Monday, September 26, 2011

Latin American married priests and wives call for end to mandatory celibacy

By Gustavo Sarmiento (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Tiempo Argentino

"The Church has been growing apart from the community. It needs to change and hasn't renewed itself in a long time." That reflection was heard during the meeting of the Federación Latinoamericana de Curas Casados y sus Esposas ("Latin American Federation of Married Priests and Their Wives"), which opened on Wednesday with the participation of 30 representatives from six countries at the home of Clelia Luro de Podestá, widow of Monseñor Jerónimo Podestá, the former bishop of Avellaneda, who has been promoting the organization that today represents some 150,000 priests worldwide, although the Vatican only acknowledges 60,000.

During the meeting, which will end today, the couples analyzed the churches in the region, the economic, social, political and cultural movements, the relationship with each community, with the hierarchy and with the political sectors of each country.

One of the main demands was that the Vatican agree to optional celibacy, something that 75% of priests support, according to a survey commissioned four years ago by the Argentine Bishops' Conference. "Celibacy emerged in the 4th century, when marriage was common among priests. The Bible says nothing about it. On the contrary, Jesus chose married apostles," said Mario Mullo, the current president of the Federation, who is from Ecuador. João Tabares, from Brazil, thinks that "if priests marry, an economic factor comes in. It's easier for the Church to keep a priest with a minimum wage than his whole family. The Church's assets are safeguarded and not passed down. Originally, there was this platonic idea that the soul is the prisoner of the body, which is evil."

Father Lauro Macías, who came from Mexico with his partner, Tere, recalls that it "came to be decreed that priests who didn't leave their wives were jailed, and that the wives and children would be sold as slaves."

The Eastern rite Catholic Church allows marriage, but in the West, the heads of the Church have refused to discuss it. According to them, John Paul II said to one bishop who consulted him on the issue, "change the subject or our conversation ends here." Sebastián Cozar, from Chile, remarked: “We're asking for dialogue, like Vatican II talks about. We don't want confrontation and we're not doing this out of any resentment but out of love for the Church. The married priest is one more contribution to the Church."

According to the Federation's data, more than 60% of its communities are in favor of married priests, and don't consider marriage to be an impediment to vocation. For Mullo, "it's equally essential to conceive of a Church that's renewed, open to the world and to the social organizations."

Marriage is not the only thing that unites all the participants. The main thing is their commitment to their communities -- the fight for social justice and human rights, and the search for a gospel anchored in the barrios among the neediest classes, anchored in liberation theology. "upon leaving the ministry, many turned the page but others participated in parish and community activities, seeking a new church, which is what we need today," those present stated.
Lauro, father of three children, founded the second ecumenical church ever in a Mexican jail and he still celebrates the Eucharist at funerals of his friends or weddings at which the Catholic Church has refused to officiate. "I left the clerical state but not the priesthood," he explains. For Cozar, "the new church should have more community participation, more charity; it should be a church of freedom that doesn't impose, but should be open."

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Sr. Marie-Paul Ross "would like to talk to you about love...and sex"...and celibacy

Dr. Marie-Paul Ross, a Canadian nun in the Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate Conception, sexologist and founder/director of the Institut de Développement Intégral, is already making waves with her new book, Je voudrais vous parler d'amour... et de sexe ("I would like to talk to you about love...and sex", Michel Lafon, 2011), which is due to come out this week.

In her book, Dr. Ross alleges that 80% of priests and religious violate their celibacy vows at some point in their lives. She argues that many priests suffer because they really are not able to live their celibacy requirement well.

While she roundly condemns pedophilia and suggests that the celibacy requirement should be lifted, Dr. Ross doesn't consider allowing priests to marry to be the answer to pedophilia. "With all these people in sexual distress who can't fulfill their celibacy requirement, it destroys the message," she says. "The Church should hurry up and give diocesan priests the freedom to choose between married life and celibacy." But she adds: "A pedophile priest would make a bad husband and a worse father. For one simple reason: he is sick and dangerous person who must be treated."

Dr. Ross's book also contains eyewitness accounts of sexual activity between priests and nuns and instances she has learned through her practice of nuns who have been raped by priests.

The Quebec Catholic Bishops Conference has already responded to Dr. Ross's allegations, saying that, rather than indicating a need to lift the celibacy requirement, they reflect a need for a better selection process for candidates for the priesthood. "There are priests who are not in the place that's right for them just as there are fathers and mothers who never should have had children," says Mr. Germain Tremblay, assistant to the secretary-general of the bishops' conference. "We must modify our approach. Perhaps one of the mistakes has been to call men to the priesthood and then teach them to be celibate and chaste, while the opposite should have been done instead." He acknowledged that such an approach would probably yield even fewer vocations than the current one.

In a separate interview, Dr. Ross said that she feels that a lot of the problems have come from the fact that the Church has historically not adequately prepared priests and nuns for celibacy. She said that consecrated religious were simply told to "be careful" without any instruction in how to deal with sexual impulses. She said that the resulting tensions have led to depression, suicidal urges, and sexual deviance, among other behavioral issues.

Dr. Ross knows that her book, with an initial printing of 6,000 copies and plans already in place for more, will cause a major uproar. She has met with her provincial superiors to discuss the controversial topics in her book and says that she has their full support. "They agree with me that it's time for this hypocrisy to stop," she says.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Fr. Rémi Bouriaud and Michèle: A Double Life Comes to an End

By Juliette Demey
France Soir

From La Baule to Pornichet, they have called him "Rémi" for a long time. From now on, it will be the only name that Fr. Rémi Bouriaud will be allowed to use. On September 4, this 70 year-old priest was suspended a divinis by Msgr. Jean-Paul James, bishop of Nantes. He isn't allowed to celebrate Mass or perform any sacrament. His mistake? Having chosen to "live with a woman companion" for 11 years, putting into question "the commitment to celibacy he made when he asked for and received ordination," the diocese said in a communique on Thursday.

Father Rémi Bouriaud, who was ordained in 1967, has always wondered about "women's place in the world, in the Church, and in his life." He had already had a five year relationship with a woman when, in 2000, at almost 60, he met Michèle. "We gambled on trying to live together while knowing the Roman Catholic Church's position on celibacy for priests," he told the Presse Océan. Though not showing off, he never really hid this relationship. In the parishes of La Baule and Pornichet, where he had ministered since 2006, the faithful knew about his double life. The priest often left at night to join his companion, who lived a couple of dozen kilometers from there. Nobody was really offended. They understood, and they didn't talk about it.

"The Church is ten centuries behind"

Today, they no longer understand. "He's just a man who had a girlfriend. He had informed his peers, even the bishop, and he continued to do his job. We're going to miss him," said one of the faithful in the presbytery. He was a priest who was "friendly, open", "not preachy", "convivial." Father Rémi looked after the high school students. He asked them to call him by his first name and "didn't wear a Roman collar." A modern priest, "like they all should be," a parishioner from La Baule said. "Among the parishioners, there are always some self-righteous folk. They preach morality, but they know nothing about charity."

This nonconformist priest, who confessed to RTL that he had always had "a need for affection, for physical touching, for solidarity with the feminine world", ended up in trouble. Why today, when he asserts that he informed his hierarchy years ago? It was an anonymous letter, sent this summer to the bishop of Nantes, that stirred up the hornets' nest. "I think it's because I was always frank that I'm being punished," he said. Both disappointed and relieved, Rémi is still heavy-hearted: "There were married priests pretty much everywhere until 1450. The Church is ten centuries behind on this issue," he complained.

"This relationship makes us happy"

Some hope that his story will relaunch the debate on celibacy for priests. According to the European Federation of Catholic Married Priests, approximately one in four priests has (or has had) a clandestine relationship. "It's time for the Church to think. At least this priest knows what life in a couple is like, like pastors and rabbis do. Enough of the code of silence," said an angry parishioner. To Bernard, a priest who resigned from the priesthood forty years ago, "it's total hypocrisy. When you talk to the bishops, they understand. But if they want to keep their position, they have to keep quiet, exclude, not question the Church." Dominique Venturini, former companion of a priest, who runs the organization Plein Jour, has written a letter to Benedict XVI demanding an end to the celibacy requirement for priests. "Let the Church grant the same freedom, the same human rights to everyone!," she urges.

Rémi Bouriaud doesn't want to become a standard bearer. "It's going to be very hard for him," Bernard sympathizes. "As a human being, having spiritual responsibilities, he must feel destroyed." Bouriaud says he doesn't regret anything. "This relationship makes us happy. We knew that sooner or later this double life might end," he admitted to Presse Océan. At La Baule, the other priests organized a lovely farewell meal for him. At his last Mass on Saturday, he was given a standing ovation by the faithful. A few days ago, he came back to pick up his few belongings from the rectory. He can now live his love affair with Michèle in the open.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Former Bishop of Derry calls for end to clerical celibacy

UPDATE 9/14/2011: The Association of Catholic Priests has supported calls by the former Bishop of Derry Edward Daly for a removal of the compulsory celibacy requirement where Catholic priests are concerned. (Irish Times, 9/14/2011)

The Journal (Ireland)

The former bishop of Derry Dr Edward Daly has called for an end to mandatory clerical celibacy for priests in the Catholic Church, saying that removing the requirement would “ease the church’s problems”.

Daly, one of the most well-known figures in the Church, describes the issue of celibacy as “the other conflict” in his memoir, A Troubled See: Memoirs of a Derry Bishop.

Daly said he believed that not allowing priests to marry was causing potential candidates to turn away from their vocations, writing: “I believe there… should be a place in the modern Catholic Church for a married priesthood and for men who do not wish to commit themselves to celibacy."...

Click here for the full article and also be sure to vote in the newspaper's poll: Should priests be allowed to renounce vow of celibacy?

More quotes from the book from the Irish Times:

“I ask myself, more and more, why celibacy should be the great sacred and unyielding arbiter, the paradigm of diocesan priesthood?...Why not prayerfulness, conviction in the faith, knowledge of the faith, ability to communicate in the modern age, honesty, integrity, humility, a commitment to social justice, a work ethic, respect for others, compassion and caring?...Surely many of these qualities are at least as important in a diocesan priest as celibacy – yet celibacy seems to be perceived as the predominant obligation, the sine qua non."

Celibacy is “an obligation that has caused many wonderful potential candidates to turn away from a vocation, and other fine men to resign their priesthood at great loss to the church.”

Thursday, September 01, 2011

"Sex, Celibacy and Priesthood"

By Donna Beth Weilenman
The Benicia Herald

While pursuing a degree from the University of San Francisco, then-doctorial candidate Lou A. Bordisso wrote his dissertation on “The Relationship between Moral Development, Sexual Orientation, and Roman Catholic Priests.”

He took vows with the Society of the Divine Savior (Salvatorians) in the Roman Catholic Church, but changed his alliance when his mother became critically ill and his father was diagnosed with cancer, because he didn’t want to be assigned to another state while his parents were ill.

Attracted to the American Catholic Church, under the umbrella of the Old Catholic Church, Lou Bordisso became a member of the Order of Saint John Vianney. After becoming an ordained priest, he was named Presiding Bishop of the Diocese of the California American Catholic Church until his retirement in 2010, when he became Bishop Emeritus.

He had long considered writing a follow-up to that dissertation, perhaps incorporating and Richard Sipe’s 25-year study of 1,500 Catholic priests that indicated that 50 percent or fewer attempt celibacy, and only 2 percent achieve total chastity, he said.

But Bordisso didn’t want to write just a sequel or make a new study. Instead, he wanted priests to relate anonymously how they deal with the vow of celibacy they take on their way to priesthood.

Recent health issues that led to his retirement also convinced him “to put the rubber to the road” and get the book written.

And a diagnosis of dementia caused the bishop to begin “living in the moment,” he said.

“It’s a spiritual gift: ‘Be still and know that I am God,’” he said of his diagnosis. “I’d been putting (writing the book) off, but there’s no better time than now.”

Bordisso said the diagnosis caused him to shed unimportant battles and focus instead on new priorities.

One of these is hosting the public access program “Political Inquisitions,” which can be accessed online at the Vallejo Independent Bulletin.

And of course the book, to be released later this year, has been another priority.

It’s titled “Sex, Celibacy, and the Priesthood,” though Bordisso said he wanted it called “The Elephant in the Middle of the Sanctuary,” because, he said, few care to comment publicly about celibacy.

In researching the book, the Mare Island priest cast his net wide to hear from the largest number of North American Roman Catholic priests. Though he openly gay, he sought responses from all orientations.

He spoke at conferences, placed advertisements in the National Catholic Reporter, posted requests on message boards and sent letters to schools of divinity.

He sought a cross section of priests rather than a single pool, he said, before sending his questions. The primary one: How do you resolve conflicts, if any, between your sexuality and vocation?

Because the American Catholic Church doesn’t require priests to be celibate, Bordisso sent the questions to Roman Catholic clergy. He offered those responding anonymity in exchange for their stories, so the priests could be truthful about the ways they deal with their vows when challenged by human sexuality.

Some told of professing celibacy publicly while having relations with men or women — in some cases, both — in secret. One declared, “I have a right as a person to healthy sexual expression” — though he elaborated it was his right “as long as I am prudent …”

Some described how they realized the promise to refrain from sexual relations would be impossible for them to keep. But instead of having affairs, they chose to leave the priesthood, instead.

Others, Bordisso found, have yet to resolve their struggle.

One priest told of his regret he would never have children. Another called the requirement a “foolish law,” saying it guarantees that noncelibates would become priests.

“I think I am one of these, and have wrestled with the question of leaving the priesthood for years,” the priest wrote. Saying he was happy to be a priest, he added, “In no way, though, am I a true celibate,” saying he would consider a long-term commitment though he no longer engages in “anonymous sex.”

Bordisso also heard from priests who accepted the vow as their calling, and through prayer and meditation lived chaste lives.

One told him that personal growth and experience made celibacy a free choice after mistakes. Another compared his vow of celibacy to the promises made by those who marry, except that his commitment is to the priesthood. Others cultivate a support system.

Bordisso waited until the end of the book to offer his own reflections, including that of the definition of “celibacy.” He said that members expect it to mean that priests won’t marry, and that they aren’t to engage in sexual activity.

But the priests’ own response showed him they are at odds with what Bordisso called “the orthodox and traditional definitions of celibate chastity.”

“This is not a scholarly book,” Bordisso said. “My review is not exhaustive, but it has substance.”

One topic it didn’t cover is pedophilia, another issue with which the Roman Catholic Church is wrestling.

Bordisso said those engaged in pedophile behavior aren’t just people who are involved with minors. Comparing it to rape and saying it was more about violence and power than sex, he said it can involve others over which a person in authority has power.

And when priests are involved, it’s comparable to marriage counsellors who take sexual advantage of vulnerable clients, Bordisso said.

For his book, Bordisso said he wanted to explore only relationships between consenting adults — for priests, alternatives to celibacy.

“The purpose is to contextualize the reality versus the ideal,” he said, explaining he wanted the book to have “a sense of integrity, and movement away from duplicity, and toward the value of transparency in the church.”

Bordisso has suggested that churches that impose celibacy redefine it as a continuum rather than an absolute. And he added, “I don’t take a position in the book — on purpose. I wanted the voices of the priests to speak for themselves.”