Husband, father, priest
Richard Gaillardetz’s “Married Priests: A Countercultural Witness” is thoughtful and succinct.
I am an Episcopal priest, married almost forty-nine years. I know several Episcopal priests who have become Roman Catholic priests and a number who have gone from Rome to Canterbury. My friends who have become Roman Catholic priests have seemed to seek a church in which ordination and clerical celibacy (even for those who are married when they are received by Rome) confer a status of superior “purity,” both in some deep-seated sexual sense and by treating the priesthood as a higher state, reflected in a theology that regards ordination as descending “from above.”
Anglicanism considers the ministerial priesthood as deriving its ultimate meaning and authority from the baptized—“from below”—with episcopal ordination confirming one’s call to minister as an icon of the faithfulness to which we are all called by virtue of our baptism. That I am married, have children and grandchildren, and wrestle with family life, mortgages, and all the other issues my parishioners might wrestle with (including sexual issues) makes it impossible for me to think of myself as purer or above them in any ontological sense. Married priesthood has its problems (ask my wife and children!), but in the long run, it seems healthier for both the clergy and the church—and a better reflection of at least my understanding of the gospel. I don’t say this to be superior, and I certainly value those in my church with the charism to live the celibate life. The Roman Catholic Church has so much that is great and good and holy; the rest of us are never completely separated from it. I watch with interest what Pope Francis may open us up to in the years to come.
-(Rev.) John McCausland
Agnes Howard’s essay “Comforting Rachel” brought back memories for me. In 1955 I had a miscarriage about five months into pregnancy. My husband Francis and I had gone to my parents’ home that evening for two reasons: to be closer to the doctor in case my symptoms turned into something serious, and to have someone care for our three other children, ages two, five, and six.
In the middle of the night it happened. The baby came as I was lying on the bathroom floor. Francis phoned our doctor, who came right away. (Doctors made house calls in those days.) He checked me thoroughly and said I should stay in bed a day and I would be all right. The baby was a miniature boy, complete with fingers, toes, and everything. The doctor told Francis to take the baby home to our farm and bury it in a flowerbed or where it would not be disturbed, so Francis went home in the morning and did just that.
I was sad to lose the baby, as he was to be my youngest child’s playmate. We named him David, and I am sure he is in heaven waiting for us. When I went for a checkup a few weeks later the doctor, a kindly older man, comforted me, saying, “Don’t blame yourself for losing the baby. These things happen for no reason that we know of. You did not cause it.”
But I was never comforted by the church.