Tuesday, April 23, 2013

A Perspective on Celibacy

The Associated Press published an article, reprinted by the Washington Post HERE on priestly celibacy and possible changes to the Church's law under Pope Francis. It features interviews from an elderly Argentinian woman whose background is interesting and Fr. Thomas Reese, SJ, of the Woodstock Theological Center in Maryland. Let's take a look, shall we? My emphases and my comments.

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — She uses a wheelchair and carries the weight of her 87 years, but Clelia Luro feels powerful enough to make the Roman Catholic Church pay attention to her campaign to end priestly celibacy.
This woman, whose romance with a bishop and eventual marriage became a major scandal in the 1960s [My warning lights are going off. I believe in forgiveness, but the media loves this narrative], is such a close friend with Pope Francis that he called her every Sunday when he was Argentina’s leading cardinal.
Luro’s convinced that he will eventually lead the global church to end mandatory priestly celibacy, a requirement she says “the world no longer understands.” [When has anything about Catholicism merely been for the world to understand? We see with the lens of faith, the 'Fiat' of the Blessed Virgin. She understood that it was God's will, and she cooperated with it. This leads to knowledge and wisdom through the Holy Spirit, Who also assists the Church in teaching these items of faith which the world doesn't get.] She believes this could resolve a global shortage of priests, and persuade many Catholics who are no longer practicing to recommit themselves to the church [The African shortage is due to US/European bishops taking their priests, and Humane Vitae among other teachings is still an issue for the fallen-away.].
“I think that in time priestly celibacy will become optional,” Luro said in an interview with The Associated Press in her home in Buenos Aires, after sending an open letter to the pope stating her case. “I’m sure that Francis will suggest it.” 
John Paul II, Benedict XVI and other popes before them forbade any open discussion of changing the celibacy rule, and Francis hasn’t mentioned the topic since becoming pope last month. [Either they saw it as 'Roma locuta est, causa finita est,' and so discussion was on how to submit the mind and will, or it actually wasn't forbidden.]
“I don’t see how in any way this would form part of his agenda,” said the Rev. Robert Gahl, an Opus Dei moral theologian at the Pontifical Holy Cross University in Rome. [Yep]
But as Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, he referred to the issue of celibacy in ways that have inspired advocates to think that the time for a change has come.
In his book “On Heaven and Earth,” published last year, Bergoglio said: “For the moment I’m in favor of maintaining celibacy, with its pros and cons, because there have been 10 centuries [20, Your Holiness. 10 centuries of explicit law that weeded out problems. 7 centuries of law that is incomplete in a way, but overwhelmingly favors celibacy.] of good experiences rather than failures.” But he also noted that “it’s a question of discipline, not of faith. It could [the operative word] change,” and said the Eastern Rite Catholic church, which makes celibacy optional, has good priests as well [The Council of Trullo was a mistake, and rejected by Rome. However, this is one case where legalizing a problem is the route to fix it...not like we have seen with many liturgical innovations since the Council]
“In the hypothetical case that the church decides to revise this rule ... it would be for a cultural reason, [like a big mistake on the part of certain Eastern bishops...not say the alleged problems in Kenya] as with the case of the Eastern church, where they ordain married men [We will never allow priests to marry. Married men become priests not the other way round.],” he said in “Pope Francis. Conversations with Jorge Bergoglio,” re-published last month by his authorized biographers, Sergio Rubin and Francesca Ambrogetti.
Luro and her husband, the former bishop of Avellaneda, Jeronimo Podesta, felt ostracized from the church for many years [Well, I hope he followed canonical form. Living quietly is usually what they order you to do. I wonder if they actually did romance while he was still in his office, and if they dissented on anything else. Feeling ostracized wasn't the Church's fault.], but she says Bergoglio didn’t hesitate to minister to them when Podesta was hospitalized before his death in 2000. They became such good friends thereafter that Luro said Bergoglio called her every Sunday for 12 years, and often discussed the celibacy issue as they debated all sorts of hot topics in private conversations.
Luro now feels that the cardinals’ election of a Jesuit and Vatican outsider who is committed to expanding the global church and reaffirming its commitment to the poor shows their willingness to undertake profound changes to stem an exodus of the faithful.
The Rev. Thomas Reese, a Jesuit priest and Vatican analyst at Georgetown University [FWIW, the Woodstock Theological Center is closing because the Jesuits lack priests that can staff it. The biological solution is in effect.], said a first step might be for Francis to simply signal that it’s OK to debate the issue [When was it not OK, at least insofar as it is not right now an immutable and defined article of faith? However, to debate it and/or publicly ordain married men in the Latin Rite without permission, or to get married after ordination is the problem.]

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