Tag Archives: Celibacy

Clerical Celibacy: The Beginning of the End?

It’s been rumoured for some time, and now it’s out in the open. Pope Francis could permit the ordination of married priests, at least in the remote Amazon region.

Amazon basin – Wikipedia

The Pope has requested a debate over allowing married men to become priests in the Amazon region of Brazil, a move likely to outrage conservatives in the Catholic Church.

The pontiff took the decision to put a partial lifting of priestly celibacy up for discussion and a possible vote by Brazilian bishops after a request by Cardinal Claudio Hummes, president of the Episcopal Commission for the Amazon, Il Messaggero newspaper quoted the sources saying.

Continue reading Clerical Celibacy: The Beginning of the End?

The Trouble with “Courage”

In his response to Martin Pendergast on the “Courage” apostolate, Fr Philip Bochanski of Courage USA grievously confuses celibacy and chastity, referring to both in the same sentence as if they were the same thing, which they are not. He is correct that “The demand of the Gospel is chastity for everyone”. That is also the instruction of the Catholic Catechism:

2337 Chastity means the successful integration of sexuality within the person and thus the inner unity of man in his bodily and spiritual being. Sexuality, in which man’s belonging to the bodily and biological world is expressed, becomes personal and truly human when it is integrated into the relationship of one person to another…..”

That sexual integration in a relationship cannot be equated with celibacy, which is sexual abstinence.

I am surprised (but delighted) that Fr states that “Courage does not demand or impose “mandatory celibacy” on persons who experience same-sex attractions”. That is not a demand of the Gospel – although it is one made by the Catholic Catechism. The question is, is this Catechism teaching true? Does it lead one to God?

There’s a problem here, because the Catechism also tells us that

2333 Everyone, man and woman, should acknowledge and accept his sexual identity.

In Amoris Laetitiae, has written extensively and movingly about the joy and value of love, including carnal, physical love in a committed, self-giving relationship. How are gay men and lesbians are keep to both parts of the Catholic teaching, on accepting their sexual identity, and experiencing chastity “integrated into the relationship of one person to another” – while simultaneously keeping to the Catechism demand of sexual abstinence.

This is why, based on their real-world experience, so many gay and lesbian Catholics have found that it is impossible  to resolve this contradiction, and based on the core principle of the primacy of conscience, have concluded that in the area of sexual doctrines, the Catechism is simply wrong. It is also why the experience of the full range of apostolates to lgbt Catholics, those who respect this conclusion in conscience, like Quest nationally, and the lgbt group meeting at Farm Street parish in London, have a track record of attracting people and helping them to find God – and Courage , which has a long-established group in London, notably does not.

“Frank and Free” discussion on gay priests.

Last night (Saturday 2nd April), I was up in London, for a meeting at the Mount Street Jesuit centre, on gay priests. This was one of a series of meetings arranged by the LGBT Young(er) Adults group associated with the former Soho Masses, and now with the Farm Street parish of St Cecilia, where twice a month LGBTI Catholics are specifically welcomed, and where they serve tea and coffee after Mass for their communuity – and for any others of the congregation who want to join them. At 64, I hardly count as a young or even “younger” adult, so have not previously attended any others in the series. In fact, I was not even aware of their existence, until this specific meeting was thrown open to all who are part of the Farm Street/Westminster LGBT Catholics community, in view of its importance.

 I was delighted that I made the trip, for some stimulating discussion during the formal part of the evening, and then more over coffee, with friends old and new.

Openly gay Msgr Krysztof Charamsa (left), with partner
Openly gay Msgr Krysztof Charamsa (left), with partner

The chair for the evening introduced the discussion by briefly listing some recent news headlines of gay priests who had come out as gay, and the mixed reactions they had received. There was the high profile case of the CDF theologian Msgr Krysztof Charamsa, who on the eve of the 2015 Family Synod came out as not only gay but also partnered – and was promptly fired, from his post at the CDF, and also as university lecturer in theology. There were also many less well-publicized examples of ordinary parish priests, and others. Some, like Msgr Charamsa, met immediate trouble with their superiors, others did not. Some even met direct and explicit support from their congregations.

Continue reading “Frank and Free” discussion on gay priests.

Celibacy, Gays, Priesthood

(Monsignor Krxyzstof Charamsa was a senior theologian with the CDF and and lecturer in theology, before coming out publicly as both gay and partnered.  In a wide-ranging interview with the Spanish language publication Religion Digital, he discussed the place of gay priests in the Church, the spiritual value of coming out, the Church’s persecution of homosexuals, and alleged CDF intrigues against the Franciscan papacy. The interview was published in Spanish, but contains a great deal of really important information, which deserves to be more widely available. With the help of Google translate and reliable partial translations sent to me by a native Spanish speaker, I am publishing a free English translation of the complete text in a series of posts.)

From the opening of Monsignor Charamsa’s interview in Religion Digital:


charamsa (1)

Were you happy during your years of priesthood?

Yes, I’ve always been a happy priest. I am happy serving people, listening and advising people. I am happy when I communicate the word and grace of God. But at the same time, I was not happy about the denial imposed by the Church of my natural sexual orientation. In the priesthood, these two feelings were in conflict. In the end, unhappiness prevailed, caused by the homophobia of the Church. I understood that to be happy as a priest, I must tell my church that it is paralyzed by homophobia, and this does not make anyone happy. Continue reading Celibacy, Gays, Priesthood

Living the truth in love: The problem with “Courage” and “Lived Experience”

World News Report has a fascinating interview with Fr Check, representing “Courage” ministry, which works with gay and lesbian Catholics attempting to live “within the teaching of the Church”.

There are numerous problems with this intention, not least of which, is that for gay and lesbian Catholics,  living “within all the teaching of the Church” is simply impossible , it is so riddled with internal contradictions and ambiguities. Like it or not, gay and lesbians in the Church are in fact forced to become “cafeteria Catholics”. Courage sees the situation simplistically, focussing entirely on genital sex, completely ignoring

a) that sexual rules are a relatively minor part of Church teaching;

b) the core doctrine of the primacy of conscience;

c) the important principle of the sensus fidelii – which implies that just possibly,Vatican teaching on sex might be plain wrong.

More interesting in the Word News Report, is the claim by the Courage spokesman that “lived experience” supports their view. In that, he is quite simply, dead wrong.

Father Check: The first piece of advice I would give would be to listen to the voice of those people for whom this is a lived reality and who have placed their trust in Christ and in the Church. Their perspective is the one that, in my mind, has not yet been heard. It forwas not heard by the extraordinary synod, to my knowledge.

via  Catholic World Report 


The problem with this analysis, is that the author’s understanding of “lived experience”, is severely limited by his contact only with those who subscribe to the severely disordered teaching on the subject. The simple reality of “lived experience” of real – life gay and lesbian Catholics, as abundantly demonstrated by both empirical research and anecdotal evidence, is the exact reverse. Formal church doctrine and attempts to live in conformity with it, leads to alienation from the Church, psychological trauma, and is in direct conflict with a core tenet in Genesis 2: “It is not good for man to live alone. I will make him a companion”. (Not a “wife”, note, but “a companion”). My own “lived experience” was that attempting to live within the precepts of the Catechism led to a disastrous, completely inappropriate marriage – and both my wife and I simply left the Church. It was not until I was ready to live entirely honestly and with integrity as an openly gay man, that my male partner, ironically, led me back into the Church.

The Church also teaches that it is important to pay attention to the findings of science, which show clearly, in both natural and social science, that a same – sex orientation is both entirely natural, and non – pathological. Even adherence to Aquinas’ Natural Law, based on evidence and reason, should lead to the same conclusion.

“Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin” – The Problem.

All Inclusive Ministries (“AIM”) is a “welcoming, safe, and affirming Catholic community.a Based at Our Lady of Lourdes’ Parish in Toronto, Canada. At their blog, José Antonio Sánchez has written a piece on “Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin”  which pretty much sums up the way I feel about it.

  • Even when well – intentioned, that’s not the way it’s heard by those for whom it’s intended;
  • There’s little point in selectively quoting biblical verses. We’ve probably studied them, in depth and in context, far more closely than our critics have done, and with good reason: we really need to understand them, fully.
  • Asking us to “follow Jesus” rings hollow, coming from those who appear to have missed the overriding message of the Gospels, of unconditional love and radical inclusion for all, and especially those most marginalized.


However, the call to follow Jesus is inherently sound. The problem for those critics, is that doing so is unlikely to lead us to where they expect. When I first considered returning to the Church twenty something years ago,and discussed my many reservations with a one – time student friend who had since become a Jesuit and parish priest, his advice was simple: Don’t make assumptions. Faith is a matter of experience,  not of the intellect. Take God on trust, and see what happens. 

I took that advice. My subsequent faith journey, including several years close engagement with Ignatian spirituality, spiritual direction and a most extraordinarily intense 6 day Ignatian directed retreat, has left me with an absolute conviction that it’s our critics that have got it simply wrong. There are great dangers in irresponsible sexual behaviour, but those apply equally to LGBT and heterosexual, cisgendered people. The Catholic Church and some others may draw discriminatory distinctions in guidelines for for sexual behaviour, but God doesn’t.

As Sanchez notes in the opening of his post,

There’s a common misconception that as Christians we are responsible for the state of a person’s eternal soul, including those of LGBT individuals. We think that it’s our responsibility to outreach, evangelize, judge, convince, and convert them. We believe that their success or failure is directly correlated to our efforts in their lives.

While there’s nothing wrong with wanting what’s best for others, or with guiding them to what we believe Jesus wants for their lives, we have to recognize that their spiritual well-being is ultimately not under our control. We play a role, but it is ultimately between them and God, and nourishing that relationship between God and LGBT individuals should be our priority.

Jose Sanchez, AIM blog

(my emphasis)

French Priest Resigns, Announcing that He Shares His Life With a Man.

At the French blog “Journal de Denis Chautard”,  a priest of the Mission of France has published a moving letter of resignation from a French colleague in the same order, who feels he can no longer in good conscience live in accordance with the rule of celibacy – and has found happiness with the man who is now at the centre of his life.

These are the opening paragraphs (in French). My informal translation of this section, adapted from Google translate,  follows.

« Bien cher Arnaud,

Avec un mélange de tristesse et de joie, je te prie de présenter ma démission à mon évêque de la Mission de France.

Je t’avais dit ainsi qu’à Yves Patenôtre que je n’honore plus l’engagement au célibat des prêtres. C’est une obligation que je n’approuve pas, mais que j’ai acceptée.

La part de joie de ce message, c’est que je partage ma vie avec Andy. Notre amour a peu à peu pris place au centre de ma vie, qui désormais s’organise autour de cette relation, et j’en suis heureux.

Les prêtres, par leur ordination, impliquent l’Eglise partout où ils vont. Être prêtre, ce n’est pas une affaire privée qui ne regarde que moi. Ça regarde ceux qui y ont mis un bout de leur cœur, un peu de leur confiance et de leur foi. D’une certaine façon ça leur appartient autant qu’à moi. Ma prêtrise ne m’appartient pas, mais j’en suis responsable. En conscience, je trouve plus honnête de présenter ma démission. Je choisi le terme de démission, parce que l’ordination ne s’efface pas… je suis – je reste prêtre. Ce qui peut prendre fin, c’est la délégation et l’envoi par l’évêque, au titre de la mission de l’Eglise.

full French text at Journal de Denis Chautard.

My translation (also at Duolingo, where anyone interested can help to improve it):

“Very dear Arnaud,  
With a mixture of sadness and joy, I beg you to present my resignation to my bishop of the Mission of France.  
I have told you and also Yves Patenôtre that I no longer honour the priests’ commitment to celibacy.   It is an obligation that I do not agree with, but I accepted.  
The joyous part of this message is that I share my life with Andy.   Our love has little by little taken its place at the center of my life, which now revolves around this relationship, and I am happy.  
Priests, by their ordination involve the Church wherever they go.   Being a priest, is not a private matter that concerns only myself.   It concerns all those who have a piece of their heart, who share their confidence and their faith.   Somehow it belongs to them as much as to me.  My priesthood does not belong to me, but I am responsible for it.   In conscience, I find it more honest to present my resignation.   I chose the term resignation, because the ordination does not erase itself … I am – I remain a priest.   That which can end, is the delegation and sending by the bishop, on the Mission of the Church.  

Leading Catholic academic calls for married priests

A leading academic has said the Catholic Church urgently needs to overturn its centuries-old ban on ordaining married men to ease the shortage of priests and better relate to the faithful.

Writing in The Tablet this week John Haldane, Professor of philosophy at the University of St Andrews, states: “The time is overdue to admit married men to (shortened) formation and ordination.”

Professor Haldane, who is also an adviser to the Pontifical Council for Culture, likens the Church to “a vessel battered by rising waves, leaking along its length and undermanned”. He calls for greater involvement of the laity, “not in the guise of para-clerics but because of its education, expertise and experience” because “it is worse than foolish not to call able bodies to the bridge”.

However he said that men already ordained to the priesthood should not be able to marry or remarry, and added that “for reasons of exclusive commitment, only the celibate should be bishops”.

via The Tablet 

The Myth of Clerical Celibacy, Revisited

One of the key points in the recent declaration by German theologians (now joined by others, worldwide), is the urgency of ending the current insistence on compulsory clerical celibacy. This is my cue to revisit, and expand on, some points I have made frequently on previous occasions.

When I wrote a series of posts on the problem of compulsory clerical celibacy nearly two years ago, I listed several problems with the rule:

  • It is not based on Scripture, but in fact contradicts Paul’s clear advice that celibacy is not for everyone.
  • It was not the practice of the early church, and was not compulsory for the first twelve centuries of Christianity – over half of Church histor
  • The rule, when it became fixed, was not introduced as a matter of pastoral care, but to preserve church wealth and powe
  • Celibacy has never been required for all clergy in the Eastern Orthodox Churche
  • It was swiftly rejected by the Protestant churches after the Reformatio
  • It is still not required for all Catholic priests: it does not apply to those in the Eastern rite of the Roman church, nor to those who are already married, and are now converting from other denominations
  • Many bishops and even national Bishops’ conferences have asked, either privately or formally, for the blanket ban to be relaxed.

I can now add some further observations that I was not then aware of:

Continue reading The Myth of Clerical Celibacy, Revisited

Theologians’ Revolt Exposes a Vatican Myth

When I quoted Charles Curran last week with his statement that “the majority” of moral theologians want to see some revisions to Catholic teaching on sexual ethics, I could not have anticipated how quickly I would be seeing some evidence that Curran may even have understated the problem. At the end of the week, coinciding beautifully with the Egyptian”Day of Departure”, the German press published a statement by 143 theologians, titled “The Church in 2011: A Necessary Departure”, which called for fundamental, far-reaching reforms in the structure and moral theology of the Catholic Church.  In doing so, they dramatically demolished an important Catholic myth: that Vatican doctrine and disciplinary rules dictate the beliefs and conduct of the Church.

They do not. It has long been clear that Vatican pronouncements on sexual ethics and on the requirements for admission to the priesthood do not reflect the views of ordinary lay Catholics. It is now obvious that they also do not reflect the views of their own professional theologians. I suspect, indeed, that the Vatican oligarchs no longer believe their own pronouncements themselves. True Catholic belief, as reflected in the real life beliefs of real people, and not abstract words in a rule book, has been substantially reformed. All that is now required is an admission of the fact. What is now becoming clear is that, just like the Emperor’s New Clothes, the idea that the Vatican controls Catholic minds and speaks for their belief, is – a myth.

The revolt of the German theologians has attracted remarkably little attention in the Mainstream English press, which has largely been content simply to headline the calls for the ordination of married men and women, and some cursory references to the other reforms which were specified. This is a mistake: the document is far more important than  just a few academics making yet another call for changing the rules on ordination. It is, instead, a  demand for a wholesale restructuring of the entire culture and structure of the church, in which the specific reforms asked for are just some particular consequences, not the main thrust at all.

Continue reading Theologians’ Revolt Exposes a Vatican Myth