Tag Archives: Clergy

Celibacy and a Wounded Church: Readers’ Observations

A few weeks ago, I was sent me this anecdote by email:

A friend of Armin’s was recently in Austria to bury her mother.  Her aunts referred to the priest’s “frau”; Sandra thought that was a bit odd because Catholic priests don’t marry, right, but since she isn’t a churchgoer she figured maybe she was just out of touch. So she invited the priest “and your wife” to dinner. He blanched… she repeated the invitation… he accepted. And brought her along.

Apparently this woman was originally the housekeeper, but has become his mistress. The whole parish knows. It’s all widely accepted and understood, although this was the first time she had been invited along like that. (But from the sounds of it, it won’t be the last.)  Another instance, I think, of actual Catholic communities being far more progressive (and human) than the Vatican.

I was interested, but not surprised by this. We know that all around the world, the rule on compulsory celibacy is widely ignored, often openly. In both Austria and Germany there are formal, organized support groups for priests with mistresses. In Italy, a group of mistresses have petitioned the pope to end the celibacy rule so that they could (in effect) come out of the closet.  In Africa, one Bishop was removed from office when knowledge that many priests in his diocese were living openly with their wives and families became embarrassingly commonplace, and another was excommunicated (long after) he followed up his own marriage by actively promoting marriage for Catholic priests. Universal celibacy of Catholic priests is a myth. Any pretence otherwise is sheer hypocrisy.

Nevertheless, as long as the rule remains in place, most priests will be obliged to maintain at least the pretence of compliance. This compulsory lie they must live under is inevitably damaging to them – and to the wider Church. Jordan replied to my posting of the “Equally Blessed” press release by arguing correctly that the insistence on compulsory celibacy is doubly damaging to gay Catholic priests, who in turn inflict harm on the wider community of gay Catholics: Continue reading Celibacy and a Wounded Church: Readers’ Observations

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DIY Catholicism: Twin Cities "Synod of the Baptized".

The “whole church” self-evidently includes many more people than simply the self-appointed oligarchy of bishops and their clergy, but the Vatican has never made any serious effort to involve the rest of us in the affairs of the Church – beyond serving as fund-raisers and cheap labour for the simpler tasks. Questions of serious planning and decision-taking it keeps very carefully to its own. However, as I have noted frequently, there are abundant and increasing signs that ordinary Catholics, lay people, religious women, married priests now outside of institutional control, and some more progressive regular priests are recognizing the importance of making a full contribution to the life of the Church. Where they are not being properly involved by the institutional oligarchy, they are simply doing it for themselves.

One of the more impressive examples of this comes from the diocese of Minneapolis / St Paul, which has just brought to fruition their very successful “Synod of the Baptized”. This has been the fruit of long months of hard work and preparation, so I was delighted to read how well the event seems to have gone off – and that the team are already engaged in planning for the next stage.

Taken from the Progressive Catholic Voice, these are some extracts from a report by Paula Ruddy:

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If signs of the Holy Spirit’s action in a group are joy and hope, Saturday’s Synod of the Baptized was a Spirit-filled place. Most of us were not able to see tongues of fire, but we heard voluble talk and shining eyes while people spoke of their experience of oneness.

The experience boiled over into Sunday liturgies in at least three parishes with many Synod goers.

Sponsored by the Catholic Coalition for Church Reform (CCCR) and held at the Ramada Plaza Hotel on Industrial Boulevard in Northeast Minneapolis, the Synod attracted 492 participants.

Paul Lakeland, Fairfield University professor and prolific author, spoke on the mission of the Church and what we have to do to become the Church we need. (To read the full transcript of his keynote address, click here.) Lakeland is an ecclesiologist, a student of the theology of Church. He said the mission of the Church is to the world and the role of the institutional structure of the Church is to support the laity in doing that mission. The test of the value of any policy or practice of the institutional Church is whether it supports the laity in its mission.

The Synod was a full day of talk and plans for action.

Read the full article at Progressive Catholic Voice

The next and obvious question is, “Where next?” – or are committed and baptized Catholics found only in the Twin Cities?

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LGBT Inclusion in Church: A Study in Contrasts

In Minneapolis, we have a fascinating study in contrasts, which illustrate the differences between churches, and divisions within them, on LGBT inclusion in Church.
wcco.com reports on a Lutheran celebration for lesbian pastors who can finally be formally recognized within the ECLA structures :
3 Lesbian Pastors Join Lutheran Roster 

In Minn. Saturday was a historical day for many Twin Cities Lutherans who believe people shouldn’t have to choose between sexuality and spirituality.

Bishops of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) presided over a St. Paul ceremony that officially received three openly lesbian pastors onto the denomination’s roster. Pastors Anita C. Hill, Ruth Frost and Phyllis Zillhart took part in a rite of reception service Saturday at Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in St. Paul.

Pastors Anita C. Hill, Ruth Frost and Phyllis Zillhart took part in a rite of reception service Saturday at Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in St. Paul on Sept. 18, 2010. 

All three are in committed lifelong relationships and were prohibited from joining the ELCA roster until a denominational assembly voted last summer to liberalize its gay clergy policy. Before that vote, gay clergy were required to remain celibate. “Today is the day that I become a has-been and dear God, am I glad,” said Hill. “Amen.” “Today that fracture is being healed,” said Frost. “Acknowledging sexuality is not easy,” said Zillhart. ELCA’s St. Paul Synod Bishop Peter Rogness presided over the ceremony where dozens of pastors from around the Twin Cities placed their hands on the three women and they were added to the ELCA roster. The congregation followed with a standing ovation and several minutes of applause.

Minnesota’s Roman Catholic bishops are launching a campaign against gay marriage and calling on Catholics to take political action.

Members of the Diocese of Winona will soon receive DVDs “about the possible effects that same-sex marriage would have in our state,” Bishop John Quinn wrote in the latest issue of the diocese’s newspaper, the Courier.

“This is our time to stand up and defend marriage as a unique institution that, from the beginning of human history and in every culture, is the union of one man and one woman for the propagation of the human family and the upbringing of children,” Quinn wrote.

In this, they are not alone. A dissenting Lutheran pastor had this to say:

Associate Pastor Challa Baro of Our Redeemer Oromo Evangelical Church was conflicted over the possibility of this moment. He said it isn’t an issue of sexuality, but scripture. “It is complete departure from the Bible. It is a public departure from the teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ. The ELCA is departing from the rest of the Christian community, officially, that is what is happening,” he said.

It is reasonable for him to argue that this is a departure from Scripture. This is a traditional belief, although many Biblical scholars now believe it is a mistaken interpretation – but still, a reasonable one. What is off the wall, is that the claim that this is a departure from the teachings of Jesus Christ, who had absolutely nothing specific to say on same-sex relationships, but indirectly showed by word and example that full inclusion for all is the Christian way.
And if the progressive, inclusive Lutherans have their reactionary dissenters, the Catholic bishops are not having it all their own way either. Some state Catholics are actively promoting the same-sex marriage the bishops are trying to prevent.
This was in The Wild Reed, earlier this year:

This past Saturday, April 17, saw close to 300 people gather at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, MN, for a CPCSM co-sponsored event that showed support for marriage equality for same-sex couples and protested the presence on campus of two high profile anti-equality activists, Maggie Gallagher of the National Organization of Marriage (NOM) and Bishop Salvatore Cordileone of Oakland, CA. Both were invited to the Twin Cities by Archbishop John Nienstedtand the Office of Marriage, Family, and Life to address the archdiocesan “Reclaiming the Culture of Marriage and Life” spring conference. This conference was held at the University of St. Thomas at the same time as the pro-equality rally, and drew about 150 people.

Three things impressed me most about Saturday’s rally for marriage equality. First, the number of people who turned out for it. I’ve heard no official count, but I estimate that at least 250, possibly 300 people were in attendance. Second, I was greatly impressed and heartened by the number of young people in attendance. I’ve noted before at The Wild Reed, that for the vast majority of people under 35, homosexuality and gay marriage are non-issues. Justice and equality, however, are issues that these younger generations are very much energized by and engaged in.

Finally, I was impressed by just how Catholic the whole event was. By this I mean that most of the speakers at the rally made reference to the positive impact of their Catholic upbringing. This upbringing and what the church taught them about justice, compassion, and the value of both faith and reason, informs and inspires them to take a stand for marriage equality.

This process will continue. In the not too distant future, queer exclusion in church will be just as anachronistic in Christian churches as racial segregation – or as an exclusively male, nominally celibate priesthood.

Related articles Elsewhere

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Married Priests, Womenpriests, Gay Priests: Let’s All Stand Together

In ongoing debates, discussions and raging arguments over compulsory celibacy for priests, we usually overlook the simple, plain fact that there are already many thousands of married Catholic priests. The eastern rite churches within the Catholic church have always accepted a married clergy, and in recent years there has been a steady trickle of married clergy converting from other denominations, who have been ordained in the Catholic Church and are now ministering openly and officially in Catholic parishes, in many parts of the world. Most of us know this, even if we do not think about it consciously.

Eastern Rite Catholic Priests

We completely overlook, however, that by far the greatest number of married priests today are those who started out conventionally enough in the Western Church, but later left formal ministry within the institutional church. Many of these left in order to marry, others left and only later chose to marry. All, however, remain priests. In catholic theology, the principle is clear: “Once a priest, always a priest”.

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Some of these continue to offer ministry of different kinds, although (obviously) outside of the institutional church and without its sanction. In this, they have clear parallels with the growing womenpriests movement, which recently ordained priests in Sarasota, and will ordain five more women as priests or deacons in Rochester on May 1st this year. There are parallels too, with a small handful of openly gay priests who have entered into civil marriages or civil unions with their partners. (The few that I know of are working in specialist ministries, independently of church funding or diocesan control). There are also heterosexual priests who have legally married without the sanction of the Church – especially in Africa.

I was interested this morning to stumble upon the writing of one such married priest, Fr Ray Grosswirth, at “Toward a Progressive Catholic Church”. What I like about Fr Gosswirth is his calm and balanced approach, characterized by a desire to find common ground between the progressive and conservative voices. Two of the New Year resolutions he posted on January 1 were:

3.)I will avoid those who try to entice me into theological arguments in cyberspace.
4.)I will continue to work behind the scenes for an opportunity for conservative and liberal Catholics to gather in an atmosphere of mutual respect, whereby diversity would be celebrated, as opposed to being attacked.

Typical of his approach is this brief report on a New York meeting between married priests outside the fold, and mainstream diocesan priests, looking for ways to work together. This is an admirable goal, and I wish them every success.

Dialogue Between Diocesan & Married Priests

Dear Blog Visitors:


If you read various Catholic blogs, it might appear that there is no constructive dialogue between traditionalists and reformers. This is indeed often the case. However, it is wonderful when a middle-of-the-road approach is taken and produces results.
One of my better experiences in recent years occurred on January 8, 2003. On that day, the executive board of CORPUS (national association for an inclusive priesthood) and the president of the NFPC (National Federation of Priest Councils) spent a day together in New York City. Highlights of our day included constructive talks on the role married priests could play in various dioceses around the country. This was inclusive of a very nice lunch in an Italian restaurant in Manhattan.
I have included a photo taken at the lunch mentioned in the preceding paragraph. From the left are Bob Silva (former president of the NFPC) and the former CORPUS executive board, including Bill Wisniewski, Russ Ditzel and Ray Grosswirth (yours truly).
I continue to pray for the success of the American Catholic Council, scheduled to take place in June of 2011 in Detroit. It will be an opportunity for conservative and progressive Catholics to come together in a spirit of friendship and dialogue. I look forward to attending and participating in the conversations.


Peace to all, Ray Grosswirth

(Cross-posted from “The Open Tabernacle“)

See also:

Celibacy in the year of the priest

The Underground Priesthood

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Married Priests, Women Priests, Gay Priests: Let’s All Stand Together

In ongoing debates, discussions and raging arguments over compulsory celibacy for priests, we usually overlook the simple, plain fact that there are already many thousands of married Catholic priests. The eastern rite churches within the Catholic church have always accepted a married clergy, and in recent years there has been a steady trickle of married clergy converting from other denominations, who have been ordained in the Catholic Church and are now ministering openly and officially in Catholic parishes, in many parts of the world. Most of us know this, even if we do not think about it consciously.
“Eastern Rite Catholic Priests”

We completely overlook, however, that by far the greatest number of married priests today are those who started out conventionally enough in the Western Church, but later left formal ministry within the institutional church. Many of these left in order to marry, others left and only later chose to marry. All, however, remain priests. In catholic theology, the principle is clear: “Once a priest, always a priest”.

Some of these continue to offer ministry of different kinds, although (obviously) outside of the institutional church and without its sanction. In this, they have clear parallels with the growing womenpriests movement, which recently ordained priests in Sarasota, and will ordain five more women as priests or deacons in Rochester on May 1st this year. There are parallels too, with a small handful of openly gay priests who have entered into civil marriages or civil unions with their partners. (The few that I know of are working in specialist ministries, independently of church funding or diocesan control). There are also heterosexual priests who have legally married without the sanction of the Church – especially in Africa.
I was interested this morning to stumble upon the writing of one such married priest, Fr Ray Grosswirth, at “Toward a Progressive Catholic Church”. What I like about Fr Gosswirth is his calm and balanced approach, characterized by a desire to find common ground between the progressive and conservative voices. Two of the New Year resolutions he posted on January 1 were:

3.)I will avoid those who try to entice me into theological arguments in cyberspace.
4.)I will continue to work behind the scenes for an opportunity for conservative and liberal Catholics to gather in an atmosphere of mutual respect, whereby diversity would be celebrated, as opposed to being attacked.

Typical of his approach is this brief report on a New York meeting between married priests outside the fold, and mainstream diocesan priests, looking for ways to work together. This is an admirable goal, and I wish them every success.

Dialogue Between Diocesan & Married Priests

Dear Blog Visitors:

If you read various Catholic blogs, it might appear that there is no constructive dialogue between traditionalists and reformers. This is indeed often the case. However, it is wonderful when a middle-of-the-road approach is taken and produces results.
One of my better experiences in recent years occurred on January 8, 2003. On that day, the executive board of CORPUS (national association for an inclusive priesthood) and the president of the NFPC (National Federation of Priest Councils) spent a day together in New York City. Highlights of our day included constructive talks on the role married priests could play in various dioceses around the country. This was inclusive of a very nice lunch in an Italian restaurant in Manhattan.
I have included a photo taken at the lunch mentioned in the preceding paragraph. From the left are Bob Silva (former president of the NFPC) and the former CORPUS executive board, including Bill Wisniewski, Russ Ditzel and Ray Grosswirth (yours truly).
I continue to pray for the success of the American Catholic Council, scheduled to take place in June of 2011 in Detroit. It will be an opportunity for conservative and progressive Catholics to come together in a spirit of friendship and dialogue. I look forward to attending and participating in the conversations.


Peace to all, Ray Grosswirth
(Cross-posted from “The Open Tabernacle“)
See also:
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