T CONGRATULATE Presby2ter on his courageous letter (November 25). It is only within recent years that priests have had courage to speak out in public on this subject.
The Bishops of Holland and the Catholics there are bravely tackling the question of priestly celibacy in view of the Church's history. Today the Church finds herself critically short of priests throughout the world. There are some 60,000 priests throughout the world who have left the priesthood. Most of these priests left on account of celibacy. It seems a very tragic loss of manpower that these men could not still serve the Church usefully as married priests.
The young men and boys of today are accused to being too attached to worldly pleasures to think of becoming priests. In my opinion these youngsters are no less generous, and have the spirit of sacrifice no less than those of any in the past. Their parents and the young men themselves have become aware of the Church's very harsh treatment towards her priests who opted out. The scandal of the 60,000 priests "out" has been swept under the carpet. Let the parents of these priests, their families and friends speak out about the untold sorrow and suffering entailed by a priest, who having found his celibacy an inhuman burden, left the priesthood legally or without permission.
Ask the hundreds of thousands of clerical students why they left their seminaries. Let them now speak up fearlessly. I venture to answer that they would gladly have become priests only for the question of celibacy. There are married men in the world far holier than I and who would make for better priests than I. Celibacy has no basis in the natural law nor in Scripture. Presbyter is absolutely right when he says celibacy is a voluntary act but obligatory for one who wishes to become a priest. Many fine vocations are lost to the priesthood on account of this. Celibacy is not built in to the priesthood, nor is it essential to the priesthood.
Another Presbyter London, N.W.7
BEFORE we make up our minds about a problem, it seems to me valuable to deepen our understanding — indeed, deepening the understanding may, in the long run, prove more valuable than solving the problem. Several points concerning priestly celibacy have struck me in reading controversies on this subject.
The first is the disparity of standpoints between priests and lay people. Priests tend to write of marriage as a joyful fulfilment of human life; whereas husbands write rather as though they would like priests to marry in order to share their problems and troubles, and to sympathise more. It would seem wise, then, La recall—though without cynicisrn—R. L. Stevenson's famous saying: 'Marriage is not a bed of roses, but a field of battle."
The next point to consider is whether the advantages of priests' marrying would outweigh the disadvantages.
Would priests be so closely devoted to their wife, the parish, if they also had to concern themselves with humouring a nagging wife (they might choose the wrong person!) and financing their children's education? Most of the priests I have met have looked happier than most husbands,
But the most important aspect of priestly celibacy, I think, is the witness it bears to the next world. On the point of Christianity's essential eschatology, I agree wholeheartedly with Peter Simple writing elsewhere in your paper (November 25). The difference between Christian and pseudo-Christian religion lies in the belief that the Messiah came in the flesh and, after dying, was resurrected and ascended into Heaven. What more effective witness to this tremendous faith is there than the lifelong celibacy of priests?
I. Ziotnicld Harrow WI n reference to your correspondence on celibacy may I, as another layman, disagree strongly with Mr. Cunningham. Many people find the idea of a married priesthood objectionable. For most people it is, unhappily, difficult to develop a strong and personal feeling for God, let along love other than vague sentimentality, and it is encouraging when we see others whose experience of God is sufficiently strong for them to forgo the nearest human ties.
A married priesthood impinges on the majesty of God; a celibate priesthood is not "a slur on family life". it is a recognition of God as a vital presence.
Some priests are not happy. May I point out with the utmost respect and charity nor are many of the rest of us— how happy are we meant to be in this world? There is respect for the clergy. If we have a married ministry what are we to make of the inevitable corollary of the priest who makes an unhappy and an unwise marriage?
As to the vocations crisis, more work could possibly be given to deacons?
P. O'Rourke Richmond, Surrey.
TALSO read Fr. Davis's
article (November 11) and I think he deserves better treatment than he got. I'd advise Presbyter to study the article a little more carefully before he expresses any further opinions about it. As for Fr. McKee, shall we say he noticed the tree trunks hut that he became somewhat pre-occupied with a twig.
Obviously Fr. Davis has thought very deeply on the things he writes about.
Although he heads his article The Meaning and Privations of Celibacy' he covers a good deal more than this. In fact I'd go so far as to say that in this article lie the answers to many of the questions bedeviling the Church today,
J. E. McMahon Nuneaton.
The above letters are a selection from the many we have received on the subject of celibacy. This correspondence is now closed.—Editor.