Thursday, August 10, 2006

The Incredulity of Fr. Nolen

Our church gets our weekly bulletins from Liguori Press, which carries a Dear Padre column by Fr. Joseph Nolen, a Redemptorist priest. Usually he's got some keen insights into the questions asked, but I nearly turned inside-out when I read this question, and his answer:

I think celibacy is the cause of a lot of the problems with the priests. If they didn't have to be celibate they could be more faithful as priests. Do you think the bishops will ever realize this? - Bob H.

Dear Bob,
I have no personal objection to married clergy, but that decision is for the pope and bishops to make....

In fairness, I've omitted much of what Fr. Nolen said which wasn't objectionable, as I only take issue with his opinion on where the decision lies.

When Pope Paul VI wrote Sacerdotalis Caelibatus in 1967, he did so to "[set] forth anew, and in a way more suited to the men of our time, the fundamental reasons for sacred celibacy."

Where does he go for his answers? He had "over a considerable period of time earnestly implored the enlightenment and assistance of the Holy Spirit and have examined before God opinions and petitions which have come to Us from all over the world, notably from many pastors of God's Church."

So instead of just making a decision, he gets his answer from God.

And the answer?

The Church proclaims her hope in Christ; she is conscious of the critical shortage of priests when compared with the spiritual necessities of the world's population; but she is confident in her expectation which is founded on the infinite and mysterious power of grace, that the high spiritual quality of her ministers will bring about an increase also in their numbers, for everything is possible to God.

Sounds to me like he wasn't worried.

I would postulate that the last thing we need to do to encourage vocations in our over-sexed society is to allow priests to have sex. We want priests who will hear a hard call; who will answer a massive challenge. We want priests who will joyfully submit to the authority of the Church, not question her at every turn. We want priests who will be as contrasting to the world around them as Christ was in his own day.

Thus, entry to the priesthood should remain a difficult thing, one which requires immense personal sacrifice.

When universities lower their entry requirements, you know what happens? The students are dumber. Same thing with priests: if we "relax" the "restrictions" placed on the clergy, we encourage men of lesser moral substance to sign up. If anything, the Church should make it harder.

Like I've argued before, it's quality - not quantity - that matters.


  1. Have you been reading through old bulletins, or did they reprint that? I recall reading that question a few weeks/months ago.

    BTW, props on nearly turning inside-out. That evokes some hilarious images in my mind.

  2. [looks at bulletin date: April 30, 2006]

    Oh, posh. We gotta start throwing stuff out around here.

    You know how it is, you read what you can when you're in the bathroom.

  3. That's what cellphones with built-in web browsers are for.

    Just make sure to not to drop it in the toilet.



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