Page 4, 14th April 1978

14th April 1978
Page 4
Page 4, 14th April 1978 — Fr Hastings replies

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Fr Hastings replies

You have placed my name on the front page of your paper for two weeks now in connection with my article in the March issue of New Blackfriars, but you have not fully explained the reasons behind why I felt justified in declaring in principle my "freedom to marry" as a priest.

I would then earnestly beg your readers either to study my article together with Fr Herbert McCabe's editorial comment or to read my forthcoming book In Filial Disobedience before judging me,

What I am challenging is the law of celibacy for all priests of the Western rite. a law in diametrical opposition to the general New Testament norm set clearly forth in l Timothy 3.2: "Now a bishop must be above reproach, the husband of one wife . . . he must manage his own household well, keeping his children submissive and respectful in every way; for if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how can he care for God's Church'?" This is without doubt the clearest indication in the New Testament of what the apostolic Church expected of a regular pastoral minister.

I do not suggest that it is decisive positively, that is, it does not exclude other types of ministry such as the celibate itinerant ministry of Paul or the more charismatic roles of the Corinthian Church. I do suggest that it is decisive negatively, that in the light of it the exclusion of a married clergy is deeply unjustified in a Church which has accepted that the teaching office is "not above the word of God but serves it (Vatican Council, Const, on Revelation, 10).

What 1 arn not challenging in any way is the immense value of celibacy, indeed its necessity within the Church. But if there is anything which seems to require a context of freedom and not law. it is this. I have myself been a celibate priest for 22 years and, if I know the strain it has brought, I know too its fruitfulness in my own life. Still more do I recognise this in the life of many others — nuns, brothers, priests. I could and would confidently name many now dead friends for whom a celibate vocation manifestly brought great holiness and fruitfulness. For many priests, yes, for too many others, no. Essentially the religious order seems the forum for the commitment to celibacy. the secular clergy the forum for a freedom in which most priests would rather reflect something of the pattern of I Timothy by partieipating in the normal marital and parental responsibilities of a good ehristian.

l am utterly convinced that today this is no merely theoretical matter (though it is a profoundly theological issue), it is a matter almost of survival in many parts of the Church, of the sights Eccksiae of the needs ot countless little ones left almost wholly without the sacraments because Church authority prefers no priest to a married priest.

In that context I would be prepared to break canon law with its consequences. as I explained in my article, though I ant far from relishing the prospect. If Mgr Ralph Brown at once asserts that I will be "suspended" that is an only too predictable reaction from the canonise In fact, despite your own surmises. I have as yet come to no clear decision about my own future, apart from the personal inescapability of remaining a priest.

(Fr) Adrian Hastings Aberdeen.

I was 'rather surprised to read (March 31) of Fr Adrian Hasting's views about priestly celibacy: I had ihought him a scholar, but the rcniarks reported betray frustration rather than scholarship.

I have no doubt that some married priests would be of great service in the Church. but in saying this I am conscious of the imporlarlee or stressing the value of celibacy (even if it is only a celibacy of obedience of fidelity).

Without celibacy the development of a deep and constant prayerlire could he made even more difficult than it is at present. Many priests are only just now discovering the joys of deep prayer, and presumably are more aware of one of the most important advantages of being celibate.

may be wrong, but I see celibacy as tieing inextricably linked with the call to prayer (by this I inean contemplation). This does not mean that married priests are "out". but that it is they who will be exceptions to the norm.

I with a penitent in need of counsel I would prefer to meet with a holy priest who was devoted to the Lord in Celibacy than a priest who svas married; not because the married one would necessarily be im-hoIs, but because the celibate would have more time to give to Our Lord.

One goes to a priest not because Ile has a wife, but because he is close to God. No, Fr Hastings we do not need married priests as badly as we need priests who are prepared to lay all other things aside in order to be alone with God.

(Fr) J. Abberton W'est Yorkshire.

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