Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Somewhere Over the Rainbow

One of the greatest joys of my life is to gaze into the smiling face of my wife. She like no other can turn darkness into light and sadness into joy. We have been married for ten years and her companionship has been a great blessing to my life. But, my love for her disqualified me from continuing in the priesthood.

Given the positive influence my wife has been upon me, I am continually puzzled why marriage and the priesthood are mutually exclusive. Sometimes I want to stand on the roof and shout to the hierarchy, "Marriage is holy! I have not been defiled by my wife! She has deeply enriched my life and ministry! Why does love disqualify priests from ordained ministry?"

Then the sadness comes and then the anger.

Then I remind myself that even if priests could marry, there are other issues that I find incompatible with my faith. A major pillar upon which so much of Catholic Church teaching rests is papal infallibility. And therein lies the real problem.

Infallibility, an attribute of God.

How do you challenge God?

It's hard for God to change his mind.

Significant reform within the priesthood will not occur because of theological persuasion. Persuasive arguments against mandated celibacy, Infallibility and other areas of needed Church reform were made centuries ago and continue to be made today but to no avail. The hierarchy of the Catholic Church is interested in one thing, the continuation of celibate male control of the priesthood and Church. This is their main concern and the demon we face. It does not respond to reason. The stench of its odor can be detected within corridors of the Vatican, cathedrals and chanceries throughout the world. They have sacrificed thousands of priests in homage to celibate male power, not to mention the many women whose priestly gifts have also been dismissed.

But change is occurring now as Catholics lose faith in the Church, yet find a profound and robust interior spiritual life. If they still attend church its for different reasons. They go, not out of obligation, but because of their desire for a community where they can celebrate faith and share their lives. Their locus of control is no longer externalized in an ecclesiastical institution but is internalized within their own souls. For them, the Church is still important but it has lost its power.

This transformation is represented in the lives of priests who have left the priesthood. Within their lives the gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit are manifest. They continue to do Christ's work and the Holy Spirit leads and guides them apart from the authority of the Church. They are like Toto in the Wizard of Oz who pulled back the curtain and revealed the little man pulling the levers of power.

All the smoke and fire is an illusion.

We have nothing to fear.

We have found freedom and a whole new world that exists ... over the rainbow.