More on Married Priesthood

Paul Snatchko, who is always a good read at his blog posted Deacon Greg’s Patheos article on Facebook and it exploded with comments. Here’s my favorite one from Brian Barcaro, the bigwig of Catholic Match:

This article is irresponsible because the Deacon offers no facts to support the case he just says people will demand it someday. WHAT? So just because people start demanding something in the Church, the church should do it?

Um, if they’re demanding the Eucharist, we might want to at least think about it. Duh. I also don’t think he’s wrong about people demanding it.

Secondly Barcaro adds:

The primary reasons for the vocation crisis are: Smaller familes, poor catechesis, poor seminary system, lack of orthodoxy, altar girls. Married nor Women priests would solve any of those issues. Can we have married priests? Yes Should we have married priests? No (except in rare circumstances where a Anglican/Lutheran or Orthodox becomes Catholic and is married. Will we have married priests in the Latin Rite? Highly highly highly unlikely.

I’m trying not to laugh at the latter two points and want to see what sociologist in their right mind might agree with this with the exception of the first point.

Smaller families simply means that there are fewer candidates coming from Catholic families. So that’s simple math. Poor catechesis is the result of the faith not being passed down from the parents to the child and the reinforcement of religion in the home taking root in the young. I can speak from experience that because my father and mother were church goers that’s a big reason that I am and that it was a big part of my life once I left their nest.

But that’s not the only reason. I’m part of the church because men and women of faith inspired me to continue to be part of the church. Young people are called and encouraged to the priesthood because they are inspired by other priests and lay ministers in the church.

Period. And that’s not me who says so–it’s CARA. A respected sociological organization run out of Georgetown.

It has nothing to do with altar girls, or especially a rigid orthodoxy–which is actually the number one reason most people LEAVE the church. Condescending attitudes of a “I’m-more_Catholic-than-you” serve to be nothing more than an unwelcoming gesture to most. I’ve seen altar girls be quite a benefit to the parishes I’ve served and they haven’t kept the boys away from the altar—why? Because someone (probably a young priest) invited the boys just as much as someone invited the girls. Maybe someone even took special care to try to invite just as many boys and girls–even if the girls were a bit more eager. Imagine that.

Whether it’s a Campus Minister, a pastor, a pastoral associate, a religious woman, a youth minister…the main elements as I see them involved here are simple when it comes to engaging young people in even thinking about their future when it comes to participating in parish life as Catholic laity or as a priest of the church.

1) Welcome
2) Encouragement of gifts
3) Support for discerning religious life not to the exclusion or preference of other ways of life. But support in that process is important.
4) Inspiration, especially in terms of faithfulness to the parish community, service to the poor, Sunday mass and personal prayer.
5) Personal interest taken by a clergy member or lay minister in the spiritual growth of the individual.

Let’s not forget that 50% of recent ordinands said they were discouraged by someone en route to the priesthood. The support of parents was crucial to many. Would a wife or child engender support or discouragement? We don’t know for sure. Probably a mix.

Oh, and by the way. The issue of allowing unmarried to continue to consider the diaconate and still be allowed to pursue marriage is not a possibility at present. However, Deacon Bill Ditewig notes that there was a clause voted on at the Second Vatican Council when the diaconate was renewed that asked if ordination to the diaconate could be conferred on younger, unmarried men without the requirement of celibacy and the vote was soundly rejected 1364 to 839 (The Emerging Diaconate, Paulist, 2007, pg. 118). What’s amazing though, as Deacon Bill points out, is that over 800 bishops didn’t object to this!

How many bishops would object to optional celibacy today? At the 2005 Synod of Bishops they held up the practice of celibacy for priests but that meeting was held behind closed doors.

OK, I’ve blathered on too long…what thinkest y’all?

Forgiveness for Father

A hanky wave (as opposed to a hat tip) to Deacon Greg for posting this today. Get one yourself and then read this amazing story of reconciliation

We need an ambulance, Rob says into his cell phone.
One needs life support now.
Jared is still inside, slumped over the back of the driver’s seat. Rob reaches out to him and finds a pulse. He’s breathing, alive.
He kneels beside Matty and begins CPR.
Minutes earlier, Rob had been driving his friends around the lake, windows down, enjoying the midnight air. They had been promising young men, studying to become priests, passionate about their faith and the people they felt called to serve.
One reckless mistake destroyed nearly all of it.
But those of faith know that out of unthinkable sorrow, unimaginable love can grow.

Read the whole story from the Casper (Wyoming) Star Tribune

Mind you, while we see in Rob a priest who was offered forgiveness for a seriously stupid mistake what about all those priests who molested innocent children. I’m not sure if I’ve seen a single one offered forgiveness, and I know I’m not exactly ready for that.

God continues to knock on the doors of all of our hearts, doesn’t He?

R.I.P. Fr. Frank Diskin, C.S.P.

I was very saddened to hear of the death of a great Paulist, Fr. Frank Diskin, C.S.P. who my wife and I would visit in the nursing home from time to time when we lived in New York. We had come to know Fr. Frank (or Padre Francisco, as I often called him) during his retirement years at St. Paul the Apostle. While Fr. Frank lived a long and healthy life finally dying at the old age of 92, there is always a certain sadness that comes with death and my own sadness today comes from not being able to attend his funeral.

Three quick great stories about Fr. Diskin:

The first is that we attended a parish function together and we sat at the same dinner table. Fr. Frank said to me, “Hey Mike, could you pass the salt?”

As i reached for it, a rotund middle aged woman said loudly, “You shouldn’t have salt, Father, it’s no good for you.”

I looked stunned. Frank was a slender and vibrant old man at 84. I don’t remember a day that he was sick until he was 90. I had to say something.

“HOLD ON!” I said in my own New York dulcet tone.

“Excuse me,” I said to the woman. “But if you don’t mind my asking, what is your blood pressure usually?”

“Oh it’s way too high. 200/90.”

“Uh-huh. And what is your cholesterol reading?”

Again she repeated, “Yeah it’s high…over 250.”

“OK…hey Fr. Frank. What’s your weight?”


“What’s your cholesterol reading?”

“150 or something like that.”

“Frank, what’s your blood pressure?”

“Perfect. 120/65.”

“Fr. Frank what, dare I ask is your pulse rate.”


I looked at the woman and smiled. And said,

“Fr. Frank…here is your salt and have some butter for that roll–not margarine, take the good stuff. And don’t get up! I’m going to fetch you a BEER.”

I looked at that woman and said tersely, “LEAVE HIM ALONE! When you’re in as good of shape as he is, then you can tell him what he can and can’t eat.”

The second story comes from one of Fr. Frank’s usual visits to my office. About once every other week, Padre Francisco would come visit me in my office, just to say hi. I have this poster in my office of old baseball cards. Fr. Frank was a huge Red Sox fan. His beloved Boston was always a place that he longed to be and he was so excited when the Red Sox finally won the series and disappointed that he fell asleep during the World Series clincher before being able to see them win it all.

So Frank looked at the poster and said, “Hey, that’s pretty good! Ted Williams, Willie Mays…those guys were great!”

I replied back, “Yeah, my mother was a crazy NY Giants fan and she always loved those guys too.”

Frank continued, “Let me see now..” as he looked over the cards to see who he could recall.

“Ya know, I saw Ruth play. And I saw Cobb play pretty late in his career. I was little then. I sold peanuts in Fenway Park as a kid.”

“Really!?” I said. “They let kids do that back then.”

“Sure. Mike, you probably won’t believe this but I saw Honus Wagner play a game.”

“Frank, he stopped playing in 1917! You weren’t even born! Unless you’re a lot older than you say you are! Hey Frank, were you here when Fr. Hecker (the Paulist founder) made his first promises too (1858!)?”

He laughed and punched me in the arm. And said “No! But I DID see Wagner play! It was some kind of charity event and a bunch of old stars were there. Ruth, Wagner, lots of those guys in your poster. And they were still pretty good too.”


OK, a final story. Fr. Frank, loved to talk to people. In fact, he’d make conversations with random strangers all the time. Fr. Brett Hoover, C.S,P. was walking up 9th Avenue and found Fr Frank talking with a young lady. As Fr. Brett approached they ended their conversation “OK, well, I’ll see you again!” the young woman responded. She nodded at Fr. Brett and departed.

Brett looked at Frank and said, “Hey, why didn’t you introduce me to your friend?”

Frank replied simply, “Who? Her? I don’t know who the hell she is! We were just talking.”

That was clearly a “Frank moment.”

Once cancer got hold of Fr. Diskin, he was nearly 90. Or at least that was when he told me about it. He began to take falls in the rectory and they moved him to a nursing facility. My wife, who had this huge crush on him (and he knew it too!) would come to visit him with me. And he’d always shoot me a glance whenever she’d kiss him on the cheek.

He was a great evangelizer, serving in the famed Paulist Mission Band. He was pastor in Portland, Oregon and later for years in Layton, Utah, where he’d often visit friends and then returned to New York where he had served previously. He was a great friend to a growing hispanic population on the West Side of Manhattan where he started one of the first outreaches to the Hispanic community.

He was greatly devoted to the Little Flower, St Therese of Lisieux, who I know comforted him in his latter years. I’m sure she met him at the gates.

And she probably wore a Red Sox hat too.

Thanks be to God for the life of this great man and thanks to Padre Francisco for being my friend.

Why Priests Should Wear Their Collars…and why lay ministers need something to identify themselves like it

Earlier this week I went to a campus function with Fr. Pat, the pastor of our North Campus. It’s rare that I see him without his collar on, as he wears it often, especially when on “official business.”

We walked into the gross anatomy lab, as I was getting a tour of the facility from Fr. Pat and a young man was getting ready to leave. As we were about to turn the corner the young man stopped us, out of the blue.

“Excuse me, Father…”

Fr Pat turned towards him and the young man broke down in tears within seconds.

“I just found out that my grandma died about an hour ago and I wondered if you would pray with me?”

I excused myself and let Fr. Pat and the young man sit together to talk and pray for a few minutes, sensing that he wasn’t inviting me to prayer but that “the collar” called him towards an identifiable minister.

We just happened to be there that day. But had Fr. Pat not been wearing his collar or had I been by myself, that opportunity would not have presented itself. That symbol of ministry, the symbol of priesthood, the identifiable sign to this young man that said, “I can ask this guy to pray for me…I NEED him” was welcomed and not abhorred.

I could have been the campus minister there all semester, but for those not readily aware of me, or of my position (which I fear is most students, especially in the med school–one because I’m new and two, because many aren’t regular churchgoers) would never have dared to ask me the same question.

Jesus asked us to “go out to all the world and tell the good news” and to “not hide our light under a bushel basket” but for the unaware, or the agnostic, or the sporadic attendee, we all need to be welcome signs of Christ’s presence. For priests an easy way to accomplish this task is to wear the collar. For nuns, a habit perhaps (although most have “kicked the habit”–however many young nuns are trying to be more intentional about wearing theirs and some like the Felician Sisters here wear a very identifiable pectoral cross) does the trick as well. But for us lay ministers…it’s more difficult. I’m pretty vocal about who I am, introducing myself to all I meet as the Campus Minister, but it’s not as easily recognized. I’m considering getting a golf shirt with “campus minister” scrawled on the crest, maybe with a cross? Maybe I wear a cross around my neck over my clothes? Deacons have an identifiable lapel pin, but even that “whispers” their presence, especially to the young. Many deacons like to keep their presence as lay people in a parish and have found that “looking like a lay person” outside of the liturgy often makes them “more approachable” to many. However, I would argue that this is true only to those who are already initiated into parish life. What about when you head off to do prison ministry, or head to the hospital? For deacons, I wonder if their diagonal stole might serve more than a liturgical purpose, even over street clothes?

A friend of mine was a volunteer down at ground zero after September 11th and he reported something similar. That symbol of the priesthood invited him to be a presence for many. When workers found two vertebrae in the wreckage, the priest was immediately found and a makeshift prayer service for those remains occurred–at the workers request.

So I’d like to hear your stories, priests and ministers…for those who wear their collars, tell me the good and the bad of wearing it. For women religious, how do you make yourself present to those you minister to? Campus and other lay ministers, how much harder is this for you? For those in the marketing or fashion field, what might you suggest for us lay Catholic ministers?

Maybe our friend Peacebang, whose blog should be on your must-read list might have an idea or two as well?

Don’t misunderstand….this is not about recognition in terms of haughtyness…but rather it’s about serving the needs of those seeking someone in their time of need. With few priests around and some not wearing collars, I wonder how many opportunities fall by the wayside?

Lest We Forget…All Soldiers Should Not Be Decorated Today

Especially this idiot…

From and a h/t to Al Swingle for pointing me to this one…

Alexios Marakis, a Greek Orthodox priest visiting the U.S., got lost in Tampa and tried to stop and ask directions from Marine reservist Jasen D. Bruce. But instead of offering help, “Bruce struck the priest on the head with a tire iron.” The reservist believed Marakis, who spoke limited English, was an Arab terrorist. Bruce chased the priest for three blocks, “and even called 911 to say that an Arabic man tried to rob him.” According to a news release:

“During the chase, the suspect called 911 and claimed an Arabic male attempted to rob him and he was going to take him into custody,” a Tampa Police Department news release states. “When officers arrived, the suspect claimed the man was a terrorist.”

Way to give us something NOT to celebrate today, Marine.

In Boise with the Recently Ordained

It’s been an interesting two days with the recently ordained priests (1-5 years ordained, that is) of the Boise Diocese. I was invited to come and give them a series of workshops on both young adults and how to use technology in ministry.

The group has an international flair with several from Mexico and Latin America, one Polish priest, an Asian and two anglo-americans. I asked what world events may have caused them to question God’s existence or even helped them see God working in the world differently than they may have expected and some new events came to fore:

An Earthquake in South America
Elections in Guatemala
The first McDonald’s in China (which meant Communism was becoming more open to Western ideas)
The fall of communism and the Soviet Union.

Awesome conversations and people here are beginning to use technology well. One priest already has a radio show and will begin to podcast it now. Others may start blogging. Text messaging has been a huge mode of communicating upcoming events and so the diocese seems ripe for using Twitter and Facebook more regularly. Upheaval of Diocesan and parish-based websites can now happen with more ease as well.

It’s always great to see brother priests bond together in a somewhat fraternity-style of agape-love for each other. They rib each other about their own shortcomings and tease each other in a myriad of ways.

I even heard about one of the worst homily ideas ever (not given by anyone who was present here). A priest wielded a gun from the pulpit trying to make a point about the dangers and destruction of sin in one’s life. He sent the entire congregation running for cover! Hysterical…well, kinda dopey…but still, a great story nonetheless.

And nobody got hurt!

Please pray for these fine men and their Bishop as they embrace the church in the great state of Idaho.

Your Communion Isn’t Good Enough

From Catholic News Agency

Lancashire, England, Jul 30, 2009 / 03:17 am (CNA).- An Anglican cathedral is trying to accommodate those of its faithful who do not accept female clergy by allowing parishioners to decide whether to accept communion bread blessed by its female canon or by a male priest. Blackburn Cathedral in Lancashire recently installed Rev. Sue Penfold as a residential canon. Cathedral canon Andrew Hindley explained the decision to This Is Lancashire, saying it was agreed by all the clergy that it was the best way to handle what they called a “mixed economy.”

The congregation can choose whether to receive communion bread blessed by Rev. Penfold or bread blessed by a male priest at the main cathedral service on Sundays at 10:30 a.m.

After reading this story I have a feeling that in the Catholic Church there is an equivalent snubbing going on. There are a good deal of people who won’t receive communion from a lay minister or a deacon and will go out of their way to receive communion from the priest.

Um, last time I checked we were all giving out Jesus.