Any reader of the Café is welcomed to submit a day’s post [300-1000 words] and I will work it in with minor editing, mostly just clarifying terms. I received a captivating offering from a very old friend who started in the seminary with me in September 1962. Matt went on to military service and a long business career, and in recent years has given much time to the physical and mental recovery of wounded vets by introducing them to the tranquility of fly fishing. [It is always tranquil when Matt casts a fly.] He is a lector in his local Catholic church and has had a front row seat to the scandals surrounding diocesan cover-ups of child abuse. So much has been written about our current crisis, but Matt has some genuinely original insights that point the Church in the right direction of true reform. Numerical footnotes are mine for sources and follow-up
As a species our desire to gain and hold power over other souls seems limitless. Sadly, in the meantime we seem to forget Jesus, in particular, and Christ in general, disdains that kind of dominion.  Priests, like the rest of us, have largely been coopted by this urge.  And we have collaborated as pitiful sheep. To have power over someone is the most dangerous kind. It reeks of manipulation and invites abuse of every moral description. Likewise, there is something infantile in many of us that wants to be dependent. It’s painful to see.  My point is Christians of the Roman Catholic type have collaborated in our own interment. Fear of confrontation with our clergy is loaded with a subtext that may have been written in good faith but has become terribly distorted. The power of Christ has become more unrecognizable in the power of the clergy. 
Priests have far exceeded their job description which in Matt-talk is to minister to and facilitate the sanctity of their local souls. A good deal of our interactions with our priests are functional not transactional.  We treat them as sacred things, but never enter their sacred space. And vice versa. We rarely challenge them or try to elicit a human response. We tread lightly. They use distance when confrontation is imminent.  But we and they must be more if the priesthood is to be a conductor of light. When have we ever seen a parishioner confront a priest who has distorted or misused the Gospel? And with the proper authority, how often do we see priests actively seeking to gather sinners to the Church with love?
Chastity is a gift that cannot be given by men.  It’s crazy to think each priest has this gift or even desires it - if it means refraining from sexual intercourse. Welcoming married priests or priests who will be become married seems inevitable.  And why not women priests? It should mostly depend on their character and holiness. 
 “Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." [Matthew 20:28]
 “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority; still more when you super add the tendency of the certainty of corruption by authority.” The famous quote of England’s Lord Acton, one of a minority of Catholic laymen who saw danger in the proposed declaration of papal infallibility in 1870.
 The corporate responsibility of lay Catholics in parishes for decades of child abuse is an undeniable fact, albeit an uncomfortable one. There are many factors to consider, including the Church’s own teaching that priests are ontologically different from other people by virtue of Holy Orders and thus live on a different plane than the rest of the baptized, essentially making them beyond human reproach. Matt’s use of the phrase “pitiful sheep” embodies several other factors as well; our unhealthy dependency—one might call it transference in Freud’s terminology—on priests, and our unwillingness to follow our gut and report suspicions to local law enforcement. There is a goldmine of data and research waiting to be mined into a thorough study of this aspect of the crisis.
One other point to consider is the sad state of catechetics and adult reading. Most Catholics do not engage in current professional theological journals and writings on the Church and their rights and duties as baptized, even though most Catholic laity, particularly the college educated, are certainly equipped to do so.
 Matt underscores the difficulty of honest confrontation with clergy. The pain of a Catholic—who believes sincerely in Apostolic succession and governance—addressing a cleric in fraternal correction is hard. The layman feels theologically unprepared and, in some cases, almost blasphemous, though in fact neither of these things are true.
 Matt’s observation that encounters with priests are functional and not transactional is true on many levels. At the top of the pyramid is spirituality: we use the term “receive the sacraments” as if we are not spiritually engaged with the priest who “administers them.” Another writer asked me this weekend if I thought most priests believed in Transubstantiation or Real Presence. We don’t know because we rarely have the kind of pastoral intimacy to talk about it.
 Many—not all—priests are psychologically and theologically unprepared to engage with adults their own age. Period. See this piece from a sermon at St. Mark’s Church in Philadelphia, “Chalices, Not Callouses.”
 Chastity—understood theologically as a renunciation of married life--is a charism or gift of the Spirit bestowed upon those seeking to dedicate their lives to an intensification of their initial baptismal vows. Specifically, solemn vows of chastity are taken by members of religious orders living in common, be they men or women. Chastity is also a generic term for the sexual virtue of proper behavior in any state, priest or lay. The language of Church teachings sometimes confuses chastity with celibacy, a legally binding solemn promise not to marry but rather to devote one’s life to the service of the Church in the ministrations of the sacraments.
 Matt’s point about priests and celibacy is buttressed by the experience of Eastern Rite Catholic priests and Protestant ministers who convert to Catholicism and priesthood, two distinct groups of validly ordained married men. The Western Roman Catholic practice of strictly observed priestly celibacy dates to early in the second millennium, a time when clerical concubinage was a common circumstance.
 The question of women’s ordination is considerably different from that of married male clergy, and too involved to elaborate. But at least two things need to be figured out: does the sacramental presence of Christ at Mass, the reenactment of the Last Supper, require a male person to be a valid sacrament? And two, if the governance and church law of women’s community were entrusted to women, as I believe they should, would there be a pressing need for women to absorb the clerical state? It seems like we’re mixing dilemmas, so to speak.
But if anyone would like to bring more heat and light, the Café is always open. Submissions or suggestions can be made from the home page of the Catechist Café, at the email spot. And thanks, Matt!
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