Monday, May 11, 2009

Time for a change of habit?


A story out of Florida provides a good stepping-off point for a discussion on a longstanding, and controversial, practice of the Catholic Church. The Rev. Alberto Cutie, a popular Miami priest known as "Father Oprah" for the relationship advice he dispenses on his archdiocese's radio broadcasts heard throughout the Americas and Spain, told the CBS "This Morning" show today that while he still thinks priests should be celibate, he's thinking about leaving the Catholic Church because he's been romantically involved with a woman for two years. The Puerto Rican-born Cutie made the announcement after a Spanish-language magazine published photos of Cutie and his lady friend kissing and hugging at a bar and on a beach. While there is some merit in a church or any other organization building and nurturing its traditions, there also is benefit on adapting to changing times and circumstances. And it would seem to be time for the Catholic Church to allow priests to marry, at least in the Western Church where such a move has broad support among rank-and-file Catholics and the church is scrambling to find candidates for the priesthood. The celibacy rule does not eliminate sexual urges, but it might cause priests to try to relieve those urges in secretive, harmful ways that have devastating effects on victims. There are child molesters in all walks of life (media people included), but no singular profession seems to have had such a concentration of molesters as the priesthood. And for a religion that goes well out of its way to prevent gay people from securing equal rights, the priesthood certainly seems to attract a lot of homosexuals. One would think that priests also are expected to avoid masturbation and sexual fantasies. It's all just ridiculously unrealistic, just as it seems odd to me that priests counsel people about their marriages. It's like someone coming to me for diet tips. I'm sure people will make the argument that being celibate allows priests to devote themselves to the church, but married clergy in other denominations seem to be able to balance family life and their religious duties. Others don't want to break with tradition, but the Catholic Church also has had traditions of mandatory Latin Mass, not eating meat on Friday and conducting bloody Crusades, but those have fallen by the wayside. The church has survived English-language Masses, Friday frankfurters and no longer gaining converts at the point of a sword. It probably can continue as a viable religion with married priests. And hey, while we're at it, why not ordain women? It seems like a no-brainer to double your pool of potential clergy.

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52 Comments:

Blogger Ellipses said...

Why do you hate jesus so much? Christ specifically said in the Gospel of Derek that "priests, that is, the chief promotions officers (CPO) of the global tax-exempt part-time oration conglomerate known as the Catholic Church are to be celibate bachelors. They must also be over the age of 25 because my father, almighty god, is not a fan of youthful exuberance. You don't really have to pay much attention to this for several centuries, though... it's like a nookie time bomb."

May 11, 2009 at 1:20 PM  
Blogger Mike Jones said...

Brant, why are you even addressing this topic? You are not Catholic, nor do you believe in God. How the Catholic church restricts its priests' social lives has no effect on you.

May 11, 2009 at 1:53 PM  
Blogger Brant said...

I'm just discussing an issue, Mike. I guess, under your restrictions, I should be barred from having an opinion on women's issues, gay-rights issues, issues affecting the black community, issues affecting the young or elderly - anything, apparently, that does not involve middle-aged atheist men. It's called an opinion. I'm entitled to have one. As are you. You're welcome to add anything useful you might have to the discussion. I know a lot of good Catholics - well, they're not all that good, because they use birth control, support gay rights and believe in equality for women in the church - and I'd like to see their religion thrive, because it does add a lot to their lives. This is one way I think the church could benefit and further its mission. Do you disagree?

May 11, 2009 at 2:03 PM  
Blogger Mike Jones said...

You may opine about anything you wish.

But here's a parallel: I don't watch basketball, never played basketball and don't really care about the NBA ... so would it make any sense if I complained about the NBA's salary cap rules, the league's drug-testing policy or Commissioner David Stern? It really doesn't affect me, so why would I even bring it up.

You make point that allowing marriage might reduce sex abuse scandals in the church. That's a fine point. But this particular topic is about a priest who fell in love with a woman and now he's no longer in the clergy. End of story. This issue really is between him and God. Doesn't really affect any of us.

May 11, 2009 at 2:18 PM  
Blogger Brant said...

I don't think a blog about issues in the news should be restricted only to items that personally affect the blogger. I'm just trying to foster a discussion on a topic, and I'd be glad to hear your opinions on the issue at hand.

May 11, 2009 at 2:33 PM  
Blogger Brant said...

By the way, my wife is a devoted Christian who works in the religious field, so I do, indeed, have a personal interest in the workings of organized religion. I've always been fascinated by religion, its successes and failures, even though I am not an adherent.

May 11, 2009 at 2:36 PM  
Blogger Ellipses said...

I don't know about brant... but I have a HUGE interest in religion... I don't think that atheism and religious interest are mutually exclusive.

I don't think that allowing priests to marry will have much of an effect on the rate of pedophilia within the church... I don't see how the touch of a woman relieves the hankering for little boys.

It is ironic, though, that religions... based on an eternal and everlasting God... are so malleable in their standards, their rules, and their qualifications. The early church elders, the presbyter-in latin, were often married. Hell, Peter was married!

So, from a historical standpoint... from a standpoint of the catholic church being a direct lineage from Jesus himself, I'd say "go for it!" Stick to your guns. Stand by your principles!Stick steadfastly to ancient traditions that may or may not have changed several times over the centuries. But don't be surprised when you influence wanes.

Or... go ahead and change it up! It's not like there is ACTUALLY a god that gives a rat's ass whether the guy doing the talking every week files single or married-filing jointly.

For hundreds of years, unbaptized babies were herded into purgatory to wait for the next harrowing... but that was distasteful... nobody likes to think of babies going anywhere but heaven. So, Joe Ratzinger spins around three times, spits on his heel, and signs away Limbus Infantium and BILLIONS of babies go straight to heaven. Viola!

May 11, 2009 at 2:48 PM  
Anonymous nomen nescio said...

At the very least it would provide the church with a greater number or potential priests. There are plenty of good Catholics who would otherwise serve God if it were not for the vow of celibacy. It would probably also help the church become a little more "user friendly." The world is a little more complicated now than it used to be and simply having faith is no longer enough for some. Not that faith is useless, but some people also look for actionable solutions outside of prayer. Sometimes it is nice to know that the person giving you advice has experienced the same sort of challenges.

I am a Catholic, by the way.

May 11, 2009 at 3:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's probably a good bet that Father Oprah will soon be sitting and chatting with the actual Oprah. I see a book deal and made-for-TV movie in this guy's future...

--Brad Hundt

May 11, 2009 at 3:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm not catholic, but I have always thought that a priest, who has never been married, has little credibility when trying to counsel the engaged or the married. As for "it doesn't affect me," I'm a believer in the John Donne school of philosophy: "No man is an island, entire of himself." What affects my fellow man, affects me. If allowing priest to marry makes them more in tune with the problems of "the flock," by all means, allow it.

May 11, 2009 at 7:19 PM  
Blogger Brant said...

This just in from the AP:

NEW YORK – A Roman Catholic archbishop who resigned in 2002 over a sex and financial scandal involving a man describes his struggles with being gay in an upcoming memoir about his decades serving the church.
Archbishop Rembert Weakland, former head of the Milwaukee archdiocese, said in an interview Monday that he wrote about his sexual orientation because he wanted to be candid about "how this came to life in my own self, how I suppressed it, how it resurrected again."
Called "A Pilgrim in a Pilgrim Church: Memoirs of a Catholic Archbishop," the book is set to be released in June.

May 12, 2009 at 6:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Two trick pony: Church/Christianity, or homosexual relationships.

May 12, 2009 at 7:00 AM  
Blogger Brant said...

I have no idea what you mean. Can you explain?

May 12, 2009 at 7:21 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I'm not catholic, but I have always thought that a priest, who has never been married, has little credibility when trying to counsel the engaged or the married."

Brant, Do you know of any obstetricians who delivered themselves? Why would you let one deliver your child?

May 12, 2009 at 9:23 AM  
Blogger Brant said...

That wins the prize as the world's stupidest attempt at an analogy. And the original comment wasn't even mine.

May 12, 2009 at 9:47 AM  
Anonymous Joe Tuscano said...

Brant

You have fallen into the media trap that goes with watching too much national news. When the stories of abuse hit around 2001, they were the lead item on many news shows, including the national stations.

They gave the impression that one of the first requirements for a priest, after receiving the collar, was to dip into the altar boy pool.

I read this in Time magazine at the time but also found it on line today.

"The John Jay Report commissioned by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops was based on surveys completed by the Roman Catholic dioceses in the United States. The surveys provided information from diocesan files on each priest accused of sexual abuse and on each of the priest's victims. That information was filtered, so that the research team did not have access to the names of the accused priests or the dioceses where they worked. The report presented aggregate findings. The dioceses were encouraged to issue reports of their own based on the surveys that they had completed. The Report found accusations against 4,392 priests in the USA, about 4% of all priests."

Wanna guess what the national average is for sexual abuse?
About four percent.

Is one abusive priest too many? Of course. But the national exposure these incidents received blew it completely out of proportion, made priesthood the punchline of party jokes, and stained the profession.

Worse, it made priests very easy targets. Most live up to their vows, some can not. It's not a perfect process.

May 12, 2009 at 9:49 AM  
Blogger Brant said...

Point taken, Joe. The vast majority of priests are not pedophiles. But my point is that there likely is not another single profession in the United States in which 4 percent of the employees are child molesters. The 4 percent national figure is spread out among people involved in a vast number of occupations. For priests, that 4 percent figure represents one of every 25 guys wearing a collar. To me, that's a very high number.

May 12, 2009 at 9:55 AM  
Blogger Ellipses said...

I'm sorry... math timeout

let's say that there are only 100 professions available in the United States, with "priest" being 1 of them.

If Priest Pedophiles = 4% and none of the other professions get above 4%... unless there are a huge number of priests relative to every other profession, the average cannot end up being 4% across all professions.

It would stand to reason that 4% of construction works, 4% of cashiers, 4% of mechanics, 4% of postal employees, 4% of fast food workers, 4% of consultants, lawyers, doctors, farmers, sanitation workers and glass blowers would be pedophiles.

With a national average of 4%, that means 1 out of 25 PEOPLE are pedophiles... no matter what the profession is...

May 12, 2009 at 10:03 AM  
Blogger Ellipses said...

That said... you would expect a priest to under-index on child rape vs the general population... you know, being a man of god and all :-)

Like how you'd expect personal trainers to not be big sloppy fat chicks... how you'd expect accountants to not have multiple bankruptcies on their record...

May 12, 2009 at 10:07 AM  
Anonymous Joe said...

I was told there would be no math required if I posted here.

BTW, I agree women should be allowed to become priests. I don't think I'll see it in my day.

May 12, 2009 at 10:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

An obstetrician is trained to deliver babies. Are all priests trained in counseling, and if they are, does such training include alternate ways to solve marital problems, or merely the "company policy?" I want to be counseled by someone who has no agenda and is not judgmental. The first time I went to marriage counseling, the female conselor told me that perhaps I should "live the fantasy" of being a bachelor again. Meanwhile, she told my wife to leave me because all men are no good. It wasn't until years later that we found out she was going through a divorce at the time. In my dealings with priests, I've learned that interpretation of Catholicism varies widely.

May 12, 2009 at 1:19 PM  
Blogger grog_moorehead said...

I agree with Brant. I think a lot more Godly men would chose the priesthood if they were allowed to marry. There does seem to be a dark connection between pedophiles and priests. I'm not sure if allowing the heterosexual men to marry would stop pedophiles from entering into the priesthood. But at least it would be a step in the right direction. It would disturb me a lot less if I was Catholic and my priest was married. Is this discussion going to open up the thoughts of gay men being normal??? AAAHHHHH! I’m sorry but I don’t want a gay priest laying his hands on me, and blessing me with a prayer, then touching a boy’s genitals soon after. Yes, I agree with Brant, let the priests marry!

May 12, 2009 at 2:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your wife (Brant Shield) is not you nor your motivations.
Deal with your own motivations, not use your wife as a shield.

May 12, 2009 at 2:38 PM  
Blogger Brant said...

My motivations as to what? Anyway, the fact that my wife works in the field of religion gives me a good reason to be interested in that area. Are you not interested in the work your spouse does. Also, most of my friends of Christians. Just because I don't subscribe to any religion doesn't mean that I don't have interest in the subject or should be barred from talking about it. I suppose that because I'm not a woman, I should be barred from talking about women's rights. You're making no sense at all. You ascribe motivations to me but don't delineate what they supposedly are. I find religion to be at once a powerful force for good in people's lives but at the same time, on its lunatic fringe, one of the chief sources of hate in our American society and around the world. It's a subject everyone should be interested in, whether they be agnostic, atheist, born-again Christian, Jew, Muslim or tree worshipper. Now, you tell me what you think my motivations are. And while you're at it, why don't you opine about the real topics of this post.

May 12, 2009 at 3:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Come on people! Let's have a reality check. Pedophiles and men with gay tendencies have always flocked to the Catholic church, because it provides an escape for them. This is common knowledge among Catholics (yes, Irish Catholic here). Becoming a priest is a far more noble thing than becoming a pedophile or gay to some people. The priests who get caught (and I'm convinced there's way more pedophiles than we know about) are the ones who answer nature's call.

Conservative friends of mine tell me that the bible calls being homosexual wrong. I'm not sure about that, but the stigma attached to it certainly has driven many devout men to celibacy in general, not just to become priests.

And, as for the Catholic church changing its basic tenants, why should they? Seriously, it's by far the most successful WESTERN religion ever. Sure, the number of new members may be waning in places like the US, but there are still way more Catholics in this country than any other religion. We would all love to see more priests, women priests and married priests. But, I think people like stability and stubborness in their religion. It shows that the church is NOT politically correct or willing to change with the times, but requires that followers change their behaviour.

And, the statement we so often hear that "the world is so much more complicated now," is bull. The world is different, it has changed, but people are the same, will always be the same, and will always sin in the same ways. Just ask any police officer who cleans homicides off the streets on a regular basis.

May 12, 2009 at 4:51 PM  
Blogger Brant said...

Good comment. The only point on which I would quibble with you is the statement about Catholicism requiring followers to change their behavior. The vast majority of Catholics, like most adherents of every other religion, follow the rules that they want to follow. What percentage of Catholic women of child-bearing age do you think use some form of birth control. I'm guessing most of them, and by a wide margin. The church might expect its parishioners to follow the same rules as have been in place forever, but a growing number of the flock are choosing to act otherwise. None of us is perfect, and we'll make mistakes and fall short of being the people we really want to be, but what I'm talking about with the birth control is a deliberate act of defying church teachings. And might I say, I certainly don't blame them.

May 12, 2009 at 5:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, you are definitely right about Catholics picking and choosing which "laws" to follow.

But, when you look to Latin countries and Latinos in the US - nearly 100% Catholic - you see far less birth control and other cherry picking. Could that be due to poverty and less access to good health care? Probably, but that surely doesn't account for all of it.

And, it should be pointed that the Catholic religion does shun scofflaws. People who don't marry in the church or live with a companion are considered deliberate sinners and are instructed not to take Holy Communion or other sacraments. Being on the receiving end of that, I can tell you it's pretty brutal, but I do understand the thinking behind it.

I just feel like we consider ourselves the best, most forward-thinking, intelligent civilization ever and we can't understand why the Catholic church wouldn't want to bend to our wishes.

Many of us in this country don't see the big picture.

May 12, 2009 at 5:13 PM  
Blogger Brant said...

I would agree about Latin America, and I've said before that, mainly as it pertains to the Third World and underdeveloped nations, I think the Catholic Church's stance on birth control, in the face of overpopulation and rampant poverty, borders on the criminal. But, hey, gotta keep making more Catholics, right?

May 12, 2009 at 5:47 PM  
Blogger Ellipses said...

I agree that every generation thinks they are special and complicated in a way that previous generations were not... BUT, I also think that in many cases, there is truth in that.

Look, when they were building a veritable castle around the tomb of St. Peter, the world was mired in superstition, uncertainty, and mystery. We certainly still have our share of each of those things, but a lot of issues that are spelled out in the bible have had the veil decisively pulled away.

I can't see how having kids until your uterus falls out can be seen as beneficial to any society, let alone latin america.

At some point, doesn't it ALL end up being in the same basket as eating meat on Fridays?

I'm with anon as far as the church not changing for the sake of staying current with trends... That's fine... but the church WILL get called to task by outsiders and members alike when their policies cause death and suffering all over the world.

So, sure... keep things as you wish in the church... but try to keep it out of public policy...

May 12, 2009 at 7:12 PM  
Blogger Dale Lolley said...

The marriage issue with priests stems from the Council of Carthage in the late fourth century. Like many other things the Catholic Church has done, it was added after the fact, ie. the whole fish on Friday thing.
It evolved over the years to a total ban on marriage.

May 13, 2009 at 2:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's not just Catholics who consume their religion ala carte. Most major religions have changed and continue to change in an effort to see their messages reach more people. Jesus walked from village to village; does that mean we're expected to shun methods of transportation other than our feet? God made me nearsighted; does that mean I shouldn't get glasses? If you believe in a god that created you, why assume that god wants you to blindly accept tradition when you clearly have a brain that is intended to be used?
Use your common sense.

I see just as much wisdom in allowing priests to marry as I see in allowing meat eating on Fridays and saying the Mass in languages other than Latin.

The message from younger Christians of all denominations is pretty clear: make the church relevant. That's why contemporary services using rock music are drawing 500+ each week while traditional services in some areas struggle to draw 150.

Of course if the catholic church changes too much, it may as well be Protestant, and they can't agree, either.

May 13, 2009 at 2:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This thread has so many posts that have no idea of the difference between Christianity and religion. Catholicism is one denomination of Christianity. I think not one post bases their idea on what is to be done or not done on the Bible. Failing to use the Bible as the sole source of all matters regarding faith and life, leads to all these bizarre ideas, all of man's minds. To be sure, some of man's ideas (not biblical) are part of some practices. To me, that makes them bogus. Anytime some group within Christianity chooses to make their own rules, their own practices, the outcome is never good. In fact, the Bible often discusses what went wrong in historical settings when this happened. So, the deviation is nothing new, been around for millenniums.

These issues have no room for opinions, only principles found within the pages of Scripture. Conforming to "modern" culture (whatever that means), staffing shortages, or curbing abhorrent behaviors and other such nonsense has no place in determining practices within the domain of Christianity.

These threads are useful to demonstrate how little so many people know about the Christian faith. Ignorance has never stopped useless opinions being offered, and will not do so in the future.

May 13, 2009 at 9:22 PM  
Blogger Brant said...

So, do you follow the Old Testament, the New Testament, or both?

May 14, 2009 at 6:27 AM  
Blogger Brant said...

So, do you follow the Old Testament, the New Testament, or both?

May 14, 2009 at 6:28 AM  
Blogger Ellipses said...

That method of nomenclature works just fine within Catholicism because for a good chunk of Christian history, Catholic = Christian and Christian = Catholic.

What has been misconstrued thusfar?

May 14, 2009 at 6:37 AM  
Blogger Brant said...

A couple of other questions: How do you explain the inconsistencies and factual errors in the Gospels without calling into question the factual integrity and validity of the entire New Testament? Also, do you consider the Bible, the Old and/or New Testament, to be absolute and literal, or is the Bible open to interpretation?

May 14, 2009 at 6:49 AM  
Blogger Brant said...

Sorry for the double post earlier. Computers are evil.

May 14, 2009 at 7:08 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

last couple of posts about Old and New, all irrelevant. Not enough understanding here to even ask good questions.

May 14, 2009 at 12:56 PM  
Blogger Brant said...

In other words, too cowardly to stake out a position and answer the questions. The questions I asked are central to a person's belief system. I'm just trying to start a new area of discussion, but if the flesh (or mind) is weak, I understand.

May 14, 2009 at 1:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No interest in learning here, only bashing. Same old stuff, over and over again. Nobody will bother to answer such questions after reading all the earlier comments. Some find so much fun in just bashing, ridiculing, mocking, but have no interest in learning enough for good questions.

What is such a position called? I think I know.

May 14, 2009 at 4:49 PM  
Blogger Brant said...

Some people have no interest in an intelligent debate, or maybe they're just out of ammunition. As I said, I understand if you're afraid to answer because it might expose some holes in the underpinnings of your prejudices.

May 14, 2009 at 5:02 PM  
Blogger Brant said...

It gets very quiet in here when you ask someone to be specific about the basis and parameters of their beliefs.

May 16, 2009 at 6:21 PM  
Blogger Ellipses said...

Just hit the play arrow above the visual readout of the audio

http://www.freesound.org/samplesViewSingle.php?id=420

May 16, 2009 at 6:26 PM  
Blogger Brant said...

Yep, that's it in a nutshell.

May 17, 2009 at 2:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is no interest here for intelligent debate. That has been made clear repeatedly by those who only choose to bash. As somebody stated earlier, no interest in learning. It is the same old thing. The questions being asked are not for learning, but rhetorical in a futile attempt to make a point. Doesn't work.

For those suggesting silence is speaking, you are showing your ignorance of the Bible regarding these matters.

May 18, 2009 at 6:58 AM  
Blogger Brant said...

I'm just trying to determine a point of reference for that person's beliefs. I think they're afraid that if they get too specific, they might open themselves up to some uncomfortable questions.

May 18, 2009 at 7:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry to disappoint you Brant. I participate in open discussions on these matters four times per week, as part of lectures and classes. And, I participate in other online forums and discussions on spiritual matters, biblical interpretation, and points of doctrine. At this point, nothing is uncomfortable. I know I have a basis for my beliefs, ones that have been developed over a long time, with much study and reading. At my age, I've heard it all, and the stuff coming from places like this is not worth the keyboard that created the trolling questions. You know your intent here, and don't hide it very well. The veil is very thin, and does not screen out much at all. Sure, you are free to dabble in the superfluous and the irrelevant. It just might sound important to you. But some of us have a greater mission and greater purpose. Thank you for giving us fodder to support your side of things in other discussions. Over and out.

May 18, 2009 at 10:36 PM  
Blogger Brant said...

I'll stick by my contention that you, or others, won't outline the framework for your belief system because you're afraid there might be a structural deficiency that would make it difficult for you to support opposition to gay marriage, etc. But it's nice of you to say you're going to support my side of things in other discussions. Glad to see you're coming around.

May 19, 2009 at 6:48 AM  
Blogger Brant said...

Also, I'm guessing that when you participate in your frequent "open discussions" on these issues, there's a whole lot of "preaching to the choir." Do you all wear your matching Fred Phelps "I hate fags" T-shirts to these events?

May 19, 2009 at 6:52 AM  
Blogger Brant said...

I apologize if that last comment was a tad harsh. Haven't had my first glass of human blood this a.m.

May 19, 2009 at 7:57 AM  
Blogger Ellipses said...

No no no... the t-shirts say GOD hates fags...

May 19, 2009 at 8:04 AM  
Blogger Brant said...

I stand corrected. I should've checked with Phony first.

May 19, 2009 at 8:16 AM  

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