I have always been appreciative of the celibate Roman Catholic clergy. There is clear Scriptural support for the way that this vocation stands in between this world and the next as a sign of the world to come, in which we shall not be marrying but shall be “like the angels.” It is not my opinion that it should be changed in the west, or that changing it would somehow fix all our problems.
Furthermore, I have been blessed with so many excellent priests, all of whom seem to “do celibacy well.” As a woman, I feel I can speak for most when I say that certain people exude more of a sexual energy than others. It is a blessing to have the spiritual fatherhood of a man who does not emanate that. I am sure it is not automatic but stems from discipline and the grace given to them by God to fulfill their chosen vocation. As I write this, I realize this is important for all priests, married or not; but, like most, I am conditioned to think that this must be harder for a man who is committed to a life without marriage and sexual intimacy. Do we not all have to wage this battle, married or not? Chastity is for all.
Since our former priest left, we have the still somewhat unique situation here in America of a married Byzantine Catholic priest, with a wife and two daughters. He is not the first married Catholic priest in our area. There is a former Methodist pastor who was ordained a Roman Catholic priest and received the permission of Bl. John Paul II to be ordained. As an Eastern Catholic, having a married priest shouldn’t be a novelty, so to speak, since it is a long-standing reality that married men get ordained in the East, but for a long time, the presence of married Eastern Catholic priests in America has been suppressed by Roman Catholic Bishops. The ones who were here were brought in from other countries, rather than ordained in America.
Our new priest is from Ukraine. The courage of him and his family to be here without knowing a lot of English and to live in Alaska of all places moves me to the core. Before I knew we were getting a new priest, I had the blessing to meet his wife down at a women’s retreat in Arizona a few months ago, so it was wonderful to learn that she and the rest of the family would be joining our community. I also had the chance to get to know their two lovely daughters, who are incredibly sweet and, of course, the best of friends with every other young girl in the parish by now.
To see the two daughters bounce into Liturgy during the week and take their spots in the front row, knowing that their dad is the priest and is celebrating the Liturgy and will soon feed them Holy Communion, really touches my soul. I am not finding it weird at all that he has a family that God has created through their union. It makes me sad that some people in the Roman Church think that a married priest somehow brings less grace than a celibate one. I remember having a certain attitude, as in, “A married priest can’t give his ALL to a parish.” Well, cope with it. He is a human being. And if he has a family, why on earth shouldn’t we appreciate the beauty of that and give him the space and time that he needs to do it well?
I probably manage to turn everything into some sort of issue with cosmic significance, but to witness the power and beauty of both mysteries of holy matrimony and holy orders in one human being is very profound.
As usual, I do not think this needs to be an "either/or" thing; to have both traditions alive and well is not only possible, but a reality.