Priests who Marry; Defection or New Direction?
Have married priests “defected”or have they taken a different direction?
In the April 21st edition of the Irish Catholic there is an article which states that priest numbers have gone down in Ireland by 500 in just a decade. The article points out that while death and lack of vocations are the primary contributing factors to the fall in the number of diocesan clergy, 83 priests in all have left the priesthood over the same period. The article states that the Vatican lists such departures as “defections”.
Why must we use language like this that is mean, small-minded and very hurtful?
Most people know that “once a priest always a priest” so how can we talk about 83 priests leaving the priesthood permanently?
In 1983, when I got married, I ceased to be a member of the clergy , I did not cease though to be a priest for the sacrament of Orders is permanent. I went through the process of asking for a dispensation from celibacy to marry which I received six years later.
I did not depart, or defect or leave the church when I got married.
Is there no place within the church for someone like me who has got married? Must I go through life as an outsider?
It is interesting to note that most lay people have a different approach and attitude to married priests, they are more human and less judgmental in their attitude to them.
My goal in life has always been to serve Our Lord as a priest, to be His instrument among men and women. I did this as a celibate priest for 17 years and I have continued to do so for the past 33 years as a married priest. The fact that I received the sacrament of matrimony does not mean that I defected from the priesthood. I have taken a different road but my aim, my goal, my final destiny is the same that is to serve Our Lord.
I have no problem working shoulder to shoulder with celibate priests. At present I am doing pastoral work in 3 parishes. I get on very well with the 3 parish priests and it is very clear to the people that they are in charge of the parishes and that I am just like any other pastoral agent carrying out pastoral activities.
So from the point of view of the laity and most priests my pastoral presence is accepted but there is so much more I could do if the hierarchy would only welcome back to full ministry priests who have married. In our part of the world there are so many communities that are without the regular celebration of the Eucharist, they may have Mass every 2 or 3 months, I could say Mass for these communities and lessen the burden on the parish priest. Recently it was published that in North Wales that a third of catholic churches are to close due to the shortage of priests so many many people will have great difficulty in going to Mass, this is also the situation that is becoming common in other countries.
If I was called back to full public ministry I would not be a financial burden on the diocese as I earn my bread from my secular job, I am a teacher, so I am financially independent. I have managed to reconcile holding down a job and having time for pastoral activities. I came to Brazil as a missionary priest and I have not lost this vocation just because I got married and have a secular job. If anything the sacrament of matrimony has strengthened my priestly vocation and my wife has helped me more than anybody else to keep alive the flame of this vocation.
I am barred from celebrating public mass, why? Where is the problem? We pray for future vocations, and this is as it should be in obedience to Our Lords command, but what are we doing with the vocations that were given to the church, with the priests who got married? Not all of them would wish to return to public ministry but I know many who would if invited. It is a question of courage and pastoral planning.
Brian Eyre: Catholic Married Priest, Recife, Brazil
The problem Bryan is twofold as I see it:…1. We do not know as a Universal Church…exactly how…the Lord…wants to address the so called “priest shortage”. 2nd…as the Pope suggests in an article on another thread….”lay people must be given greater inclusion”…or so is my interpretation of what he says…although..he cautions as I do…about the creation of the “lay elite.” However, you are always convincing!