Some of you may have already read the shorter version of this post over at my blog, but I thought the issue important enough to rewrite it for The Anglo-Catholic. Here are some collected thoughts on the dangers of married clergy.
1) If the Church supports both married and celibate clergy (and she does) then we should stand by our leaders. As with young children we all are called to respectful and happy obedience to those God has placed over us (whether we think they deserve it or not). Disagreements should be voiced in a gentle and submissive manner, not beginning with an argument and escalating to a brawl. If someone wants any kind of change he should pray for it humbly, and discuss it respectfully.
2) The vast majority of Christian marriages today are a mess, and numerous baptized children are either constantly backsliding or outright disobedient and worldly. Everyone needs guidance and teaching to help them live faithfully before our God. Those Christians who are in marriages that are disorderly need a good example of a faithful and well ordered family (i.e., no dysfunctions) and a wise priest to lead them in how to correct the problems in their households. If this is not remedied (by either celibate or married clergy) then the children will likely be lost to the world. I have met more people than I can count who are in wrecked marriages and they have no idea that a family can actually be faithful to the Lord precisely because they have never seen it.
3) A pastor who does not solidly and clearly rule his family well (cf. 1 Tim 3:5 & Titus 1:6) should not be leading God's people. He is a bad example and is therefore misleading the sheep under his care; he misleads them by displaying a family that is out of order as though that were pleasing to God. Every marriage is telling something about Christ and His bride the Church; they either tell the truth or they tell a lie. Thus, it is far better to have a godly celibate priest (with no family to be an example), than to have a married priest whose wife is not submissive and whose children do not obey and are not showing the beauty of Christian faithfulness. If a priest's children look like the typical image of rebellion, then how can he say he knows how to teach God's people to obey? If he thinks he can do this he is lying. A clergyman's family should be the first family that people look to when they seek to see how Christian households should work.
4) The debate regarding "married versus celibate" clergy is, in my opinion, a bit off track because it misses many of these points. It is not "married vs. celibate" as much as it is "faithful vs. unfaithful". A faithful married priest is a great asset to a church and his family can be a wonderful example. An unfaithful married priest (and that means more than sexually) is a plague on the church. Priests are called to be examples of faithfulness in every area of their lives, most especially their homes. If their homes have a wife and children then godliness and purity should be evident there also. If his wife is hooked on Prozac and the children are being pumped with Ritalin just so they can get through the day, then we have a problem. In a number of Protestant Churches that I have seen, the pastor's children are the worst behaved children in the entire congregation and everyone just accepts it as par for the course. I hear much about the concern of celibate priests being pedophiles in disguise; yes, that is a concern, but we cannot let that concern overshadow the dangers of married clergy (which can potentially have far more long term consequences).
5) The challenges on fathers are enough by themselves, but when you add in the challenges of ministry the responsibility on clergy is very difficult. The scriptural principle is that you do not give someone a big responsibility until they can handle smaller ones (cf. Luke 19:12ff). Therefore, if a priest cannot handle the responsibility of leading his own "domestic church" then he should never be allowed to have the responsibility of leading an ecclesiastical church. It is better to have fewer priests overall than to have a large number of married priests whose wives are a wreck and whose children are on the verge of leaving the faith.
6) If you cannot tell the difference between the priest's children and a typical punk down at the mall, then he is disqualified for the office; no questions asked, no "ifs" "ands" or "buts". If the priest's children are the least faithful children in the congregation then he should leave the ministry. If his wife is a gossip who is a thorn in everyone's side, then he should resign and find another calling–yesterday. If he is unwilling to do this, then his Bishop should take him out–the day before yesterday. If he cannot be trusted to deal with his own problems then he should not be trusted to deal with those of a parish.
7) A priest's family is the best example of how well he can minister. Theology, liturgics, counseling; yes, they are important. Yet, I would rather be ministered to by a man whose family is in order and who is short on "pastoral training" than by a man who has gobs of training and yet cannot properly lead his own family to Christ (if he cannot help them, how can he help the rest of us?). I know far too many priests (and Protestant pastors) who are wonderfully trained in theological and ecclesiastical issues, but they have no idea how to deal with real family dysfunctions.
8 ) I've heard the complaint of: "How can you require so much of a pastor? It isn't his fault if his family falls away." This is an attempt to lower the standards that God has given in His Word. Scripture requires clergy to "lead their family well" and to have "obedient and faithful children"; we should not be seeking a way to reinterpret this. The prestige and honor given to clerical office is hard to give up, but for many married clergymen it is time to bite the bullet.
9) I have heard some people calling for a rejection of the custom of celibate clergy, or at least a softening of it. Although I am happy that Pope Benedict has chosen to allow more married priests in the Church, I am not sure that it will be a good thing entirely. A celibate priest is only one person to be a bad example; a married priest however has his wife and children who also can be bad examples. Every priest lives in a "fishbowl" before his congregation and that is not a bad thing. A friend of mine is a Baptist pastor and he hates the fishbowl, so he hides. He keeps his family mostly away from the rest of his congregation because he does not want to "be judged" by them. As my grandma used to say, "if you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen". If a man does not want to live on display, then he should not seek holy orders. In addition, the complaint has come to my ears many times, "How can an unmarried priest counsel a married man how to lead his home?" I know many celibate priests who do a fine job of counseling husbands and fathers; I also know a number of married priests that I would not trust to counsel someone how to mow the lawn (to say nothing of how to order his household).
10) We should not assume that because a clergyman is married that this means he is more "safe" than a celibate man; neither marriage nor celibacy guarantees faithfulness or unfaithfulness. A blessing will only come in married Catholic clergy if we see good strong fathers and husbands as priests leading their congregations with a good family life being exemplified before the parish. If the influx of married clergy into the Catholic Church through the Ordinariates means an influx of bad examples and priests whose households are messed up then we are only creating one more problem to be fixed. This is not what the Holy Father wants, and it is our responsibility to make sure that we do not give him "spotted sacrifices".
11) If you are a priest, this is the time to take a good look at your home life. We who are going to enter the Ordinariate are going to be setting the example for the future. If the CDF sees in us a failure because we brought failing families into the ministry, then what will be the future of the married clergy in the Ordinariates? Will Rome reconsider whether they have made a mistake because we blew it? Anyone who is unwilling to be challenged on this issue has proven his unfaithfulness. Ask yourself: Would Christ honestly be pleased to use your family (right now!) as an example of godly home life? Would He use your home to set the standard for an entire congregation? A healthy spiritual checkup is important, and as clergy we often think that we are completely capable of examining ourselves without anyone else's help; in this area we are not. Each clergyman should ask someone else for an honest answer as to whether his family is a beautiful example of a godly home. Men, let us together do this inventory of where our families are at, and be honest with the assessment (not merely overlook things because you want to stay a priest). The consequences are eternal.
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