One of our readers, E.C., wanted to share some thoughts with us.

I’m a woman. When I started my journey back into Christianity about 7 years ago, I started with the Eastern Orthodox Church, where married priests with their wives and children were the norm, and an unmarried priest was seen as odd, but of course, quite welcome.

It seems funny then that I settled on Roman Catholicism, where the priests make a promise of celibacy to their Bishops, never to have a spouse or children.

I respect the priest who honestly wants and welcomes celibacy into his life and who knows how to handle that, but many men feel that they have no choice but to live this celibate life in order to have their priesthood.

So many men force themselves to live a celibate life when they are not meant to do so, hoping for the best possible outcome, only to realize when it’s too late that what they desire is a family as well as the priesthood.
A few scenarios are then possible:

-The priest continues on with his pastoral duties but lives a very lonely and frustrated life.
-The priest, in his frustration, uses his power to his advantage, using people to fulfill his unmet needs in an inappropriate way, either with adults or with minors.
-The priest forms a meaningful, loving, consensual relationship with an adult partner, but must keep it secret for fear of being exposed and losing his pastoral position, and thus his livelihood.
-The priest leaves the priesthood in order to pursue the building of his family, usually regretting that choice because he knows he was meant to be a priest, but he also loves the family that he’s made/wanting to make. He will be torn for the rest of his life.

Forcing a man to choose one vocation or the other when he desires both will only leave him broken in the end. If he chooses one, he will always yearn for the other.
Although some are quite happy never to think of the priesthood again, they would be the minority.
Once a priest, always a priest.
“Tu Es Sacerdos In Aeternum”

Now, on to our beloved Pope Francis:

“Pope Francis has appointed members of a pre-synodal council who will collaborate with the secretariat of the Synod of Bishops in preparation for the Pan-Amazonian synod next year”
-National Catholic Register

To be discussed, among other things, optional celibacy for priests in that region.
In doing so, he is opening the door for wider discussion on the need for optional celibacy throughout the entire church.

“Although some exceptions already exist to allow married priests in the Catholic Church (the Eastern rites and the Ordinariate for former Anglicans for example), the Amazonian case could be used to allow for married clergy wherever priest shortages might exist, and therefore permit a far wider provision.
Whether any change to the discipline will actually happen remains speculative, but past statements along with today’s appointments makes it clear that a push for some change to the discipline is already going ahead.”
-National Catholic Register

Let us pray that this synod will open the eyes and the hearts of those who claim to be against optional celibacy for our beloved Roman Catholic priests.

Let them see the benefits that it will bring, including, but not limited to:
-A reduction in abuse cases.
-An increase in priestly vocations.
-An improved quality of life for priests.
-An increase in the number of people who attend the Holy Mass.
-An increase of understanding and trust between priest and parishioner.

And finally, on to one of the reasons that I take this topic so personally:

I have been in a relationship with a Roman Catholic priest for the last 6 months, but it has been very difficult on us both. My siblings and a few of my closest friends know of our relationship, but that is it.
He is a very confused man, he does not believe that opening the door for optional celibacy is the solution for many of the crises in our church, but he gladly keeps the secret relationship with me.

I cannot understand how someone in his situation can think that way.
Most likely, our romantic relationship will end, it has gone back and forth for a while now, so it’s just a matter of time. Although, him and I both agreed that when it ends, we will remain friends, as we do get along very well.
I am not the first relationship that he has had while he’s been a priest, I am at least the third -that is what he’s told me.

I don’t like the hypocrisy that he is putting forward, leading this double life.
I wish there was something I could do to open his eyes to what I’m trying to show him. I try to drop hints all the time about how I feel about forced celibacy, but he quickly changes the subject.
There is an age gap between us(15+ years, and I am in my 30’s) so I wonder if that contributes at all to his mindset?
For now, I have stopped pushing him, and just try to enjoy our time together.

Optional celibacy will not fix all the problems in all of our priests and in our church, but it is a step in the right direction.

Pictured above: My partner and I.

“Oh, to love and to be loved. It is to us sustenance, just as food, water, air, God!
We need it in our lives, and to deny that is to deny a large part of what makes us human.
We are made in the image and likeness of God, so then to love is not only good, it is Holy.”
-E.C.

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