from the pastor's desk

By Diogenes (articles ) | Apr 25, 2004

Father Alan Phillip, C.P., heralds a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the form of married clergy, the 143rd such Rebirth of the Church announced in the pages of the U.S. Catholic:

I believe a new Pentecost for the Catholic Church will soon be realized and a renewed excitement about human sexuality in the context of conjugal love will soon be experienced. Just imagine a time when words preached from the pulpit are spoken in a language and mirrored by an example once again understood by married couples -- and young people on the way to marriage.

Some priests talk rubbish about conjugal love; some talk sense. Some married folk speak drivel about it; others don't. In my experience, persons with a fond connection to their families of origin -- no matter how rough and wild the ride had been in day to day family life -- tend to be most level-headed about marriage (and about celibacy, for that matter), regardless of their own status as married or celibate. You can't teach a sense of proportion and you can't teach sanity. It's more than a matter of data transfer. By the time one gets married, what's essential to know about conjugal love has already been learned. Or not.

The clergy of Protestant bodies have enjoyed the experience Fr. Phillip covets for 500 years. The Pentecost of conjugal wisdom blazing forth from those clerical bedrooms is, let's admit, underwhelming -- not warped, not wrong, but nothing extraordinary.

After all, what do Christians want their clergy to teach them about marriage -- the kind of stuff you'd get in one of those "What Every Young Man Should Know" pre-nup manuals from the 1930s? Doesn't a sleepless night with a sick child teach more than a six-month honeymoon about the meaning of commitment? I can't help but wonder whether Fr. Phillip's "renewed excitement about human sexuality" is more of a pretext than a pastoral concern.

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  • Posted by: Gil125 - Apr. 25, 2004 4:16 PM ET USA

    Ah, yes, Fr. Philip. And shall we also hear authoritatively from the Rev. Married Priest about the proper conditions for divorce? "Annulment?" How about when he has intercepted a voicemail message from Mrs. Pastor's boyfriend?

  • Posted by: - Apr. 25, 2004 2:23 PM ET USA

    I'm with you on this one, Diogenes. Father P. is pandering to hollow arguments that would discredit celibates who counsel the married/engaged. The best instruction for the proper Catholic understanding of human sexuality is in the course of one's upbringing -- within the context of the family -- not the mechanical exercises and experimentation that our culture encourages, and which isolate the experience from its dignity and purpose.

  • Posted by: - Apr. 25, 2004 1:27 PM ET USA

    These people are romantics with little sense of reality about love. Romanticism is all subjectivity and this romantic notion of love has fueled many of the abuses of sex-increased divorce, contraception, abortion, sexual deviance. Love is not primarily an emotion. Romantic love did not take Jesus to Calvary. It is this romantic notion of love that fuels such songs as "what love's got to do with it, got to do with it. It's just a second hand emotion." It is if it's romanticized.

  • Posted by: - Apr. 25, 2004 9:44 AM ET USA

    Traditional seminaries are bulging at the seams with men all too willing to embrace clerical celibacy. They wouldn't have it any other way. That is as it should be. The priesthood isn't just a job ... it is spiritually analogous to the marriage of the priest's soul to Christ. He then has the privilege of living entirely for Him and acting in His place. It would be a species of spiritual adultery for such a man to then take a wife.

  • Posted by: shrink - Apr. 25, 2004 7:51 AM ET USA

    Excellent points Diogenes. Change the Rev. Phillip's use of the term "understand" to "believe" and I think we get yet another sense of his claim. As most parents know, sincerity goes a long way toward making one's preaching and example understood. There was a time when married couples believed what chaste priests preached. When priests stopped being chaste or sincere, the laity stopped 'understanding' them.