Thursday, June 07, 2007

CELAM and celibacy: The hierarchy still doesn't get it

Nowhere has the connection between mandatory celibacy, the lack of vocations, the priest shortage, and the loss of the faithful and their ministers to the evangelical churches been more obvious than in the Americas. Yet, as far as can be discerned from the document emerging from the 5th CELAM Conference in Aparecida, Brazil, -- a copy of which has been leaked and posted on the Estado da Sao Paulo newspaper Web site -- Pope Benedict XVI was successful in getting these bishops to ignore the evidence in their own backyard and continue to embrace an archaic, Euro-centered model of the priesthood which ultimately does not and cannot serve the Catholic Church of the future on our continent.

Among the conclusions pertaining to celibacy:

212. En particular el presbítero es invitado a valorar, como un don de Dios, el celibato que le posibilita una especial configuración con el estilo de vida del propio Cristo y lo hace signo de su caridad pastoral en la entrega a Dios y a los hombres con corazón pleno e indiviso. "En efecto, esta opción del sacerdote es una expresión peculiar de la entrega que lo configura con Cristo y de la entrega de sí mismo por el Reino de Dios"(87). El celibato pide asumir con madurez la propia afectividad y sexualidad, viviéndolas con serenidad y alegría en un camino comunitario(88).

212. In particular, the priest is invited to value, as a gift from God, celibacy which enables him to shape himself to the lifestyle of Christ himself and is a sign of pastoral caring in surrendering himself to God and to men with a full and undivided heart. "In effect, this choice by the priest is a special expression of the surrender that conforms him to Christ and the giving of himself for the Kingdom of God" (87). Celibacy demands taking responsibility maturely for one's own emotions and sexuality, living them with serenity and joy on a communal journey (88).

Further down in the document, the bishops raise the topic again in the context of priestly formation:

335. Se deberá prestar especial atención al proceso de formación humana hacia la madurez, de tal manera que la vocación al sacerdocio ministerial de los candidatos llegue a ser en cada uno un proyecto de vida estable y definitivo, en medio de una cultura que exalta lo desechable y lo provisorio. Dígase lo mismo de la educación hacia la madurez de la afectividad y la sexualidad. Esta debe llevar a comprender mejor el significado evangélico del celibato consagrado, a acogerlo con firme decisión y a vivirlo con serenidad y con la debida ascesis en un camino personal y comunitario, como entrega a Dios y a los demás con corazón pleno e indiviso.

335. Special attention should be paid to the process of human formation towards maturity, such that the vocation to priestly ministry of the candidates becomes a stable and definite life goal in each one of them, amid a culture that upholds the disposable and the provisional. The same can be said for aducation towards sexual and emotional maturity. This should lead to a better understanding of the evangelical significance of consecrated celibacy, to welcoming it with a firm decision and living it with serenity and due asceticism in both the personal and the communal journey, as a surrender to God and to others with a full and undivided heart.

Readers should note that these are my personal unofficial translations of this document, which will presumably be released in English at some point after the Pope approves the official original Spanish version. However, there is no reason to believe that the Pope would change either of these sections since they accurately reflect his own opinions on the subject.

It's lovely and poetic and some people really do have the gift of celibacy and sacrificing a family life for service to God and others. God bless them. However most men don't and the results are:

1. A shortage of priests and vocations, closed and/or merged parishes, faithful who cannot find a priest and receive the sacraments and therefore leave the Catholic Church for other faiths;

2. Priests who are overworked and lonely; and that loneliness leads to unhealthy lifestyles and chronic health problems;

3. Priests who routinely violate their celibacy vows, father children, and force the women they love into leading clandestine lives.

Why can we not simply wake up, look at the data, and admit that mandatory celibacy doesn't work, has never worked, and is contributing to the decline of the Catholic Church? Y por que nuestros obispos no pueden mirar la evidencia y tener el valor de decir la verdad al Vaticano? Why can they still not stand up to the Vatican and tell the truth?

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