Milwaukee – Responding to priests who argued that married men should be allowed into the priesthood, the head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops yesterday affirmed his support for celibacy and questioned whether adding married clerics would increase the number of priests.
The conference released a letter sent from its president, Bishop Wilton Gregory, to Milwaukee Archbishop Timothy Dolan in answer to a letter from about 160 local priests. The group, more than a quarter of the archdiocese’s clerics, called last month for opening the priesthood to married men.
…”It is by no means clear that, as their letter states, a change in the discipline of clerical celibacy would necessarily bring about an increase in the numbers of candidates for priesthood,” Gregory wrote.
While the number of American priests has dwindled, Gregory noted that several mainline Protestant denominations and branches of Judaism have suffered shortages of clergy even though their ministers and rabbis can marry. The bishop suggested the problem across faiths may be that the role of religion in U.S culture has declined and must be restored.
…In a column published yesterday in the Catholic Herald newspaper, Dolan also said he fully supports the celibacy rule.
“I enthusiastically and confidently embrace my own celibate commitment and believe it a providential blessing for priests and for the church,” Dolan wrote. “It is a gift cherished by the church since the time of Jesus, common among the ordained from apostolic times, expected of priests from early centuries, and required of them for close to 1,000 years.
What bothered me about this letter writing campaign from the 160 Milwaukee priests is not that they suggested that allowing optional celibacy would help the priest shortage, but the way they went about it. If they were so concerned about the lack of priests then why weren’t they getting together as group to pray for vocations. To encourage others by their examples to pray and sacrifice for this to happen. Married priests if it helped at all would be a quick fix that does not address the real underlying problems. It would simply be a clerical band-aid. They must have known that their campaign would go nowhere and that the Pope was not going to change this rule. They did not just simply sign a letter and send it to their Bishop with this suggestion, but made sure it was heavily publicized that this was done.
In Matthew 13:30 Jesus says:
Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”
I haven’t seen a version that was translated:
“The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; so petition your Bishop for optional celibacy.”