Friday, September 16, 2011

Rumblings About Clerical Celibacy In Rome Give Me Real Hope

Or maybe a rethink of some of those 'no's'

Celibacy is becoming a hot topic in Vatican circles, not just in Austria.  The following is excerpted from a Vatican Insider article by Giacomo Galeazzi.  Although it started out reporting on the current call for married priests in Ireland, it ended with two very interesting paragraphs--which in the interests of clarity I have broken  into more paragraphs.  Translations do have their drawbacks.

....According to the Archbishop of Vienna Christof Schoenborn, priestly celibacy, which is “unique to the Catholic Church,” partly explains the acts of paedophilia committed by priests. The cardinal blames “both the education of priests and the consequences of the sexual revolution of ’68, as well as celibacy as affecting their personal development,” encouraging “a change of vision.” Schonborn presented an appeal by Austrian Catholic authorities to the Curia, asking for the abolition of compulsory celibacy, the return of married priests to work, the opening of the diaconate to women and the ordination of the so-called “Viri probati”. (Older married men.)

At the same as the Austrian appeal was being made, Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini added the abolition of ecclesiastical celibacy to the agenda of the Church worldwide. In response to the global whirlwind of the sex abuse scandals involving the clergy, the Sacred College and national communities (especially the Church in Northern Europe and the Third World) were engaged in lengthy discussions about whether priests should be allowed to marry or not. 

“What can the Church do to avoid new case of violence and sexual abuse in the future?” Cardinal Martini asked himself last year. “The Holy Father’s judgement is always clear, the former Archbishop of Milan added, today, given the fact that our duty towards youngsters and the abuse committed against them scandalously contradict each other, we cannot pull back now, we have to find new solutions.” 

“Fundamental questions need to be asked,” and this also involves “a re-examination of whether priestly celibacy as a form of life should remain compulsory.” 

“Central questions regarding sexuality need to be re-examined in the context of today’s generations, the human sciences and the Bible’s teachings,” because “only an open discussion can give the Church back its authority, correct failures and reinforce the Church’s service to man.” “The idea of celibacy as compulsory for priests should be reconsidered,” Cardinal Martini stressed to the Austrian daily “Die Presse”. “The fundamental questions regarding sexuality must be reconsidered by engaging in dialogue with the new generations,” Cardinal Martini clarified, explaining that “we must ask ourselves the fundamental questions again, in order to regain the faith lost.”

And according to a survey, 92% of Swiss citizens are against the ban on marriage. “Hopefully this scandal will reopen the debate on compulsory celibacy for the diocesan clergy, as soon as possible, the Dominican Frei Betto, one of the fathers of the theology of freedom commented.

"According to the Church, marriage is a sacrament, just as the priestly order is a sacrament. Marriage and priesthood are not incompatible. It is the sexual taboo inside the Church that is contributing to the creation of a cultural background which favours aberrations such as paedophilia.” 

Frei Betto hopes “that the Church changes its law on compulsory celibacy for priest as soon as possible.” Even scandals, he said, can “prove to be useful” in order to make further steps towards the improvement of church life. “Priestly celibacy is not a dogma, but an ecclesiastical law that can be changed on the basis of historical, social and cultural facts," Frei Betto stressed. 

Mark’s Gospel, for example, describes how Jesus healed Peter’s mother in law, a sign that the apostle was married. And Peter is not only one of the twelve apostles but the one chosen by Jesus as the first Pope.” Exponents of neo liberalism in the South American Church have called upon Benedict XVI on many occasions to convene a new Council, to abolish celibacy amongst other things.


This is the first time I have read that Cardinal Schonborn himself broached in the Vatican the topics covered in the Austrian priests Call for Disobedience.  I wish this article had given a date for this move on Schonborn's part.  Cardinal Martini's comments are important in their own right because he most definitely takes the conversation beyond priestly discipline and into questions of sexual morality. And then add the comments of Frei Betto and I'm almost at a loss for words. Almost.

One of the words that cropped up more than once in this article is 'neo liberalism'.  Since it came up with regards to South American bishops, I wonder if it's sort of Catholic PC for proponents of liberation theology or maybe a new word for Spirit of Vatican II Catholics, a kind of complimentary word to neo conservatives. I think it intrigued me because I don't know that I've ever seen it before.  If it makes the Vatican happier to deal with 'neo liberals' rather than disobedient dissenters and self centered heretics, I can get on board with that.  It certainly beats CINO or Cafeteria Catholic.  What ever it takes to move forward is fine by me.

There was an extended period of time in the last two years where I seriously wondered if I was going to have the patience to outlast what seemed to be Vatican intransigence to deal with the problems effecting the Church in the West and South America.  The issue that made this period of official obduracy so difficult was that I never believed the exodus of clergy and laity out of Catholicism was due to a lack of faith in Jesus or the influence of secularism, but it was due to the very real feeling of not being heard and that leading to feelings of powerlessness and that finally leading to indifference.  I also never lost sight of the fact that abuse victims were treated exactly the same, had many more legitimate reasons not to be treated this way, and that indifference was not an option for them.  There were many times I wondered why I kept on keeping on.

Except, I knew it would eventually start to change.  I truly felt there were Cardinals and Bishops and members of the Curia who were as concerned about the direction of the Church as I was and high on my list was Cardinal Schonborn, and Cardinal Martini, and Archbishop Martin.  This article describes a serious start in changing the future of the Church.  Benedict will get his special prelatures for all his special little groups of Traditionalists,  and being Personal Prelatures or Ordinariates they will get to keep their own unique view of Catholicism.  I have no problem with that.  There can still be unity in diversity.  In the meantime the rest of the Church can get on with the business of the future.  That future is starting to look a lot brighter.



  1. Wow, the future is starting to look brighter,and just in time for Benedict's trip to Germany.

    It has been said that the future is not what it used to be.

    I hope your patience and perseverance is rewarded. I'm hoping too.

  2. My concern is that the Church look for healthy people to serve as priests. Ordaining women who only seek power and unquestioning obedience would not make things any better. I have worked in the corporate world where women executives tried to out man the men. They were nastier and less human.
    The same with married priests. I do not want a man who lords it over his congregation as he lords it over his wife.
    And finally, men do not abuse children because they do not have legal access to women. Pedophilia is an aberration, and a crime. They are psychosexually immature and cannot relate to adults, especially women. Some people, perhaps unintentionally, make is sound like if Father abuses children because he cannot get married and marriage would solve the problem. NO! There are plenty of married pedophiles.

  3. Oh, well, it was nice while it lasted:

  4. It isn't over yet. Schonborn's fear is not reform, it's schism. He isn't done talking yet, and many the corporate CEO takes a public hard line and does something different in face to face encounters. The stumbling block is Benedict and Archbishop Martin's 'cabal'.

    Benedict's trip to Germany is not going to be the orchestrated cake walk he had in Spain at World Youth Day.

  5. Never forget how the Holy Spirit took over the show (in the form of a storm) and nearly blew the pope off the stage in Madrid! ;)

  6. Anon, I've found it somewhat amusing that coverage of that storm hasn't had the Trads coming out in droves interpeting the weather as some form of God's wrath for some liturgical abuse of one sort or another.

    Along those lines, I thought it was divine intervention that the 'tents' holding all the hosts for the million+ communicants were damaged to the point only a select hundred thousand or so received communion. Perhaps God was demonstrating that Benedict has chosen his 7.5% elect and cut out the other 92.5% of God's children. No wonder he was almost blown off the stage. :)