No, it’s not time
In regard to the Santa Fe New Mexican’s editorial (“For the Roman Catholic Church, it’s time,” Our View, Sept. 12), calling for the Roman Catholic Church to reform itself by allowing married and women priests, I could not help but wonder if the editorial writers took the time to find out why the church is structured as she is. Did they even glance at the documents that discuss why women are not priests — found particularly, and probably most recently and succinctly, in Pope John Paul II’s apostolic letter, Ordinatio Sacerdotalis?
Though women (for theological, not arbitrary, reasons) are not ordained, they remain invaluable nonetheless to the operation of parishes, hospitals, various ministries and to the global church, so the board’s “let women serve” call is rather moot; they serve in essential and myriad service and leadership roles already.
Regardless of what modernity promotes, the church is not a “club” seeking the newest people-attractor. First and foremost, the broader church desires to stay faithful to what Jesus taught by His words and example; no “broadening of its appeal” is worth departing from that. Pandering for parishioners is the proverbial “slippery slope,” reminding of scripture: “… they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.” (John 12:43 RSV), and “Peter and the apostles answered, ‘We must obey God rather than men.’ ” (Acts 5:29 RSV)
As far as “married priests,” while not a theological requirement, priestly celibacy is a discipline to which the church has held for many hundreds of years, in large part due to the teaching of St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 7, which speaks of how the unmarried man and woman is freer to be concerned of the things of God, unburdened by inevitable demands of spouse and family. Secondly, few families could live on what priests are paid; in fact, the two married, formerly Anglican priests of our archdiocese have positions elsewhere for that reason.
Additionally, a former married Anglican priest often has told me that the stresses and demands on Catholic priests make it much more difficult to rear a family than when he was an Anglican priest. The Rev. Dwight Longenecker (a married former Anglican priest) had a thought-provoking article in the National Catholic Register in December 2015 titled, “Should we have married priests?” Take a look.
As far as child molestation being due to priestly celibacy, such a claim would seem to indicate that such crimes are not committed by married people, which is certainly not true. The website childmolestationprevention.org cites studies that indicate at least 1 in 20 men to be sexual abusers, and that, of admitted molesters, 77 percent either were at the time or had been married. Would the editorial board therefore oppose marriage? Since it’s estimated that about 5-ish percent of clergy have been abusers/molesters, that’s about the same rate as the general public — just so much more heinous due to the positions they hold. I have few doubts that many such inclined men became priests because they saw those positions of trust as a predatory opportunity.
Neither married nor women priests would be a panacea for the church’s failings — failings, by the way, found in every segment of society. If anything, church leaders must simply have or get the backbone to remove and prosecute all who do such evils, following the advice of St. Paul: “As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear.” (1 Timothy 5:20 RSV)
The Rev. Glenn Jones is pastor at Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church in Los Alamos.