The Deacon's Bench

The Deacon's Bench

“We have to do something, because we need priests”

The recent overture to the Anglicans has gotten more people to look at the question of a married priesthood. And that’s sent some reporters scurrying to talk to priests who left ministry to marry:

One of the hardest things Ed Donaghy has ever done was leave his ministry as a Catholic priest. For months, he agonized over his conflicting desires to have a family and serve as a priest in the Sacramento Diocese.

In the end, Donaghy felt he had no choice. The priest, who served in Woodland, Calif., told his bishop that he had to leave.

That was four decades ago.

“It would have been wonderful to be married and be a priest,” said Donaghy, 73, now retired as an insurance agent. “I loved the work and would have continued.”


Donaghy is one of more than 75 men in the Sacramento area who have left active ministry in the priesthood to marry. Many of them, Donaghy said, “would have returned in a minute if the rules changed.” That is not likely to happen soon.

But the likelihood of Catholics seeing married priests in the pulpit increased last month when Vatican officials announced an arrangement that welcomes Anglicans into the Catholic Church, including married Anglican priests.

Vatican officials have said repeatedly that celibacy will remain mandatory — at least in most circumstances. But many observers say having married Anglican priests in the church is a “major move” toward the idea of married Catholic priests.

“It’s significant,” said Sister Chris Schenk of FutureChurch, a Cleveland group studying shortages of priests in the United States.


“It’s time for the church to bring these married priests back into ministry and to address the issue of mandatory celibacy,” Schenk said. “We have parishes closing and a number of priests retiring. Look at the demographics.”

About 40,000 priests serve in U.S. dioceses, according to the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University. Many of those are nearing retirement. In 2009, 472 men were ordained.

“We have to do something because we need priests,” Schenk said. “It only makes sense to rethink celibacy.”

There’s much more at the link.

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Dcn. Brian

posted November 9, 2009 at 7:42 am

Is it possible that the main reason Jesus was celebate – and at the time it must have been counter-productive for his ministry – was to spare the Church the huge problem of some claiming to be direct descendants of God? That would have been a “holier than thou” problem in spades.

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posted November 9, 2009 at 12:54 pm

I think that people advocating for a married priesthood in order to solve a vocations problem suffer from severe myopia. If they would look around, they would see that there are vocations problems in churches with married priests as well. Their allowances of married clergy has not prevented the problem for them, why would it for us?
Now, I’m sure in the short run we would have a vocations boom if we re-instituted a married priesthood. But ultimately the novelty and newness of it would fade, and in a couple of generations we would be in exactly the same position and no closer to a solution.
Ultimately our shortage of priests is not a vocations crisis. How can we believe that God would not call enough men to the priesthood? The crisis we face now is a crisis of discernment, not vocation. For myriad reasons, many men who are called to the priesthood are simply not responding to the call. Allowing them to marry would remove one reason/excuse, but others would still remain.
If we want to solve this problem, we need to look at its true cause and aim our solution there. We need to create a culture that encourages discernment, that encourages people to embrace the vocation to which God calls them, that holds on to the faithful.

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Your Name

posted November 9, 2009 at 1:05 pm

Let’s see if we have this right.
This Mr. Donaghy enters the seminary, completes his religious studies, and accepts Holy Orders, all the while knowing full well of the celibacy requirement, and then quits the priesthood because of it, yet presumes to inform the world what a great priest he’d be, but for that rule!!
The self indulgence here is staggering, and a pretty clear indicator that in fact he’d be a very lousy priest!

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posted November 9, 2009 at 6:25 pm

In all fairness to the men in ministry who left….it must be pointed out that in SOME seminaries in the mid to late 1960’s (and a bit beyond) seminarians were ADVISED to date because those in charge were utterly convinced that the celibacy rule would be changing. Not making an excuse, just an explanation for SOME.

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