The Case for Viri Probati

A review of Bishop Fritz Lobinger’s book Every Community Its Own Ordained Leaders is up on The Southern Cross web site. The thought that communities without priests may discern and present “proven men” for ordination is neither a new nor unorthodox path for the Church. The path the Church’s leaders have put us on may, in fact, be sending the wrong message:

By the way it is coping with the increasing shortage of priests, the Church is signalling that the faithful can manage without either sacraments or priests. If the sacramental dimension diminishes in importance, the Church itself, as the fundamental sacrament, will be devalued in the eyes of the faithful.

Rome’s attitude is sometimes evidenced by such offerings as “taking back” the ordination of hundreds of deacons in Mexico a few years ago. A theology prof of mine had a favorite saying, “The Eucharist makes the Church.” It’s not always clear this principle is as much at the forefront of prayer and thought as “Orders make the Church.”

Anyway, the South African site is open for comments, so have at it. But be polite.

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Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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One Response to The Case for Viri Probati

  1. Liam says:

    From comments over at RPINET:

    The necessary conversations about ordaining married priests would entail. among many other things, the laity coming to grips with what it rightfully expects and needs from its clergy, what a clergyman’s family might rightfully expect and need from the local and diocesan church, and how this would likely impact an existing array of expectations that have been centuries in the making.

    It’s not that these issues have not been confronted in other churches, but lay Catholics have a fairly large (and that’s understating it) set of expectations that are founded on the assumption of a celibate clergy that is readily transferrable at the direction of the local ordinary. (I am limiting this discussion to secular/diocesan clergy, as existing religious orders would be highly unlikely to deal with members having families to support….)

    For but one example, how would the needs of the clergyman’s family interact with assignments of clergy? Would transfers be conditioned or restricted? What would happen to parishes where assigned clergy couldn’t or had to move because of issues arising from the families they support?

    What about the canonical expectations of continence (not merely celibacy) for clergy (it’s still currently in canon law, as the perennial chestnut of continence for married deacons demonstrates – it’s still a live issue). Would ordination of married clergy be limited to fathers who no longer have dependent children? Et cet.

    And then there are practical issues like how benefits would be undertaken for clergy families. Not all wives/mothers would work outside the home (nor should they be required to), so healthcare and an array of benefits would have to be created to cover those families.

    It would be great if laypeople tackled these hard, practical issues without waiting for prelates to initiate a conversation – because it would be good to have an array of plausible responses to questions about these more practical issues. This would be necessary to reduce the legitimacy of fears about this.

    Thus, I think the conversation within the laity needs to shift from its typical focus (how ordination of married clergy would attract more vocations, make priests more pastoral, et cet.) to grappling with the tougher issues ahead of the prelates.

    And this would come as no surprise to anyone who’s been involved in enterprises: a basic rule of which is, they who wish to raise questions had better be ready to work through the answers.

    And I haven’t even mentioned money yet….

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