Could it happen; could two-thousand years of an archaic doctrine one day come to a screeching halt in the Catholic Church? The rule that Catholic priests can never be married has now come under scrutiny by some of the highest of holy ones in the Vatican. Some time, and in the not so distant future, Catholic worshipers may be going to church on Sunday morning and saying hello not only to their priest, but also to his wife or girlfriend on the church’s front steps after mass.
This may be nothing new to church goers of other denominations that allow their priests to be married, but for some Catholics, this sudden change may be shocking. Priests in the Catholic Church have never been allowed to be married and are required to remain celibate for their entire life. So, for Catholic Church officials to even agree to discuss the subject of changing the policy is miraculous.
Lots of people are saying, “It’s about time!”
With large numbers of Catholics abandoning the religion in recent years, some changes need to be made. Scandals of priests accused of pedophilia, and the church’s archaic views on social issues (like homosexuality) has caused many Catholics to seek spiritual guidance elsewhere. Whether or not this new change, or even the considering of it is a productive strategy for winning back a percentage of its refugee congregation, remains to be seen.
Only two months ago, the Vatican’s secretary of state, Archbishop Pietro Parolin, who is Pope Francis right-hand man, told a Venezuelan newspaper that the subject should be open to debate. He said that celibacy by priests is not cemented in church dogma and that it could be changed to “reflect the democratic spirit of the times.”
Other high-ranking, church officials have also publicly made statements in favor of overturning the Catholic Church’s, long-standing, celibacy rules.
“Celibacy is a discipline, not a dogma of the church,” said Cardinal Claudio Hummes. Even Cardinal Bergoglio, in the book “Pope Francis: Conversations With Jorge Bergoglio” said, “I can’t stress enough that if the Church was to change its position at some point, it would be to confront a cultural problem in a particular place.” Even Cardinal Egan, when he was the outgoing archbishop of NYC, also said that it was time to review the policy.
The Catholic Church, in recent years, has fallen victim to a shortage of priests. Many priests who have left the church (300,000) have said they did so because they were eager to have sexual relations and consider marriage. The church, though, insists that allowing priests to marry would have no positive effect on the recruitment of new priests.
The concept of letting priests marry in the Catholic Church, however, is an important one, and one which would probably be accepted by most followers of the Catholic religion. After all, who wants to listen to a priest on a Sunday morning giving a sermon about how we all need to practice patience and tolerance while he knows nothing at all about raising a family or maintaining a healthy, sexual relationship.
That is like teaching someone how to drive a car when you have never gotten behind the wheel yourself. Theology and spiritual guidance are beneficial, but how can it be taught in areas where the teacher himself has never dwelled?
Although there are some doctrines that the Catholic Church will never consider changing (like letting women become priests), this is one policy that should be re-examined. If the Catholic Church sends out the message that they are willing to compromise and let this policy be changed, critics of the church may begin viewing the church more favorably. It may also help persuade many of the church’s former, deserters to return.
Times change, and although no one expects the Catholic Church to change radically, there are some policies that are just too “old-fashioned” to survive in today’s, current social climate. Is it productive or even fair to expect priests to refrain from a natural, God-given instinct, or bodily function? Is it fair to deny them the right to experience one of the ultimate and intrinsic rewards of the act of love and in raising a family?
Surely, loyal devotion to a divine vocation like the priesthood is maintained if the priest’s commitment to his faith and the church is a genuine one. It would seem that by letting a priest enjoy and experience the more fulfilling aspects of human nature, he would become a more compassionate and astute teacher – as well as a more understanding one.
Sexual frustration can be a serious detriment; we all know that, and one that can confuse or complicate one’s ability to behave rationally. It is time to recognize that fact and attempt to apply a solution to where it has become a serious problem.
In a world where morality has sometimes become more complex as life itself, we need more priests and educators that live beyond the realm of ancient and past ideologies. If that means letting priests marry and enjoy the traditional aspects of sexual intimacy, then that is what the Catholic Church should do.
The world is not only changing it has already changed a lot. It is time for the Catholic Church to recognize that fact, and learn to adapt and compromise with its flock. That is not going against the word of God, is it simply maintaining and allowing the natural order of God’s own creation to flourish and survive.
© Joseph E. Rathjen – All Rights Reserved – 2013