Catholic Culture Liturgical Living
Catholic Culture Liturgical Living

part-time priests of a part-time god

By Diogenes ( articles ) | Jan 30, 2005

Saturday's Dallas Morning News has a sympathetic "personal interest" story on a 65-year-old renegade ex-Jesuit priest named John Stack, who intends to marry in a few months.

He said he didn't set out to be a crusader on the issue of marriage and the priesthood, but he's glad to find himself in that role. And he said he finds plenty of support. "I think a lot of Catholics think it's time to move on," he said. ...

On a practical level, John said, he has always thought the celibacy rule was bad for the church. "In my Jesuit class of 25 guys, 20 of them left to marry," he said. "The class that followed mine had 35, and they all left. All of them!"

Father, let me put it to you straight. ALL professions are celibate professions. Forget the movies you've seen and the profile pieces in the Sunday papers, and look around you. Every lawyer, every doctor, every professor (&c.) must make a choice between advancing in his field and attending to his family. Time paid to one is robbed from the other. True, some rare individuals are so talented that they can go on for years -- or so it seems -- out-distancing their professional colleagues on one hand and out-parenting the parents of their acquaintance on the other. But sooner or later they hit a ceiling -- or the family implodes. In fact, the main difference between a true profession and a job is that the latter takes only so much of your time each day and then releases you to yourself, whereas the former never ceases making demands. Each new day sinks the professional deeper in debt to his field; even while he sleeps, other professionals are reading important books that he has yet to read, other professionals are writing important articles that he will never see. Even Nobel Prize winners are forced to make a compromise with mediocrity; they just make it at a higher level than others.

So you've lost enthusiasm for your profession, Father? Happens all the time. And given the way most priests of your generation view their priesthood, I'd lose interest in it too. Further, I suspect that those of your brethren calling for the option of a married priesthood look back on their lives with distaste and a vague sense of shame: desk-bound officers in a peacetime army. Celibacy apart, you've had an unexacting time of it, and the legacy left to your fellow Catholics is plain to anyone who opens his newspaper to assess the state of the Church. I hope your second bride gets better treatment than your first.

Father, there are priests who came before you (and there are newly ordained priests coming after) who see sacerdotal chastity not as a "celibacy rule" extraneous to their priesthood but as an element in the imitation of Christ that is intrinsic to it. The imitation of Christ might prove too demanding for some people, but can it ever become boring?

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