Mov­ing for­ward, 1

Sun.Star Cebu - - OPINION - OR­LANDO P. CAR­VA­JAL carvy­car­va­jal@gmail.com

This is one of two ar­ti­cles on the is­sue of a mar­ried clergy. The Catholic Church needs to move for­ward to be­ing less of an in­sti­tu­tion and more of a Chris­tian com­mu­nity. To do that she needs to re-visit the con­cept of an elite clergy man­ning her ram­parts and mar­shal­ing the faith­ful within them. The core ques­tion to ask is: “Did Christ set up a cler­i­cal elite?”

In John 4:23-24 Christ said the time is com­ing when chil­dren of the Fa­ther will wor­ship not in tem­ples made of stone but in the tem­ples of their hearts. This af­ter harshly con­demn­ing the cler­i­cal elite of the Jewish re­li­gion as hyp­ocrites that ob­served the let­ter more than the spirit of the law of Moses.

If Christ calls for wor­ship in the tem­ples of our hearts, where we are our own priests, what does that make of the elite Catholic clergy?

The early Chris­tians did not have a celi­bate male clergy. They chose from among them fel­low male or fe­male dis­ci­ples who led ex­em­plary lives to be their teach­ers, wor­ship presiders and min­is­ters to their needy or sick in body or soul. These early Chris­tian re­li­gious lead­ers, there­fore, had moral au­thor­ity se­curely an­chored on the com­mu­nity’s high es­teem of their im­i­ta­tion of Christ’s life.

To­day’s elite celi­bate clergy, on the other hand, get trained, or­dained and as­signed to min­is­ter to a com­mu­nity they do not be­long to. With all due re­spect to ad­mirable ex­cep­tions, their los­ing bat­tle to stay celi­bate and poor or de­tached from money, among other fail­ings, of­ten de­tracts from their moral au­thor­ity. Es­sen­tially or­dained to serve churches made of stone what they pri­or­i­tize is re­li­gios­ity, re­li­gion’s ve­neer, and not spir­i­tu­al­ity, re­li­gion’s core.

My the­sis, there­fore, is that teach­ers, wor­ship presiders and min­is­ters are best cho­sen by the Chris­tian com­mu­nity they be­long to on the ba­sis of their ex­em­plary lives. They can be mar­ried or sin­gle, male, fe­male or gay as we are all equal in God’s eyes. These spir­i­tual lead­ers should hold sec­u­lar jobs to sup­port them­selves and their fam­i­lies and thus avoid putting price tags on sacra­ments. In­te­grated with the com­mu­nity in this way, they would have more of the em­pa­thy of gen­uine min­is­ters and less of the aloof­ness of mere tem­ple wor­ship presiders.

Many Chris­tian com­mu­ni­ties are not able to cel­e­brate the Eucharist in mem­ory of Christ be­cause there is not enough celi­bate priests to go around. Yet the in­sti­tu­tional Church con­tin­ues to pri­or­i­tize the preser­va­tion of celibacy over Christ’s call to “do this in mem­ory of me” when Chris­tian com­mu­ni­ties can pick from among them ex­em­plary mem­bers to be their min­is­ters.

In this con­text, a mar­ried but still male Catholic clergy is only one small step to­wards a less elit­ist clergy and a more Chris­tian com­mu­nity of equals.

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