Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Beware what you wish for

A commonly suggested panacea for the shortage of Catholic priests is to open up the priesthood to married men. Not so fast. Married priests doesn't mean what you think it means:
However, the argument does not end there, because - and this is where the modern proponents of a married priesthood totally miss the point - while the Early Church admitted clerics to be married, it never, ever condoned clerics engaging in sexual activity. We are introduced to a plethora of texts - most of them previously unknown to me - in support of this position. For example, the Cum in Utum decretal of Pope Siricius, dating from 386:


"Moreover, as it is worthy, chaste, and honest to do so, this is what we advise: let the priests and Levites have no intercourse with their wives, inasmuch as they are absorbed in the daily duties of their ministries. Paul, when writing to the Corinthians, said, "Leave yourselves free for prayer" (1 Cor. 7:5). If lay people are asked to be continent so that their prayers are granted, all the more so a priest who should be ready at any moment, thanks to an immaculate purity, and not fearing the obligation of offering the sacrifice or baptizing. Were he soiled by carnal concupiscence, what could he do? Would he excuse himself? With what shame, in what state of mind would he carry out his functions?"

There is much more. Hundreds of citations over hundreds of pages drive the main point home: It has never been the tradition of the Church to condone a sexually active priesthood.
He goes into more detail here. It's true that the Catholic Church once ordained married men as priests. Ordination, however, meant that the priest had to remain continent from that day forward. He could not have sex with his wife (I can hear the godless heathens in the manosphere chuckling.) Let's pretend that tomorrow Pope Francis announced that he was returning the Church to the ancient discipline of ordaining married men with the understanding that they must remain perfectly continent. Any takers?

On a more serious note, what people need to understand is that the shortage of priests is intimately (no pun intended) linked to the decline of marriage. Even if married priests were permitted to engage in sexual activity, there would only be a momentary uptick in the number of ordinations before returning to its current norm. Mine is a generation without fathers, in both senses of the word.

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