Tuesday, January 17, 2012

No End to the Folly

Now even the Religious Information Service of Ukraine (RISU) is quoting the NYT! And that, to my way of thinking, is sad to say! Perhaps it just goes to show how few discerning readers there are in the world. Ostensibly the NYT article (via RISU) is a review of a preliminary report on "research" done by Rev. D. Paul Sullins, a sociologist at Catholic University who has interviewed over 70 married priests for a book he is writing.

 Who is kidding whom, by pretending to present marriage in our day and time as a stable platform for any profession, let alone Catholic priesthood? In case Rev. Sullins hasn't noticed, I think it more than safe to hold that traditional marriage and family life is in crisis:  50% divorce rate almost in the US, fewer and fewer young people in the Western world opting for the commitment of marriage, and here in Ukraine in 2011 one in five children born out of wedlock! And try to convince me in our all-invasive cell/smart phone culture that there are any professionals of any kind with a land line on their night stand ready to take calls day and night. Don't ask me to recommend the sociology department at Catholic U. if they have no more to offer than Sullins.

The crisis of the Latin Church is not centered on celibacy but on the more basic vocation or call to live our baptism. Too many people fall down when it comes to the basic call to holiness: there is no spiritual tension in their lives (take the practice of the Sacrament of Penance as one of the best indices for a person's honest effort to seek the Lord in all things and above all things). For decades already now young people have been turning their backs not only on celibate priesthood and the religious life, but simply on God, as we know Him through a holy life nourished by the life-giving Sacraments and teaching of His Church. Granted, it is frequently due to a poor upbringing, where they never learned even the most basic prayers at home and no one witnessed for them what St. Justin the Martyr articulated so clearly long, long ago: "We are Christians; we cannot live without Sunday Mass."

I am positively offended by stupid affirmations like: there have been 25,000 men who have left the priesthood since 1970 and only 40,000 priests in the US today. How many of those who left are dead at the moment? How many priests since 1970 served the Church in the US and happen to be dead at the moment? Spare me the nonsense of such numbers and, as I say, keep me far from such CU sociology.

I am very happy about the Anglican Ordinariate. Correct me if I am wrong, but there won't be another generation of married priests there except in so far as more Anglicans "swim the Tiber". I am thoroughly enjoying becoming acquainted with Greek Catholic priests here in Ukraine, of whom about 90% are married. Having so recently come out of the catacombs after such a long and dire persecution, I am sure that for the Greek Catholic faithful as well there is something euphoric about seeing all of a sudden these numbers of young priests with wife and babies in church. My guess is that these priestly families will perpetuate themselves as happened once long ago. I hope and pray too that they offer an inspiring example of marriage and family life to their young parishioners. There have however already been divorces or separations here, there are widowers already as well. Will these men embrace celibacy now as they are expected to do in the long tradition also of the Eastern Churches? I hope they do and do so gladly.

All of this is to say that our calling and our joy (married or not) is for the sake of the Kingdom. Physicians are incredible for their self-sacrifice, their long hours and hard work for their patients. I've known celibate physician priests whom people boast can juggle two careers, burning the candle at both ends, better than many a solitary priest. One of the marks of a true leader, however and more than efficiency, is his vision which stems from his ability to prioritize. From the Old Testament until today the Levite, the priest, the presbyter has the Lord as his portion and his cup. It is not as simply said or understood as to claim that celibacy is characteristic of the priestly life style because Jesus never married. Our sanctity, our prayer, should bind us as closely to Him as He was united with the Father. Celibacy is indeed for the sake of the Kingdom.

Excuse me this outburst, but my favorite reader service in Ukraine owes people more than rehashed NYT. I'm beginning to warm up for the Year of Faith proclaimed by the Holy Father for this coming October 2012. I hope it will go down in history as a genuine year in renewal of the faith, starting with a thoroughgoing evangelization of a new generation such that there might (thinking of last Sunday's first reading) be many more little Samuels who already at a tender age and faithfully for a whole life long sit up or stand up and say: "Here I am, Lord, since you called me."

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