Friday, August 17, 2007

Australian Archbishop on Married Priests

Fr. Fleming, an Australian Catholic priest, is one of few Catholic priests allowed to have a wife because he converted from Anglicanism and was married prior to his entrance into the Catholic Church. For almost all other priests, celibacy remains the norm (as it should).

Here is a good statement from Archbishop Philip Wilson of Adelaide on why we should not have married priests:

ADELAIDE, Australia, AUG. 16, 2007- Allowing priests to marry is not the answer to the shortage of priestly vocations, said Archbishop Philip Wilson in a new pastoral letter on celibacy.

Archbishop Wilson of Adelaide, who is also the president of the Australian bishops' conference, wrote the letter for the National Vocations Awareness Week that began in his archdiocese Tuesday.

"You often hear it said," the archbishop started, "that 'the Church should let priests get married and then we would solve the problem of the shortage.'"

"However," he explained, "I think that it is important to reflect on the positive value of celibacy."

Community context

"We need to see a vocation as more than just an individual or personal life choice," Archbishop Wilson said. "Each vocation is a call from God in the context of the Christian community and for the service of the community.

"If we only see a vocation from the individual's point of view, we will find it hard to see beyond the thought that priests and religious are missing out on something if they are not married. John Paul II reminded us that 'No one is called to walk alone.'"

The 56-year-old archbishop continued: "The context of a loving, supportive Christian community is important. At the heart of the ministry of Jesus was the proclamation of the Kingdom of God. In fact in his very person he made the Kingdom of God present in human time and history.

"The Kingdom of God is among us and includes our human endeavors, we know that its fulfillment lies beyond us and only in the mystery of God and in the next life."

"Celibate priests and religious are clear signs of this mystery. They continually challenge us to look beyond," the archbishop explained.

Human loss

Archbishop Wilson continued: "You hear it said 'how can priests be helpful to married people and for families if they haven't experienced it themselves?'

"However, there's a deeper way that priests and religious share in the human experiences of others and so can relate to them. It is in the experience of loss and letting go."

Archbishop Wilson underlined the "deep wisdom in the Church continuing to ask priests to be celibate and in upholding the enduring religious vow of chastity."

"Of their very natures," he concluded, "these vows only exist and are possible because of God's grace. Let us not lose faith and confidence in the gift of this grace. Let us confidently pray for it."

Excellent. He points out that celibacy is a sign of the coming kingdom, where we "are neither married nor given in marriage." One thing he does not point out, on a practical level, is that it would not be fair to the wife and kids of a married priest to have him trying to live his priestly vocation and be a husband. All of the priests I know are so incredibly busy that they would have no time for family life; my parish priest works about 14 hours a day and is on the verge of a nervous breakdown most of the time. This is an often neglected practical side to the question.

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