in lay ministries, and most remarkably the flood of candidates to a married deaconate. Let’s connect the dots! Celibacy is a powerful witness when positively connected to the priesthood as a calling, not a mandate. A married priesthood too can be a powerful witness just as it has been for the thousands of married deacons, how many of whom by the way, might be called to priesthood except for mandated celibacy! The Spirit is calling many to the priesthood, but the church is turning away some of the best and brightest of these who are called by God because of a man-made rule.

  • Anonymous

    I believe all this catholic stand against abortion and contraception is not about “holiness” but more of their true father’s (the devil) catholic cycle scheme. THE CATHOLIC CYCLEIn one third world country where population explosion has become a major problem, Catholic chapels or centers offer free operation to untie the fallopian tubes of mothers after indoctrinating them that it’s a SIN. This devilish Church invent their own doctrines so parents would produce more children despite their abject poverty. With more extra children, they are forced to raise them with no proper education and decent meals and most of all, no future. They then teach these poor people that their government is the cause of their poverty due to corruption but lo and behold those same government personnel are usually “devout catholics”. Some revolt (with the church’s help of course) which cause more poverty and this has become a “CATHOLIC CYCLE” which I presume is routinely duplicated around the world. To escape poverty, many go abroad adding more economic pressure to their countries of destination.Catholic countries not only over populate, they produce extortionist rebels too. Had you wondered why there are no marxist rebels in Islamic countries but there are so many in catholic countries? It’s because many of their priests support that ideology. They breed fast and then kill each other fast too. WHAT A CYCLE.There are many things this church does which is outside our scope of detection. The devil could be using a much bigger cycle that is harder to detect. Consciously or unconsciously, all catholics is part of that grand cycle.

  • MaryCunningham

    A few (unconnected) thoughts: *collapse in female clergy maybe more important than dwindling male clergy*cause of shortages: as much due to the falling birthrate amongst Catholics as to previous lack of upward mobility in wider society. I don’t accept the lack of viable alternatives amongst Cath. anyway.*comparison with other Christian orders: here in the UK there is no shortage of Anglican (Church of England) clergy–due to 25% female clergy in Anglican orders. Although there is a shortage of parishioners. No shortage of Catholic parishioners (many Catholic European immigrants plus some Anglican converts)but shortage of Catholic clergy. Calibre of Anglican clergy who converted (married but were able to take Catholic orders) very high. *’Wimmin’ priests not feasible for Catholicism, but married priests might help. *Finance: married priests would cost a lot more! Can the Church afford it?*Can’import’ priests from other Catholic countries–there are a number of African priests in London–but is this just?

  • Anonymous

    John wrote “The Spirit is calling many to the priesthood, but the church is turning away some of the best and brightest of these who are called by God because of a man-made rule (celibacy). “All catholic doctrines are man-made. Catholicism is all about catechism which is man-made. If there is a “spirit” calling many to the priesthood, I’m sure it’s not the Holy Spirit.”Call no man father”, Jesus said. Not only do they call all their priests as fathers, they also use the term “Holy Father”, a title reserved to God, to address the pope. Millions become instant blasphemers as they call on their pope.This church has so many man-made blasphemous doctrines and it’s a wonder why so many stick to this church. Is stupidity addictive?Here’s a quote from Jose Rizal, Philippine National Hero :”The wild man from the hills, if clad in a priest’s robe, remains a hillman and can only deceive the weak and ignorant.”

  • MaryCunningham

    Well, anon man, spiderman2, you’ve proved one thing: prejudice destroys grey cells. What a shame! You probably had more than a hundred or so once. Because you’re wrong. The highest birthrates right now are in some desparately poor African countries. Catholic Costa Rica with a fertility rate of 2.17 is far lower than Muslim-Christian-Indigenous Religion Nigeria’s 5.41. Catholic Poland’s population is falling, a fertility rate of 1.27 vs. Islamic Bangladeshi’s 3.08. Replacement is 2.1 FYI.The highest gross addition to world population is Hindu.Now, don’t argue either. It’s dumb to argue about facts.

  • Anonymous

    MaryCunningham, the fact is that the Catholic Cycle still exists in many catholic countries. The breeding and the killing still continues to this day.

  • rb-freedom-for-all

    Mr. Stevens-Arroyo:What you write is true. In the 14th century, England was forced to change their laws to give women more rights of inheritance and property ownership because the plague was wiping out so many people that they had to adapt. Will Catholicism adapt too? It will need to in order to suvive, but that doesn’t make it inevitable. Lots of extinct species failed to adapt even though they needed to in order to survive.With the commitment to backwardness that the male hierarchy of the Catholic church has staked out as its position and its ego, it will be very difficult to admit they are wrong and change direction. And, as pointed out so many times by conservative catholics, “it ain’t a democracy,” so don’t expect change to start at the bottom of the hierarchy and work its way up.

  • MaryCunningham

    Look anonymous spider, you can’t just keep sprouting your prejudice. Look at the title of this piece,man! It’s about a fall in the number of priests which is directly tied to the fall in the Catholic birthrate. A fall, spidey! That does not mean a rise. Everywhere, spidey, even in the Philippines which is now at 3 and has fallen in ten years from 4. Fall, spidey, fall!RBFreedom:Well, the Church managed to adapt to persecution in the Roman Empire, the barbarian invasions of same, successive plagues followed by the Reformation *and* the onslaught of the Ottoman Turks into Europe *and* Communism. I would say the record is not bad. Additionally married priests are standard in the Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church recognizes them as valid priests.I am more interested in some initiative on women’s orders–not priests, of course–maybe part lay, part religious. Women have always been the mainstay of the Church.

  • Matt

    Yes, Mr. Stevens- Arroyo, it can be said there is a vocations crisis, but it is not only in the priesthood but also in the sacrament of matrimony. The vocations crisis of marriage and relationships within the Catholic Church in America and Europe is staggering. The divorce rate for Catholics in America has edged toward that of the general population and anecdotally many Catholic young men are just as non-committal as there secular brethren. There is a crisis across all vocations not just priestly and religious, with a few not so modest exceptions. Dioceses and orders that have the most prolific vocations programs are those who hold closely the Church’s doctrines. The dioceses of Peoria, Lincoln and Arlington as well as the Legion of Christ, the Dominican Sister of St. Cecilia (Nashville Dominicans) are all examples of abundant vocations and doctrinal orthodoxy. As far as solving the vocation in matrimony, there is a group of Catholic lay people whose divorce rate is 5%, they are the people who are open to life and choose to not use any form of contraception or use natural family planning consistent with Church teaching in Humane Vitae. So, the 800-pound gorilla n the sanctuary isn’t so much a lack of priests as it is the cultural Catholic population’s deficiency in living out their baptismal promises and lack of orthodoxy.

  • Soja John Thaikattil, Sydney, Australia

    Dear Professor Stevens-ArroyoIt is right that you bring the future of the Catholic Church for discussion into the public arena where all people can offer their suggestions. Religion and reason must go together, Pope Benedict XVI emphasized that in his lecture at Regensburg University. The Church authorities as you rightly point out must be open to the working of the Holy Spirit through life circumstances as reflected by the society, through the inspiration of all its members.Mandatory celibacy for the clergy as many thoughtful prayerful people have pointed out is a serious impediment to recruiting clergy. If other Christian churches can have great married priests and pastors, why not the Catholic church. Jesus said that Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So Church law must be made for man and not man for the law. Any Church law that turns out to be counter-productive to the mission of the church must be changed, as long as it does not violate the principles of universal love and the eternal truths as taught by Jesus.If Jesus had female followers like Mary, Martha, Joanna etc, even if having female disciples who would go out into the world to preach the good news in His time was not practical in part also because the rest of the world was not safe for travelling women, why deny ordination to women, when the Church is at the verge of dying out?It is essential to go back to the Book of Genesis to remind ourselves that God created men and women in His image and likeness. Before the fall, there was no hierarchy at all. The woman was the other half and companion of man as an equal.Soja John Thaikattil

  • Soja John Thaikattil, Sydney, Australia

    Of course making celibacy optional and ordination of women alone would not solve the crisis of faith in the Catholic Church. They must be considered merely as two of many factors. The socio-economic factors that once led many men to seminaries and many women to convents in search of better education and living conditions should be taken into consideration. In today’s world, the more the religious life of being a priest/nun is seen as a noble profession like being a fire-fighter, social worker, counselor or medical professional, the greater the chances that it will be seen as a real option among many others. Removing mandatory celibacy from the equation is essential to treating the priesthood as one of many options.What we need is a deeply prayerful laity who will serve in their respective professions in the world as God’s calling. The call to priesthood for males and females should arise from the ranks of a deeply prayerful laity.

  • paul C

    I agree that the Church needs more vocations. I am also confident that God will provide what is needed. And yes, there will be adaptations made as well. There will be more parish managers hired, leaving the priests to focus more on sacremental duties and the use of Deacon’s to lighten the load in terms of baptisms and marriages, which they are competent to perform. There will also continue to be shifting of priests from where there is a surplus to where there is a need. This is a prerogative of the universal church and the diversity it provides is a benefit to the church.I personally don’t think that married priests are part of the answer. I think that the fact that Catholic priests give up EVERYTHING to serve God and the layity is a powerful symbol of their dedication and faith. Sure, a few fail to maintain their vows, but the overwhelming majority do and I think that adds to their moral authority.By the way, our parish has produced (I think) 7 priests in the last 10 years and 2 more are being ordained next week, so the crisis isn’t every where.

  • Kathleen

    Celibacy seems to be the big issue here. There are many who think that to be celibate is abnormal. On the contrary – not everyone has the ‘need’ for sex. Sex if used in the proper context is given to us for procreation and not everyone wants to be a father or mother. The men and women who choose to be priests or nuns choose to be spiritual fathers and mothers. When we can finally begin teaching our young people that the sexual act is a very minor part of our lives – as a rule it usually lasts only for a few minutes but the consequences can have enormous impacts on our lives – maybe then we can stop focusing on sex as the problem and start focusing on the people who are doing such a wonderful job trying to hold our society together in their particular callings namely our priests, nuns and mothers and fathers who place a high value on morality and nurture – against all odds in our society today. They are the heroes and the hope for the future. I applaud you.

  • Thomas Baum

    Remember when Jesus said, “Simon thou art Peter and upon this rock, I will build MY CHURCH and the gates of the netherworld shall NOT prevail against IT”.Maybe we should believe.Take care, be ready.Sincerely, Thomas Paul Moses Baum.

  • nall92

    i’m not catholic but imo one of the reason for the delcine in the number of priests is the rigidness (?a word?) of the catholic doctrine. i could never understand how a religion can makeup its own doctrine and convince people it is the Word. When you start restricting people you eventually get backs turned to you. in other words where does is state in the Bible that men/women of God can’t marry? It may be plastered all over catholic doctrine but correct me if i’m wrong it doesn’t say that in the bible.maybe i’m just off base **shrug**

  • oldhonky

    The traditional Roman Catholic view of sexuality as only for procreation within marriage, coupled with priestly celibacy, is directly connected by link that aren’t rocket science to o Population explosion of poor Catholics, as o Sexual abuse of altar boys by desperate, o Loss of adult, thinking members by the

  • Richard

    Consider this as a possible silver lining to the shortage of priests: the more the laity take up functions once largely or entirely the prerogative of priests, the more independent laypeople will grow both in thought and action and the less clerical and hierarchical the church will become (and the less orthodox too, which will bother some of you more than it does me). In the long run that may help to heal the breach that occurred half a millenium ago and lead to a de facto, if not institutional, convergence of the Catholic and Protestant wings of Christianity.

  • Anonymous

    When the Catholics separated themselves from Orthodoxy they began a very predictable downward spiral. The excesses of the Catholic clergy is nothing new.Perhaps one day the Catholic Pope will regain his senses, renounce his heresies and return to Orthodoxy.The rest can become protestant, which seems to be what they are clamoring for anyway.

  • PV

    or maybe you are all just full of it with your twisted fantasies….I’m not an atheist, but all your religious ideas are incredibly feeble, irrelevant, and poorly thought out.

  • Kathleen

    I believe that most people in America want to live good decent lives. They want a country where their children can feel safe, free from pedophilia whether it be in the churches, in our schools, our families or neighborhoods. Placing blame on only one institution is burying our heads in the sand. We need to be more vigilant. Our children don’t have to go far to be morally violated, it is in our homes via the internet and television, we need to stop it. We don’t have personal freedom anymore, we are ‘told’ by the tv ads and the media how to think and behave, what to wear and buy. Our children are being brainwashed day in and day out. And yet to be a practicing Catholic these days seems to invite so much controversy and vitriol. Why do people seem to feel so threatened by Catholics? Catholic’s also have the right to free speech in America. If you are Protestant, Lutheran, Jewish, Muslim or maybe don’t belong to any denomination it doesn’t matter because underneath it all most of us want the same things, to try to be good decent honest people and to get along with each other.

  • Jim McK

    If the Lord does not build the house, the laborers labor in vain.Prayer is THE critical component to addressing this problem. It is only by deepening our relationship with God, to a depth achieved only through prayer, that we would be able to come up with proper ways to uncover God’s will and implement it. And that is the point of any activity, that God’s will be done, God’s kingdom come.This does not preclude reason and reason inspired activity, so I do not mean to discourage this discussion. But only prayer can reveal our hunger for our daily bread and our need to be forgiven and forgive, things that are facilitated by clergy.Now I feel like I have to add something about avoiding temptation and being delivered from evil, which I suppose would be the dangers of prayerless activities.

  • reddog

    The fewer priests, the better!

  • Doug

    Mr. Stevens-Arroyo has it right.By limiting the priesthood to celibate men, you’ll keeping driving your most talented potential clergy to the Episcopal church, where they have too many priests and not enough lay members.

  • Thomas Baum

    JIM MCKDon’t forget it is God, Who has His Plan and has had His Plan since before creation.It is God’s Will that ALL be saved but God’s Will for my life and your life and everybody else’s life is different, as in what should I do.Free will, some follow God and don’t even believe in Him while some know His Name and yet do not follow Him.Take care, be ready.Sincerely, Thomas Paul Moses Baum.

  • Thomas Baum

    KATHLEENI am Catholic and I cherish my Catholic Faith and I say that God is a searcher of hearts and minds, not of religious affiliations or lack thereof.I also say that it is important what you do and why you do it and what you know, doing the best that someone can, even tho we all come up short at times, some of us very short, is what we are called to do.God has a Plan and His Plan will come to Fruition.Take care, be ready.Sincerely, Thomas Paul Moses Baum.

  • Benedicta

    People seem to be forgetting that in the Catholic Church, ANYONE who is not in a sacramental marriage is expected to remain celibate. There is such a thing as a call to single life as a lay person.The Catholic man who believes he is called to the priesthood as well as to marriage is much more likely to become Orthodox than Episcopal. The doctrinal differences between Catholic and Orthodox are smaller than those between Catholic and most Protestant denominations. Orthodox priests may be married but they must marry before they are ordained. If they are ordained first they may not marry. Only unmarried priests may be consecrated as bishops in the Orthodox Churches.The Catholic Church ordains married men as deacons. Many of them would probably make good priests and some become priests if their wife dies. But a deacon whose wife dies may not marry again and remain a deacon. The Catholic Church is experimenting, one might say, with married priests by ordaining Protestant clergy who convert. They are certainly not expected to give up their families in order to become priests.The ordination of women is not even on the table and won’t be until the status of women worldwide is raised above that of chattel. And we won’t see that happen for generations. This is something that people of good will should pray and work for.

  • Thomas Baum

    ANONYMOUSSometimes, it seems that some of us forget about God, does it not?We can get so caught up in theology, dogma, religious affiliation or lack thereof, labelism or any of a myriad of things and lose sight of the fact that God is God and we’re not.Doesn’t it seem to be very human that some wish to tell others how to live their lives rather than trying to live their own life the best that they can?Take care, be ready.Sincerely, Thomas Paul Moses Baum.

  • RB-Freedom-For-All

    If you believe that the majority of priests are celibate, you are terribly, terribly naive. The majority of heterosexual prists I have known had regular female companionship, if you know what I mean. From what I have known of priests in my lifetime, very few were actually celibate. Sorry to shatter your illusions of saintliness, but if we are going to have a meaningful, adult conversation about celiacy and the priesthood, you all need to face reality.

  • Jason Bell

    But also let us not, Mr. Stevens-Arroyo, use appeals to the Holy Spirit to drown out prayers for vocations, since the Holy Spirit surely must encompass the prayers of its Church. My three-year old son declares that his ambition is to be a “priest and a fireman”–where would he get these ideas if not from hearing the prayers that suggest these ideas to him? There are priests and fire fighters because they are needed, and because people come forth to serve, even at cost of great peril to themselves–consult the martyrs of both professions to find clear example of a number whose priesthood had little to do with economic exigency. The Holy Spirit is not a strictly “a priori” affair, but works through the languages of peoples. The priest and the firefighter save others, often to their own peril, and the Church prays for heroes to come forward. And they do.

  • Jason Bell

    But also let us not, Mr. Stevens-Arroyo, use appeals to the Holy Spirit to drown out prayers for vocations, since the Holy Spirit surely must encompass the prayers of its Church. My three-year old son declares that his ambition is to be a “priest and a fireman”–where would he get these ideas if not from hearing the prayers that suggest these ideas to him? There are priests and fire fighters because they are needed, and because people come forth to serve, even at cost of great peril to themselves–consult the martyrs of both professions to find clear example of a number whose priesthood had little to do with economic exigency. The Holy Spirit is not a strictly “a priori” affair, but works through the languages of peoples. The priest and the firefighter save others, often to their own peril, and the Church prays for heroes to come forward. And they do.

  • Pontificator

    We should all be celibate.

  • DC John

    Those who rule the Catholic Church are sinning. Their manmade rule of a non-married priesthood obviously denies people the Eucharist. The bishops here and sitting in Rome are refusing to acknowledge the grace of the Holy Spirit to change its rules. It should also be mentioned that those who are priests of the Eastern Churches in union with Rome, are allowed to be married. Finally…St Peter was married too so obviously Jesus himself did not have a problem and more than likely wanted a married priesthood as well.

  • Soja John Thaikattil, Sydney, Australia

    Paul C wrote, April 30, 2008 9:00 AM : I personally don’t think that married priests are part of the answer. I think that the fact that Catholic priests give up EVERYTHING to serve God and the laity is a powerful symbol of their dedication and faith. Sure, a few fail to maintain their vows, but the overwhelming majority do and I think that adds to their moral authority.Paul, I wonder if you are a Catholic priest who has remained faithful to your vow of celibacy a hundred percent. If you are a Catholic priest who can claim with certainty that lifelong celibacy is an easy thing for a man living alone in a parish with no religious community to support him on a daily basis, then it is wonderful. But please do consider that there are other Catholic men who would love to serve as priests but do not simultaneously feel called or strong enough to remain faithful to the vow of celibacy. Paul (the Apostle) said in his letter that it is better for people to marry than burn with passion. So it is better for a Catholic male who wishes to serve as priest to marry than to burn with sexual passion or make a mockery of his vow of celibacy. Advocates of married Catholic clergy refer to a survey in which they claim that 98% of the Catholic priests who participated in the survey admitted to not being faithful to their vow of celibacy. They conclude with jest that the remaining two per cent who claim to have remained celibate either did not understand the question or defined celibacy in their own way! On a serious note, religious hypocrisy does not make a pretty picture. Jesus did not mince words when He condemned religious hypocrisy. Better to have married priests like other Christian denominations, than priests who make a mockery of their vow of celibacy. Celibacy should be made optional. Only males who would like to dedicate their life as priests and make the giving up of sex and family altogether as part of that dedication, must take a vow of celibacy. If a vow of celibacy implies sex without commitment, then Catholics end up make a fool of themselves as Christians.

  • Soja John Thaikattil, Sydney, Australia

    Bhuddhist monks have a lot to teach on celibacy. The Vatican efforts at inter-faith dialogue could include learning from Buddhist monks on how they deal with the celibacy issue. If I understand him right, HH the Dalai Lama would be more than happy to share his wisdom and the wisdom acquired by his tradition with anyone who is interested. Catholics could learn from the Hindu monks of the Ramakrishna Mission too.Married Catholic priests could be role models as good husbands and fathers just as parsons, priests and pastors from other Christian denominations try to be.

  • Soja John Thaikattil, Sydney, Australia

    An interesting interview with a married Catholic priest, who began as an Anglican priest(please add h t t p and w w w when the address is copied and pasted for viewing): bbc.co.uk/threecounties/content/articles/2005/05/03/herts_people_father_tim_edgar_feature.shtml

  • holy cow

    RB-Freedom-For-All wrote “If you believe that the majority of priests are celibate, you are terribly, terribly naive. The majority of heterosexual prists I have known had regular female companionship, if you know what I mean. From what I have known of priests in my lifetime, very few were actually celibate. Sorry to shatter your illusions of saintliness, but if we are going to have a meaningful, adult conversation about celiacy and the priesthood, you all need to face reality.”I have a friend who told me the same story. They are not married but have sexual partners. You catholic are duped by your priests. This is an evil institution. They don’t know or believe what Apostle Paul had said? “It’s better to marry than BURN”.Maybe they were thinking that those “holy” bread and water would take away theirs sins. They have eaten lots of it so how can they not be saved?Thomas Paul Moses Baum wrote “I am Catholic and I cherish my Catholic Faith and I say that God is a searcher of hearts and minds…Tell that to your priests and about God’s BURNING plan. And most of all , be ready yourself because if you still don’t know it, THE “HOLY” BREAD AND “HOLY” WINE YOU’VE BEEN TAKING ALL YOUR LIFE NEVER REACHED YOUR SOUL BUT SURE WENT STRAIGHT TO THE SEPTIC TANK as “holy feces”.

  • Soja John Thaikattil, Sydney, Australia

    Holy Cow, there are over one billion Catholics in the world. We choose to remain Catholics, the failings of the Church notwithstanding. If you do not want to be a Catholic, that is fine, but please do respect the religious sentiments of those who choose to remain Catholics and have no problem with the Catholic liturgy. Read the words of Jesus at the Last Supper in the Gospel of Matthew chapter 26 and you will understand the basis of the Catholic belief you referred to: 26 While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.”27 Then he took the cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. 28 This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.

  • djk2450

    to RB-Freedom-for-All: if you do have solid, irrefutable proof of your statement, you should be hawking it to a publisher, if you know what i mean. i have had the honor to know a number of priests in various parishes around the country, and they are either better deceivers than a politician, or they are just as their vows require them to be. if the priests you have known are not, they shall face the judgment of God when the time comes. my father once told me that the floor of Hell will be paved with the souls of priests and nuns; those who have failed in their vows made when they entered their vocations. as for me and my “naive” condition, i will pray for priests and nuns, and for vocations to the priesthood every day as long as i live. they give their lives to God in a manner we can only imagine, and there will always be those who fail. Peace and God bless.

  • jollylbenitez@yahoo.com

    I am a Roman Catholic, and if i may add, a concerned and discerning Catholic. If we look at mainstream Christian civilizations that have flourished in many societies across the world, we cannot fail to see that the Church, i.e., the top hierarchy, has almost always been a powerful (politically and spiritually) and rich (almost always materially) institution.

  • jollylbenitez@yahoo.com

    Can we hold our Church leaders responsible in the same manner we do our government officials? May it’s time…

  • Dan Figman

    Anthony,

  • Soja John Thaikattil, Sydney, Australia

    Holy Cow, I wish to clarify that I know nothing about the validity of the survey that was supposedly conducted by pro-marriage advocates. Hence I’m unable to provide a reference to the article regarding the survey. I mentioned it because I wanted to add some humour to my comment in support of marriage for Catholic priests. I have known some wonderful priests and nuns and I have admired them for the great sacrifice they make in giving up companionship and family life for the sake of God’s work. I’m however not foolish enough to believe all priests and nuns are infallible and join the priesthood or convent for the right reasons or are Christlike. Yet, I have great faith in the Catholic Church and in the power of the Holy Spirit to bring about renewal and transformation.

  • Soja John Thaikattil, Sydney, Australia

    Here a few more verses from the Gospels to support the Catholic Mass:Mark 14:22-24Luke 22:17-20

  • Thomas Baum

    HOLY COWActually I used to believe that the Eucharist is Jesus, but now I know it because the Holy Spirit revealed it to me.I am here to tell the world that God’s Plan is for everyone to be with Him in the Kingdom, Jesus won the keys to hell and death and will use them in due time.Take care, be ready.Sincerely, Thomas Paul Moses Baum.

  • Thomas Baum

    JOLLYLBENITEZWe should not put priests on pedestals, it is not fair to the priest and it can be a way of avoiding our responsibility in taking up Jesus’s invitation to, “Come follow Me”.Take care, be ready.Sincerely, Thomas Paul Moses Baum.

  • Thomas Baum

    SOJA JOHN THAIKATTILSometimes not just the laity but also the clergy should actually listen to some of the prayers said in both the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist and take them to heart.Some, in both groups, might be amazed that the word catholic, as in universal, is appropriate.Christianity is part of God’s Plan and His Plan is unfolding before our very eyes.When Jesus said, “Simon, thou art Peter and upon this rock I will build MY CHURCH and the gates of the netherworld shall NOT prevail against IT”, not only did Jesus say that It is His Church, not Peter’s, but He also spelled out the mission of the Church and also He never, ever, said that the Church would be perfect but that It’s Mission would be accomplished.Pope John Paul II went around the entire world making public penances for the sins of the Catholic Church, not the members but the Church itself, and it was the time to acknowledge that.As I have said before and as it was acknowledged at Vatican II: God is a searcher of hearts and minds, not of religious affiliations or lack thereof.It is important what someone does and why they do it and what they know, we have free will and it is up to us personally whether or not we take responsibility for our actions.Take care, be ready.Sincerely, Thomas Paul Moses Baum.

  • paul C

    Soja John Thaikattil, Sydney, Australia:No, I am not a catholic priest and no, I am not personally imposing celibacy on anyone. I’m merely stating that the fact that someone is willing to be celibate to carry out the works of God demonstrates a higher level commitment than he leaders of other faiths are forced to show.As for the survey that every priest violate his vows, I find that questionable. Where is the documentation for that?

  • Ryan Haber

    For a Catholic, any discussion about the future of the Church has to begin with this statement of our Lord, “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it,” (Mt 16:18) as Thomas Baum mentioned. Any other starting point betrays a lack of conviction that the Church really is the Bride and Body of Christ enlivened, guided, preserved by His Spirit, provided for and protected by His Father.With that foundation, we encounter temptations to view a problem, say, the vocations crisis, in terms either strictly secular or strictly spiritual. This dichotomy is a hangover of gnosticism. We must remember that the worldly and the eternal, while very distinct, are inseparable and interpenetrative.Mary Cunningham aptly pointed out a declining birthrate.Matt made note of a broader vocations crisis – not only the priesthood, nor only the religious orders as well, are in declining in number. Marriage itself is decreasing numerically as fewer people marry; more who do marry delay marriage and childrearing; more expect their marriage to be ended not by death but divorce; few married couples are obviously happy with each other; all this added to the obvious developing misunderstanding about the authentic nature of marriage.Matt also noted the increase in religious vocations among dioceses and orders that boldly proclaim the orthodox Catholic Faith, and decline in those that don’t. That makes sense. If a man will not submit his will to accept the Dogma of the Virgin Birth, which has very little felt effect on him personally, why should we wonder that he won’t submit his will to accept a call from God to alter his entire way of life.Altering one’s entire way of life is what every vocation entails, because every vocation is ultimately a call from God to abandon our old way of life and our own will – which is usually a mishmash of well-meaning selfishness and cultural norms of varying moral value, and adopt His plan for our life (Rom 12:2). It means leaving behind any and every sin that we detect in ourselves (Rom 13:14). It means ridding ourselves of weights and encumberances that will weigh us down from heaven (Heb 12:1). It means taking up the viewpoint of faith: that God has a plan for our individual and collective good, and that his plan is better than our plan, which must be abandoned in order to receive the blessings he wants to give us.I spent 3 1/2 years in a Catholic seminary and speak from that experience and am happy to answer questions about it. I went to the seminary because I sincerely believed that God was calling me to the priesthood. While in the seminary, I underwent a gradual moral conversion and learned to pray. I knew that my prayers were “working” because I was changing. I knew I was changing because I could see myself responding to situations in ways I never had before, better than I had before; I knew because people were noting it.A willingness to change is the fundamental presupposition of any sort of moral or spiritual conversion, and it is the presupposition of faith as Catholics have traditionally understood it. It is precisely this unwillingness to change the underlies not only the crisis in the number of vocations, but also many of its precipitating causes. This unwillingness is why people will not give up sin, will not seriously examine doctrines that they dismiss out of hand, will not take on more than they think they can handle within their cozy lifestyles, and so on.In the West, perhaps especially in America, we want everything our way. It’s a sales jingo, for pity’s sake. We have iPods (guilty, here), Windows-ME, “treat yourself to the very best”, custom pre-fab homes, thirty-one flavors to pick from, make-your-own degree programs, everything imaginable to ensure that we are comfortable and unchallenged in ourselves.What people fundamentally don’t get about the Catholic Church, and what many western Catholics fundamentally don’t get about her either, is that she doesn’t give a hoot what we think about her truths and teachings. She didn’t get them, or her mandate to hand them down, from us, and she isn’t accountable to us, but to her Lord. In an age where we have been coddled by wealth and rules are changed by polls, and we are taught that money can get us whatever we want (from my own music to a brand new replacement wife), to be confronted by an institution that refuses (at least some of the time) to play by the rules that we take for the underlying structure of reality – well, that’s dumbfounding and upsetting.This conversion is the most fundamental of all: there is an underlying order to reality that really exists even though immaterially and we cannot change it simply by wanting to do so or insisting that it is so. The more Catholics that make it, the better for the Church. The more humans that make it, the better for our societies and cultures. If we can make shift in thinking, then questions like female priests and gay marriage, rather than vitriolic political issues, would become shared fact-finding ventures. Rather than trying to force a change in the requirement of celibacy for priests, men inclined toward religion would only ask, “Am I called to be a priest?” knowing that if that should be God’s plan for their life, it is within His power to make them happy in a way they hadn’t anticipated as being possible. Rather than saying beforehand, “There’s no way I’d have more than one child, or two at most,” young men and women, married couples would say, “Are my hands genuinely full with what God has given me, or am I really only valuing a fancy car over loving a child?” We would learn to care about others, rather than only how they affect us.I left the seminary while very much in love with the idea of being a priest, and with no other plan for my future, only because I was convinced of two things: (1) God was asking me to leave the seminary and probably not to be a priest ever; (2) God can see farther than I and loves me more than I love myself and can still bring me the joy that every person craves until they have lost hope of it.It is the lack of willingness to trust God, in this case especially as relates to his promise of indestructibility to the Church, that leads to a lack of faith, that leads to all sorts of problems culminating in the lack of vocations.As for Mr. Stevens-Arroyo’s concern that prayers for vocations might somehow be used as an excuse to drown out the Holy Spirit… good grief. I don’t want to leap to uncharitable conclusions, but I will share in a limited way my suspicions. Mr. Stevens-Arroyo probably does not understand what prayer is. I will add to that suspicion the observation that such a statement implies that he has already identified the will and working of the Holy Spirit on the matter. No wonder he has so little esteem, then, for prayer.

  • Ryan Haber

    Please allow me to add, as corroborative data, that while the numbers of Catholics in the US has grown in the last 40 years, the number of practicing Catholics has not. That is, more and more Catholics are lapsing from the Faith. The increase in numbers then reflects a decrease in faith, more than anything else.There are more priests per practicing Catholic now than at any earlier point in our nation’s history. It’s just there are more non-practicing Catholics as well, who don’t substantially contribute to the Church’s material resources, and who certainly do not train their children to discern religious vocations. Those non-practicing Catholics do, however, usually want to be baptized, married, and buried by a Catholic priest. Hatching, matching, and dispatching are the probably the most time consuming tasks facing a priest. So, while contributing the least they demand the most per their contribution.Really, the best solution I can think of to the vocations crisis, and the broader crisis in faith, is probably more “offensive” homilies and sermons and lectures by our priests. We should be reminded by them on a weekly basis at least of the absolutely critical importance for being a Catholic AT ALL of regularly confessing sins, of abstaining from sexual activity of any sort outside of marriage, of the dire eternal consequences of receiving communion haphazardly, of the requirement of sacrificial giving (not necessarily to the parish), and the crucial role played in the life of a Christian of a substantial commitment to prayer. That will confirm the faith of the faithful, correct those sincerely seeking faithfulness but erring in ignorance, and finally convince those who want life on their own terms to go to a denomination that suits them better, or if they find nothing to their personal tastes there, to an Old Country Buffet perhaps.At least then we will all be clear on the real situation – that they weren’t very Catholic even while sitting in a Catholic pew (once in a while).

  • Ryan Haber

    Paganplace,I am sorry for whatever happened to you at the hands of Catholic educators or religious. I wish there were something I could do about the past. If there is anything I can do at present, please let me know. Even if you just want someone to yell at or kick. I’m not very big and probably wouldn’t fight back.My email address is withouthavingseen at gmail.com.Ryan

  • rb-freedom-for-all

    To DJK2450:I am not interested in running around collecting “irrefutable evidence.” I am not interested in outing priests who do not stick to their vows. I am simply sharing observations I have made over my more than 50 years here on earth. In actual fact, I do not blame or find fault with the priests I have known to not be celibate. If anything, I trusted them more than before, because I knew they were real human beings and not mindless automotons behaving perfectly as the church would have them.The priests I knew who had relations with women did not even try to hide the fact. They were careful but they were not trying to sneak or hide their activities as if they were something they should feel guilty about. They did not fear the “judgment of god” as you put it and neither I nor they think they are headed for Hell. That kind of judgmental lunacy is one reason I ran from the catholic church as fast as I could. The incredible joy the “righteous” seem to take in the knowledge that some other “sinner” is going to receive “eternal damnation” is really pathological, I believe.The fact that some priests had normal, adult relationships with a member of the opposite sex means that they are well-adjusted, heterosexual adult male human beings and that they are willing to accept the consequences of their acts because they do not in their hearts believe they are damnable. Also, I believe it is a private matter between them and their god. I only bring it up because the whole concept of “celibacy” in the US catholic church is actually outmoded, in my small experience.I also respect the gay priests that form adult relationships with a partner. They are being well-adjusted too. I do heartily condemn the prists that are pedophiles. That is not forming a well-adjusted, adult relationship, obviously. That is something wholly different and objectionable.It would be a positive and productive step forward if the pope would permit priests to marry. But then, I would also want women to be able to receive the sacrament of ordination, too. That’s because I know that a woman can be intelligent enough, caring enough, and worthy enough to play a spiritual role in the lives of the community in which they live. I hope the pope will eventually awaken to this possibility some day. To Paganplace: You are right. The real wrong committed by the church was to try to deny the problem, cover it up, blame the victims, in fact do everything possible to avoid responsibility for the harm done to children by the clergy. The church was supposed to be the opposite — to protect the innocent and guard the virtues of children who were entrusted to their care. Instead, the church demonstrated itself to be an institution no longer deserving of our respect and support. The fact that the pope thinks a one-minute sound bite and a one-hour meeting with some of the victims puts the problem to rest is condescending, laughable, and sad.

  • Thomas Baum

    Why?Sincerely, Thomas Paul Moses Baum.

  • Soja John Thaikattil, Sydney, Australia

    I have posted some information and a couple of comments regarding pedophilia on the discussion thread by Professor Thistlethwaite, Benedict: Protect our children from abuse.I have posted a small reading about sexuality on the thread of Professor Freitas. Knowledge leads to clearer reasoning powers. God is the source of all knowledge and our ability to reason is God’s gift to us, He who has created human beings in His image and likeness. Prayer that seeks God’s will in all matters, gives us the capacity to discern what knowledge comes from God and what doesn’t. It is my prayer that Catholics will invest their time and energy in trying to acquire knowledge and prayerfully discern God’s will to meet the current crisis of faith in the Church, so that as Pope Benedict, echoing Pope John Paul II, feels confident that the Catholic Church will experience a new spring time which is equipped to meet the challenges of the 21st century by the power and leading of the Holy Spirit. The World Youth Day this year focuses on the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. The young are our hope.I understand that the underlying anti-Catholic feeling in the US has more to do with the history of the United States and the founding of the nation rather than the merits and otherwise of the Catholic Church. It is easily forgotten that there was no non-Catholic church before Martin Luther. The European civilization had reached its zenith long before Martin Luther was born and the Catholic Church, the only Church, with all its limitations had played a big role in the founding of the European culture as we know it today. Christianity was the official religion of Europe and in that capacity Christian values slowly became part of the culture of Europe. The Catholic monks (notably Benedictines)and religious had been the guardian of European culture and learning in politically troubled times. Catholic religious groomed the nobility of Europe and provided the best education to its people before secular institutions were established. It is one of the reasons why politics and religion intermingled and abuse of political power brought a bad name to the religion of Christianity. It is worth keeping in mind that after over eighteen centuries of Christianity influencing the political, cultural and social life of Europe, much of Christian values has become everyday knowledge in society and Christian values have passed on to government policies. So even if the number of atheists has increased with time, deep seated Christian values that shaped the culture over many centuries remain and is reflected in the social policies of their governments and the attitude of even atheists in Europe.

  • Anonymous

    My post has disappeared. Testing, testing, testing…

  • Soja John Thaikattil, Sydney, Australia

    I understand that the Anglican Church is a non-Protestant Church, which is very similar to the Catholic Church in most of its beliefs (and even has a Catholic wing!), although it refused to accept the Pope in Rome as its spiritual head.

  • Soja John Thaikattil, Sydney, Australia

    Paul, I already mentioned that I am unable to provide the reference to the survey that was mentioned in another article supporting marriage for Catholic clergy. The point I was trying to make was that Catholic men wishing to serve God as priests should not be forced into becoming religious hypocrites breaking their vow of celibacy simply because they have no other option to combine priesthood that allows a normal expression of sexuality in a marriage. Mandatory celibacy as a rule for priests, which is then broken freely by priests who do not feel called to celibacy, creates a horrible situation that puts the credibility and the authenticity of the Catholic vocation into question. By the way, there were times in the history of the Catholic church when celibacy was not mandatory for priests. So removal of mandatory celibacy would not be introduction of a new law into the Catholic church, merely a reintroduction of a law that existed at one time and had been removed for political and other reasons. In the Catholic tradition, marriage is sacred, it is a sacrament, a lifelong unconditional commitment based on love, one is expected to remain faithful to one’s spouse as one remains faithful to God and the lifelong commitment in good times and bad, in sickness and health, reflects God’s faithfulness to human beings. So why should it be any less of a calling to be married as a priest? Why should Catholic men, who do not feel called to celibacy but feel called to serve as priests, have to struggle lifelong with a natural and legitimate need to have a life companion? In the Book of Genesis we read that God thought it was not good for man to be alone and therefore He created the woman to be a companion for man. Glorifying celibacy in a way that makes marriage look like a second best option in life in the service of God is wrong. In Hinduism, temple priests are as a rule married. Sannyasis are those who leave the society altogether in search of God, like monks in the Catholic tradition. Hindu ascetics are much harder with themselves in their search for God than Catholics are. Sannyasis no longer have a role to play in society. Depending on the spiritual insight they acquire in the course of their search for God, they end up becoming spiritual guides (gurus) who are sought out for advice by those who live in the world. But sannyasis do not market themselves, they believe that God sends people to them if they are worthy of giving spiritual advice to others. The parish priest is the equivalent of the temple priest in Hinduism. Since they live alone and interact with the society, it is essential that they are given the emotional support of a family, if they should feel the need for it. The Catholic priesthood would then be spared the unwitting role of acting as refuge for men with sexual problems, men who do not want to be married for any number of reasons, including sexual promiscuity.

  • MaryCunningham

    Interesting discussion. A few points:Firstly the Church of England—the established (ie state supported) church—is a Protestant church to its very fingertips. It is also disintegrating fast because it has no rationale in the modern, well postmodern really, age. A national religion is doomed, except, of course in Israel and maybe theocracies in the Islamic world but those are another story. A *Western* national Christian religion is doomed.Secondly, certain religious have always been celibate, oh! from the first monasteries which btw were in Egypt. But secular priests, that is priests who interacted with the lay public, were allowed to be married until the 11th century at the Council of Rome in 1074. (add www)fordham.edu/halsall/source/g7-reform1.html *Now it’s pretty clear that this was to prevent powerful noble families from gaining control of their local church and using its benefices to enrich themselves rather than the poor for which they were intended. Since this is exactly what happened in Northern Europe during the Reformation one can see the wisdom in the prohibition.

  • MaryCunningham

    Tell me, Soja, in the past when Catholics were discussed these blogs became viscerally, violently anti-Catholic. There has since been some kind of monitoring but who knows when it will break out again? So, obviously, there is an enormous amount of anti-Catholic sentiment in the US. Is that true also in Australia?

  • Soja John Thaikattil, Sydney, Australia

    Mary, thank you for chiming in and information about the Church of England, which seems to have a rather interesting and complex history from the little I gathered, about it being more Catholic in rituals and belief than protestant at some points in history etc. When I visited an Anglican church in London many years ago, I was surprised at how almost Catholic it looked! The same goes for many of the Lutheran churches in Germany. Marriage for Catholic clergy is of course only for diocesan priests; after all religious communities and monasteries cannot be families living together as communes. Even in the Eastern Orthodox traditions, parish priests are allowed to be married, and they have celibate monks living in monasteries. My denomination, the Syro-Malabar Church in Kerala had to introduce celibacy for the parish priest after it came under the Roman Catholic church about four hundred years ago. The other Syrian Orthodox (the Thomas Christians) churches in Kerala, India of which we were originally a part, still married clergy.The unflattering view about introducing celibacy in Europe is that the Church wanted the property of the nobility who joined religious life. For instance there were prince-bishops (I lived for a while in a part of Germany which had the tradition for many centuries) who left their property entirely to the church, which would have been out of the question had they been married.

  • Ryan Haber

    Paganplace,I do not believe that the Catholic Church is guided and preserved by the Holy Spirit because old men have told me so, but because I myself have seen and experienced it.If the Church isn’t founded by Jesus Christ and guided by the Holy Spirit, then to hell with it. I could just go join the Kiwanis, a perfectly nice organization for fraternity and social service.As it is, I hope by the grace of God to persevere in her earthly fold until my last breath, and then with her into eternity.Ryan

  • Soja John Thaikattil, Sydney, Australia

    Mary, I must admit that I had been taken aback by the anti-Catholic sentiment expressed by many in this forum. I have never known inter-denominational hatred among Christians all my life. I have never lived anywhere where Catholics would be considered weird or second class. It is completely strange to have Catholicism referred to as another (as if it were non-Christian)religion!In Australia there are 26% Catholics, 22% Anglicans, excluding other Christian denominations that make up about 70% Christians. There is no anti-Catholic feeling here. I presume the feeling in the US has to do with the history of immigrants fleeing religious persecution in Europe, and the persecution was probably attributed to the Catholic Church under Rome, the longstanding British Anglican-Roman Catholic rivalry and conflict. The one-pastor one-denomination is a feature unique to the US.Being a Catholic, I have nothing to do with the imported American churches here in Australia. The Protestant Churches of the American kind are very popular here though and has a high membership of young families and young people. They have much to teach the Catholic Church. The wife of one Baptist minister told me how they keep young people out of trouble, providing them with entertainment other than bars and nightlife by organizing regular field trips and camps and teaching them to channel their energies constructively, teaching them the longtime negative consequences of drugs etc. I think it is pure spiritual genius coming from the Holy Spirit!

  • Ryan Haber

    “Mandatory celibacy as a rule for priests, which is then broken freely by priests who do not feel called to celibacy, creates a horrible situation that puts the credibility and the authenticity of the Catholic vocation into question.”True, true. The solution needn’t be the abandonment of celibacy, but might be its reinforcement, that is, clarification and insistence at all stages of the seminarian’s formation. Many of the priests who left the priesthood in the late 1960s – 1980s had been told, IN THEIR SEMINARIES, that the regulations requiring celibacy would be relaxed and that after ordination they would be permitted to marry. Such advice showed a shoddy theological and historical understanding of clerical celibacy. Even in times and places where celibacy is not a prerequisite for ordination, the promise not to contract a marriage subsequent to ordination has always been a condition. That is, even in places where married men might be ordained, ordained men have never, ever in Catholic (or Orthodox) church been permitted to get married (though they were not required to abandon their spouse, obviously).In the middle ages, more than wanting to inherit the property of her clergy (most of whom were not heirs in the first place, thence their choice for Holy Orders instead), the Church wanted to ensure that her property was not inherited by her clergy’s children. That is a less unflattering and more understandable goal.If anyone wonders whence the origins of celibacy for the priesthood, one need only look to the example of Jesus Christ the High Priest. He himself never took a spouse, and Latin-rite clergy cannot be impugned by any Christian for following His example.Certainly a man needs the support of a family. Many of us know that our own families might not be the most supportive though. Priests very often find themselves (happily) adopted by families and friends. Loneliness in the priesthood is a problem primarily for priests who have trouble with healthy interpersonal boundaries and relationships in the first place. This problem is not specific to the priesthood, but is endemic to our society. Does anyone doubt that there is a vast number of lonely people in western societies these days?

  • Ryan Haber

    Mary Cunningham, would you agree that the Anglican Church is “Catholic” (kind of) in its tastes, but not really at all in its theology and morals?

  • Ryan Haber

    “They have much to teach the Catholic Church. The wife of one Baptist minister told me how they keep young people out of trouble, providing them with entertainment other than bars and nightlife by organizing regular field trips and camps and teaching them to channel their energies constructively, teaching them the longtime negative consequences of drugs etc. I think it is pure spiritual genius coming from the Holy Spirit!”Ya, I am inclined to agree. We still have a lot to learn, don’t we?!

  • Soja John Thaikattil, Sydney, Australia

    Ryan HaberI wonder about your dedication to celibacy for other priests! Don’t you think that it is not fair to impose a burden on any other person that they cannot carry? Celibacy may be your ideal for a priest, but not everybody needs to share your view. It is unkind to force it on others. Priests in Eastern Orthodox Christian traditions still marry and they always have.I know there are some who live in comfort and luxury and hear a call for others to go out and be missionaries in places they would never dream of going themselves. God speaks directly to people when He calls them for special purposes. If the calling somebody else feels does not resonate with the person they feel it is meant for, the person hearing the call on somebody else’s behalf is probably trying to evade God’s call to them. At least that is my view.

  • Doug

    Currently the Episcopal/Anglican church in America is where Unitarians take communion from Catholics.It’s at the heart of the modernity debate, and personally I’d like to see it remake itself along the lines of Spong that Christianity has some good ideas, but its members are just too educated to actually believe the symbolism as truth.

  • MaryCunningham

    Soja,The Church of England is a national church, really a branch of Lutheranism. Henry VIII was kind of a reverse Robin Hood, taking from the poor to give to the rich (his nobles, cronies and anyone else he wanted to pay off). For an excellent of what happened order “The Reformation” (at £1.95) from the Catholic Truth Society here. (Just add www). cts-online.org.uk/acatalog/info_H505.htmlRyan,Alas no time to go into high Anglicanism vs low. But most of the Anglo-Catholics have become Roman. And very high calibre they are indeed.Best to all

  • Ryan Haber

    Soja,But who’s forcing anybody into seminaries, let alone into vows of celibacy?Your comment shows your infamiliarity with the modern, especially the post-scandal, seminary system. One of its major emphases is driving home to the men there the meaning, challenges, joys, and means of celibacy. Anybody who gets himself ordained after 6 years (YEARS!) of residential, full-time, year-round training that is geared toward celibacy and says that he didn’t know what he was getting into can only have been avoiding the entire process, deliberately or subconsciously. There isn’t more that can be humanly done to prepare the men and to help them make a decision. My seminary, for instance, had literally zero-pressure, the constant refrain being, “If you don’t feel you can manage celibacy, or that God hasn’t that in store for you, then you are free to go, no harm, no foul.” To make the point, most dioceses and seminaries don’t require tuition payments or loans of any sort from their seminarians. The seminarians are literally free to leave at any time.As for myself, I don’t know whether I am called to live celibately lifelong, either under vows or as a matter of fact. That is my condition now, as an unmarried observant Christian, and I am as long-term happy as I expect anyone to be on this side of heaven. While I do feel lonely at times, I hardly feel my lack of a spouse to be a burden. I know far more married couples who feel their actual spouse to be a burden or a “ball and chain” to use America’s favorite term of endearment. Loneliness can be resolved in intimate, chaste friendships, and physical energy – I am thirty, so I still have plenty – can be channeled into a number of productive, nongenital outlets. I am not urging upon anyone what I am unwilling to endure myself; and I am hardly trying to force anyone into a chastity belt.The modern world’s doubt about a celibate clergy, all the (very recent) theories about Jesus’ supposed spouses, and the rest of it results from a loss of personal self-mastery and healthy chastity. We’re in a paradoxical conundrum in the West. We put a great deal of hope in the ability of sexuality (as such) to make us happy, just as we are beginning to get most jaded about the possibility of enduring love (as evinced by the delay in marriages, the divorce rate, etc. all previously noted). We are literally coming to see an organism as the key to happiness, and, that failing, we are coming to despair.A happy celibate or religious, or for that matter a happy, monogamous marriage open to new children – either one of those absolutely stands in the face of the contemporary conundrum by proposing a path to happiness other than the orgasm.Lastly, Soja, you are mistaken about Eastern Orthodox priests. They do not marry. Married men may become Eastern Orthodox priests, but once ordained, they may no longer contract marriage, and if widowed, may not remarry. In any event, because nobody here (least of all myself) has argued that married men are UNABLE to become priests (but only that they are generally, in the Latin Church, prevented from doing so), the fact of married clergy in the East isn’t entirely germaine.

  • Soja John Thaikattil, Sydney, Australia

    Thus Orthodox tradition and practice honour and respect the celibacy of priests and praise their service in the body of the Church; at the same time, they honour and respect the married clergy since, they too, serve the same sacrament of the Church and salvation. The Orthodox Church thus accepts these two forms of service equally and leaves the choice of which it is to be to the individual member, in accordance with his own vocation and particular charisms. For pastoral reasons however, the Church has favoured the institution of celibacy for the order of bishops, and these are chosen exclusively from the celibate priesthood…This positive attitude on the part of the Eastern Church is clearly seen in canon 3 of the Council in Trullo, which underscores the need to make «pure and blameless ministers, worthy of the spiritual sacrifice of the Great God at once Victim and Priest, out of all those inscribed in the ranks of the clergy and through whom the graces of the sacraments pass to men, and the need to purge them of the filthiness of their illicit marriages; since, however, those of the most holy Roman Church propose to follow the discipline very strictly, while those of this imperial and God-protected city prefer the rule of humanity and indulgence, we have fused the two tendencies into one, lest mildness degenerate into licentiousness or austerity into bitterness…With regard to monks, who by virtue of the religious tonsure may not marry, the possibility is suggested that they may enter into marriage if, having resigned their religious identity whether willingly or unwillingly in the case of force majeure, they have been reduced to the lay state…——by Damaskinos PapandreouPlease add h t t p and w w w to view:orthodoxresearchinstitute.org/articles/misc/damaskinos_celibacy.htm

  • Soja John Thaikattil, Sydney, Australia

    It must be mentioned in the context of Hinduism that Pujaris (temple priests) are married, family men belonging to the Brahmin caste (the highest caste). Priesthood is a family profession and Brahmins are born into their caste and usually trained by the father Pujari. There is no such thing as a lower caste person becoming a temple priest by attending a Hindu equivalent of a seminary.Vivekananda, who renounced the world in search of God is a Sannyasi, someone who has renounced the world, including his caste. Sannyasis are sought out for their spiritual wisdom while temple priests who live in society as family men who conduct religious services (Pooja), marriage etc.

  • Soja John Thaikattil, Sydney, Australia

    RyanMy comments regarding Eastern Orthodox practice is because I’m originally a member of the Syro-Malabar Church in Kerala, receiving the Sacraments of Baptism, First Holy Communion and Confirmation in it. (Google should provide you with links that explains the unique history and culture of the Church.) But I have been attending the Latin Rite Roman Catholic Church from the time I was about fifteen, because I had no access to the Syro-Malabar Church, and the Syro-Malabar Church is in communion with the Roman Catholic Church. So I’m familiar with both traditions and I feel perfectly at home in the Latin rite tradition.I was only arguing for an option of marriage to be introduced for the diocesan priests. When a young man spends his training period in a seminary, he is fired with idealism, has the support of a community on a daily basis, is mentored intensely… But life in a parish is a different story and lifelong can be a really long time. The most intense personal relationships and ‘adoption’ by friends and families cannot be a substitute for the one-to-one physical and emotional intimacy in a lifelong companionship. Very few people can survive without such support when they are out on their own in a parish. That is not to say it is impossible, but the challenges of celibacy is much greater if one does not have a spiritually supportive community on a daily basis that lives by the same principles. Jesus had a band of twelve disciples with Him all the time and He did not spend time alone with any woman. Jesus spent time alone in prayer before His day’s work began and after it ended for the day. Those who are obsessed with the sex life of Jesus are probably not aware of that. Besides Jesus had only three years to teach all He could and He was crucified at a very young age, thirty three.An intensive prayer life is essential for remaining faithful to the vow of celibacy if a Catholic feels called to it, but a parish priest is simply too busy to invest much time in prayer; a parish priest does not live by the rules of a contemplative order.One has an opportunity to test one’s ability to remain celibate only when one is tempted. The training period in the seminary is a time of preparation, but the testing happens only when the priest begins to interact with the society on a regular basis in a parish. Faithfulness to the vow of celibacy happens one temptation at a time, and it cannot be done in advance for a lifetime while in the seminary. Sure a thorough sex education, deep self knowledge and tools to identify and deal with temptation helps, but it is no guarantee of how each person will exercise their free will in a given situation in real life.At thirty you are still extremely young. Wait till you are forty or fifty or sixty when the additional loneliness of age makes the longing for companionship stronger. Of course it helps to have deeply meaningful platonic relationships with members of the opposite sex, but such relationship is not meant to be a substitute for a partner or sexual relationship, if one feels incomplete without it.Sure, the modern pressure to define oneself by the number of sexual partners, their youth, physical beauty and measurements, or number of orgasms one has had, is grotesque. But the need for one sexual partner and life companion is legitimate and that is what is being discussed here in the context of optional marriage for diocesan priests.

  • Holy Cow

    Thomas Baum: wrote “HOLY COW, Actually I used to believe that the Eucharist is Jesus, but now I know it because the Holy Spirit revealed it to me.”Actually, the cow said so that it is holy. Catholicsim is the church of lies. No bread is holy. That bread becomes holy if you give it to the poor without strings attached.

  • Anonymous

    Holy Cow whatever you are a Christian you are not for you spew a hatred unworthy of a Christian.

  • Soja John Thaikattil, Sydney, Australia

    MaryThanks for your thoughts and suggestions. On a final note on this thread, my thoughts on anti-Catholic sentiments on this forum expressed by some bloggers: it is possible that the average blogger on this Forum does not represent the average American. My guess is that the Pope’s visit to the US did immense good – it helped dispel some myths about the Catholic Church and its stand as a Christian denomination. Seeing the Pope in person, and the Pope’s attempt to build bridges with other Christian denominations and religions also opened the hearts of Americans. And last but not the least the openness and acceptance of the Pope by the Panelists on this forum helped to calm many of the otherwise vitriolic anti-Catholics. I believe that the first task in inter-religious dialogue is unity with other Christians. No matter what the differences in minor points all Christians believe in the divinity of Jesus and His atoning work to save human beings from their sins, and give them eternal life. We need to focus on what we share in common and build bridges of love based on that. My very best wishes to you.Soja

  • Thomas Baum

    Unless people listen, they cannot hear.Take care, be ready.Sincerely, Thomas Paul Moses Baum.

  • holy cow

    A christian teaches people not to believe in lies. This church is built in lies. Be ready Baum for you will pay for your own lies, not only your church’s lies.This is not hatred for catholics who are blinded. this is hatred for the lies the church teaces.

  • paul C

    I must say this has been a very good thread. Lots of open discussion about catholicism and very little vitriole from the usual parties.Soja,

  • Ryan Haber

    Soja,I agree with everything you wrote in your last post. It is beautiful, and matches my experience and the experience of my priest-friends.Especially the part about the intensity and amount of prayer required to live a celibate life happily. The only thing I disagree with is your commonsense (and perhaps often true, in a sense) observation that parish priests oftentimes don’t have opportunity for such a prayer life. I disagree there, following the advice of St. Francis de Sales. He advised everyone to spend 1/2 hour daily in mental prayer, except for the very busy, whom he advised to spend in prayer one full hour daily.That hour can seem like a waste, and that sense of wastage is what makes many people, especially busy Americans, exclude prayer altogether from their day. “I’m just to busy to pray.” Making ourselves spend time, as substantial an amount of time as our real duties permit, in prayer – that’s a good stopgap against Pelagianism, the belief that we can and must save the world. Ultimately, wasting time with Jesus is an act of faith that He will still do His thing even if we stop doing anything.I myself have something of that experience. The days when I spend an hour, or at least what I genuinely can, in mental prayer – those are by far my most effective, productive, and joyful. They are also the ones in which I am personally least likely to be lonely. I lead a fairly active lifestyle – visiting family, friends, volunteering, exercising, full-time job, hiking, reading, lest anyone thing I’m a hermit.Lol. The question then is, why do I pray so little? Ahhh… That’s the question. Because I always want to be “all grown up” and “do it on my own.”I’ll copy this post elsewhere, to make sure you find it, Soja. I know a little about the S-M Catholic Church in India, and would like to learn more. My email is withouthavingseen at gmail.com if you get a chance.God bless.

  • Thomas Baum

    HOLY COWJesus never taught hatred and for that matter, He didn’t teach tolerance either, He taught Love and considering that God is LOVE, He was not only a messenger but He is also the MESSAGE.Take care, be ready.Sincerely, Thomas Paul Moses Baum.

  • Thomas Baum

    HAROLDI suppose what one has in his heart is what one see with.In the bible where it says that God Loved Jacob but hated Esau, well in the semitic usage, what it means is: God Loved Jacob more and God Loved Esau less but if someone would care to use Divine Math if you multiply Loving more and Loving less by INFINITE LOVE then what would that someone come up with?Take care, be ready.Sincerely, Thomas Paul Moses Baum.

  • harold

    Thomas Baum stated “I suppose what one has in his heart is what one see with.”You are a blind, deaf, heartless,soulless sinner creature.”I have heard thy prayer and thy supplication”“Ye that love the Lord, hate evil”Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.Like sheep they are laid in the grave; death shall feed on them; and the upright shall have dominion over them in the morning; and their beauty shall consume in the grave from their dwelling.”nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous”Then hear thou in heaven, and do, and judge thy servants, condemning the wicked, to bring his way upon his head; and justifying the righteous, to give him according to his righteousness.”justifying the righteous, to give him according to his righteousness.”Whereupon the princes of Israel and the king humbled themselves; and they said, The Lord is righteous.”The Lord is righteous.”That thine eyes may be open toward this house night and day, even toward the place of which thou hast said, My name shall be there: that thou mayest hearken unto the prayer which thy servant shall make toward this place.”That thine eyes may be open toward this house”And the Lord said unto him, I have heard thy prayer and thy supplication, that thou hast made before me: I have hallowed this house, which thou hast built, to put my name there for ever; and mine eyes and mine heart shall be there perpetually.”The Lord is righteous.””I have heard thy prayer and thy supplication””For the Lord knoweth the way of the righteous”

  • Thomas Baum

    HAROLDThe Fear of the Lord is Reverence and Awe of God, that is what it says and that is how I look at it. You say that the Fear of the Lord is to hate evil.I suppose that some might wish to approach things out of hatred but I would rather approach things, or at least try to approach things with the Essence of God which is Love since God is a Being of Love, Pure Love.God has a Plan, which is referred to as the Mysterious Plan of God and God has had His Plan since before creation and it is unfolding before our very eyes.It says in the bible that it is God’s Will that ALL BE SAVED and when the original Apostles asked Jesus to teach them how to pray, part of it was: “Thy Will Be Done”, I pray for God’s Will what other people do is up to them.Take care, be ready.Sincerely, Thomas Paul Moses Baum.