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Celibacy in the Catholic Church

36 CELIBACY IN THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (Haven Bradford Gow) The recent scandals in the Catholic Church regarding pedophilic and homosexual priests, Father Bruce Hitter of Covenant House in New York and Atlanta Archbishop Eugene Marino’s alleged affair with a female lay minister have further fueled the already violently emotional debate over the Catholic Church’s celibacy rule. According to Frank Bonnike of Ulionois, a former priest who now is married and a member of Corpus, a Minnesota-based national organization that opposes the celibacy rule, Celibacy is a dead end. (The scandals) will die down but it’s another step in the gradual education of people to the necessity for optional celibacy. Some already have dropped out of the priesthood to marry, and increasing numbers of lay Catholics have urged the Church to allow optional celibacy. The typical attitude of many lay persons is expressed by the director of religious education at St. Alphonsus Church in Prospect Heights, Uli, who says: The Church must keep up with the times. Right now we are experiencing a drastic shortage of priests and nuns to run the schools and parishes. Married priests will help stop this trend, and they might even be better priests because of the fact they are married. Despite the appeals of many American Catholics, Pope John Paul II refuses to compromise on this issue, and steadfastly insists that priests and nuns remain celibate. Reports in the Catholic press, though, have estimated that up to 50 percent of all priests in the United States are homosexuals, practicing and non-practicing. A new study by Dr A. W. Richard Sipe, a former priest who now is a psychotherapist, estimates that 50 percent of the priests in this country violate the vows of chastity: 20 percent are engaged in heterosexual activities, 10 to 13 percent are homosexually active and 6 percent are sexually involved with minors. Writing in The New Dictionary of Theology, the Dominican scholar Father Donald Goergen points out that ‘From a Biblical perspective, the New Testament foundations for celibacy as a Christian way of life include the example of Jesus, Mt. 19:10-12 and I Cor 7:7-9, 25-38 From a theological perspective, the reasons for celibacy vary They include: the experience of a union with God that is understood as a ‘spiritual marriage,’ the spiritual desire REVIEW OF RELIGIONS 3 7 for such a union, intimacy with God, a form of asceticism, a sign of the total consecration of one’s life to God, an eschatalogical sign of living for eternal life, freedom from family responsibilities for the sake of giving oneself to the reign of God, apostolic availability and a life of service, and a counter-cultural witness to a Christian value system. Father Goergen adds: Roman Catholic theology speaks of celibacy particularly as a gift and as a way of loving. It is a gift from God that is intended to be shared; the celibate person lives ‘for others.’ Celibate love is a pursuit of holiness, an expression of love for God, a sign of God’s love and grace, a gift of oneself to others in community, or through ministry. Should Roman Catholic priests be given the option to marry? Mary LaMantia of Chicago, a dedicated family person who has been a Catholic for over 70 years, says: I love my Church and the priests and nuns, and I try to help them and the children by working in the kitchen at the Catholic shool My dear husband died a few years ago, and I have been faithful to him even after his death. If I can remain celibate out of love for my husband, then priests and nuns can remain cehbate out of love for God. On the other hand, Rev. Reuben Hahn, a Protestant scholar / clergyman in Largo, Florida, says married priests will be better priests: However noble in intent and contributory to dedicated service the celibate life may be for men in the priesthood, it is humanly impossible or unrealistic for a sex-endowed person not simultaneously endowed with the gift of sexual abstinence to suppress innate desires for sexual expression designed exclusively for the marriage bed. John Danzer, a Jehovah’s Witnesses theologian in Mt. Prospect, Hli, observes: Just look at the recent sex scandals in the Catholic Church; they demonstrate that it’s unnatural for priests to have to live a celibate life. St Paul is right It is better to marry than to burn. Father Bernard McLaughlin, pastor of Holy Redeemer Church in East Boston, Mass., has this to say: My impression is that ceRbacy is not the basic problem. It’s the sense of loneliness, a sense of alienation, that many priests feel (that drives some to violate their vow of chastity). Boston College theology professor Dr. Lisa Sowle Cahill says: It’s not right to have priests voicing a commitment to celibacy, then being sexually active. I think we’re seeing that maybe it’s not feasible to require celibacy of all priests. It is not obvious that everyone has a vocation to celibacy. Father Thomas Sullivan, pastor of St. Emily’s Church in Mt. Prospect, 3 8 REVIEW OF RELIGIONS IE., observes: the celibacy rule was instituted in the Catholic Church so there would be no conflict between serving the needs of one’s own family and serving the needs of one’s parishioners; there would be more time to devote to God’s work if one were not married; there would be less time to attend to the spiritual needs of the parishioners if one were married. Father Sullivan insists that celibacy is not contrary to human nature. True, there are priests who fall short of the ideal, he notes, but there also are married people who fail to live up to their marital obligations. The failures of frail human beings do not mean that marriage or celibacy are unnatural or should be done away with. He says we must keep in mind all the married couples and all the priests and nuns who have remained faithful to their vocations. At the same time, Father Sullivan points out that while celibacy has value, it is not an absolute value. Because of the shortage of priests, there may come a time in the future when priests will be given the option to marry. He adds: I want what is best.for the Church. CHRISTIAN VIEWS ON THE QURAN The best of Arab writers has never succeeded in producing anything equal in merit to the Quran itself, is not surprising. (Introduction to the English Translation of the Quran, by Palmer). The Quran is unapproachable as regards convincing power, eloquence, and even compositon. (New Research- es, by H. Hirschfeld, p.5). It is the one miracle claimed by Muhammad – his standing miracle, he called it – and a miracle it is indeed. (Life of Muhammad, by Bosworth Smith).

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