Sunday, February 04, 2007

The Importance of Celibacy

Over the winter break, I took an intensive class in public speaking. It was an interesting class. We finished the class with a debate. The class was divided into two groups. One group debated the death penalty, while the other group debated priestly celibacy. Of course, I was on the death penalty debate.

Most of the arguments offerered on both sides of the celibacy debate were superficial and some were even ridiculous. Money seemed to take top priority. With the pro-celibacy team arguing that parishes couldn't afford to support a priest's family and the anti-celibacy team arguing that parishes were loaded with money. (By the way, if you find that parish let me know. My parish is not one of them. Maybe they will share.)

Until a few days ago, I was undecided on where I stood on priestly celibacy. My thoughts on the issue depended on the day. A few days ago, I figured out my opinion. I am sure that what I am about to write will not be groundbreaking news to many of you. It wasn't anything that I didn't know before. The difference was in how I looked at it.

The problem lies in clerical professionalism. Basically, some priests and lay people see the priesthood as a job. Come to work, put in 8 hours, punch out and go home. If that is all the priesthood is, there is no reason for celibacy.

Celibacy calls the priest to a deeper level of commitment. It is not a 9-5 job. It is not even a 9-9 job. It is a marriage. The priest is celibate because he is married to the Church. As parishioners, we are the priest's "kids".

The priesthood is a 24 hour 7 day a week commitment. Just as when my son calls me from his crib (soon to be bed because he climbed out last night), I don't say, "Sorry, call me a 9. Mommy's not working right now", the priest must be available to his parishioners.

Now, I understand that that is not always possible. Unfortunately, we have too few priests who are stretched far too thin. We have priests ministering to 2, 3, and more parishes. Some of these are not located near each other. We have priests with parish and other diocesan duties. However, we cannot forget the ideal, because our current situation is far from ideal.

I pray that the day will come when each parish has two, three or more priests. The day when parishioners can call the rectory at any hour and have a priest attend to their needs immediately. Hopefully, that day is soon.

Even if it isn't, priestly celibacy is important because it creates a special bond between priest and Church. To lose that bond would change the priesthood from a relationship to a job.

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