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Mark C. N. Sullivan is an editor at a Massachusetts university. He is married and the father of three children. Email
Wednesday, January 22, 2003 Amy Welborn in Commonweal
“My husband, the priest”: Amy Welborn, in a remarkable and thought-provoking piece in the Jan. 17 Commonweal, describes how her marriage to a laicized Catholic priest has shaped her perspective on The Situation and her advocacy of a role for married clergy.
It is a shame, I think, that the bishops have spent so much time guarding their numbers and their clerical class by protecting sexual miscreants. It is a shame, not just because of the injustice to the victims and the harm to us all, but because it is just so ridiculous and unnecessary. For thousands of priests are sitting in their living rooms with their wives tonight. Some wouldn't give two cents to get back into it, and have left it all behind, gladly.
But there are others. Others who left and harbor no real bitterness. They who still embrace the Catholic faith. Others who may not yearn for their old life, exactly, but are still haunted by it.
They don't want the clericalism and the pedestals. They are grateful that their new lives let them see the falsehood in all those trappings and the simpler, yet joyful, realities of marriage and family. Service is still a part of their history. It is why they entered the priesthood in the first place. It is how they understood the call. So many are still willing to do just that. They would gratefully spend time during the week preparing a homily, then go down the street Sunday morning, put on some vestments and say Mass in their own parish communities. They wouldn't mind doing sick calls and being with the dying or even doing some marriage preparation, some weddings, some baptisms. They would give themselves gladly to that, grateful that all that training and those gifts are being put to good use. It seems to me, if clerical culture needs to be broken up and exposed to the light, that would just about do it.
Yes, it's a shame that the bishops have been so worried about seminary numbers, going about closing parishes, putting priests to work as pastors of three parishes at once, trying to maintain parishes that twenty-five years ago had three priests on staff, but now have only one. It is a shame that these bishops have been motivated by this concern to throw their resources into keeping sexually screwed-up priests in, no matter what the cost.
While all the time, they could have been working, quietly but firmly, toward bringing good priests who happen to be married back into ministry. Had they done so, we might not be all the way there yet, but we would be much closer to the point at which you didn't have to be a convert or Eastern-rite to be a married priest.
For now, the chalice stays in the closet, the baby runs joyfully wild, marveling at the bubbles falling from the heavens, and the ghosts of ancient history lurk in the shadows, marveling at the puzzle of such pointless waste.
The article is not online, but go find a copy at the newsstand or the library and, as they say, read the whole thing.