Married priests offer tantalising possibilities


God writes straight with crooked lines. -Portuguese Proverb

The question of the theology of ordination to the priesthood just isn’t going to go away.

First, in a meeting with Italian priests in Rome in February, the Pope, they tell us, said that he is going to put the topic of the ordination of married men “into his diary.”

Meaning on his list of subjects to be — what? Addressed? Discussed? Opened to consideration? Promised? The possibilities are tantalising.

In countries where some Catholic communities never see a priest more than once a year, the implications of a new and developing clergy — a married clergy as well as a celibate clergy — conjure up images of a church choosing to be vital and viable again.

In the United States itself, as well as in far off rural outposts, parishes are closing at a great rate.

In fact, the very superstructure of the church of the ’50s — its community-building impact, its services and ministries, its vibrant witness — is dimming.

People drive miles to go to Mass now or don’t go at all.

They volunteer in civic agencies now rather than in parish ministries because there are few or no church projects impactful enough to demand their commitment.

Instead, the church, where there is one, has become a private devotion.

But if Pope Francis takes the question of married men seriously, that could, for a change, lead to real change.

The annual number of candidates for the priesthood might actually rise, for instance. The number of priestless parishes might be reduced.

The Church’s ministry to families, itself embodied in a model of family life, might become more credible.

Sex would become both a male and a female thing rather than a prescription for the control of women.

And, oh yes, the place and role of women in the church might very well change, too, once women began to be seen as integral to the parish and its activities. Continue reading

  • Benedictine Sr Joan Chittister is a best-selling author and international lecturer on topics of justice, peace, human rights, women’s issues and contemporary spirituality in the Church and in society.
Additional reading

News category: Analysis and Comment.

Tags: , , ,