Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Hijos de Cura ("Children of Priests")

This very interesting article by Isabel Ibáñez about various models of priests and religious who are receiving children in a more permanent way into their lives in Spain is from the Spanish Web site Periodista Digital (12/24/2006). I will summarize most of the stories and translate the one that is of greatest interest to us.

It is also important to note that Fr. Pinillos, whose story I translated completely below, is now heading the Spanish optional celibacy movement, MOCEOP. He is not receiving any salary from the Church for his services and, to avoid scandal, he is not working in the same parish where he was a priest before he and Emilia got married.

In addition to Fr. Pinillos, the cases Ibáñez talks about are:

  • Luis de Lezama, a priest who created a shelter for abandoned and neglected children but also took many of them into his own home over a period of 44 years.

  • Valentín Bravo, the pastor of El Espinar, who, with the permission of the bishop of Segovia, legally adopted a Russian orphan named Alosa so that the boy would not have to go back to his home country where he had been terribly neglected both physically and developmentally. The article adds that adoptions by priests and religious, though extremely rare, are not actually prohibited by Canon Law. Fr. Bravo emphasizes that he did not adopt Alosa to alleviate any personal feelings of loneliness but because he was an abandoned child and he could not in good conscience fail to advocate for him. He adds that the boy also benefits from being able to relate to Fr. Bravo's extended family. The boy says he is happy in his new life, even when he has to answer questions about his father's profession. Fr. Bravo says that Alosa brings him great joy and has enriched him as a person and in his ministry. Because he has had to learn to share a home with another person and to be a parent, he feels that he now understands other fathers much better.

  • Sole Cano, a former Trinitarian nun from Valencia who is a teacher. While still a nun, in 1988, she took in three orphaned street children. At the time she was living in an apartment with another nun in a poor area. She says that she received a lot of support and help from her community in caring for the children and that although there were difficulties and problems juggling the schedule between religious community activities and family responsibilities, she feels gratified to have been able to give a dignified life to these children and privileged to have watched them grow into adulthood.

Julio, Ruth, Tamar and Noemí
(English translation by Rebel Girl)

Like any other man who is ordained a priest, Julio Pérez Pinillos never thought he would fall in love, have sex, much less have children, but in Spain 5,000 (20%) of Catholic priests have gotten married -- there are some 90,000 in the world. Canon Law says that any married priest is automatically laicized, that is to say, he should forget about celebrating Mass. And the Bishops' Conference says it knows of no exception to this norm. Nonetheless, Julio Pérez Pinillos has a wife and three daughters and continues to give Communion in the parish of San Cosme y San Damián de Vallecas.

In Julio's life, perhaps everything was "twisted", in quotes, when he decided to stop being a normal priest and become one of those worker priests who in the 1970s went to work in the factories as a way to be closer to the people. There he met a young woman who was committed to her Church and fell in love. "I thought I would be celibate forever and I was for ten happy years. But I met this girl. I resisted it until I realized that love was free. And in the same way that we went into the factories to be closer to the workers, Emilia and I decided that we would be closer to the idea of family if we formed one," he recalls.

So the couple went to talk to the auxilliary bishop of Vallecas, Alberto Iniesta. "He listened to us with great respect and generosity, and answered that he could not tell us that what we were going to do was outside of the Gospel." Julio got married and had three daughters, Ruth, Noemí and Tamar, ages 26, 21 and 18. And he continues to offer Mass. He knows that his case is more than extraordinary -- the product of an understanding bishop and colleagues. He has not forgotten that many have stopped exercising their ministry against their will; which is why he became the president of the Federation of Married Priests.

The debate over optional celibacy makes the headlines from time to time. Most recently, a month and a half ago, when the Pope called a meeting of the heads of the dicastries of the Curia to reflect on the petitions for dispensation from the celibacy requirement. Nonetheless, the next day, he slammed the door on the hopes of thousands of married priests when he proclaimed that everything would continue as it had. "But I know that something is moving and I trust that this is how it is. Because this is just a norm from the 12th century", he asserts, "up until then, priests married and had children." He outlines a lot of arguments to defend his cause, "but the most important is that Jesus never talked about celibacy or virginity. The Gospel says nothing about this."

Is it better or worse for a priest to have had children?

"The married man is as much a saint and as much a sinner as the single man, but for me marriage opened new dimensions, nuances on wives and children, on reproduction. Also on sexuality: the Church has often blundered on this topic because sexual moralism comes from not having sexual relations."

Julio asserts that his daughters have never suffered from being daughters of a priest. To corroborate this, Tamar and Noemí add, smiling: "Everything has always been completely normal. In a skating class where we were new they were told to ask us as a joke who our father was. Ha, ha! One of them said that she had consulted a nun at her high school and that it was not possible [for them to be the daughters of a priest]. But here we are."

In a way I, Rebel Girl, am nervous about publishing this piece on the Blog. I really hope that Fr. Pinillos can continue to enjoy the harmonious relationship he has with his diocese that enables him to continue to function as a priest. It is the dream of so many and eventually will be the future of our Church.

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