Monday, December 04, 2006

Celibacy, round 2

Cardinal Claudio Hummes is backing off comments he made in Brazil that the church needs to change its celibacy policy. After noting in an interview with a Brazilian newspaper that "celibates are part of Catholic history and culture," he pointed out that "the Church can reflect on the issue because celibacy is not a dogma but a form of discipline."

Today's Washington Post has him backpedaling, but just a bit: "I have no new doctrine on priestly celibacy. I just say what the doctrine of the Church says. Obviously, it is the Pope who guides the Church." Well, yes, Claudio, but the pope just made you the head of the Congregation of Clergy, and I hardly think he was unaware of your position.

You heard here first, folks: B16 will begin the relaxation of mandatory celibacy in the Western church, though I'm not sure it will be completed while he is pope. "Experiments" will be permitted in the developing world, but it will eventually spread. And I think it's probably already a done deal, and the Vatican meeting a couple of weeks ago and remarks like those Hummes made are laying the groundwork.

Actually, and those more traditional folks among my readership might be surprised by this, I wish they'd hold off on celibacy (and women's ordination for that matter) until we get a renewed theology of ministry. I'd hate to see lay ministry phased out because we suddenly have enough married priests to do the work. What I'd really like to see is a whole new way of looking at ministry, one that gets us thinking outside the "clerical box." The kind of "experiments" we need go way beyond allowing priests to marry.


At 4:51 PM, Blogger Jeff said...

I knew that replacing the utterly clueless Castrillon de Hoyos with Hummes was going to turn out to be a good move. It's already starting to bear fruit.

Hopefully, we'll start to see some positive movement here, maybe even while we're still alive.

Nice blog.

At 9:23 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just an old friend checking in. I am now working for our HS alma mater and was googling a couple of my former classmates. Your blog has allowed me to escape work all morning. Keep up the great writing.

Diannah Eagle Miller

At 9:40 AM, Blogger Mary Anne said...

I have an idea for an experiment. Maybe every Catholic could just be his/her own little protestant pastor. That would work!

At 9:44 AM, Blogger CtotheL said...

Well, Mary Anne, that would be an experiment, though not the one I had in mind. How about starting with allowing ministers of care to anoint the sick, since they (and not priests) do most of the ministry to the sick and dying anyway!

At 9:46 AM, Blogger CtotheL said...

Thanks, Diannah--hope life is treating you well! Nice to know said alma mater is in such good hands! :)

At 10:16 AM, Blogger Mary Anne said...

The reason that they don't anoint most likely has to do with the sacrament of confession. Those on their death beds will often request to clear their consciences before dying, a real act of mercy that only an ordained priest is able to give.

That having been said, any of us can lay hands on another and pray for that person's healing. In that sense, what you have stated is laudable. So, why don't we do it? I think it's because of a lack of faith on the part of lay persons, which, by the way, is NOT the pope's fault.

There was a woman, about a year ago ( who has charisms for healing), who prayed, at a distance, for my very ill mother, dying in the hospital, and you know what? Mom is still with us. The priest anointed her also, and together, I think that the prayers of the faithful, and the witness of the priest anointing her with oil were just what the Faith is supposed to be!

At 3:22 PM, Anonymous ANR said...

It'd be a good thing to allow deacons to anoint the sick & hear confessions.

Think of the good work they could do not only in hospitals but in prison ministries.

That might be a good preliminary step.

At 8:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A positive side of the shortage of willing males for the current priesthood has been the expansion of the role of the laity, and hopefully the start of seeing that we are the church, the Body of Christ. But, still a long way left to go.

At 5:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

;eave the "experimenting" to Rachel Ray and Mr. Wizard. Leave church issues/doctrinal issues to the Pope. you can't "experiment" with the sacraments or the ordained ministry.

At 5:40 PM, Blogger CtotheL said...

Of course we can "experiment." How do you think we got the current arrangement? Jesus, after all, didn't really leave a blueprint. The church, like all things human (even if it has a divine element), evolves and develops. That's true of its structure, its sacraments, and its doctrine.

At 3:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

the current arrangement was led by the Holy Spirit not according to political whim.

At 4:10 PM, Blogger CtotheL said...

Then why is it that the Holy Spirit has led the Orthodox and Eastern Catholic churches to have married clergy but not the Latin church? Mandatory celibacy is simply a discipline, a law, and the pope could dispense with it tomorrow.

Besides, I don't think we should be too quick to invoke the Holy Spirit's guidance. Even B16 has pointed out that there were some popes that the Holy Spirit would certainly not have chosen.

At 5:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would not be against a married clergy if the Holy Spirit led B16 to in this direction. But when you talk about "experimenting" I get a little nervous....any changes in Church disipline...must be carefully dicerned by the Pope and bishops in union with him. We can't just make changes to see what will happen...we are not playing chess. :)

At 5:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

there are some Popes that the HS would not have chosen but the HS still worked through them. God works through imperfect people all the time.

At 9:15 AM, Blogger CtotheL said...

And sometimes those imperfect people are just doing what they want. I've no doubt the Spirit guides the church--the whole body of Christ, head and members--but I think we have to be a bit more nuanced when we invoke the HS.

Was the Spirit guiding the church when it imposed the gospel on Native Americans during the Spanish colonization of the New World? What about during the 1700 years when the church's moral teaching permitted slavery?

All things require discernment--and not just by the pope and bishops--and sometimes the only way to discern is to try something new. If it doesn't work, it can be abandoned. That's why new church policies are often approved "ad experimentum," provisionally, as an experiment.

Of course, you're right, we're not playing chess here, but "experimenting" doesn't mean thoughtless--even scientific experiments are carefully planned and undertaken only when circumstances merit. In this case, we are already experimenting with married clergy in the married Episcopal and Lutheran clergy who have become Roman Catholic and been ordained.


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