Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Victorino Pérez Prieto: "God isn't jealous when the priest has a family"

La Opinion Coruña

He was born in León, but almost all the publications of theologian Victorino Pérez, a member of the Movimiento pro Celibato Opcional ["Optional Celibacy Movement" in Spain], are in Castillian Spanish. He studied in Santiago -- although he got his doctorate in Theology in Salamanca, he was ordained a priest in Mondoñedo in 1981 and he was a pastor for 25 years in Galicia until he got married.

Is the priesthood compatible with being married?

I think it's perfectly compatible. God isn't jealous if you have a family and, moreover, things are going to have to change in the Church with respect to that. The problem is that the change that is already happening in practice is very slow at the level of the judicial structure of the Church, which has an atavistic rule that keeps it from seeing that this is not an impediment to being a priest. In fact, the priests in the Eastern rite Catholic Church can get married and married Anglican priests with their families have recently been admitted into the Catholic Church. So you can see how absolutely secondary this is. Moreover, in my case, I'm a theologian. I'm married and I work in Theology as much as the Church will allow me.

What does the fact that they can't get married mean?

The most serious problem for the priests who have a partner and can't get married is the tragedy of having to hide something beautiful that should be in the light. This makes them suffer unnecessarily. To those who claim we knew this before getting ordained as priests, I would say that we human beings evolve in life. Like what happened to me and to other priests -- you meet someone you love, and the love is reciprocal. And what love seeks is to be out in the light, not having to hide itself in any closet.

Many are in these hidden situations.

The lives of the those who live as a couple and who, legitimately, don't want to give up either their partner or the normal priesthood, are tragic. Sometimes it leads them to a shameful, sad, and hard situation, and even more so for the women than for the priests. Because they are the biggest victims. They live in an abnormal situation and in certain cases feelings of sin or abuse because of the lack of a normal emotional life can occur. It's true that there's a higher percentage of pedophiles among non-priests than among priests, but in most of these cases it happens because of not having normal healthy emotional lives. Loving and being loved by someone is the most beautiful thing that can happen to a person. Having to hide it creates a violent situation that's disastrous. Although celibacy isn't bad per se -- it has its good aspects and some live it out well -- it being mandatory for all has caused a lot of unnecessary suffering that is harmful to the Church.

The younger ones think about it more when the time comes to give up the priesthood for love. Is that due to the crisis or a different mentality?

There's a growing tendency for the younger cleric to be more conservative. But certainly in the current crisis situation, not having a normal working environment is a reason to live as a hidden couple. A somewhat important part is that the young cleric is more ritualistic than vocational -- he's simply a performer of rites and services through which he earns a living, but there's also a lot in the young cleric that's vocational and is healthy and well. But what's serious is that the Church isn't making a decision that it could have already made over 40 years ago at Vatican II. John Paul II said that he knew that in the future priests would be able to get married but he didn't want it to happen during his papacy, and now the same thing is happening [with Benedict XVI]. They keep passing the buck and not making a decision and by not making it, more suffering and tragic situations will continue to occur. Not to speak about when there are already children...

Parishes usually don't take it badly when their priests get married. What happened in your case?

I was a priest in Ferrol, in a large parish. When I announced it to the parish, one of the more conservative women told me I was worth as much to them married as single and she asked me if they could talk to the bishop, even though I explained to them that it didn't depend on him. And it's not about whether the people are more or less progressive, but common sense -- what the people want is for the priest to serve them. If there were a referendum, there would be all sorts [of responses] but those who agree with married priests would win.

Where's the future heading?

There's no going back on the fact that priests will marry. Thinking the opposite is going against history. But it doesn't seem like it's going to change immediately. It's something that should have changed through reflexion, not because the shameful situation of the Church, which has mortaged itself economically because it has had to pay for the abuses of its members, is going to make it change forcibly. Meanwhile, I won't allow my human and moral quality to be judged for having done it.

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