Celibacy misunderstood

Fr. Donald Cozzens just does not get it. As he once again takes a minimalist view of the gift of celibacy, his agenda shines forth loud and clear. He speaks of many priests who are frustrated by living a single life and how everything would be grand if priests could get married.

I don’t think so.

The question of optional celibacy of priests brings up many issues that would have to be addressed:
– wages: priests make enough for us to live comfortably, but raising a family would be tough on our salary.
– pressures on wife: what role would she be expected to have in the life of a parish.
– children: the scrutiny that they would be under
– freedom: celibacy for priests is about a freedom to serve God’s people completely, as a married priest I would feel torn in two by my obligations to the parish and to the family.
– priest as ‘Pastor’: as pastor, the priest is the head of the family of the parish, leading them all (hopefully) closer to God the Father, who is the model of the priest’s fatherhood.

There are many other issues that would need to be adequately examined before the rule on celibacy could be relaxed. And I keep falling back that if married clergy were an absolute success in Protestant communities, it would help. But it is not. The rate of divorce among Protestant married clergy is high, because the non-clergy member of the union (husband or wife) feels second class or does not want to put up with the stress that comes with the territory. I’ve heard: I married you, not the church you work for.

If the priesthood were a job, maybe. But as it is, the priesthood is a way of life and a vocation, a calling by God to something more. Only those who embrace this completely can transcend the ho-hum operation of a parish to flourish as the spiritual father of his own slice of the world.


As we celebrate this American holiday, a tribute to eating too much and beginning the holiday shoppeing season, I keep thinking back to what the Archbishop said at the Ohio Young Adult Conference this past weekend: ‘It is always appropriate to show gratitude.’ As a culture, I do not think that we say “Thanks” enough. I know that I have received many good gifts in my life, and I often take them for granted. I have a wonderful family that I do not see often enough, my parents were excellent in raising me, not perfect, but I knew I was loved. As a priest, I am supported by the generosity of people I do not know, so that I can do the things I need to do. I am also aware of the gifts God has given me, from my vocation to my joy in working with people. As we gather to celebrate with friends and family, always remember to say thanks. It costs very little to give, but can give us the world in return.

May God bless you as we prepare to once again welcome His Son into the world.