Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Archbishop Vigneron, Call to Action, and Priestly Celibacy

As I mentioned in my previous post on Archbishop Vigneron, I have been "mining" some of his online writings. What follows is something I found some weeks ago, but am just now getting to it. I said I would show examples of how His Excellency has applied his own 10 Rules for Handling Disagreement Like a Christian in his writings. The column I'm about to feature, from January 12, 2004 is indeed a good example . I suggest having two windows open - one with the 10 rules handy and the other this blogpost.

Call to Action - a group of dissident Catholics had sent a survey around the Oakland diocese which polled priests on their opinions about priestly celibacy.

Keep in mind, Jesus went to the Cross based on a poll. Correctness isn't based on popular opinion.

Without further adieu.... My emphases in black, comments bracketed in red.

Priestly celibacy – the Spirit’s gift for the whole Church

January 12, 2004

Last month the leadership of Call To Action of Northern California sent to all the priests of the Oakland Diocese a survey whose principal question is “Do you favor open discussion of the mandatory celibacy rule for diocesan priests?” The survey’s sponsors indicate that they plan a press release for the results of their effort. [Those results have been released here and reveal the need for exactly the kind of thing the Archbishop discusses here - a better understanding of priestly celibacy]

As I write this column I have not yet seen those results, so I cannot comment on them explicitly. However, I expect that they will receive a good bit of publicity, especially since the sponsors link their efforts to a similar and much publicized initiative in Milwaukee. So, in an effort to give pastoral guidance on this matter, I want to share with you my thinking on this topic. [It's good that he didn't ignore the matter. On many controversial subjects you have those who are firmly for it, and others firmly against it, with many more in the middle. I like to assume a 15 - 70 -15 rule or similar. 15% are tangled up in their own pride and will never be swayed with any argument; the other 15% need no swaying; the rest can be swayed either way. You can play with the numbers, but it is merely to make an illustration that when a priest or a bishop addresses an issue, it is not just the vocal minority who needs to hear him, but that silent majority who aren't quite sure what to think. By addressing the issue, he has a chance of helping those in the middle to understand, or at least to be open to further explanation]

[Here, he is applying Rule #1 - the Rule of Charity by considering that there may not be ill intent. Also note the lack of sarcasm or smackdowns throughout the document]. An important place to begin is to make a distinction about what the phrase “open discussion” means. If it signifies that this survey is an effort to foster a deeper understanding of the meaning of priestly celibacy, that’s to the good. In fact, one of my goals in this first year of my service as Bishop of Oakland is to write a letter to our priests on celibate chastity.

I received confirmation last spring of how important this is. I had just given a conference to the priests of Crookston, Minn., on this topic, and a priest who was ordained for over 30 years told me that this was the first time anyone had ever offered to him a positive vision of the meaning of his celibacy. Given the foundational role of celibacy in the existence of priests, that is very, very sad. [indeed, and how many more do not comprehend it?]

I believe that one of the best services I can offer my brother priests is to confirm for them that the gift of their lives lived in celibate chastity is a great grace, rooted in the values of the New Covenant, and a share in the priestliness of Christ himself. [All of this goes to the malformation of priests in which some were taught, or developed a skewed ideal of priestly identity. Zenit had series on the topic: Priestly Identity: Crisis and Renewal Part - 1 and Part - 2. I also refer you to Aposotlic Exhortation: Pastores Dabo Vobis]

Of course, the request for an “open dialogue” could [once again with use of the word "could", he is exercising charity in not attributing, with certainty, a specific motive]also be aimed at initiating a process of deliberation, an examination that would put into play the question of whether or not the Church would retain our current practice. On this score I need to point out that I am opposed to such an examination . In what follows I will briefly explain why. [recall in his rule of charity he says, "charity is the first and fundamental requirement for all authentic Christian speech does not mean that such speaking can only be weak". Watch what he does...]

[He now applies Rule #2 - "The Rule of Publicity" and explores Church documents to get into the "mind of the Church" on priestly celibacy. Several quotes follow...]

Our discipline in the Western Church of admitting only celibates to the priesthood is a practice that has its roots in the first generation of the Church and has been reaffirmed by popes and bishops for centuries.

Within the living memory of many of us the current discipline received its most definitive reaffirmation at the Second Vatican Council [I like how he brings Vatican II into this since it is often used as a wedge, attributing things to it that are non existent]. The Dogmatic Constitution on the Church praises celibacy as “an incentive to charity” and “a particular source of spiritual fruitfulness in the world” (n. 42).

Building on this affirmation, the Council’s Decree on the Life and Ministry of Priests goes on to explain celibacy’s “many-faceted suitability for the priesthood”:
“Through virginity, then, or celibacy observed for the Kingdom of Heaven (cf. Mt. 19:12), priests are consecrated to Christ on a new and eminent basis.

“They adhere to him more easily with an undivided heart (cf. 1Co 7:32-34), they dedicate themselves more freely in him and through him to the service of God and men. They more readily serve his Kingdom and the work of heavenly regeneration, and thus they are suited to accept fatherhood in Christ more fully.

“They give, moreover, a living sign of the world to come, by a faith and charity already made present, in which the children of the resurrection neither marry nor take wives (cf. Lk 20:35-36).

“For these reasons, based on the mystery of Christ and his mission, celibacy was first recommended to priests. Then in the Latin Church it was imposed upon all who were to be promoted to sacred orders. This legislation, in so far as it concerns those who are destined for the priesthood, this Holy Synod again approves and confirms.

“It fully trusts that this gift of the Spirit, so fitting for the priesthood of the New Testament, will be given in abundant measure by the Father, provided that those who participate in the priesthood of Christ through the sacrament of Orders, as well as the whole Church, humbly and fervently pray for it (n. 16, italics added).

For four decades now the People of God have with remarkable dedication worked most generously to implement the Council’s vision and to respond to its challenge to renew the Church so that she can more effectively fulfill her mission of evangelizing our age.

In the light of what the Council said about priestly celibacy, attempts to change the discipline seem to me to be a move to pull back from that commitment. [yes!]The Council spoke of a “full trust” that this gift of the Spirit “will be given in abundant measure by the Father.”

I believe with all my heart what the Council teaches about priestly celibacy, and I share its trust about how abundantly the Father will bestow this grace, provided we ask for it.

I ask, please, that in the months ahead you pray to the Holy Spirit for me, so that in the letter I am composing I will be able to offer an exposition of the Council’s understanding of priestly celibacy that builds up not only the presbyterate but the whole Church in Oakland – one that leads all of you to share with me the confidence I share with the Council about the future.
[he is inviting them to consider Rule #8 - The Rule of Mystery - acceptance is not about the latest societal fad or democratic polls, but something much deeper]

And, if you know anything about Call to Action, Rule #9 is often challenged.

Source at the Catholic Voice in Oakland

I have not looked for the letter he speaks of to see if it was ever made public , but if anyone can find a link before I do, please drop it into the combox or email me, TeDeumBlog@gmail.com

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The obedient are not held captive by Holy Mother Church; it is the disobedient who are held captive by the world!