|And deliver us from women. Amen.|
|Except maybe these three ...|
|And of course these three.|
But I must admit I feel an overwhelming sense of sadness about this ordinariate and what it means for both the Anglican and Roman Catholic churches. Not ony does it feel like a monumental rebuff to Catholic women campaigning for greater visibility and influence in the Church, but there is one issue in particular which has hardly been mentioned in the news coverage, but which seems to me to be one of the most important human aspects of this story. That is the situation of those Roman Catholic priests for whom compulsory celibacy is an almost impossible demand, and a monumental daily sacrifice that they are asked to make in order to be priests. What does this mean for those men, some of whom have served the Church faithfully for all their adult lives?
We hear so much about abusive and failed priests, and we should not underestimate the hugely destructive impact these men have had on the lives of their victims and on the reputation of the church. But we also need to bear in mind that the majority of Roman Catholic priests are ordinary men living what are, by modern standards, extraordinary lives of commitment and dedication, sometimes working in situations of considerable risk and hardship to minister to society's most unwanted and excluded members.
There are many Roman Catholic priests who have a vocation to the celibate life, and who insist that they are given the grace for what would otherwise be an impossible demand in the interests of their priesthood. I believe that celibacy is an indispensable gift to the Roman Catholic Church, not just for priests but for all who witness to an alternative way of channelling one's erotic energies in these sex-obsessed times, in lives of radical commitment to contemplation and prayer, and of active dedication to the poor and the outcast. But there are many, many priests who feel torn between their desire for marriage and family life and their vocation to the priesthood, and who do not experience the gift of celibacy in that way. What about those men, and why is it that the Catholic Church is willing to ordain former Anglican priests who are married, while still refusing to allIow its own priests to marry? I believe this constitutes a form of betrayal amounting to pastoral negligence, although in the present times it might be well nigh impossible for priests to come out and speak openly about the intensification of loneliness and conflict that this must produce.
For some Roman Catholic priests, the celebrations accompanying yet another influx of married men to the priesthood, this time with even fewer restraints and conditions than before, must be salt in a painful wound, particularly when they have to work on a daily basis with some of these priests. In these days of dwindling vocations and diminishing congregations, presbyteries can be lonely places. To go home to such a place every evening knowing that one's fellow priest is going home to his wife and children, must for some of our priests be almost unbearable. There is something inhuman about these double standards that now prevail in the Catholic priesthood.