Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Roman Catholic Catholic Church Kicks Own Goal

Hypocrisy may deceive the cleverest of men, but the least wide-awake child recognises it and is revolted by it, however ingeniously it may be disguised.
Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910)

"Church Dumps Priest Who Wed". That's the headline over a story in the Sydney Morning Herald this morning, after a Roman Catholic priest announced to the media yesterday - it was on national TV - that he had wed the woman he loves. The church, in the form of the Bishop of Parramatta (in Sydney), Anthony Fisher, acted quickly in this instance of a priestly misdeed to remove said priest from his duties overnight. I'm sure this makes perfect sense to loyal Roman Catholics and it is probably also what those of us who understand - more or less - how the Roman Catholic Church works expected: priests of the Roman rite take a vow of celibacy and the church deems that breaking that vow means a man cannot continue to exercise their priestly ministry (perhaps my RC correspondents will fill me in on the points of fine detail in canon law, exceptions for Anglicans swimming the Tiber, und so weiter).

The difficulty the RCC has made for itself by promulgating this medieval rule as church law into contemporary times is that it has long been commonly known in RC circles - and outside them - that very many priests do not keep their vow of celibacy and in fact lead double lives. I know this reality disturbs RC laity; frankly, it disturbs even me - I sympathise with Roman clergy who feel the pressures of celibacy are too much to bear but being duplicitous is no solution. For that reason I commend Fr Lee, the priest who has "come out" as married, for his honesty. The bigger question here is: to what extent do the RC hierarchy connive at this duplicity in order to preserve the veneer of priestly celibacy? It seems that having a girlfriend (or a boyfriend - informed estimates from US studies are that 20% of Catholic clergy are homosexual) is winked at, but dare to marry that girlfriend as God has ordained and the church will act very swiftly indeed to remove you from active ministry. The priest in question has apparently written a book detailing the situation in the priesthood as he knows it from the inside and is set to appear again on TV tonight. I think many priests in the Sydney archdiocese and elsewhere around the country, not least the bishops, will be very nervous as to what he may reveal.   

Then also there is the troubling fact that we now know that priests with long histories of pedophilia and hebephilia have been allowed to continue their ministries - indeed the bishops even facilitated this by moving such priests from parish to parish and protecting them from the civil authorities, taking a long time to admit their error in doing so. This makes the decisive action of the bishop in this instance, however justifiable it may be according to RC canon law, look hypocritical in the extreme. This is especially so given the other news story concerning the RCC getting headlines in Australia at the moment concerning a priest who allegedly sexually molested (including one charge of rape, I believe) several teenage girls and one boy but who was allowed by Catholic authorities to continue in ministry after they were made aware of the allegations; indeed, the priest was even permitted a celebratory Mass on the 50th anniversary of his ordination.  On the same day -yesterday - that the story of the married priest broke, TV news bulletins showed this priest being led into a police station after being arrested. Given that the Roman Catholic Church is the largest single church body in this nation and is thus seen to represent Christianity to an increasingly secularised public, what message do you think these two news stories, inevitably juxtaposed by the editors of the TV news bulletins, send? At best it's an "own goal" by the church, at worst an egregious example of churchly hypocrisy.  

What would Lutherans say on the matter, if given the opportunity? Perhaps something like this:
"There has been common complaint concerning the examples of priests who were not chaste. For that reason also Pope Pius is reported to have said that there were certain causes why marriage was taken away from priests, but that there were far weightier ones why it ought to be given back; for so Platina writes. Since, therefore, our priests were desirous to avoid these open scandals, they married wives, and taught that it was lawful for them to contract matrimony. First, because Paul says, 1 Cor. 7:2,9: To avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife. Also: It is better to marry than to burn. Secondly Christ says, Matt. 19:11: All men cannot receive this saying, where He teaches that not all men are fit to lead a single life; for God created man for procreation, Gen. 1:28. Nor is it in man's power, without a singular gift and work of God, to alter this creation. [For it is manifest, and many have confessed that no good, honest, chaste life, no Christian, sincere, upright conduct has resulted (from the attempt), but a horrible, fearful unrest and torment of conscience has been felt by many until the end.] Therefore, those who are not fit to lead a single life ought to contract matrimony. For no man's law, no vow, can annul the commandment and ordinance of God. For these reasons the priests teach that it is lawful for them to marry wives." The Augsburg Confession, Art XXIII


Chris said...

The celibacy thing is strange considering the first pope (by tradition at least) was married!

Mark Henderson said...

Indeed, Chris. The RC church will at least acknowledge that celibacy is a human, not a divine, law, but that only makes the contemporary situation more problematic.

David Cochrane said...

Another injustice of this act is if a priest in the Orthodox Church was married he would be able to maintain the marriage even after converting.

Marriage! What a vile act!!!

Christ have mercy on your church.

Siddharta Gautama Buddha said...

Monks, I know of no other form by which a man's heart is so enslaved as it is by that of a woman !

Monks, a woman's form obsesses a man's heart !

Monks, I know of no other scent by which a man's heart is so enslaved as it is by that of a woman !

Monks, a woman's scent obsesses a man's heart !

Monks, I know of no other sound by which a man's heart is so enslaved as it is by that of a woman !

Monks, a woman's voice obsesses a man's heart !

Monks, I know of no other touch by which a man's heart is so enslaved as it is by that of a woman !

Monks, a woman's touch obsesses a man's heart !

Mark Henderson said...

Thanks for that Lucian.
A wife is indeed God's greatest gift to man in the order of creation. A pity Buddha was so suspicious of that gift.

Lvka said...

A woman is a woman.

A man's insatiable craving for woman is not "woman".

Wine is wine.

A man's insatiable craving for wine is not "wine".

Food is food.

A man's insatiable craving for food is not "food".

Tobacco is tobacco.

A man's insatiable craving for tobacco is not "tobacco".

Creation is not meant to become a breeding-spot of idolatry.

Mark Henderson said...

So true.
Very Lutheran, actually.

Damo said...

HI All ,Its funny the first say 500 yrs of the Catholic Church priests could marry,they left big propeties and inheritances to their Children,and when marriage was banned the pope was not Popular indeed,I know a couple of Priest of Qld who have no problem with being celibate and do say up to 10 masses a week meetings visits and sick calls etc,that would be too much for a marrried man as she who must be obeyed would not be pleased,and administer much affliction indeed,they do feel the standing solid without wishy washy indescision on issues makes them stand alone a bit I mean us Lutherans have Breakaways,( elca woman Lesbian ministers Homosexuals,and some congregations not wanting to mention the Body and Blood in Communion ( the real precense)they think in my experience that if they comphromise on this and that then comes breakaways and the Uniting Church trail of wholesale comphromise,its of course just my view God Bless Damo Toowoomba Lutheran ( Loving the Real prescense)

SCEcclesia said...

Mark, I have recently spent some time in the presence of Jewish folk. One of our topics of discussion is the difference between anti-semitism, anti-jewishness, and anti-Judaism. The first is racism, pure and simple. The second is a dislike of or opposition to things and people of the Jewish culture. The third is a particular religious outlook of people who may be quite innocent of either of the first two anti's, but who, nevertheless, cause great dismay and discomfort to Jewish people because it is actually a manifestation of religious ill will toward the Jewish religion as such, most often encountered in Christian supercessionism, and most concretely experienced by Jews themselves in concerted efforts of Christians to convert Jews. The latter may not sound like a bad thing to Christians, but - since, in Jewish eyes, for a Jew to become a believer in Jesus means for that Jew to effectively cease being a Jews - to Jews such conversion attempts looks like an attempt to finish off what Hitler failed to succeed in doing: to drive Judaism to extinction.

Okay, all that aside, my thoughts over the weekend was that some of your posts are decidedly anti-Catholic. Not in the sense of racism (there is no Catholic "race") nor in the sense that you don't like people who are Catholic (you and I have been in the past at least tolerably civil to each other, and I would offer to pour you a glass of red wine if you were in my room with me here at the moment). But you really, really do need to do a bit of an examination of conscience on your anti-Catholicism in a religious sense. I would have no difficulty were you to simply say something along the lines of "I'm a Lutheran, and I, along with my Church, do not hold the Catholic discipline of celibacy as either necessary or valuable". Fine. But to go to the lengths you do in this blog to demean the very many Catholic priests who give of themselves sacrificially to their church and people in living faithful celibate lives, and then to further demean these good men by suggesting that the gift of celibacy which they believe has been given to them as a special charism of the Holy Spirit for the service of the Kingdom of God as something which, on the contrary, leads only to homosexuality and child molestation, is really, really, REALLY on the nose.

Have a deep think about this, Pastor. How would you feel if I were to demean all Lutheran clergy by saying "Of course, many of them are so lustful they can't even be satisfied with one wife, and are often to be found committing adultery with the organist, something that Lutheran lay people are loathe to face up to", or if I were to say, "Of course, Lutherans have such a high regard for marriage that they even countenance their clergy getting divorced and remarried and continuing in the ministry". That wouldn't be very nice, would it?
By all means enter into challenging dialogue, but enough already of the anti-Catholic hate, okay?

Schütz said...

Dear Mark,

Given that you have written so extensively on this matter, I hope you will take the time to read the homily preached by Bishop Anthony in the affected parish: