priestless in Seattle

By Diogenes (articles ) | Oct 28, 2005

Today's Seattle Times features a profile of CITI ministries, a group of Catholic priests who have left the ministry for marriage (or something), but still perform the odd ceremony.

John Shuster, for instance, celebrates Christmas Mass for friends each year:

"People come in. We sing carols. I get some pita bread and wine and have my chalice. I dress in my vestments. It's like the old midnight Mass Catholics used to go to."

Notice: pita bread. Unleavened, you know. The bread is licit, even if the celebrant isn't.

Shuster tells the Times that the Church is "losing good priests" (like himself, implicitly) because the celibacy requirement forces men to choose between marriage and ministry.

"We worked for all those years to gain the competency of being priests," he said. "It would be like going to medical school and learning how to be a surgeon, then getting married and having the whole medical community say you're not a surgeon anymore."

Hmm. An interesting analogy. Where should we begin?

By pointing out that med-school students aren't required to take a vow of celibacy? Too obvious.

By noting that doctors sometimes are stripped of their license to practice surgery, for violating the norms of their profession? Better.

Or by asking whether professional competence-- someone who has learned how to perform the ceremonies, someone who knows enough to order pita bread-- is what defines a good priest? Better still.

But maybe it would be better simply to ask whether the Curé of Ars would have anything to do with an outfit that advertises itself as Rentapriest.

Diogenes adds: In light of reader's comments (below), I gather that pita bread is not valid matter. (Sorry; I didn't know. Baking is not my area of expertise.) I guess the point is that since it's flat, pita bread looks like what you expect in a Catholic Mass. And that's the point of the rent-a-priest phenomenon, isn't it? The service is useful for those who want, say, a wedding that looks like a Catholic ceremony. If you're concerned about the reality... Well, you get real.

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  • Posted by: Eagle - Oct. 29, 2005 8:56 AM ET USA

    This isn't "innocent" play acting; it's harming the paying "customer". In Michigan, a surviving spouse inherits, a "live-in" does not. If a person knowingly "rents" a priest who is not affiliated with either the Church or a denomination, then there's no valid civil marriage. If the spouse dies, there's no inheritance. A home owned as "husband and wife" doesn't have survivorship. There's no "spousal privelege". Etc. And I don't think these "rent-a-priests" have malpractice insurance.

  • Posted by: - Oct. 28, 2005 6:10 PM ET USA

    The medical priesthood is much more stringent. If an MD foes outside the confines of 'peer rated journal' rubrics they lose their license to practice medicine. Note that the peer rated journals give the results of Pharmaceutical Company approved research--much more tightly controlled than the Vatican ever thought of being.

  • Posted by: - Oct. 28, 2005 12:12 PM ET USA

    If it were all about looks, Di, then many of the services in many of today’s Catholic churches wouldn’t be as convincing as a Rentapriest pita bread gig. Mass isn’t Mass just because the fellow in the pretty vestments says so. As for John Shuster, he wouldn’t know “the old midnight Mass Catholics used to go to” from a Baptist tent revival, hence the pita bread. Do a good deed: Go here to buy Shuster some valid matter. Ask Phil for the money.

  • Posted by: - Oct. 27, 2005 7:22 PM ET USA

    PITA BREAD INGREDIENTS (from the internet): 2 cups plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour 1 cup pastry flour 1 cup warm water (110 degrees F) 1 teaspoon active dry yeast 1 tablespoon applesauce (optional) 1/2 teaspoon salt 1 1/2 teaspoons white sugar olive oil (This is definitely not "confectable" as the Eucharist in the Roman Rite. I do not know of a single recipe for pita bread that is unleavened.)

  • Posted by: Fr. William - Oct. 27, 2005 5:05 PM ET USA

    Amen, Diogenes. I hope that some of the traitorous priests read your column. For, indeed, we are members of Jesus' Church; & we read His Word; & we follow the Teachings of His Church; & priests, in persona Christi, offer His Mass & administer His Sacraments according to His Rites... in obedience to and imitation of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Great High Priest... AMDG.

  • Posted by: - Oct. 27, 2005 4:58 PM ET USA

    Ah, Di, the pita bread isn’t valid matter just because it may be unleavened. It must be made from wheat and water, with nothing else added. (I doubt he gets valid matter from his local bakery.) So this “priest” probably isn’t confecting the sacrament. Besides, I’d question this fellow’s intentions. When he goes through the motions is he intending to do what the Church does? I’d wager not.