Monday, March 22, 2010

One Can Always Dream...

There was a lot of speculation a few months ago about a rumored Holy Week "surprise" that the Pope was allegedly going to issue.

There was wild speculation in the comments section of a post on Rorate Caeli, ranging from the restoration of the sedia gestatoria, to the abolition of communion on the hand, to a papal Mass in the Old Rite, to things more trivial, to things more significant. It may just be this collection for the rebuilding of the seminary in Haiti that was recently announced.

Still, the thread had been quiet for a while, but now this rumor has appeared:
It is no coincidence that the announcement will be Holy Thursday, and will be addressed to priests but with impact for all Catholic faithful. In seminary the news is that many meetings (some public, many not) have been leading the Holy Father to announce subtle but ultimately fundamental changes to the requirement for priestly celibacy (for new priests, there will be no release from existing vows of celibacy). We are amazed that so many think that an announcement to the the worldwide church would be so trivial as whether he should be carried in his chair or not.
If that's true (and I doubt it, but we'll see), then perhaps I judged the man too quickly. He's a smart guy, for sure, maybe he is finally getting it. I made a bet a few months ago that we'd see the end of mandatory celibacy within 15 years; this would certainly be a quicker pay-off than I'd expected! But I doubt it. Not quite yet; if the constant stream of abuse victims is any indicator, they haven't yet hit rock-bottom. And like all addicts, these power-addicted hierarchs need to hit rock-bottom before they will surrender and be open to change.

Still, we can pray. Though, even if this is true, I think it would have shown more media savvy to bump the announcement up a few weeks to confront the crisis that erupted immediately; in our 24-hour news cycle, every week, every day, every hour of inaction drains your credibility.

Like I said, I think this is all wild speculation. Why would the Pope keep defending mandatory celibacy in the wake of the crisis and in the weeks leading up to a planned announcement overturning it? Just to fake us out? Ha, not likely.

But, the important thing is that such speculation is taking place, even in the seminaries apparently! There is excitement, if restrained, over the possibility. Expectations are rising. And sometimes it is expectations which are the hardest to resist. They say that revolutions happen when rising expectations and hopes are disappointed, rather than when things are despairingly bad.

We'll see what happens, but either way, there has clearly been a paradigm shift on this issue.


Kelly said...

I really don't think celibacy has anything to do with the clerical abuse crisis.

A heterosexual man, who is going to break his vow of chastity, is more likely to do so with an adult woman, not a child. A homosexually oriented man will do so with an adult man, not a child.

And it's not like there are no adults around who would think it a blast to "get it on" with a priest!

No, someone who would want sex with a child or young teen was oriented that way to start with. Being celibate will not make you sexually interested in children if you aren't that way already.

And making celibacy optional will not get rid of the clerical abuse problem. Teachers and babysitters have a higher rate of sexual abuse than priests do, and neither teachers nor babysitters have a vow of celibacy. And there are married men who will abuse their own kids, after all.

So without any effort to identify and kick out of the priesthood men who psychosexually messed up enough to want to abuse children, then all you would end up with by making celibacy optional is priests who are abusing their own kids rather than someone else's.

Celibacy is certainly a worthwhile thing to discuss, but mixing it up with the clerical abuse crisis is a pointless line of discussion.

A Sinner said...

As I've discussed in other posts about this, of course celibacy isn't turning men into pedophiles.

But a celibate lifestyle may attract the sexually deviant by providing cover and, more importantly, it makes the clergy out-of-touch with the laity and family concerns by not being anchored in broader society, but remaining their own little homosocial isolated clerical world.

Sure, protestant ministers abuse at the same rates as priests...but, as you say, they have their OWN children to abuse. So wouldn't we expect the priestly rate to be lower? But it isnt.

Men with children themselves may be no less likely to abuse, but I would argue that those who ARENT abusers (ie, most of them) are much more likely to be outraged and to REPORT abuse when they find out about it, on account of their own children.

Most importantly, though, I think, as l'osservatore romano suggested recently, marriage for priests would mean the presence of more Women in (albeit unofficial) roles of power.

I am also imagining, remember, that the priesthood would no longer necessarily be a full-time salaried position for most priests, if mandatory celibacy was lifted. That too would have a big effect on the structures of secrecy and loyalties within the clergy.

The fact is, whether you think there is a connection or not, the Public does. There is the PERCEPTION of a connection, and that is in many ways just as important; if people find celibate priests creepy or don't trust their children with them, then they won't be effective ministers regardless of whether there is a real connection.

Call it media "spin" all you want, but it's spin that wins, and I'm going to run with it.

sortacatholic said...

If Pope Benedict were serious about phasing out mandatory clerical celibacy, he could have made anglicorum coetibus a market trial for optional celibacy. This is why I don't think optional celibacy will be the Holy Week surprise.

If the Eastern Discipline is adopted, I would expect trads to prefer priests from celibate trad orders. Will trad communities reject secular married clergy? My trad/ROTR parish in the States has a married deacon that frequently participates in Solemn Mass. One of our priests is ex-Anglican, married, and highly regarded. Where I'm from, clerical marriage isn't a new concept. I've read of some trad parishes don't allow married deacons to participate in Solemn Mass (whatever). Let's hope Tradsphere wakes up and embraces change.

A Maundy Thursday introduction of the Eastern Discipline will make for a very joyous Easter! While such a move won't take the pain of abuse away, it will partially mend the rift between the laity, Pope Benedict, and the institutional Church. Mater Ecclesiae, ora pro nobis!

A Sinner said...

"If the Eastern Discipline is adopted, I would expect trads to prefer priests from celibate trad orders. Will trad communities reject secular married clergy?"

I'm sure they'd have an apoplectic fit at first. Some would accept it soon enough, others would not. But, part of my big thing is that the Old Rite isn't just for "trads" anymore. Any Latin Rite priest can say it now, including, presumably, the married priests. What "trads" think is becoming less and less important when it comes to the future of the Traditional Liturgy.

"A Maundy Thursday introduction of the Eastern Discipline will make for a very joyous Easter!"

Yeah, but it's not going to happen. Unless all the denial recently has just been to keep the surprise.

I haven't heard anything lately about the "surprise" except vague rumors. It may not amount to anything even registered by the press. Like I've said, it may just be the release of the second volume of "Jesus of Nazareth" or that special collection for the seminary in Haiti.

However, if this document on seminaries is to be released soon, it could contain some interesting stuff...

Jonathan said...

Maybe just maybe (gets giddy) a seminary model like the one we previously discussed or one closer to my heart, the apprenticeship form. Not that I'm holding my breath, but I can dream can't I ?

Lol could you imagine if The Pope stumbled on your blog ?