Thursday, June 19, 2014

Bonkers And Bonkers

I believe the Church, as well as being a communio, is a family, one established on blood kinship, not our blood - that which we inherit from ancestors, but a family established in the Blood of Christ and the waters of baptism. Because this is my view, I would see that the members of the Church must form a deep relationship with each other. As members of a family we should love each other, and as members of a family we should also be able to talk about things in a way that is familial. I often sense that many members of the Church who can only speak about the Church in an negative and angry tone, and are often dismissive, probably fail to see the bond of kinship that should exist between us.

Anyway, why this? Well it seems the former President of our Republic, Mary McAleese has launched another attack on the Church, this time the Synod of Bishops on the Family. Given her views in the past, it is not surprising to learn that she is rather dismissive of the Synod as it is being planned, and said that is "completely bonkers" that "celibate men" will be discussing the various issues. She feels that women should have a vital part to play in the process. Fair enough I suppose, there is a case to be made. But then I sense it would depend on the women: would orthodox, prayerful women who respect, live and defend the Church's teachings, in particular the moral teachings, be acceptable to her?

However, given the tone of McAleese's statements and taking her approach, and following her lead I would have to wonder, as a celibate priest, why she takes it upon herself to talk about priesthood and celibacy (which she has many times in the past)?  If bishops are not qualified to talk about family life (remember they are members of families themselves) then she as a married woman is not qualified to talk about celibacy. 

Sometimes as a priest you get  little cheesed off having to listen to people lecturing to you about celibacy and how we priests should be allowed to marry. When you disagree with them they attack you - as if you know nothing about the subject and they are the experts, when in reality the opposite is the case. Let us be clear: when a man is studying for the priesthood he knows that if he goes the whole way he will be required to live a life of celibacy, it is not sprung upon him at the last minute when it's all too late.  He begins this life the second he enters seminary. His seven years of training are to include living the celibate life to help him discern if this is for him: can he live a celibate life? I know some guys thought they could continue to have girlfriends and needed only to give them up when ordained deacons, but these guys had problems later on. Celibacy is not easy, but it is harder when a priest does not foster an intimate relationship with God and healthy relationships with good people. I stress good people because a priest needs honest, moral and sensible friends who will form not only a support group around him, but a spiritual family.

I think Pope Benedict teaches us this in his life. When Francis became Pope he eschewed the Papal Apartments and took up residence in an institution, the Domus. To be honest, I did not think that was a good idea for a number of reasons and I continue to believe that as I hear of problems which have emerged for the usual residents of the Domus Sancta Martha and the Roman locals living around it. Benedict, however, moved in humbly to the accommodation which was provided (and it is not lavish - the Papal Apartments are pretty spartan), but there he gathered a spiritual family around him. We heard the term "Papal family" used during his pontificate and some may have scratched their heads and wondered what this was all about. Benedict's made a spiritual family of his friends and staff, they took care of him and supported him, as he served them in his papal and fatherly ministry. That, I think, should be the model for secular priests. Such a model is possible when we remember the bonds that unite us. 

As a priest I have my family, but also many acquaintances, friends, and then close friends (men and women) who form my "spiritual family". With my own family this spiritual family supports me, prays for me and keeps an eye out for me. It is in this context that I live my celibacy, and with a life of prayer and work, and many interests, celibacy is not a burden but allows me the freedom to carry out the ministry I was called to. Some might say I can only speak for myself - true, but many thousands upon thousands of priests from the Apostles down to the newly ordained today can testify in the same way. Some will say I am bonkers, well if so I hope to be a fool for Christ's sake as another (happy) celibate once said - St Paul.

And let us not forget the Sacrament of Holy Orders. Living priesthood is living a vocation which has been made a sacrament and in this God gives his grace to help the priest live a faithful life - including celibacy. Prayer is vital here, for in prayer the priest's soul is opened to receive the grace of the sacrament and he is strengthened by the very gift of life from Christ the High Priest. Now when I mean prayer I mean authentic, heart to heart prayer, alone with the Lord in adoration and solitude. The first priority for a priest must be the time he sets aside to be alone with God. When a priest abandons prayer even for the noble excuse of ministry, he is opening the door for problems ahead and may well be closing the door to grace. A dry well gives no water. 

All that said, thanks to the members of my spiritual family, my close friends who have always been there for me. 


  1. People's opinions are just that opinions. Words fly by all the time. The choice is ours to get tangled or to rise above them. In the words of St. Teresa of Avila, "nothing can trouble, nothing can frighten, all things are passing God alone unchanging. For us Catholics God alone suffices.

    Loved your words on celibacy so true. A priest needs to be free to love God and to work for Him alone.

  2. Father while I have nothing to disagree vwith you on the point you raise.i am troubled by the under current remarks you make about our holy father.i have no doubt like any leader spirtual or secular he has ìhus faults but for you and others who are linked to your we bsite to offer
    snipes at him plays into the hands of those who hate the church.

    finally if mary mac is not allowed to comment on priestly celibacy because she has never lived it how can some one comment on the choice of the holy fathers accommodation and positive ir negative points with out having experience it by tge way in my parish in meath we appear to ga

    1. Anonymous person, thank you for your comment. As Catholics we are bound to give our obedience to the Pope in many ways, most important and chief among them issues of faith and morals. We respect the Office of the Papacy even when we do not like the person who occupies it, and there have been some pretty bad men on the Chair of Peter - Benedict IX for example. Even when a good man or a Saint sits on the Chair we are not bound to agree with everything he says or does if it is done in a personal capacity. If we naively did so we would have to assent to the immoral behaviour of a number of popes, Benedict IX foremost among them. Your comment seems to suggest that we must assent even to the faults of a Pope so as not to be disobedient or be respectful. I am afraid I cannot agree with you, nor would many Saints - St Catherine of Siena among them who was quite critical when necessary. You have decided to interpret my remarks as a snipe against Pope Francis, and in that I have to tell you you are wrong,

      I love and respect the Holy Father, however I do not believe everything he has done was right or correct, and some things he has done have caused problems and cause deep upset, as for example his own snide remarks in response to the goodwill gesture of thousands of Catholics who sent him a Spiritual Bouquet of Rosaries on his election. In charity we have at times to point out even to the Pope things he has done which we believe are wrong - I direct you to a Biblical example of this in Galatians 2:11-14, where St Paul rebuked his Pope, St Peter. It is not playing into the hands of our enemies by expressing a difference or correcting a Pope, rather it is when we set a Pope up as perfect and beyond criticism that we play into the hands of our enemies because then they can say, perhaps even correctly, that we have made an idol out of a man.

      I am not sniping, I state quite clearly that I do not think it was a good idea for the Pope to live in the Domus because it created many problems for other people and it is costing the Vatican a fortune every week in extra costs at a time when money is not plentiful anywhere.

      You also miss the point I was making in the post: Mary McAleese, in my view, is entitled to give her opinion, I am pointing out how she excludes the bishops from speaking on the family because she claims they have no experience of it while she herself has often spoken on priestly celibacy though she herself has no experience of it. She cannot claim one right for herself and then deny others the same right.

  3. McAleese is a tiresome bore. Leave her in her ignorance,