September 21, 2020

Internet Monk Radio Podcast #142

podcast_logo.gifThis week: My L.I.A.R. Rating (More on technology.) A critique of Driscoll. A first class rant on priestly celibacy in the RCC.

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Information-Action Ratio. Marva Dawn got this from Neil Postman.
My Two Cents on Mark Driscoll.

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  1. Hi Michael,

    Regarding your segment on priestly celibacy, I am interested in your interpretation of Matthew 19:11 (and the verses leading up to it), since you say that priestly celibacy is a “non-Biblical requirement”? Also, how do you interpret Paul’s commendation of celibacy?

    You also said that “Fr. Cutie is a casualty of the Roman Catholic Church’s teaching on celibacy.” If a husband breaks his marriage vow to his wife and commits adultery, by the same logic how is that not “a casualty” of Jesus’ teaching about fidelity in marriage?

    How do you explain the history of the discipline of celibacy within the Church centuries before 1000 AD?

    I am not trying to be contentious but would honestly like your take on these questions since you disagree with this discipline (as you mentioned, not dogma) of the Catholic Church.

  2. I interpret all of those issues in standard Protestant form. But let’s say I didn’t.

    I still- as part of the teaching of the church- must admit that there have been thousands and thousands- from Peter to various men today- of married priests. It isn’t a dogma, and it is provoking a crisis. If I were Catholic, I’d have to support it, but I think the Fr. Cutir story is just one more unnecessary loss.

    Cutie is gone, but Longnecker and Neuhaus serve. As do many others.

    I am sorry for my RC friends. And wish this particular barrier to unity were gone. If it were, reunion between all Christians would be greatly furthered.



  3. Oops, I meant Matthew 19:12.

  4. Forgive my ignorance, but what is the standard Protestant interpretation of those verses/issues?

  5. Devin:

    1) The New Testament doesn’t teach celibacy as a requirement for clergy. Whatever Matt 19 is about- which is unclear- it isn’t about requirements for clergy.

    2) There’s no New Testament epistle describing the requirements for ministry that require celibacy. Actually, there is a strong case that a man MUST be married. (A case that is offset by the fact Jesus wasn’t and Paul wasn’t at the time he wrote.)

    3) There is no papacy or magisterium to declare celibacy to be a requirement based on tradition outside of scripture.

  6. PatrickW says

    Michael, I predict you’re going to need another thread to handle the celibacy debate. 🙂

    The podcast isn’t showing up on iTunes yet. I can’t wait to hear it.

  7. gomergirl says

    you talking about putting our likes and egos aside in the first segment reminded me of a scathing speach that michael card made in his church in nashville several years ago that rebuked the christian music industry for being too wrapped up in “the business” and focusing on looks over content. after living there for several years, i know that while they call it a ministry, it’s a popularity and beauty contest. less attractive artists are pushed aside for younger and more likeable ones. it’s a farce. so i think it reaches to all parts of the christian community, and we really need to check ourselves when we start to become enamoured with a speaker or band or author…. just a thought.

    and thanks, this is my first podcast of yours, it’s good. i ahve been reading your blog, and yes, i’m a crazy facebook person (and no, being male and 59 should not exclude you from liking wolverene. i’m 42 and female, and i go for the action- hugh jackman isn’t my type)

    anyway, i’m gonna add you to my podcast list, thanks for making me feel not so alone out there.

  8. Okay, coming straight from the Boar’s Head where you more or less asked “Why are some of the Catholics so steamed about this?”

    It’s not so much the “do you really think God only calls the celibate?” angle as it is the “breaking of vows” angle. Apparently, the first thing Fr. Cutié’s bishop knew about this going Episcopalian was when he saw it on the news – d’oh! *not* the way to handle things! He hasn’t applied for laicisation (though this carry-on is a big hint, huh?), he’s still technically under vows and hasn’t been dispensed yet, it’s a mess.

    Imagine that a minister in your church – let’s call him Preacher Bob 😉 – was carrying on an affair and the first thing you learned of it was when pictures of him canoodling with his sweetie in public were splashed all over the local paper. Then Preacher Bob comes in to talk to the elders and take some time off to think about where he’s going from here. The next thing anyone knows, Preacher Bob and his girlfriend are back in the papers, being received into, say, the Unitarians and announcing plans to marry – all without Preacher Bob having actually divorced his current wife. And the Unitarian guy in charge (don’t know if or what their equivalent of a bishop is) blows it all off with “That promise is not recognised in our church.”

    How would you guys feel? Maybe just the teensiest bit miffed? 🙂

  9. A further complication seems to be that his fiancée is divorced; so even if clerical celibacy was dispensed with and Fr. Cutié could marry, he might not be permitted to marry her.

    It’s also not solely about “can I marry?” because to become an Episcopalian, he has to either abandon or modify very severely some core doctrines of Catholicism (e.g. Real Presence in the Eucharist, Purgatory, the position of the Pope, contraception/abortion, divorce, all the favourite topics of hair-pulling when these arguments start up about Catholic versus Protestant).

  10. Martha:

    Celibacy is one of those instances where it’s painful for me to watch the results of what is obviously an untenable position.

    Priests of one kind must take a vow of celibacy. Priests of another kind do not. And somehow, GOD is behind this?

    It’s incredible.

    Martha, I do hold my Catholic friends responsible for some honesty about this. Even if a person buys EVERY RC argument for celibacy, the fact is Fr. Cutie knows that there are married priests in good standing. He knows that sexuality and marriage are holy, even sacramental. And he has a vow, which he made to “God,” that another man does not have to make while both have an equal standing in the church.

    I join you in being stunned at the behavior of the EC bishop, but I can’t say I have anything less than total understanding for those men who say “Not only can I not do this, I cannot in all authenticity and truth, believe God WANTS me to do this anymore.”

    I apologize if I sounded like I didn’t appreciate the hurt it causes. I know it does and I have been through many moral failures of pastors and ministers. It is awful and when another church steps in and ordains them presto, it is worse.

    But as a Protestant I watch this situation strangling parish life in the US. It is killing off the church in areas like ours, where one ill equipped priest must serve 2 and 3 churches. My wife’s church is likely to close one day over this very thing. And it is not necessary. So many do not believe God has ordered this inconsistency.

    I am sorry if I sounded too happy. I’m truly not, but priestly celibacy is, in my opinion, a church destroying practice that cannot be idealized into anything other than a disaster.



  11. Michael, I thought I should mention that it’s not simply already married Anglican convert priests who are allowed to be married in the Roman Catholic Church. All Eastern Rite Roman Catholic priests choose before ordination whether they wish to be married priests or pursue priesthood within the celibate monastic path instead. Those who choose marriage marry before they are ordained. (That’s to forestall issues with a parish priest pursuing candidates for marriage among those he is supposed to be shepherding. That doesn’t strike me as an unwise precaution.) I think about half of Eastern Rite priests are married.

    Basically, their approach to priests and marriage looks a lot like the Orthodox approach. I’m not sure about Eastern Rite parishes, but I know the Orthodox tends to prefer to have the main priest in each general parish be a married priest and have the celibate, monastic priests serve in monastic or seminarian settings. (That’s not a “rule” per se, just something I’ve heard from several sources as a general preference. And again it sounds wise to me.)

    Even in the Western Rite Roman Catholic Church, married priests were allowed in places up to at least 1066. So it didn’t really become a universal rule even under the Western Rite until at least 1066. I know it continues to be discussed within the Roman Catholic Church. I’m not even sure the main impediment at this point is the magisterial view as much as it is the expectations of the typical Western Rite Catholic. They are conditioned to expect their priests to be celibate and such changes are difficult to accomplish.

    Anyway, I just wanted to point out that married priests are not limited to already married converts. The Eastern Rite practice is markedly different from the Western Rite practice.

  12. I think the thing that needs clarification, maybe even from you, Michael, is that it’s not “priestly celibacy,” per se, which is “a church destroying practice.” The problem that you’re possibly seeing is the discipline of mandatory celibacy for priests in the Western (Latin Rite) Catholic Church – at least for the 99% who aren’t married converts from other church traditions. So, my point is that the fact that there are any celibate priests is not really a problem – it’s that there can, again for the most part, be nothing BUT celibate priests.

    I actually agree, this is a problem. And one who is a Catholic need not agree that, doctrinally speaking, this is a good discipline. What one must do is not “support it,” but live by it. And that really only applies to the priest in question, and perhaps to anyone who might be eying him for romantic purposes. As his vows are concerned, he’s “taken.”

    Now, as to whether there should be such a discipline in the Western Church, I say no, there should not be, and I’d not be the only one. I’d bet big money on finding a few red-hats who thought the same thing. Also, I have no problem with God gifting someone with the gift of celibacy – they should embrace it. Even if the discipline changes, I wouldn’t like to see EVERY priest be married. I agree, God can and does call men to serve in both ways and there should always be support for that.

    Personally, as a Catholic, I do not like to see us work so hard to dogmatize this, not officially but in the thoughts, this issue – as if “yes, well it’s nooooott a dogma…. but it should be, because a, b, c, x, and y.” I don’t get why some want to work so hard to drive that baby home. There were reasons the discipline was made in the 12th century, and not all of them had anything to do with spirituality or pastoral anything. Not that some of those issues aren’t there and legitimate – but not so much so, in my view, as to warrant a continuation of things as they are. Relaxing the discipline won’t solve every problem the Catholic Church has but I think we’d have to be fooling ourselves at least a little bit if we won’t admit that it would go a good distance in helping out the priest shortage, and yes, there is one.

    I’m not going to be picketing anybody anytime soon. I’m just saying what I think here – it’s all love baby. Peace to all the chi’rens in this house. 🙂

  13. I was aware of the Eastern rite and did know that it’s not just converts. I don’t think I ever said it was just converts. But thanks.


  14. Alan:

    I think I was clear, except to Catholics 🙂

    My whole point was a western priest knows that a) converts and 2) most eastern rite don’t have to make this vow.

    That, to me, is the largest part of the problem in looking at why some priests try and fail at celibacy.



    p.s. You are on report, buddy.

  15. Michael, sure.

    But let’s face it, going into this, he knew what the score was. Same way getting married, you know that having a honey on the side is not allowed.

    Five or ten years down the line, the spark is gone, and this really hot cutie moves in next door – sorry, still not on.

    Now, if he had waited to be laicised and then married, there wouldn’t be the same amount of snargling over this. But apparently – *if* the Episcopalians can be believed – he’s been in ‘discernment’ to join them for two years?! And he never told anyone like, for instance, *his own bishop* about this??!! Until the beach photos came out????!!!

    And then the next thing anyone hears of all this is “Hey, I’m Episcopalian now! And so is my girlfriend! And they made me a deacon! And we’ll probably get married! And I’ll be a priest!”

    Plus there’s a lot more here than just “I want to get married but I’ll still believe exactly the same as I did before.” If he’s joining the Episcopalians, he is going to have to change, or already has changed, his mind on more than just married clergy.

    You seem to be taking the tack that if only we stubborn RCs would just change this one tiny little thing, we’d be flooded with guys wanting to be ordained. Funny, that’s the same argument the women priest movement makes: if only we changed this one tiny little detail, we’d be flooded with potential ordinands.

    And the same if we just changed this one tiny little detail about divorce. And contraception. And abortion. And the requirements for same-sex attracted people to live chastely.

    That’s a lot of “just change this one little tiny details” stacking up there.

    How about if you Baptists change this one tiny little detail about paedobaptism? 😉

    I’m going to be a real female dog here, but what’s your opinion on Jim McGreevey? Former Governor of New Jersey, resigned over scandal, came out as “I am a gay American and that’s why I’m being persecuted”, went through messy divorce and custody battle with his (second) wife, now has a male partner – and coincidentally, is now an Episcopalian also pursuing a course of study in General Theological Seminary, perhaps to become an Episcopalian priest.

    Should we also have changed our one tiny little detail to allow him to remain RC and pursue the ordained ministry, which he obviously seems to have a vocation for? Imagine all the similar vocations out there just waiting for us to do so!

  16. And I’m really harping on this, aren’t I? But from the statement by the Archbishop of Miami:

    “When Father Cutié met with me on May 5th, he requested and I granted a leave of absence from the exercise of the priesthood. Because of this, he could no longer be the administrator of St Francis de Sales Parish or the General Director of Radio Paz. For the good of the Church and to avoid the media frenzy, I chose not to impose publicly an ecclesiastical penalty, although his admitted actions clearly warranted it. Since that meeting, I have not heard from Father Cutié nor has he requested to meet with me. He has never told me that he was considering joining the Episcopal Church.”

    Lot more going on here than just “I wanna get married.” Lot of deception and not telling things straight.

  17. PatrickW says

    What is the evidence that ending celibacy would have any impact on the number of priestly vocations? To say such a thing would happen presumes that there are large numbers of Catholic men who feel called to the priesthood but are unwilling/unable to remain celibate for life. Maybe there are such men, but I’ve never met one.

    Also, it’s not like this discipline is hidden from anyone. Priests go through 6-10 years of formation before taking their vows – plenty of time to determine if you have what it takes. If not, do something else. No shame in that. The church needs devout men in all kinds of other roles.

    Even after ordination it is possible for a priest to be released from the clerical state, marry a woman and remain a Catholic in good standing. That’s what Fr. Cutie should have done. The fact that he didn’t tells us that celibacy is not his only issue.

  18. sue kephart says

    I see a problem for the RCC in that many entering seminary in my tradtion are second career people. Most are married. If an RC recognizes a call after marriage too bad. We also ordain women (without openning up that can of worms) we have some great former RC female pastors as well as other Protestant denoms who will not ordain women. To which I say thanks we are happy to receive some of your brightest and best.

  19. Sue,

    As you could tell from the comments above, our RC friends wouldn’t consider someone jumbing ship to the RCC and denying a great deal of what they are obligated to believe as their “brightest and best,” much as I wouldn’t use those words easily about a convert to the RCC from evangelicalism. (Though some appear to be at the time (Beckwith, Neuhaus) but that’s an issue with Protestantism’s incompleteness.)

    Are you UCC or UMC? It must be one of the two. In neither is doctrine much of an issue.


  20. sue kephart says

    ps My LCG brother got me reading your blog. So blame Byran Sherwood.

  21. “our RC friends wouldn’t consider someone jumbing ship to the RCC…as their “brightest and best,” ”

    If they jumped ship TO us, we might 😉

    Jumping ship FROM us, well – we owe the Episcopalians a whole heap of favours for taking some of our flakier guys (like Matthew Fox, God love him, after the Dominicans handed him his sandwiches wrapped in a road map) 🙂

  22. OK. This thread is permanently closed. Apparently I just cannot make myself clear enough. I give you the last word and it still goes on and on until we can stir up a full scale assault on the Protestant wall.

    I am not happy.