Rocco Palmo, who writes the blog Whispers in the Loggia, noted two recent pieces in Commonweal on the subject of the future of the priesthood in the United States, our editorial and Paul Stanosz’s Continuing the Conversation article. (The Stanosz is available to registered users only. If you haven’t yet signed up, it’s a brief process–and free.)
While Rocco seems to think the pieces are worth reading (they are)–he refers to the Stanosz article as “heady”–he targets a section of the piece for its “grave lapses of argument.” Here’s Rocco:
Regrettably, it must be noted that the piece does its point the
disservice of not placing the ordination of women and married men out
of bounds, at one point condescendingly accusing the church’s teaching
and discipline on admission to orders of being “intransigent” — as if,
with the wave of a wand, Tradition could change and all our problems
would be solved.
In a word, hardly.
Despite these grave
lapses of argument, however, it doesn’t mean that a discussion of what
makes quality — and an increased emphasis in its favor — cannot be
had whilst simultaneously adhering to the parameters of Tradition with
the utmost reverence. In fact, even if it means taking a short-term hit
in terms of numbers, an unassailably qualitative approach would
manifest a more substantive esteem for the priesthood and a greater
recognition of the vocation to it, which is in itself a path to growth.
With time, said investment would serve to restore more credibility in
the church than any excess of fleetingly superficial flourishes. Some
places have learned this by heeding it, others have experienced its
truths the hard way.
History teaches us that, if anything, the
church has received its greatest momentum and most enduring nourishment
not from massive crops of candidates, but from those singular, intrepid
souls for whom the teaching of Christ and the exercise of his
priesthood provided the grace and strength to build upon the already
considerable gifts of a sound nature. Luckily, through the ages, the
witness of these is something that’s transcended waves of ideology,
scandal and other forces of difficulty and thankfully, in the unsung
heroism of so many of our priests, it remains with us today.
light of that, we owe it to our past and our future to build on the
great riches — spiritual, academic, pastoral and human — that’ve been
given us, as opposed to casting our hopes on a cheap fix. In the
recruitment and tending of candidates, the external criteria mark only
the beginning of the responsibility and challenge of sound priestly
Here’s the part of Stanosz’s piece to which Rocco is responding, the third-to-last paragraph of the article:
The well-being of any organization relies on its ability to attract the
best and brightest to its leadership ranks. This clearly isn’t
happening in the U.S. Catholic Church. The admission of women into the
clergy by other denominations has raised the overall aptitude of their
seminarians, but Rome has ruled out this possibility for Catholics.
While one wonders what effect optional celibacy would have on the
number and quality of men entering the Catholic priesthood, Rome has
been intransigent on that option too. The Vatican appears to prefer
modestly gifted celibate men over brighter, more capable women or men
who want to marry.
Two things come to mind. One: the Catholic Church already has a married priesthood. There’s no reason discussing this should be “out of bounds.” Second: it’s not clear to me how describing Rome’s position on these issues as “intransigent” is “condescending,” or how this implies Stanosz believes “all our problems could be solved,” as Rocco summarizes, “with the wave of a wand.”