I was wondering recently what has happened to Fr. Greeley since the accident he experienced. He is back with some advice on how to attract young men to the priesthood. No it’s not allowing priest to marry, but allowing priests to sign up for a time and then reenlist like they do in the military.
He reminds us he has been doing sociological research on the priesthood for 30 years. His previous sociological expertise told us in a column that America was too racist to elect Obama. I wonder if Fr. Greeley has met with President McCain yet?
We are all aware of course of the scriptural passage “A priest part-time like Melchizedek.” Plus of course the scriptural example of the Apostles putting in a couple of years and then kicking back in another profession. Some people actually think St. Paul was executed when really he just went back to just being a tentmaker. Of course the priesthood is just a job, not an actual vocation from God don’t you know. Plus six years in seminary is just not enough time to discern the call. Diocese would be so happy to pay for six years in the seminary and for a priest after five years to move on to civilian life as Fr. Greeley suggests. Plus don’t we all want a priest not actually committed to the priesthood? It is much more inspiring to have a priest who is in a tour of duty and just might re-up if he feels like it.
Of course why stop there. What Fr. Greeley says about the priesthood applies equally to marriage. There are people miserable in marriages just like in the priesthood and so instead of those guidelines from that idealistic Jesus about marriage being indissoluble we can sign up for five year hitches instead. Or maybe seven year hitches until the seven year itch sets in. After all the priesthood and marriage are just sacraments and they can be as temporary or permanent as you want them to be. Why sacrifice for Christ – just do things until you get bored and are no longer happy.
Fr. Greeley asks “Who are we, in other words, to question where the Spirit leads a person?” Because everything we do can be attributed to following the Holy Spirit. Be a priest for a while – that’s the Holy Spirit calling you. Leave the priesthood to go do something else – why once again that’s the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit must seem rather fickle to liberals. Feel like being a preist again later on – well that’s also the Spirit calling.
Neither the church nor its people nor the priesthood itself is well served by a miserably unhappy priest. What are some of the reasons a man might want to leave? His parishioners get on his nerves; he can’t stand teens; his fellow priests make him chronically depressed; he wants to begin a family of his own; the work is oppressive; he’s bored and he shudders at the thought that he will be doing the same things for the next half century; he has served under three bishops, all of whom have been fools, and he can’t take the folly anymore; he’s exhausted, worn out, bone tired. Permission to return to the lay life as one who has finished his commitment to active service enables both him and the church to cut their losses.
Pick up the cross daily when you want to. Parishioners getting on your nerves of couse is not something you could use towards your sanctification. The heck with the offering it up stuff – that’s for people actually committed to Christ and his Church. Again what about a miserable unhappy spouse – just wait till the marriage tour is over and don’t re-up.
What Fr. Greeley is trying to do is make the exception to the rule be the rule. Priests already can be laicized for serious reason. Sure there is a stigma attached to this, but it is not exactly like anyone goes into the priesthood blindly and without sufficient time to reflect on their vocation. Besides why is the answer for a miserably unhappy priest be that he leaves the priesthood as if this is the only option. Father Groechel who has worked with a lot of priests who left the priesthood would certainly not agree that this be the best solution. He has also worked with returning priests who found their problems did not go away upon leaving the priesthood. Certainly there are other underlying causes that might be looked at.
The final argument is that if the church is faithful to its commitment to permanent celibacy, God will provide priests for us. Thus we do not and even should not consider modifications. This is one of the favorite cop-outs of bishops and conservative laity: Blame God.
Can’t say I have ever heard clergy or conservative laity blame God for the lack of the number of priests. God still calls men to the priesthood, but that does not mean they all answer the call. It is also not God’s fault that we are having much smaller families. The contraceptive worldview and lack of openness to life is not exactly God’s idea. There are plenty of reasons in the current culture that makes it difficult to young men to answer the call. Though this lack is area specific since parts of the world have plenty of men answering a vocation to the priesthood. The growth of the Catholic Church in Africa is not caused by Africans allowing men to sign up for a tour of duty as a priest.
Fr. Greeley thinks that there must be modifications made of this type to bring in young men. No explanation for why during the history of the Church that we have not had a problem with men answering the call for the most part. What has changed is the culture and the modifications that must be made is not the term of the priesthood, but how we work against a culture that works to silence the call. Caving into the culture never inspires anybody.
I believe Fr. Greeley is making a good faith attempt at a solution to the priestly shortage problem. I just think his solution is worse than the problem.
Fr. Greeley does at least make a good point in regards to celibacy.
…I think that celibacy is a positive good, and my research shows that it is. It does not interfere with happiness for most priests and may contribute to it.
…Those who bother to discuss my proposal tend to be bitterly against it. For many liberal Catholics (lay and clerical), it is a matter of absolute faith that celibacy is the critical weakness in the church. They think it is the cause, for example, of sexual abuse in the priesthood, though the problem is virtually the same among married Protestant clergy. Nonetheless, they say, celibacy has to go.