Monsignor Harry J. Byrne, JCD * * * Comment/

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Location: 3103 Arlington Avenue,, Bronx, NY 10463, United States

November 2, 2009


Members of the Traditional Anglican Communion have long sought a welcome from our Roman Church. Benedict XVI has opened his arms to them and seeks to work out the details of bringing them under his control. Yes, that's right, under his control! His recent Apostolic Constitution suggests a kind of Ordinariat as a component part of the Roman Church, within which they would retain much of their Anglican liturgy and traditional customs.

Major sticking point: priestly celibacy! Since 1980, our Roman Church has had a two-tiered priesthood. Celibate priests of the Roman dictat and married priests, who were married Lutheran or Anglican clergy, joined the Roman ranks, and then, under a special dispensation, were ordained Catholic priests. Until now, this has been a tiny flow of individuals crossing the bridge. Celibate Roman priests, many feeling the lack of fairness, tend to shrug their shoulders. But now, whole groups, parishes and even dioceses, can join us with their married clergy. A second tier of priests will emerge with their own apartments, houses, or condos and income, adequate to buy the Corn Flakes and send the kids to school. It will take more than a papal fiat to keep the Romans quiet, while solitarily watching their TV or playing pinochle with the buddies around a bottle of scotch, when the Reverend and Ms. G. Hendley Birmingham are shooting birds in the Scottish Highlands! Hey, Pope Benedict, don't you think that there will be more Anglican men knocking at the seminary doors than the Scarsdale or Bronx types like us Irish or Eyetalians? You might also pull in some Anglo Puerto Ricans. Think about it! You could also bring back some of our guys, who left to get married, but still have the call. Many would love to return. We could sure use them. Why not?

Dear Holy Father, please remember that celibacy is not just doing without sex. When one's sex life is controlled, his private life is controlled, his public life is controlled, as is his social life, his residence, his income, and his job. Some sociologists have suggested that control is the underlying purpose of celibacy. Celibacy for priests began long after Jesus and the apostles as a form of self-giving, resulting in monks and monasteries.Then it was thought a good idea for the parish clergy. Sorry, it never caught on! Priests were generally married until the eleventh century, receiving a tenth of the local apple crops or wheat fields. But many of the priests passed on the church-owned orchards and fields to their sons. Gotta stop that! How? Prohibit priests from marrying! Illegitimate offspring can't inherit!

So Pope Nicholas II (1058-1061) prohibited the then common practice of priests marrying. A Bishop Ulric of Imola contended that this unjustly denied a natural right and could foster a homosexual presence and activity among the clergy! With kids? Prescient? Ulric had overwhelming support from among his and other priests. But orchards and fields and Pope Nicholas prevailed. Thus began the tradition of mandated celibacy. Today sophisticated canon and civil laws protect church ownership of its property. Prohibition of marriage for priests is no longer needed to prevent the pastor from willing the church parking lot to his sons. Many feel that mandated celibacy is, never-the-less, retained as an element of hierarchical governance for its control effectiveness.

Can the hierarchy maintain the same control over incoming married priests that they have had over us Roman types? Will the hierarchy be able to quell the questions and stirrings of the lower tier of priests - the unmarried - in the face of the unequal and, seemingly, unjust differences of sex, freedom, and control? Much more than a papal fiat will be needed! Perhaps the lower tier will simply disappear!


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