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Grosswirth spills a load

Rich Leonardi has been keeping a tremendous eye on this situation.

Ray Grosswirth, he of the recent ordination by everyone’s favorite bishop Emanuel Millingo, apparently fashions himself to be a modern-day Martin Luther. At his blog he has posted his “40 Theses on Mandated Clerical Celibacy”. I suppose he didn’t want the trespassing and vandalization charges nailing them to a cathedral door would have offered him (a sign, perhaps, that he does not fully embrace personal sacrifice? Hmm…). To call them discursive is to do a disservice to the term. His “theses” and my responses follow. I hope those who are even more versed in the long, long history of clerical celibacy will pipe in here.

1.) When Jesus invited his disciples to follow him, he did not instruct them to leave their spouses behind.

Well, to start with we should quote Luke 18:29-30, “‘I tell you the truth,’ Jesus said to them, ‘no one who has left home or wife or brothers or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God will fail to receive many times as much in this age and, in the age to come, eternal life.'” While obviously not a strident order this lays the groundwork. As does Matthew 19:12 where Jesus says, “Some are incapable of marriage because they were born so; some, because they were made so by others; some, because they have renounced marriage for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Whoever can accept this ought to accept it.” So much for a sola scriptura basis for his assertion.

2.) Mandated celibacy violates natural law.

See 1) above. And further, I don’t entirely see his argument that it violates natural law. Men and women were not put on this earth to procreate primarily (despite the arguments of the neo-Darwinists) but rather, as the Baltimore Catechism would tell us, to know and to love God. If celibacy for some helps to that end it must be seen as a good. Further, it’s not like the Church is telling an entire group of people they must be celibate who have no choice otherwise. While the call comes from God, the response comes from the one called. This is a far cry from forced sterilization, particularly in light of the fact that the response which is a prerequisite to ordination is explicitly voluntary.

3.) Mandated celibacy celebrates a male hierarchy and diminishes the role of women.

How he can suggest this and keep a straight face I’ll never know. Is this to suggest that women are incapable of celibacy (see: all the orders of faithful nuns and the non-professed who retain their celibacy for the good of the kingdom)? No, I don’t think he’s being that simplistic, I believe he is attempting to conflate the issue of priestly celibacy with the issue of ordination of women. If in fact he wishes to argue about both issues that’s fine, but to pretend they are one and the same is at best dishonest.

4.) Mandated celibacy can lead to sexual frustration; sexual frustration can lead to sexual abuse.

Marriage can lead to sexual frustration. So can the inability to find a suitable spouse. So can many other issues, including medical issues. Need we review the recent highly publicized cases of teachers raping their students? Should we mention the fact these teachers are almost invariably married? By his logic, their marriages led to this sexual abuse therefore the institution of marriage is at fault. Brilliant.

5.) The primary beneficiary of mandated celibacy is the hierarchy.

How so ever is that? Oh, of course, in the sense that the hierarchy can order around the priests like fraternity pledges. Sure. If you look around enough with your eyes closed you’re bound to see conspiracies everywhere.

6.) The call to priesthood is diminished by mandated celibacy.

Ah, conflation again. The call to priesthood comes from God, not from the person requesting ordination. Now, if he’s willing to argue that the response to the call is diminished, at least that’s arguable. However, that’s less than likely due to the hundreds of years of experience of vocations under the rule of celibacy, even arguing with his asserted timeline. Or is it that he’s arguing that today’s men (not women, of course – remember we don’t want to conflate too many issues here, heads may explode) are simply incapable of handling life without intercourse? Perhaps we should consider the possibility that if those men are incapable of this they just may never have been cut out for the fullness of the priestly call anyway.

7.) Mandated celibacy gives marriage a secondary status.

A common meme, and a tired one. If anything, it elevates the status of marriage. It reminds us that both marriage and ordination demand 100% of the person involved, not 50%. Even those ordained to the diaconate are reminded that their duties to their families must remain preeminent in their lives.

8.) Mandated celibacy obscures the first 11 centuries of a married priesthood.

If it obscures it, it’s only because it’s a rather obscured issue to begin with. While the rule was not enforced uniformly for the entire Latin Church until the Second Lateran Council there is more than ample evidence that it was the accepted practice since apostolic times. Go ahead and enter “celibacy catholic church” into a Google search and read around. The facts of the matter are decidedly against Mr. Grosswirth.

9.) The commandment of Jesus to “love one another” takes on the dimension of “love only thy self” with mandated celibacy.

Interesting. Perhaps Mr. Grosswirth needs to read Deus Caritas Est to understand the multiplicity of dimensions of love. I’ll give him a hint though – love encompasses more than just marital relations. And further, the fullness of the quote is, “love one another as I have loved you”; somehow I don’t think Jesus was married to everyone to whom he spoke.

10.) Availability of the Eucharist is jeopardized with the policy of mandated celibacy.

Only insofar as people use celibacy as an excuse to not listen to the call to the vocation of the priesthood. Perhaps a couple of homilies every now and then on the biblical concepts from point #1 would do a world of good for the issue of vocational responses. One should also note the anecdotal evidence of increased vocations in diocese where doctrinal orthodoxy is considered a high priority. One should further take notice of the fact that most religious denominations are facing a crisis in clergy right now, even though most do not require celibacy. In fact, often the most doctrinally “open” denominations tend to have the greatest problems. This equation is not adding up, sir.

11.) Our liturgy documents call us to active participation. Mandated celibacy calls our priests to a state of subjective pacifism.

I positively don’t even know where to go with this one. Not only does he not understand what the Second Vatican Council called for, he’s conflating issues of the participatio actuosa of the laity with the marital relations (or lack thereof) of the ordained clergy. These two don’t even live in the same city, let alone the same house.

12.) Mandated celibacy can create an unhealthy fear of women.

Many things can create an unhealthy fear of women. It can likewise create a
healthier relationship with women because there is no “danger” of a relationship being pursued by either party, if the celibacy is respected by both parties. If celibacy causes a fear of women there likely was already something malformed in the person suffering this fear.

13.) 25,000 priests in the United States entered into marriage. The policy of mandated celibacy keeps them on the sidelines.

And? They broke a canonical law and they received the wages for their actions. Should we next suggest that the policy of only baptising people who accept certain teachings leaves them on the sidelines as well? I honestly wonder if he had a point to make with this or if he was just trying to find a way to get that number in this list somehow. And further, how many of them would be interested in coming back as priests even if they were allowed with no changes to their state? And even then, how many of them would be otherwise properly disposed to come back as priests and uphold the fullness of the Magisterium?

14.) 120,000 priests worldwide entered into marriage. As in the case of U.S. priests, they are sidelined by the policy of mandated celibacy.

He must have been looking for ways to get all 40 points filled out. At best this belongs as a subnote of #13.

15.) The ‘fathers’ of our 5th century church were guilty of distorting the leadership roles played by women of the first four centuries, in an attempt to set the stage toward eventual implementation of mandated celibacy in the 12th century.

Wow. He must have consulted Dan Brown to come up with a multi-generational and multi-century conspiracy theory like this. Do we really need to bring this up again and drag out all the ways women were more well-respected in the early Church than in surrounding societies and how women have even been granted the title of “Doctor of the Church”? I didn’t think so.

16.) A celibate priest should not be a primary source of marriage counseling.

You know, I can see a point here. I really wish he’d actually tried to back it up. The point is more accurately made that a celibate priest has a perspective unclouded by personal interactions that is unattainable by anyone who is or ever has been married. The same can be said in converse for a married marriage counselor. “A primary”? Yes. “The only“? Perhaps not.

17.) Mandated celibacy can lead to faulty theology, such as Thomas Aquinas referring to women as “misbegotten males.”

Again, many things can lead to faulty theology. Thomas Aquinas was not correct on everything he wrote about, embodying in a way the Catholic truth of “development of doctrine”. It feels more like he just wanted to drop a big name here and attempt to make a single instance emblematic of a general problem. It just doesn’t hold much water.

18.) It should be no surprise that the “Fishers of Men” campaign, launched by the U.S. bishops to recruit potential seminarians, was a dismal failure. A counter-campaign needs to be launched, such as “Mandatory Celibacy Does Not Work.”

The “Fishers of Men” campaign, for whatever level of failure it was, simply was so due to a lack of urgency on the parts of some bishops and their staffs. How, exactly, this is supposed to detract from the concept of a celibate priesthood is at best a tangential relationship.

19.) Our bishops are guilty of hypocrisy: While rejecting optional celibacy, they nevertheless welcome married Protestant ministers who wish to convert to Catholicism and serve as Roman Catholic priests.

Our bishops did precisely what they should have done. They dispensed with a rule when it was pastorally prudent. This is perhaps one of the greatest problem in dealing with priestly celibacy – “why some, but not others?” Time fails my ability to articulate their decision now, but suffice it to say it was with great care that Pope John Paul II opened that door.

20.) The pope should not have absolute authority on the issue of mandated celibacy. The road to optional celibacy can be paved when individual bishops are allowed to use married priests on an as-needed basis.

This is arguable either way, since it was not a truly “universal” rule until the Second Lateran Council. The real problem with this statement is its real intent – to gain leverage over bishops who otherwise might be sympathetic or at least apathetic to their cause without the support and encouragement of the Pope. And given the axiom “once a right is given it is nearly impossible to remove” and the views of those who clamor for a non-celibate priesthood that such is their “right” this would lead to the eventual end of celibacy universally. While they can deny their desire for this conclusion, the facts and human history point in only one direction.

21.) Bishops are afraid that optional celibacy will lead to further discussion on the ordination of women. The policy of mandatory celibacy will not silence this debate. Women must become equal partners at the altar.

Whoa. Back to conflation again. I don’t understand how the policy of mandatory celibacy would silence the debate if, in fact, as he suggests in points 6 and 10 that it in fact causes the continual re-opening of discussion on the nature of and rules regarding the priesthood. He is trying to have it both ways, and neither of them in the end add up to much.

22.) Jesus took the bread, broke it, and gave it to his disciples (men & women). He did not say, “let celibate men alone do this in memory of me.”

I’m rather curious of the exact exegesis of this. If I read Mark 14 correctly, He was at table with the Twelve which does not include any women. This also implies the command to “do this in memory of me” was given primarily to the Church he had formed and specifically to the Apostles, the predecessors of the Bishops. And once again, the point he tries (and fails) to make is that the rule of celibacy is a rule not a doctrine. But nobody is arguing that point. One wonders why he tries to make it a point of contention.

23.) When Jesus turned water into wine at Cana, it was not for the sole purpose of enhancing the party. It was rather a witnessing event for the men and women present, so they together could go out and preach the good news as an inclusive discipleship. There was no mandated celibacy at this gathering.

When Jesus turned water into wine at Cana it was for the purpose of Divine Revelation, to reveal to those there and those who were to come in the future something of Himself, His relation to His Father and His relation with his mother, Mary. And since it was a wedding, of course there was no mandated celibacy; the point attempts to reach to incredulity. Further, this was not directly related to the sacramental act of consecration in any way, despite whatever kind of catechesis he may be suffering from.

24.) When Jesus multiplied the fish and the loaves, it was an example all men and women of faith were to follow, whereby they were expected to feed the hungry and nourish their spirituality as well. There was no place for mandated celibacy at the scene of this commissioning.

Lordy, lordy, but he is trying to fill out his points. He has become desperate already, and we’re barely halfway there. This act doesn’t speak to celibacy one way or the other as it is again an act of Divine Revelation, revealing something of the coming Kingdom and simultaneously revealing how we should act collectively. Celibacy is neither buoyed nor pulled down in this instance – it isn’t mentioned at all.

25.) When a priest invokes the Holy Spirit to come upon the gifts to make them holy, the Holy Spirit does not come becaus
e it is a celibate priest extending the invitation. The Holy Spirit rather comes on behalf of an inclusive community, whereby artificial barriers between the celibate and non-celibate are erased.

Bzzzt. And thus you are unsuited to be a Catholic priest, beyond your restriction due to your married state. The Holy Spirit comes via the action of the priest acting in persona Christi, not by virtue of the community, whether it be inclusive or exclusive. Perhaps too much time spent in horizontal liturgies has caused the good Mr. Grosswirth to misunderstand exactly how the Holy Sacrifice works.

26.) The image of a celibate male as the highest form of piety is a sacrilege, especially when the Vatican instructs Anglicans that the consecration of women bishops will be a barrier to ecumenical talks.

The image of a celibate male as the highest form of piety? Interesting. Wrong, but interesting. The role of piety in the call to celibacy is indeed strong, but that is a personal piety on the part of the person being ordained. As for our Anglican brethren and the (again) conflation with this issue and the ordination of women, the Vatican has said repeatedly that … no, wait, I’m not letting him pull me into that hole. One issue at a time, sir.

27.) The so-called ‘priesthood shortage’ is of the Vatican’s own making. Mandated celibacy is no longer a noble pursuit – not that it ever was.

Well, at best, that’s a person’s opinion, lacking even an attempt to back it up with facts. If he took the time and effort to look into the statistics he would see that other denominations which allow both married priests and even those who allow women to be “ordained” are having problems attracting people to their ministerial roles. And as for it being a noble pursuit, perhaps he needs to go and read again the bible verses pointed out under his point #1. Jesus told us himself celibacy is a noble goal; who should we believe, Jesus or Mr. Grosswirth?

28.) Seminaries, once a staple of the American landscape, are quickly fading into the sunset. The reason is simply the expected adherence to mandatory celibacy as one completes the formation process.

There is one single reason we don’t have all the priests we could ask for? Really? Mr. Grosswirth, you insult everyone who has ever seriously discerned the priesthood and not followed through to ordination due to reasons other than celibacy. If the problem were that simple, even the Bishops for whom you show such un-Christian disdain, being that they are the descendants of the Apostles, could have figured that out. The fact of the matter is there are many issues causing this current perceived shortage of which celibacy is but a small fraction.

29.) A healthy formation program would ideally be one in which a prospective priest is not chosen on the sole basis of promised obedience to a bishop and a promise to live a celibate life. A forced lifestyle, for the sake of the priesthood, can lead to multiple dysfunctions.

Once again, multiple things can lead to multiple dysfunctions. And if you have been paying any attention for the last 40 years or so, obedience to a bishop is hardly something we’ve seen from everyone who comes out of priestly formation in seminary. We could wish it were, but it simply is not. As for the promise to live a celibate life, given that it accords with following the Canonical laws of the Church and is in direct line with the principle of sentire cum ecclesia, that certainly should be part of priestly formation. Not all of it, but certainly a part of it. After all, it’s not like our priests spend four or more years in major seminary learning nothing but submission to the bishop and celibacy.

30.) Early councils of the church argued over the nature of Jesus, until such time it was agreed that He was fully human and fully divine. His human nature was to be with us, minus any distinctions between married, single, male or female persons. He promised the Kingdom to all the faithful. Mandated celibacy does not give a priest a special status or front-row seat in the Kingdom.

Nobody said it did. Doing the will of the Father is the only thing that matters in the Kingdom. And part of doing that will is listening to what the Church His Son established on this earth has to say about matters. But a nice job of (again) conflating matters which have nothing to do with each other.

31.) The desire for a policy of optional celibacy should be equated with a desire for inclusivity, as opposed to disobedience to a bishop.

The desire, as long as it is manifested within the tradition of sentire cum ecclesia, certainly could be equated with inclusivity. When it is manifested in the form Mr. Grosswirth displayed with his ordination, wherein proper respect for the Church’s Magisterium is bypassed and direct disrespect is shown to the Bishop of the particular church in which the ordination took place, however, its goal can only be equated with disobedience rather than a mere, and human, disagreement. Just as we are under God, we are under His Church and if we cannot immediately conform to her calls our proper response is neither to disrespect her nor to leave. By his actions, Mr. Grosswirth did both.

32.) As long as the mandated celibacy policy continues, our priests will continue to be victims of burn-out, considering our current ratio of one celibate priest per 3,500 Catholics in the United States.

This, of course, assumes once again that merely lifting the celibacy rule would spring forth such great numbers of good and worthy priests we would never face a shortage again. As has been said repeatedly already, the statistics – the facts – do not bear this assumption out.

33.) Although statistics indicate the number of Catholics in the United States is steadily increasing, parish closings are increasing as well. The blame for this can be at least partially placed on our pontiff’s insistence that the mandated celibacy policy for priests remains intact. The Vatican’s solution is to ‘warehouse’ Catholics into mega-churches. Let married priests come to the rescue!

Ah, so he finally admits it may only be “partially” to blame. Well, that’s getting somewhere. There are other facts, such as the changing demographics of the Church in the United States as well as the changing geographic layout of parishioners to parishes. Huge numbers of churches were built in the last century to reflect the communities of different immigrant ethnicities. As these groups have broken up in subsequent generations and moved out to the exurbs, the genuine need for some of these churches has waned. That is not to say either that the closing of any church is not a painful and unwanted occurrence nor that it is the only reason, but it is at least equally as compelling as the theory of celibacy. And hey, it has measurable statistics rather than unsubstantiated rumor and innuendo. That’s a much better starting place.

34.) The imposition of mandatory celibacy had nothing to do with theology; it was rather an economic decision.

Sorry, but once again you failed your history test sir. Indeed, economics did play a part as there were somewhat shady deals between kings and priests and bishops regarding appointing of bishops and their marriages to the right ladies that caused a considerable stain on the Church for a time. But to suggest it was merely an economic decision disregards the impact the appearance of impropriety and scandal had on the faithful – something we can understand perhaps more readily now after the sexual abuse scandal.

35.) Simplistic theology used by our hierarchy suggests that since Jesus was celibate, priests should live likewise. In the first place, we don

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