Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Having the wrong discussion...

Before and now during the much heralded Synod on the Family, I have heard and continue to hear a great hullabaloo about whether or not to allow communion for divorcees who remarry without first having their previous marriages annulled.  I find this fixation odd because I think it represents misplaced focus, reeking of hypocrisy.

At the risk of expressing myself in an inefficient manner, allow me to share some recent inter-personal exchanges with you.

Last week I was in Africa for a large diocesan event.  Consequently I found myself in the company of many African priests.  Our conversations often turned to the Synod.  While in the company of four African priests I mentioned that some American media outlets reported that the African bishops were trying to block certain discussions.  One of the four replied that he thought he knew which topics African bishops would try to block and then proceeded to speculate they were LGBT issues and communion for "'separated' and remarried Catholics...because there is no such thing as 'divorce' in the eyes of God."

We had a spirited dialogue following his comment that went something like this:

Me: Why are you focusing on lay Catholics rather than the priests who break the same commandment?

Him: (deer in headlights look....)

Me: I've seen statistics that about 50% of Catholic priests are sexually active.  There are 4 priests here now.  Statistically speaking, that means 2 of you are probably sexually active.  According to moral theology, you two break the same commandment as divorced and remarried people.  However, not only do you get to receive communion, you get to consecrate the hosts!

Him: But such priests do this in secret!!!!

Me: Which is more reprehensible!  Secrecy gave us the abuse scandal, didn't it?  Besides, it's not a secret.  People tend to know.

Him: (a more frightened deer in headlights look...)

Me:  Tell me truthfully, do you know multiple priests who are currently sexually active?

Him: (stunned look)

Me: So, you'd be lying if you told me "no" wouldn't you?  And, thus, it's not a secret is it?

Him: (chuckling in a very sheepish rather than shepherd-ish way) Welllllllll......

Me: Well nothing.  They're sexually active... they break the same commandment as divorcees.  Commandment number 6 covers all sex-related sins.  Same commandment.  Same sin.  But nobody is talking about refusing communion to all these sexually active priests.

Him: But married people take a vow; their marriage is a sacrament - a sacramental promise.  Or don't you consider marriage sacramental?  Do you just want to dismiss it as something trivial?

Me: (With look of disbelief at his seeming disconnect from his own priestly sacramental situation...) And......wasn't your ordination a sacrament?  Didn't your sacramental promises include celibacy with implied chastity?  Or don't you consider your ordination as a sacrament?  Was it just something trivial?  By the way, you know what my bishop calls sexually active priests?  He says they have "celibacy lapses"...  Lapses!  Like it's as insignificant as forgetting to take out the trash.  Maybe that's all divorced and remarried people are having too..."lapses."

Him: But....

Me: But, don't you think we should hold church leaders to a higher standard than the laity?

Him: Ummmmm.....

Me:  Isn't this a special category of hypocrisy where the clerics fuss and sputter about the splinter in others' eyes rather than worrying about the big, huge, honking log in their own eyes?

Him:  Ummmmmmmmmm......

Me:  Yes, "um."  We will be attending a diocesan Mass this weekend and there will be at least 100 clergy present; so likely 50 of them will be sexually active, breaking their sacramental promises, violating the 6th commandment.  But they will all get to receive communion without question and even con-celebrate consecrating the hosts.

Him:  But should the church not have any laws or rules?

Me: Well, I think we should stop using communion as a doggie treat to reward good behavior and instead use it as a balm to heal the wounded.  Did or did not Jesus give communion to Judas?

Him: Um, yeah he did.

Me: I'm o.k. with laws but I think they should hold leaders to higher standards.  So, how about this law?  No communion for sexually active priests. And definitely no consecrating the Eucharist for them.

Him: But....but.....but

Me:  Why not?  Same commandment; same infraction; you guys should be up for at least the same consequences...  If you were credible leaders, you'd want more severe punishments for yourselves than for the laity.

Different priest:  But, I'm a man 24x7 and I have the feelings of a man all day every day.  I have needs and urges.

Me: (Thinking to myself, "Methinks before me is one of those sexually active priests...")  And divorced laypeople do not have these same needs and urges?  And did you or did you not get ordained with full awareness of the celibate state and its....

Same different priest: (finishing my sentence and sounding a bit dejected that the light-bulb in his brain turned on) Its implied chastity...

Me: Bingo!

I continue to be amazed at grown men whose reasoning powers yield logic akin to when my kids were little and they thought I could not see them if they covered their eyes with a blanket.  I tell such priests as I would tell my kids, "I seeeeeee you..."

But I am utterly disgusted that the hierarchy continues to reward people who operate in secrecy, delusionally thinking no one sees their shortcomings...while punishing people who live their lives honestly in the open.  You are not credible guardians of truth if you cannot tell it or live it.

So, my dear church hierarchy, I don't want to hear any more about trying to justify withholding communion from divorced and remarried Catholics until after sexually active clergy are wholesale banned from receiving and consecrating the Eucharist.  Plain and simple: until you are willing to treat sexually active clergy the same as divorced and remarried laypeople, this is a non-issue.  Communion for everyone!  Full stop.

How about you concentrate on substantive issues like including women as voting members of your gathering, empowering women since they are 70% of people in poverty, or re-instating married clergy and the ordination of women as deacons? 


  1. Thanking God for the "Me" in this conversation...I cannot agree more...there is to be no exception to the policy of Sacrament of Commitment: Marriage or Ordination!

  2. Brilliant...clear....and yet they still won't get it. Thank you, Ewe...for pressing on with courage.

  3. yes! well said! I get more from your blogs than anything "relavant radio" ever puts on. It's like they want to life the disney lifestyle of a happily ever after without living in reality

  4. This is wonderful reasoning and confronting. Ewe to serve on the Synod with a full vote!

  5. Ah, you feel like a Catholic Jon Stewart. Such a wonderful way to remind me that all is not lost. Thanks for your courage in confronting those in power.
    Ewe inspire me.

  6. If everyone knew about this logic, talked about it, and demanded adherence to the obvious outcomes of it, we would reach the critical mass and something positive would happen. We need more and more people making lots of noise about this; we need to reach that critical mass.

  7. Nice job confronting those guys!

  8. Very well stated. True not just in Africa. The solution has to be a more representative governance structure. But with the ivory tower in the Vatican the best way forward is a de-centralised church. We need each diocese to elect their own bishop (leader), who may be male or female, married or single, ordained or not.

  9. Wow! I had never heard that statistic about 50% of priests...can you reference where that comes from?

    1. I've seen it a few times. Here is one article from 2010 that I found. I read another in the past few weeks and if I find the more recent article, I will post that also. http://ncronline.org/blogs/examining-crisis/secret-sex-celibate-system

    2. Here's another http://www.awrsipe.com/Articles/Celibacy_is_a_Problem.html

    3. See also http://www.awrsipe.com/Articles/Celibacy_is_a_Problem.html. This is an article by Richard Sipe reporting on his own and other studies of sexual activity among celibate clergy..

  10. Thanks for all the nice comments. As an fyi, I sent the link to this article to a few bishops I know. I asked them to please forward to Synod participants if they felt it merited their attention. I did not get a response but I have seen a sudden spike of 8 people in the last day or so accessing this article from Rome. Let us continue to hope that the Spirit whispers, yells or in some other way gets their attention.

  11. Having had a seven year affair with a priest, I have no doubt the statistic is accurate . . . or if anything, a little on the light side. 70%?

  12. Terrific, should be required reading for all priests. Catholic priests, I mean. Some priests belong to denominations that sensibly allow clergy to marry.

  13. Well done Ewe. It never ceases to amaze me how priests somehow get it in their heads that the sixth commandment does not apply to them, only celibacy does, and that's 'not synonymous with chastity'. Truly, they live in their own little logic world.

  14. If Jesus hadn't risen from the dead, he would be turning in his grave right now at the morons to whom had been granted Holy Orders.

  15. The mitred ones whose only connection with family is that (unless orphaned) they came from one, deciding vital family issues is like a band of hobos trying to drive a high speed train. What could possibly go wrong?

  16. Complete lies. Even if some random article says that about 50% of priests, there's no way to prove it without ACTUALLY ASKING THE PRIESTS.

    1. Actually, the source of the statistic is a psychiatrist who worked with priests for over 30 years. So, in fact, it is from asking priests. Please remember the blog's rules of taking ownership by identifying yourself when you post critical comments. Thanks.