|Two newly ordained priests of the Fraternity of St Peter last year|
The time is overdue to admit married men to (shortened) formation and ordination. The faithful laity face the prospect of fewer churches and yet fewer priests. The priests themselves are service-weary and often confused, anxious and unwilling to address personally problematic matters. Whatever the challenges of securing a change, and then of implementing it, priests and people have a common interest in making the case not for allowing clergy to marry but for admitting the married to the clerical state. This implies two routes: celibates and married, with no opportunity for marriage or re-marriage once ordained (as is the case with permanent deacons), and, for reasons of exclusive commitment, only the celibate should be bishops.
I wrote a letter in reply as follows; it is in this weekend's edition.
|Another newly ordained FSSP priest (centre), Fr Marek Graboski|
The policy fails for precisely the reason Prof. Haldane mentions: ordination is no longer the only route to a good education and lifestyle for most people. This means that there is nothing attractive to most young men about an undemanding clerical existence. The only way to attract them is by presenting them with a truly impressive clerical ideal. You only have to look where vocations today are going, both for the priesthood and the religious life, to see the point confirmed. Specifically, in the West, celibacy is central to the priestly ideal, since it underlines the priest's identification with Christ.
|The Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate at Lanherne, Cornwall|
The saddest thing about Haldane's article is that it shows that there are still thoughtful and intelligent people under 60 who are remain stuck in the post-Conciliar consensus, that the solution to every problem is to make concessions, to make things easier. If any policy has been tested to destruction, this one has. What happens when we make the priesthood about cosy self-fulfillment instead of self-sacrifice? We get fewer priests, because most young men are aware of simpler ways of pursuing cosy self-fulfillment. Shouldn't that be obvious?
The same is true for the laity. See the FIUV Position Paper on the Eucharistic Fast, which references some interesting research on how more demanding religions often attract more committment than lax ones. If you think about it, it makes sense. The researchers Mark van Vugt and Anjana Ahuja found this:
‘Paradoxically, the costlier the rituals associated with a belief system, the more enduring it is. One study of religious communes in 19th century America showed that those making the most extreme demands on their followers—giving up worldly goods, celibacy, shunning contact with outsiders, relinquishing certain foods and alcohol—were the most enduring.’