March 6, 2000
volume 11, no. 46

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    Pat Ludwa, a committed lay Catholic from Cleveland, has been asked to contribute, on a regular basis, a lay person's point of view on the Church today. We have been impressed with his insight and the clear logic he brings to the table from his "view from the pew." In all humility, by his own admission, he feels he has very little to offer, but we're sure you'll agree with us that his viewpoint is exactly what millions of the silent majority of Catholics believe and have been trying to say as well. Pat puts it in words that help all of us better understand and convey to others what the Church teaches and we must believe.

    Today Pat shows how society has sadly influenced many in the Church more than the Church has influenced society. This is especially true of priests today, those consecrated ones who have devoted their lives to Jesus Christ and willingly take up their crosses for Him to minister to His flocks. But modern thinking, political correctness and a fear of either being labeled or falling into temptation have isolated the priests from their appointed rounds, prompting some to think if rules were relaxed things would be better. Where once pastors and associates tended to the spiritual needs of their parishioners as caring physicians of the soul, today many are so enveloped with the 'business of busyness' that they have less and less time for the spiritual necessities that provide so much source of grace for them and their parishioners or fellow priests. Through this obsession they concentrate more on the temporal needs of the parish than the spiritual welfare and all suffer as satan rejoices. That is the gist of his column today, The War on Priests

    For past columns by Pat Ludwa, click on VIEW FROM THE PEW Archives   If you want to send him ideas or feedback, you can reach him at

The War on Priests

        "Having grown somewhat tired of waiting (for the Vatican to remove the discipline of religious celibacy), LeBlanc (a former Paulist priest who is now married) can be found these days on a list at the provocatively titled Internet site Rent-A-Priest ­ 350 married clergymen willing to perform wedding ceremonies for Catholics whom the Church won’t serve. He performs about a dozen marriages a year for divorced Catholics or those who want to reduce their vows in the great outdoors." (Celibacy carries a heavy toll in Catholic Church by Steve Chambers; Newhouse News Service)

        I read this with great interest and sadness. Won’t serve? Or can’t? To marry Catholics who have only divorced would be to reject Christ’s clear teaching on this. "'But from the beginning of creation, 'God made them male and female.' 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one.' So they are no longer two but one. What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder.' And in the house the disciples asked Him again about this matter. And He said to them, 'Whoever divorces his wife and marries another, commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery'" (Mark 10:6-12).

        The Church recognizes that a marriage may have been entered into wrongly or fraudulently. In such cases that have been shown to be such, no marriage took place, the marriage never occurred, it’s annulled. Annulments can’t (and shouldn’t) be taken lightly just as marriage shouldn’t be taken lightly. Maybe because, over 30 some years, marriage has been so badly damaged, it carries over into the priesthood and religious life.

        A seemingly logical ‘magic bullet’ to end the loss of priests, or to entice young men to enter the priesthood, is to remove the discipline of celibacy for the priests. Yet, just as marital vows hold little weight today, it holds that priestly vows are likewise to be taken lightly.

        As we grew up and learned the Sacraments, Matrimony (marriage) and Holy Orders were two sides of the same coin. They were always linked together. Both are vocations. One has a man and a woman declare before God (why the Church frowns on marriages said in the great outdoors since the church is the ‘house of God’, holy ground) to become one. To live for the other, to support each other and live and grow in His love.

        On the other side, a man declares before God that he will forsake all for the sake of the Kingdom of God. That instead of being a husband and father for a wife and a few children, he will be a Father for all of God’s children. Giving his very life to God for their sake.

        It’s little wonder, then, that St. Paul speaks of this. "To the married I give charge, not I but the Lord, that the wife should not separate from her husband (but if she does, let her remain single or else be reconciled to her husband)--and that the husband should not divorce his wife" (1 Corinthians 7:10-11).
    And later says:
    "I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man is anxious about the affairs of the Lord, how to please the Lord; but the married man is anxious about worldly affairs, how to please his wife, and his interests are divided. And the unmarried woman or girl is anxious about the affairs of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit; but the married woman is anxious about worldly affairs, how to please her husband" (1 Corinthians 7: 32-34).

        Now, St. Paul doesn’t make celibacy a requirement for a priest or a sister, but recognizes the conflicts that this would cause. In fact, the Church, long ago, saw this danger even before society did. How many divorce because one sees the other serving their career more than them? Who does the poor priest serve in faithful duty when called, God, or his wife? Priests who left the Church to follow Martin Luther, and married, wrote to their friends who remained in the Church, of the difficulties of serving both wife and God. Many bemoaned their decision to leave the Church, but by that time, they had children who they also had a duty to.

        "No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other" (Luke 16:13). Though this passage deals directly with riches, doesn’t it also apply here? To whom would a married priest owe his first loyalty? God, or his wife?

        These questions have to be asked, and have to be answered. The removal of celibacy isn’t the ‘magic bullet’ as some seem to think. In fact, it could make matters even worse. Would the removal of celibacy really increase the number of priests? Or is it a straw man? A false argument? After all, if we are to believe the media, 48.5% of priests are gay and some 55.1% of the seminarians are. (James G. Wolf’s 1989 assessment) What would marriage do for that? Unless they also propose to allow gay marriages? Another has the number at 20% (A Secret World: Sexuality and the Search for Celibacy; A.W. Richard Sipe; 1990) What of the supposed 25% who are involved in heterosexual liaisons or the supposed 2% who active pedophiles? (Ibid) What good would marriage do for them? If their vows as priests mean nothing, what difference would a vow of marriage make? (In these ‘conflicting’ statistics, I recall the words of Benjamin Disraeli; "There are lies, damn lies, and statistics.")

        Again, we don’t need to find bandaid solutions, we need faith. We need to see the real issues at hand. First, we know that many men are made priests who shouldn’t be. Vocations aren’t encouraged as they once were, either out of a worldly view of success or, as a Fr. Cozzens calls it, the ‘gay crisis’. (That the priesthood is a refuge for gays and that priests and nuns are closet homosexuals) When seminaries teach liberal views of sex and sexuality, what do they expect their young priests to do? Be 'weak sycophant’s' to the authority of the Church? Of course they’re going to become angry mavericks, taking a ‘liberating, dissent’ of authoritative Church teaching and disciplines.

        "I am concerned about the extent of secularization that has infiltrated our lives. A pattern of thinking, values, behavior, attitudes, methodologies, and priorities has so influenced us that, at times, it is difficult to distinguish between world values and Gospel values. In a sense, the world has evangelized the Church faster than the Church has evangelized the world" (Spiritual Warfare; Fr. George Kosicki, C.S.B., pg. 20).

        The other crisis concerns the increased isolation of priests. Once, priests were encouraged NOT to get too close to women. In fact, they were encouraged to avoid them, or, at best, be with them only in a crowd. This was seen as a terrible thing, and anti-woman. As though their action was a decree on the worthlessness of a woman. No, it was simply the avoidance of the occasion of sin. But now, this ‘familiarity is encouraged, and this too, leads to dire consequences - like a friend I know whose family was always close to mine. He always wanted to be a priest, and his family, and ours, were proud and happy for him when he took his vows and was ordained. Later, counseling a couple who were having trouble with their marriage, and having sessions both individually and together, he ‘fell in love’ with the wife. After her divorce, he left the priesthood and married her. The marriage was not a good one.

        Now, we see priests being accused of sexual abuse, illicit liaison’s, etc. This has only served to isolate them even further. Not wishing to find themselves in ‘compromising’ situations, priests find themselves keeping away from parishioners. Even in the rectory, this isolation can be felt. "Priests and religious are isolated. Isolated from each other, not only geographically at times, but more significantly spiritually and emotionally. There is real isolation and loneliness. Sometimes the greatest isolation is in a rectory or religious house with others present under the same roof, but without real communication, conversation, sharing, or friendship. It all surfaces with dissatisfaction with the Church" (Spiritual Warfare; Fr. George Kosicki, C.S.B., pg. 20-21)

        Some Orders of Sisters have left the community of the convent, for the isolation of separate apartments or houses. Priests, tired and isolated, begin to allow a sort of lethargy set in. Rather than attend conferences, special retreats, and or workshops, designed to help and revitalize them, they fall into ‘busy-ness,’ an escape. They’re too busy with meetings and committees to attend to the fundamentals. There are too few priests, religious, and/or volunteers, to daily seek the Lord and His plan in their lives. They feel they don’t have the time or resources to attend those things which help them deal with the sense of loneliness and isolation. "Busy-ness can be an escape from the pain in our lives ­ the hurts, the confusion, the isolation" (Ibid, pg 22).

        So, the priesthood is under attack, as marriage is, from without and from within. Society openly ridicules, belittles, and/or attacks the celibate priesthood. Some seminaries implicitly and explicitly teach dissent and defiance as a good and noble thing. "Satan has attacked priests, and the priesthood of the Church, like no other group, knowing that in this way he is attacking the source of power in the Church. Priests make present the sacrificial Body and Blood of Jesus on altars around the world, and as long as priests are holy and continue in their priestly worship, Satan and his forces are bound. So the most concentrated attack of Satan has been on priests. We can see this in their low morale, their decreased numbers and their harassment" (Ibid. pg 19).

        Priests, because of their special calling, need special graces to defend themselves from these attacks. No priest can long endure these attacks without God’s grace, without His help. As vicar of the Diocese of Cleveland, it fell to Fr. Cozzens to interview the priests leaving the priesthood. "Like a married person watching friends divorce" in an article about Fr. Cozzens and his book The Changing Face of the Priesthood, "Cozzens had his own vocation tested by these departures." Fr. Cozzens says that by drawing on the lessons of the contemplatives, reading spiritual classics, and writing in his journal and meeting with friends, this ‘test’ passed. How many others do this and lose their faith and vocation. Yes, faith. For though they still believe in God, can they say they have faith in Him to give them the grace and strength to remain in their vocation?

        Priests, because of their special calling, need our support as well. Not just in being friends when they need one, or an ear when they need one, but by our daily and devout prayers. They need faith and prayers to defend against these attacks.

        "Let us, then, all take courage and go forward together; for Jesus indeed is with us. It is for His sake that we have taken this cross upon us, and it is for His sake that we will persevere to the end. He will help us, for He has gone the way before us. See, how our King marches before us. He will fight for us. Let us follow Him courageously, fearing no perils. Let us be ready to die for Him in battle; and let us not stain our honor by abandoning the way of the cross" (The Imitation of Christ; Thomas A Kempis; Bk 3; Ch. 56; para. 6).

    Pax Christi, Pat


March 6, 2000
volume 11, no. 46

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