Some thoughts on priesthood and priests I’ve known

I’m getting into trouble around St Blog’s for my opinions on Catholic priests. At the risk of shovelling in deeper, here are some thoughts.

I like priests, but I’m also the first to admit I don’t always get along with them. When I was a kid, I especially looked up to Fr McCarthy, who gave my sister and me “instructions” and baptized us. He was also very dedicated to good music, and I remember the organist, folk group, and cantors in my home parish as being exemplary (so I thought at the time) of good liturgy. All subsequent priests were measured by him.

I’ve worked for and with a few dozen priests over the past twenty-some years. I tend to butt heads with liberals. I tend to get along with conservatives. I tend to have little patience for arrogant authority figures.

I have strong opinions about priests. My best spiritual directors have been priests, hands down. (One exception has been a permanent deacon.) I think priests should be in parishes (not chanceries), doing the sacramental ministry they’ve been ordained for, paying particular attention to preaching and presiding at liturgy, especially the Eucharist. I tend to doubt younger priests (younger than 35) and I tend to especially doubt priests who have never worked for a living, or lived as a lay person and struggled along those lines. That said, I’ve known some fine priests who went through the seminary educational system from age 12 or so. And on occasion, I’ve encountered a youngish priest who never worked for a living who struck me as “priestly” ahead of his time. These guys are mostly all fine men and good priests. Those that aren’t, aren’t because of something else in their lives, not their age, politics, or working location. And my doubts about ordaining guys aged 25-40 isn’t personal. I just don’t think a person of that age has the gravitas needed to pull it off. That said, I don’t go out of my way to diss young priests openly. We have worked with each other and they are mostly open to input on presiding, preaching, singing, liturgy, and just dealing with things in a parish.

These would be some of my general thoughts about priests and priests’ issues:
– They should have life experience outside of seminary, unless their calling is to religious life.
– It would be good if they had a few years experience in ministry before they were ordained. Ideally, some priestly vocations would arise from lay ecclesial ministers, catechists, missionaries, teachers, and the like.
– If they, their bishop, and our pope insist on clerical celibacy, they should live it faithfully as they can, as part of the deal, but their bishop should consider himself obliged to support celibacy with something more than providing a lonely eremitic existence in an empty rectory with cable tv and a car allowance. If seminarians are trained in a monastic-like community setting, they should have an opportunity to live in such a setting after ordination.
– I think optional celibacy for diocesan clergy would be a good thing, but since I’m not really impacted by the lack of it, I’m not feeling inclined to do much more than say I’m for it, give reasons why, and move to the next topic.
– If women were ordained, it wouldn’t bother me. I don’t see the gender of the priest as significant in any way to the essentials of faith and morals of the Catholic Church. That said, I think today is a bad day to begin ordaining women. I have several reasons why, but I’m going to save that for another thread. I think proponents and opponents each have good, well reasoned, and well-discerned arguments. Likewise, some spokepersons for either view are incredibly misguided.
– I think seminary education should be overhauled, but I’ve blogged on that topic in the past, and I don’t feel like saying much about that now, except that I think seminarians should go to school in or near their home diocese, taking classes with lay people, and taught by the best theologians, mentored by the best priests.
– I like my new pastor, and our recently ordained associate. I’m glad to be working with priests on a day to day basis after two years (2000-02) of not having one in town. Parishes need good priests. And if celibate ones aren’t available for an otherwise viable parish, I think the bishop owes it to the parishioners to ordain a qualified married man to lead the people. Eucharist is always more important than the particular disciplines of Holy Orders.


About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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