Readers of this blog will know that at its core are the Science and Faith Columns which appear fortnightly in the Catholic Herald. In alternate weeks I post an item of personal choice, which is often designed to be challenging. That is so this week. Please note that for these and any other items I do not ask the Catholic Herald to take any responsibility for content.
I see that the issue of priestly celibacy is back in the news again. There has been a petition submitted to the Bishops’ Conference, and Bishop McMahon has spoken in public in favour of married priests.
It’s not a matter on which I feel strongly although, if pushed, I would opt for a relaxation of the rules. I honour celibacy as a vocation but I think that its true value is best seen when it is a choice rather than part of the job description. I also bear in mind the priests who have been laicised following marriage. I would hope that, if that were allowed, at least some of them would return to the ministry.
What I am unable to follow is the claim that the change is required as a matter of justice – because married ex-Anglican clergy are accepted into the priesthood. This is a very odd notion of justice basically operating at the level of a 10 year old child crying “It’s not fair” because a sibling has the larger ice cream. Justice is based on everyone receiving their due, not on equal shares for all. (Unless you’re a Marxist.)
There were good and obvious reasons for accepting the ex-Anglican clergy. And we have benefited much. But in itself, it forms no precedent. The arguments for dropping obligatory celibacy for secular clergy must stand on their own feet.
While I am in the neighbourhood of the subject I am quite clear in my opposition to the extension of diaconate. We should be working much harder to incorporate the laity into the service of parish life, extending what they are permitted to do. We should not be trying to clericalise them, as if there were an insuperable divide between “them” and “us” to be maintained to the last ditch. The official standing of eucharistic ministers as second-best substitutes appals me, for instance.
I have in fact no wish whatsoever to become a deacon. And, if I had, I would certainly decline on the grounds that here, certainly, the case for extension to women is unanswerable.
What do you think?