« Cleveland Rocks! | Main | Kristof, Theologian! »

August 15, 2003


Joseph D'Hippolito

"American Catholicism drifts off w/little direction..."

Who is responsible for that direction? The laity? How, if many of them don't believe in transubstantion, perhaps the most meaningful doctrine for the average Catholic. The priests, who've done a bad job teaching the faith? The bishops, who've done a bad job supervising such teaching (while going off and offering pastoral letters on subjects about which they know nothing)? Or the pope, who's done such a bad job supervising the supervisors?

Of course, the pope cannot supervise every 25-member parish in every 50-member diocese in the world. No pope can. But in a hierarchical system in which power flows from the top, the buck stops (and starts) w/him.

Fellow Catholics, there's an elephant in the living room. It comes from Krakow. I assure you, Oliver Cromwell couldn't have done a better job emasculating Catholicism if he tried.

"At that point, the church will have to decide whether preserving a celibate male clergy is more important than offering the sacraments..."

Given the fundamental importance of the sacraments to the Catholic faith, this should be a no-brainer. Unfortunately, it's not, especially since the self-proclaimed orthodox types equate a discipline like celibacy with doctrines and dogmas like the Resurrection, the Virgin Birth, etc. They want to have their cake and eat it, too. That's becoming less of an option in an increasingly starving Church.


It will be interesting. The question might be: when is the best time to lift a discipline - when it comes under attack by society or when it's not as needed (because society recognizes it as a value)?

(Reminds me of those Rep/Democrat debates on when should you lower taxes - conservatives say "when the economy is good because then you can afford it" but they also say "when the economy is bad, because then the economy needs it".)

I don't know whether or not the requirement should be lifted but I do see less a stubborn Church holding to antiquated celibacy rules than a Church, rather inspiringly, holding onto celibacy rules in an age that hates chastity. She takes her role as a "Sign of Contradiction" very seriously.

Selfishly, I think Humane Vitae and its emphasis on periodic chastity goes over a little better with a celibate priesthood. It's pretty hard to get upset about a lack of sexual license when you look up at the pulpit.

At least in theory.

Keith R

Celibacy has always represented an heavy personal sacrifice. Nothing new. If there's a shortage of vocations, the problem isn't with the sacrifice involved, it's with the shrinking number of those willing to make the sacrifice. That's where efforts need to be focused.

An alternative to joining the Episcopalians would be to look for dioceses and orders that are not experiencing shortages, and study how to mirror their successful approaches elsewhere. Also, study what is holding normal young men back from the priesthood (like not wanting to be associated with homosexual predators).


Despite the Roman hierarchy's falsely optimistic reports on vocations, the demographic time clock is ticking on the clergy. Ten years from now the American church will not be able to fulfill its most basic responsibilities: providing the sacraments to the faithful. What I fear is 1) that we as the faithful will accept this situation, just to preserve the discipline of celibacy or 2) we will accept the growing notion among conservatives that the Church is too big anyway,including a lot of "heterodox" "so-called Catholics" that could be jettisoned so that the Church can be "right-sized" for the small number of clergy that remain. We must try some new solutions that do not have any impact on the deposit of the faith. Allowing a clergy that has some married members and some celibate would be such a solution.

Donald R. McClarey

Most Protestant denominations have a clergy shortage and none of them have a celibacy requirement. The problem isn't a lack of marriage but a lack of faith.


The above statement is dead on, the issue is a crisis of faith.

I think even the Orthodox, who allow a married clergy, are experiencing a clergy shortage.


Oh poor Cardinal Bernadin! How litle we knew you! All you just wanted was that we all just get along.

And that dirty Cardinal Law, criticizing while he had all those problems hiding in Boston. Totally unlike Chicago, where there were no sodomite pederasts at all. . . Can anyone say Bishop Daniel Ryan?


Um . . . folks should do their homework. Vocations crises happen in dioceses that don't teach the faith. Teach the faith and vocations skyrocket. look at Arlington, lincoln, Denver, Philadelphia, Spokane, St. louis, etc.

And, the first comment suffers from a seriosuly secularized view of the papcy. The papacy is not primaryily a locus of power which rules with an iron fist over the Church. The papacy is the See of Rome, which is the brother see to all the other sees in the world. The relationship between pope and Bishops is MUCH more nuanced than Joseph apparently thinks it is, and to exercise raw power in such a way as to wrest control of their Sees from the Bishops does violence to that relationship between Pope and Bishops.

We've had much worse popes and bishops than the ones we have right now. God promised us the Church would endure until the end of time. Bad bishops, just like the poor, will always be with us. Why? Because even bishops sin.

Joseph D'Hippolito

Tom, why are you and so many other Catholics in denial of the truth? Fact: The Pope is the Vicar of Christ. Fact: Such an office is a trust granted by God for perpetuating the faith. Fact: That faith is declining worldwide. Fact:God will judge those who have violated or squandered such trust.

Too many Catholics rejoice that the faith still exists despite the sins of previous popes and bishops. Is that all we're supposed to be satisified with, mere survival? Whatever happened to preaching Christ crucified and resurrected, spreading the Gospel? Yet, can this Church do that when its pope kisses Korans and refuses to rebuke an American prelate who commits a public act of apostacy (bowing toward Mecca in a Boston mosque)?

Tom, saying that bishops and popes have sinned throughout history (like everybody else) isn't saying anything new. In fact, the more Catholics say it, the more they seem to be excusing such behavior w/o confronting it. The question is keeping such prelates accountable. If the pope can't or won't do that, who can? And if he can't or won't, don't you think that will affect his ultimate standing before God?


Peace, all.

Dioceses and parishes that are "intentional" in their approach to Catholicism (in the best sense of that term) have never had problems with vocations, be they progressives or traditionalists. People want to be identified as Catholics. We have 'em hooked for the sacraments and burial: the key is to inspire people to live their faith in between those moments.

I like Steinfels' sensible approach. He's not dead on target about everything, but without a way to bring both ends together on the things we agree about, the apathetic middle ground will slide away from us. Traditionalists might think a smaller True Believers' Church would be suitable, but it would never retain the complete treasure of Catholicism. It's not about holding on to our favorite jewel in the box, but the whole treasure. Progressives and traditionalists both miss the boat often on that one.

Kathie Lundquist

Re: the celibate clergy issue - I'm a Protestant convert, and among the many groups of evangelicals I used to hang with, there were running jokes about PKs (preachers' kids) and MKs (missionary kids). The common wisdom was that they were the most wild and trouble-prone, because they were almost always _neglected_.

I think the Catholic tradition of celibacy in ministry is a smart one. What parish priest do you know of who could handle his present workload _and_ a wife and family? I know there are married priests out there, but it seems to me that it would make the job even tougher than it is, and it wouldn't solve our problems by any means.



Our culture is drowning in sensuality... Who can recognize the transcendent value of celibacy? The wholeness of viriginity? Having mixed clergies (married and celibate) surely wouldn't cancel the value of viriginity, for even in marriage there is chasitity.

tom faranda

Dear Joseph H.,

"Fact: That faith is declining worldwide. Fact:God will judge those who have violated or squandered such trust."

That's a quote from your comments. Certainly, the second part is correct, and just as certainly, the first "fact" you offer is 1000% incorrect. The Faith is growing all over Asia and Africa. In fact, it's flourishing. And the Faith is holding it's own against Fundamentalism in South America. That we're having our troubles in North America, and BIG troubles in most of Western Europe, is true and terrible. It is mainly a consequence of being corrupted by our own materialism.

You seem to have a problem with the Pope's ecumenical efforts. Why? It's not like North Americans and Europeans are flocking to join Mosques!

Mark Shea

Uh oh. You are coming dangerously close to suggesting that there's something amiss with Western culture and that the Pope is not the locus of all evil in the universe. Prepare to be bitch-slapped by St. Blog's Resident Badass American in the latest exercise of Gresham's Law Applied to Cyberspace.

Joseph D'Hippolito

Tom, perhaps I look too closely at the Western world and apply that template to the world in general. But does the growth of Catholicism in one area mitigate its decline in another? Why is it declining? Is is solely because of secular materialism? Or could it be (especially in Latin America) that Catholics find the non-Catholic portrayal of Christ more compelling and meaningful to their lives? I don't know what the answers are but the questions have to be asked.

You're right in saying that I have big problems w/this pope's attitude toward Islam. The two activities I mentioned -- kissing the Koran and bowing toward Mecca -- are acts of apostacy. Whatever the Koran's value, no Christian can equate it with divine revelation. This pope can show respect for Islam in other ways than kissing the Koran.

Tom, if the pope kissed the Bhagavad Gita, what would you say?

Besides, what is the pope (or the Church in Europe in general) doing to convert Muslims to Christianity?

Remember, Islam doesn't have a theology of redemptive atonement. Jews and Christians do; they express it differently but the fundamental idea remains the same. In Christianity, Christ's atonement makes it possible for those who believe in Him to be redeemed from their sins and find favor with God. Christ Himself also said He was the only way to obtain such redemption and favor.

Tom, I know the Muslims revere Jesus as a prophet. But He didn't leave that option open to us. He either is what He says He is or he's a pious fraud or a lunatic. The Jews who rejected Him were at least honest about the implications of Jesus' statements. The Muslims aren't.

Joseph D'Hippolito

Say, Mark. You're always talking about Gresham's Law. Have you looked in the mirror lately? Or do you have a portrait of Dorian Grey wrapped up in your library that prevents you from doing so?


Gee, this is great? After being booted off the "Thrownback" blog we have Mr. Cheerful posting here again.

I'm beginning to wonder if I'm in purgatory.


Joseph D'Hippolito

Christine, I have not insulted anybody on this thread, so what exactly have I said with which you disagree? Or do you take offense to the fact that I post anything at all? If the latter, then you're in a purgatory of your own making.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.

Your Information

(Name is required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)