Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Shades in the celibacy spectrum

In addition to the lovely Christmas stories and the Pope's own pronouncements on the issue, we have seen articles over the last few days showing a range of views on the celibacy issue.

Strongly promoted in Rhode Island

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence, RI is launching a media campaign on vocations in January which features a television ad extolling the virtues of celibacy. For those who want to view these earnest young priests defending their option, the video has been posted on You Tube.

"Should be optional but it's OK for me"

That best sums up the views of one of the Dominican Republic's most radical priests and a Salesian, Padre Rogelio Cruz, as articulated in this December 26 article in El Nacional. Cruz states that the celibacy requirement has no Biblical basis and that he believes it will become optional one day. Even if that were to happen, Cruz says, he would choose to continue living a celibate lifestyle because it makes it easier to devote himself to his ministry to the poor. To him, celibacy should not be the central issue, but whether or not one is working to build the Kingdom of God.

Celibacy: No más, no more

The Puerto Rican newspaper, El Nuevo Día, 12/27/2006, contains a profile of an older Dutch priest, Pedro Van Marissing, who worked a long time in one of the poorest areas of Puerto Rico -- Juana Matos in Cataño. Fr. Van Marissing came to Puerto Rico following his ordination in 1964 because his uncle was already a bishop there. As a result of his experiences in this poor community, Van Marissing began to question many of the practices of the Church. In the article he mentions his disagreement with a Sacrament of Reconciliation where parishioners would be assigned to say rote prayers rather than really do the hard work of reconciliation and on the Eucharist, he notes: "In the consecration, we say 'Take this, all of you, and eat it'. It doesn't say 'all of you except...' The invitation is for all. If Jesus made no distinction, why should I?"

Fr. Van Marissing's views alienated him from his fellow priests. He began to question the Church as an institution and celibacy. He says: "When you are very busy, you don't think as much about celibacy. The Church has always had a problem with sexuality but as a priest you don't stop being a human being with sexual aspects. When you start to have problems and you can't communicate with anyone, it's logical that you begin to question celibacy." Van Marissing left the priesthood and got married.

For a long time he was completely alienated from the Catholic Church. Eight years ago he came back into the Church via the Comunidad de Jesús Mediador ("Community of Jesus the Mediator") founded by a Dominican priest, Fr. Alvaro de Boer. Fr. Alvaro sent him to minister in a low income neighborhood called Bayamón Housing. He performed the sacraments in this community, saying that they are illicit but valid. He now does similar work in a project in Santo Domingo. He says that he is no longer trying to resist within the church but has moved to the margins where he is needed and can exercise his ministry. "And this too is a way of resisting."

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