As the Rt. Rev. LeBlanc often says, there are times when you are interested in a story, yet you just have trouble “drawing a bead” on it. I think that is a violent, gun-related metaphor, which is kind of strange for Doug, but it is still appropriate.
For the past week, I have been trying to figure out what bothers me about Elizabeth Mehren’s story in the Los Angeles Times about the growing number of “married priests” in the Roman Catholic Church. Perhaps I am having trouble with that handy URL in the story — rentapriest.com.
Then again, perhaps I am stuck on one phrase in particular. Can you guess which one? Here is the opening of the story.
BOSTON — The priests came from three states, converging on a suburban park one Sunday to conduct an outdoor Mass. Wearing white vestments with rainbow-hued stoles, they led the worshippers in prayer and song. They stuck closely to traditional Roman Catholic liturgy.
But as they raised their arms in blessing, the five men revealed unmistakable proof of defiance: All wore wedding bands.
These men, who still consider themselves Roman Catholic priests, have wives, children — and unflinching commitments to their 2,000-year-old faith. As married priests, they say, they are not heretical anomalies but, instead, are following a model set by priests and popes in the earliest days of their church. They are part of a growing national network of thousands of deeply religious men who believe marriage does not compromise their ability to serve as spiritual ministers.
No it’s not the “rainbow-hued stoles.” And it isn’t that off phrase that the clergy “stuck closely to traditional Roman Catholic liturgy.”
No, what gets to me is the phrase “unflinching commitments to their 2,000-year-old faith.”
Now, please understand that — bias confession again — I am an Eastern Orthodox layman, so I worship in a church that has maintained the ancient tradition that priests can marry, before they are ordained, but that bishops are chosen from celibate monastics or parish priests. I understand some of the Roman arguments for celibate clergy. I just don’t happen to agree with them.
What has been bothering me about this story is that Mehren does not seem to notice that many of these “married priests” have other major differences with basic Catholic and ancient Christian doctrines. In other words, many are rebels about marriage, but they have trouble with other doctrinal issues as well. See any clues?
Yet the story — early on — stresses that these men have held on to “unflinching commitments to their 2,000-year-old faith.” Isn’t that a rather loaded statement? The facts reported in the story seem to suggest otherwise. Read it and let me know what you think.