Ad Limina Apostolorum (Blog) | St. Augustine's Library
Friday, October 01, 2004

Celibacy and the Demographics of Dissent 

It seems that attitudes of clergy towards mandatory clerical celibacy are becoming somewhat of a marker for orthodoxy and fidelity to Church teaching.
The Australian Bishops' Conference is distributing a report to its bishops which indicates that 55% of Australia's priests believe celibacy should be optional (Source). Other numbers put a general dissatisfaction with mandatory celibacy up in the 70% among Australian clergy (Source). However, the report notes the none-too-subtle demographic divides:

"Priests over 66 were more orthodox in their attitude to celibacy and the readmittance of resigned priests - the subtext of that is accepting married priests," she said. "The youngest priests also show a tendency to be more orthodox. The ones going into seminary now are a lot more conservative, which is not surprising given the culture of the organisation at the moment."

The National Catholic Reporter has jumped on the optional celibacy bandwagon, but even NCR admits that there is 'some truth' to the claim that, even with mandatory celibacy still in effect, "'orthodox' dioceses and religious orders do relatively well in their seminary recruitment." NCR also complains about the importing of foreign-born priests, who tend to be more conservative in perspective, and "don't appreciate the relatively open culture of the post-Vatican II American church."

Of course, a year ago, 160 priests of the Milwaukee Archdiocese sent a letter to Bishop Gregory urging optional celibacy (Source). Though many expected this to be the first of a 'tidal wave of change,' it turned out to have little lasting effect (article). 'Call To Action' has adopted this letter into its mandate and made it a springboard for further efforts.

But other trends indicate that these efforts are associated more with demographic shifts than anything else. Last month a petition was sent by 556 seminarians around the country to Bishop Gregory, urging that the discipline of mandatory celibacy be retained in the Church (Source). That's right, seminarians - young men who represent the future of our priesthood and our Church, those who have made the decision to accept the discipline of celibacy in good faith, and intend that it remain mandatory. The article indicates that a much higher number of seminarians sympathized with the letter, and would have signed it if given the opportunity; no seminarian, they claimed, indicated disagreement with its contents.

"This is indicative of the type of men that are responding to the priesthood today," Father Burns told CNS. "They're committed, dedicated, faith-filled, prayerful. And really they stand inspired by the teachings of our Holy Father."

Numerous articles (e.g., here and here) in the past year have remarked on the increasing trends towards 'conservatism' (by which they mean, of course, fidelity and loyalty) among younger clergy today, who are generally inspired by the vision of Pope John Paul II. The ranks of the 'old guard' of liberalism and dissent seem to swell in the 'baby boomer' generation, as is also indicated by the aging membership of such organizations as 'Call to Action' and other dissident groups. The future of Catholicism in America is being claimed by the faithful.

# posted by Jamie : 9:43 AM


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