There's a point I'd like to comment on re: the married priest issue and Fr. Dean's comments. I agree that the married priests in organizations such as Corpus are dissenters for the most part and the Church does not need more of that. Two years ago I was asked to speak at the Corpus Conference in Boston and the title of my talk was "From the Periphery to the Center." I looked at the church from a couple of unique angles. One was the posture of many who do not feel that they are in the center of what is going on in the church for a variety of reasons such as divorce, remarriage, birth control, a crabby priest, I'm sure you've heard them all. There are many Catholics who think of themselves on the fringe. In fact, I believe the number of Catholics who believe themselves to be riding the rim is so significant that the center of the Church has changed to the periphery. It is those people that I believe a married priest might be able to reach. There are things that people find easier to share with someone who is working and living in the world. When you don't have to worry where your next meal is coming from or think about how you are going to pay the rent next month, you have a different perspective on life. As wonderful as most of the priests are that I know, when a faucet drips or the toilet needs fixing they call the janitor or call a repair man ($60 to walk in your side door) without much thought of what it's going to cost. Out here, you learn to use wrenches and screwdrivers fast.
The other point to my talk was looking at the church from a public administrator's view. If Corpus wanted to be included and accepted, then they would have to make themselves desirable. In public administration circles this would be looking to be coopted by the larger group. They also would have to be looked upon as the preservers and those who cherish the Church. I believe that as long as Corpus includes in their group every dissenter that knocks the Church, they will continue to be on the outside looking in. I don't need to tell you that they didn't take my work seriously. It still blows me away when I get their literature and see the new issue they burden themselves with. If an organization wants to make an impact on another, they take only one issue and work with that one issue. You can break a baloon easier with a sharp point of a pin than you can with the round edge of a spoon.
It is unfair to generalize. Not every man who leaves the priesthood leaves the Church. I know men who are still in love with the Church and serve in obscure and loving ways. It is those that I would think would be very desirable to the Church to continue serving in possibly a lesser way than their celibate brothers, but nevertheless, serve formally. They in all cases are far better trained theologically, spiritually, and educationally than any deacon I've ever heard and I sincerely believe Bishops should seek them out and invite them back in some kind of arrangement. Marriage is a beautiful thing, too. If a man in a healthy happy marriage can serve the Church, it would be good for the hierarchy to consider this.
Jacqueline Holland, MS
Very well expressed. I have a number of close priest friends who have left the active ministry. Some obtained a dispensation which as I understand is like a marriage anulment--a declaration that something essential was lacking at the time of the original commitment. Otherwise the presumption would be that the ordination is valid. In that case they could come back to the active ministry. Some have and as far as I can see are doing well. Many others are already serving in "lesser ways," but there are problems.
The difficulty in all of this is whether a person can make a life long commitment. When I was ordained, my classmates and I thought we could. All the married couples I have interviewed also felt that way. Is this just a nice ideal but hopelessly unrealistic in today's world? Should we eliminate "until death do us part" from marriage vows? I wish there were an easy solution to these kinds of questions. As I say, I have friends who have left the priesthood and continue to love the church. I would love to have them "back" on some basis.
Fr. Phil Bloom
P.S. Whether the Church should ordained married men is a separate question. Of course, we are already accepting married Episcopal priests and Lutheran ministers and ordaining them to the Catholic Priesthood.