Tuesday, January 25, 2011

"Falling" out of the priesthood? Please...

I received the following email today at the seminary where I teach:
The experience of falling in love is overwhelming for anyone, but especially for a priest. When love erupts in a priest’s heart, he realizes everything he has worked for is put at risk – his ministry, reputation, the esteem of parishioners, other priests, his bishop and possibly family and friends. He risks losing his job, home, health insurance and, sadly in some dioceses, his retirement. On top of all this is the fear of spiritual condemnation by the Church who claims to wield the power of God himself. So, rather than romantic love being a treasured gift from God, it becomes a threat to a priest’s very survival and puts him in crisis. Even though they know this, most priests still yearn for a significant other with whom they can have a close, intimate relationship...

You can find the remainder of this article and other challenges priests face on this link: http://www.leavingthepriesthood.com/#anchor_186

Henry
www.leavingthepriesthood.com
PLEASE! Stop all this maudlin nonsense. Give it a rest. It's tedious and boring. There's this little tiny fact about human beings that has apparently slipped through the cracks and been lost from view: we have a tiny little faculty called a WILL. Yes, it often falls under the rubric of free will, or free choice, or volition. If human beings lacked the capacity of making a promise and keeping it by free will, then there would never have ever been such things as faithful marriages, which still exist, by the way, if not in the overwhelming abundance found in our grandparents' generation. "Falling in love" is a smokescreen for negligence in the exercise of one's free will. It's an excuse. A cop out. Everyone USED to understand this. It's insane that anyone should have to point it out today.

It's no different with vows made by a seminarian when he becomes a priest than it is with a man or woman entering into holy matrimony. You make a promise because, as a human being, you are capable of exercising your will in remaining faithful to your promise. You refuse to allow yourself the narcissistic self-indulgence of "FALLING" in love with anyone or anything other than your vowed love. In matrimony, that means eschewing all others besides your spouse. In holy orders, that means eschewing all others besides Christ. This is half the problem with relationships these days: they're all-too-often based on mere feelings. "I've got to be true to my authentic FEELINGS, dear. I'm divorcing you." Or: "I've got to be true to my genuine inner self and how I really FEEL: I'm quitting the priesthood, getting laicized and getting married." PLEASE. This has about as much credibility as an Oprah or Dr. Phil show. Don't get any on me, please.

The language of "FALLING in love" tacitly exculpates the subject, implying that he's a passive victim of Cupid's arrow of romantic love, and therefore not responsible for what is happening. It conceals the fact that the subject who thus "FALLS in love" always at some point GIVES himself permission to partake in this self-indulgence of infatuation. "Falling" implies helplessness; but the subject is never entirely helpless. What was it that Chesterton said about falling? -- "There are many, many angles at which one can fall but only one angle at which one can stand straight." Standing clearly involves the will. One cannot fall asleep standing. But "falling" in love, like "falling" into sin, involves the will too. Otherwise our Lord could never have commanded us to love one another.

Are you a priest? Stand up and be a man. Semper fi means "always faithful." Are you a seminarian approaching your vows? Remember: this is nothing forced upon you. You are making a free choice. Weigh your options prayerfully, as I'm sure you are. And when you take your vows, remember the words of St. Thomas More in the words of Robert Bolt's dramatic representation of his life, A Man for All Seasons: "To take an oath is to hold our very self in our hands. If at this moment we open our hands and let it slip through like water we need not hope to find ourselves again."


14 comments:








Anonymous

said...

Philip:

Here's a blog which is discussing (from an Anglican perspective) the Ordinariate and the effect it will have on Catholic teaching.


elizaphanian.blogspot.com.

The owner is family, after a fashion: he's my cousin's husband.

God bless,

Chris





Ralph Roister-Doister

said...

Maybe these depressed and discouraged priests should try slacklining.





Anonymous

said...

Maudlin? Not so sure. I found it illuminating and human.





A Sinner

said...

What is it with you people?? It's none of your business. Why this obsession with trying to tell OTHER men how they can live their lives and trying to stop them from having love (and sex)? It usually comes from those are sexually frustrated themselves...





Anonymous

said...

Being a priest I can say that I understand if a fellow cleric says, "I am weak and wrong. I am leaving, but I won't try to justify it." I can even understand if a priest develops "feelings" for a woman. But he knows he can't act on them any more then a married man can act on "feelings" he might have for a woman he isn't married too.

We make a promise. Even if a priest should fail that doesn't mean the promise doesn't exist. He needs to go to confession, get spiritual direction, renew his prayer life, and soldier on. No whining. Every guy in seminary knows the score. Ordination includes celibacy. If you can't take it then tell the rector and move on. No harm in that, but don't play games.





Albino Monk

said...

The experience of falling in love is overwhelming for anyone, but especially for a married person. When love for someone else erupts in a married person’s heart, he realizes everything he has worked for is put at risk – his marriage, his reputation, the esteem of his biological children, other married men, his priest and possibly extended family and friends. He may have to divide everything he owns in half, and, sadly, pay alimony and child support as well. On top of all this is the fear of spiritual condemnation by the Church who claims to wield the power of God himself. So, rather than romantic love being a treasured gift from God, it becomes a threat to a married person’s very survival as a married person, and puts him in crisis. Even though they know this, most married persons still yearn for a vivacious breath of fresh air, a person with whom they can have a close, intimate relationship. Besides, she has nice breasts, and I have a hard-on.

Honestly, why do such priests suppose the married vocation is nothing but romance and roses, while they endure nothing but toil for the good of souls?





Shirley

said...

"A Sinner" writes:

It's none of your business. Why this obsession with trying to tell OTHER men how they can live their lives and trying to stop them from having love (and sex)?

Don't be silly, Sinner. Nobody is telling anyone how to live. Those who seek ordination do so freely, not through any coercion, and they know up front what is expected of them in the Catholic Church: celibacy. No arm twisting anywhere.

The priesthood doesn't belong to you or me but to God and His Church. He established it. It's His. And if the Church Whom He authorized to govern the People of God defines His priesthood for the good of His People as celibate, then that's the way it is.

If you want to have your cake and eat it too, go Anglican, or start your own "church." Let the true Church be God's Church.





Anonymous

said...

The priest is "owned" by the Church? Are human beings "owned". Priest who writes as Anonymous above is probably a pretty (adv) young priest!





Roger

said...

There is no Hope when promise and covenant lose all meaning.





Anon.

said...

Anonymous says:

"The priest is "owned" by the Church?"

I don't see anyone here talking chattel slavery. But when a guy agrees to a contract, he binds himself to it. And if he breaks his word, he's a worse than a wuss. And when the contract is a sacrament, the stakes are higher.





Anonymous

said...

"And when the contract is a sacrament, the stakes are higher."

Actually, does the sacrament of orders explicitly entail a lifelong commitment? (Also,is it a contract?) Is leaving the priesthood comparable to divorce (where much is made of the lifelong and indissoluble nature of the contract).

The ordination ceremony makes no reference to celibacy.





Dan

said...

Basically, a man does not have a vocation to the priesthood until the Church calls him and ordains him. Celibacy is not part of the sacrament; St. Peter had a mother-in-law and, presumably, a wife. The Roman Catholic Church, however, requires a vow of celibacy and a vow of obedience before it will ordain. Anyone who makes a vows should keep them.





Sheldon

said...

A contract is a secular (temporal) agreement between two parties in which goods and/or money are usually exchanged. A sacrament is a bit more than that. Sometimes, at least in the case of matrimony, it is expressed in terms of a covenant, which has been described as an exchange of 'selves' (the spouses give themselves wholly to one another). I can't speak for how this relates to holy orders, except to say that they would seem to involve a good deal more than a mere contract, which typically may be terminated after a job is completed, etc. Like marriage, holy orders entails a lifetime commitment; in this case the donation of self to God and his church.

I've heard priestly celibacy called a matter of discipline (which is revisable), as opposed to a matter of dogma (which is not). This would account for the indults for Anglican priests who convert and are ordained Catholic priests although they are married, as well as for the fact that a number of the apostles are described in Scripture as having spouses. On the other hand, there seems to be a strong case for arguing that priestly celibacy has apostolic origins in the sense that St. Paul clearly embodies (and commends) the state for apostolic work, as well as our Lord who commends those who are able to live as eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom, meaning, I take it, for the sacrament of holy orders.

Of course, I could be all wet on some of this. So the verdict is out (for me) on whether the norm is simply one of revisable discipline. What do I know?





Anonymous

said...

Slight quibble: the secular clergy make promises of celibacy (before subdiaconate) and of obedience (in the ordination ceremony). But is it correct to call them vows?