Page 4, 18th November 1988

18th November 1988
Page 4
Page 4, 18th November 1988 — LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

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Celibacy — law or tradition Wider range

I AM a happily married Anglican priest, now over 60 years since my ordination. Interested and committed as I am to the ecumenical movement, especially between Anglicans and Catholics, I have had and still have many friends in the Catholic priesthood. On many occasions I have been congratulated on my marriage, and have been told of disagreement with compulsory celibacy. One Catholic (canon) in the Portsmouth diocese — who has recently died — said on the 'phone to me "you've backed a winner" in reference to my wife.

Of course I acknowledge the call to celibacy to be of vital importance. It must be acknowledged too that there are unhappy marriages among Anglican clergy which greatly hinder the work of the church.

One of the things that I fail to understand among those who advocate compulsory celibacy for priests is that they fail to take notice of the New Testament. Read 1 Timothy 3 vv1-7: Here we are told that the elder in charge, among other things, must be "a man who manages his own family well, and brings his children up to obey him and be well-behaved. How can any man who does not understand how to manage his own family have responsibility for the church of God". Much more can be said, but I will conclude by saying that I am glad the first Pope was a married man.

Bernard Haddelsey Uppingham Leics MAY I be permitted space in your columns to respond to criticisms of my letter (October 14) regarding the antiquity of the move towards clerical celibacy in the church. Alberic Stacpoole states that MOMM simply wants married men to have a chance to answer a vocation to the priesthood.

If — as he also states in his letter (November 4) — the Church now permits that married deacons and married convert clergy may be ordained priests under dispensation, then it would appear that the aims of MOMM have already been achieved. Married men are now being ordained.

On the question of the ancient and authoritative movement in the Church towards a clergy free from the responsibility of marriage and family may I add that a further and major factor in this development was the wholesale secularisation of clerical life and the abuse of Church property. The harm and hindrance to the mission of the Church caused by the alienation of Church resources and the dynastic ambitions of churchmen were sources of constant anxiety to those who had the good of the Church at heart.

Eventually the greater good of the Church prevailed over the natural rights of candidates for ordination and celibacy was required of them. It was only by strict Imperial legislation in the Byzantine state that abuses of Church property were controlled in the East.

The onus is upon those who would seek to relax to a greater extent the rule of clerical celibacy to prove that the greater good of the Church would inevitably result. The historical evidence relating to the period of a noncelibate clergy does not provide much scope for encouragement.

Fr Antony Conlon St Mary's London, SW3 FR Conlan rightly suggested in his letter (October 14) that the Movement for the Ordination of Married Men would do better "to seek to promote a positive and enhanced evaluation of the celibate priesthood".

In order to help them with this necessary evaluation I would recommend them to read the article by Fr Roman Cholij in the August number of Priests and People. There they will read that the tradition of priestly celibacy is far stronger than has been generally realised. Indeed putting together Fr Cholij's article and Fr Conlon's letter it could be argued that priestly celibacy (or to put it rather better priestly chastity) goes back to Apostolic times and may indeed be of Divine Institution rather than long standing tradition.

In any case what is wanted today is a firm initiative from our bishops towards obtaining more vocations. To obtain more vocations we need to see the faith taught properly again in our schools, greater devotion to the Blessed Sacrament and Our Blessed Lady, a return to the practice of regular confession and the ending of the present policy of "clericalising" the laity by creating thousands of extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist.

It is also about time that bishops stopped burbling on about political matters and the welfare state, and gave more time to considering the next world rather than the third world in their pronouncements. Then hopefully dedicated priests will reappear instead of being put off by the present outlook which suggests that priests are little more than glorified social workers.

Fr Michael Clifton Colliers Wood CREDIT is due to Fr Anthony Conlon (October 14) for trying to explode the myth perpetuated by groups such as MOMM that clerical celibacy began universally in the Latin Church only from the Middle Ages.

Fr Maurice Twomey (October 28) perpetuates another aspect of the only too wide-spread superficial understanding of the motivations for celibacy, by imputing to the Church a negative attitude towards sexuality in promoting priestly celibacy. This is to charge the Church with the same towards the religious and monastic consecrated life.

And how is this so? The reason is that both priestly and monastic life received inspiration from the ipsissima verba of the Lord concerning the "eunuchs for the sake of the Kingdom" (Mt 19, 12).

Clearly, there has never been an absolute incompatibility between the vocations of marriage and the priesthood (cf. CIC (1917) c. 132,3) but between the priesthood conceived as consecration and to reverting back to sexual life which had been given up by tht consecration.

of remembrance

DID Christians this year wear their poppies with pride? Many of us have uneasy feelings that remembrance without repentance and reconciliation is merely an exercise in hypocrisy and vainglory.

We remember the flames of Coventry but not the flames of Dresden. We remember the horrors of enemy action but not the outrages and atrocities committed by our own Allied forces.

Can sincere Christians continue to take part in these annual services and parades? It is right and fitting to mourn our dead, but is it equally right and fitting to accept, approve and glorify their hideous form of nationalised terrorism known as war?

Dr Margaret Maison Oxford

Current cuts

RUSSELL Lewis, author of "Anti-Racism: a Mania Exposed", deserved more responsible treatment than he got in your review by Mark Rogers (November 11). The complaint that he relies too heavily on newspaper cuttings is a thoughtless one: of 185 references in the book 110 are to press reports and 75 to books. That's reasonable enough when a writer is dealing with a currently fashionable trend.

But nowhere in the review is the author's serious purpose mentioned. Let me make good that omission. Lewis holds that the "race relations lobby" is not serving the best interests of the ethnic minorities. It is increasing rather than lessening racial tension by constantly denouncing British society, its laws and its police, as "racist".

Bernard Smith Worthing HOW gratifying to read the article by Desmond Albrow (November 1 1) and to know there are still some who remember the "all embracing two minute silence of years ago" in contrast to the "puny selective apologetic silence of today". How sad, that our country seems so intent on going about its business that this day has to be relegated to a Sunday. Time was, when sirens sounded at 1 lam and everything and everybody stopped and as Mr Albrow remarked: "Woe betide the person who ignored it".

Let us return to the custom of remembering on the 11th. Are we really too busy to give two minutes in return for the supreme sacrifice given by so many. John & Teresa Hill Lancaster

Broken rules

I AM appalled by the arrogance of Eileen Powell (November 11) implying I was insufficiently intelligent to follow the "rules". It was pointed out to me by my doctor that my very irregular menstrual cycle together with the possible longevity of my husband's sperm viability, rendered the infertile period almost non-existent.

Am I to believe that the young families with two/three children I see at Mass are making love to "rules" laid down by instructors.

I find it significant that the only correspondence extolling the NFP method comes from instructors in that method.

Frinton Margaret Keauffling

Venerating Mary

RE Dr McCarthy's letter (November 4). The prayers and preaching of the Catholic Church have always encouraged veneration of Our Blessed Lady. The Catholic Church does not adore her. Adoration is the privilege of God.

Kenmare, Co Kerry T Scully

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