03Oct ACP AGM Wednesday 01 October 2014 – Married Priests – Liamy Mac Nally

We have to ask the question, is it more important to demand that the Eucharist can only be celebrated by celibate priests or that it be made available to people frequently by allowing celibate or married priests celebrate it? That valid question was raised by Brian Eyre in a recent posting on the ACP website.
Will we end up like a certain diocese in Australia? According to a friend of mind in the Diocese of Rockhampton the consecrated Host is posted from the central parish to the parishes in the outback where there is no priest. Yes, posted!

Back to Ireland – The reality here is that successive Governments have messed up rural Ireland by closing Garda stations and post offices, scrapping transport services, reducing hospital and clinic services and amalgamating schools. These Government policies have torn the heart out of rural Ireland.

Now our Church is doing the same – Clustering is nothing short of the Church’s way of tearing the soul out of rural Ireland. We can dress it up any way we want but that is the reality. Those we are called to serve, those who have been the backbone of church and state, have been betrayed, in the name of filthy lucre on the one hand and in the name of a shortage of priests on the other.
Clustering is nothing short of band-aid theology. People deserve more than this. It is a failure to face reality, more of the Limbo thinking.

What’s strange is that we’re buying into the Clustering notion as if it is progress. We’re like those who hail the Government as being responsible for economic green shoots when, countrywide, we have rampant food poverty and cutbacks in essential services for vulnerable people.

We are strangling rural and city life as we know it, through Clustering. Reducing Masses, especially in rural parishes, means that more of the local communities will ‘head to town for Mass.’ That way, we split communities.

Also, reducing Masses affects parish programmes like Do This in Memory. If a Mass is planned as part of the programme and there’s only one weekend Mass in the Church when there is also a funeral, we have a dilemma.

Some people will say, “Ah but we have no priests!” Nonsense. We have loads of priests. It’s just that many of us are married!
We are not ‘depriested’ or whatever the operation is, even if, over the past 60 years, 120,000 priests have ‘left’ or had no choice because those who married were not allowed to minister.

A vocation to priesthood today is, in actual fact, a dual vocation to priesthood and celibacy. But what of those with a dual vocation to priesthood and marriage? Can such a person exist? The reality is that there are 6 of us in and around Westport alone! Yet, we are denied Catholic ministry.
Only one of us is in ministry in Westport – as a Vicar in the Anglican Church.

Prayers for vocations annoy my wife. It’s not that she is against praying but she says the so-called lack of vocations is due to restrictions on status and gender. All the prayers for vocations HAVE been answered. It’s just that we haven’t discerned that yet.

Married priesthood is not just an issue for those of us who are ordained and married. It is also an issue for women. And what about the many women in intimate relationships with priests, bishops and dare I say it, cardinals? What protections and supports have those women got? None! They have no voice.

What about the relationship between God and Woman?
Jesus was fully human and fully divine – yet there is no human ‘male kind’ in Jesus. He is of God and ‘woman kind.’ His humanity is totally ‘woman.’
The only human deemed born without sin was a woman.
The only human deemed assumed into human, body and soul, was a woman.
Woman is the closest human to God.

When we speak about married priests what are we afraid of as Church? Sex? Strange that! Sure aren’t Church leaders experts in all aspects of it, as celibates? Why have we, as Church, allowed morality to be reduced to sex?

Few if any moral words came from the episcopal fortresses about the effects on our citizens of a country being forced into a bailout by the EU and its bondholder sidekicks!
Few, if any moral words emanated about the conversion of the bank debt into sovereign debt and the knock-on effect on our future generations.
Few, if any moral words were heard about the cutbacks in services for vulnerable people.
No the Cavalry are all reserved for issues ‘below the belt’… and episcopal hounds are let loose from their palatial traps!

I’m a married priest. I don’t live in a palace. I have a lovely wife who makes our home palatial through the love she shares with me. And I love being a married priest, even if I am a Minister Without Portfolio.

Did I leave priesthood? No. Never. I am still a priest, albeit a married one.

There have been times when I was approached by various clerics to ‘regularise’ my situation by applying for laicisation. By being laicised you are deemed to have been unfit to be a priest in the first place. Once laicised you are restricted beyond measure. You cannot exercise any office or order in Church.

One friend, after over 20 years service as a priest sought laicisation to get married in the Catholic Church. He was laicised, after a struggle! Then the restrictions were imposed – he cannot even read in Church or be a lay minister. Once you ‘leave’ you won’t even be entertained for ‘Catholic’ jobs – teaching or otherwise – that you are well qualified for. I note Mossy Hynan’s recent brilliant article covering this issue in a recent posting on the ACP website.

One serious question for the Bishops and the Pope – why do you ordain married men from other denominations but not from your own?

Speaking of questions, the Killaloe women certainly asked a question when the all-male diaconate was mooted by their Bishop. The issue has now been kicked into touch ans is no longer on the agenda.

What have married priests to offer the church? A lot of brokenness. That might sound morbid but it’s not meant to be! To use the modern parlance – we’re part of the ‘been there, done that, have the t-shirt and the scars’ brigade.
It’s not an easy journey from the altar to the pew, or from the presbytery to the mortgage. I’m not complaining about the journey. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Married priests know all about good days and bad days. We know about getting up for work, being out of work, making ends meet and, at the end of the day, having a little smidgen of faith and being loved by God and a woman. This can also all be done in direct service as a married priest.

Married priests would solve many problems. Clustering could be resolved in one fell swoop. We, as married priests, are not the sole solution but we certainly can be part of it.

For married priests who are working or retired, parish work could be non-stipendiary. There are many options.

Personally, the married priest journey is made easier by parish priests like my own, Pat Donnellan, a man of prayer, respect and non-judgement – the epitome of the Christian message. I thank him for his support.
Thanks also to the ACP for being in existence and a special thank you to the leadership group. Míle buíochas for all your hard work and generosity. Go mbeannaí Dia sibh go léir.

10 Responses

  1. Darlene Starrs

    Yes, if the RC Church will accept married Anglican priests for the Catholic priesthood, I would think, it is logical to accept Catholic priests who have married. I should imagine, this will happen. However, I’m not convinced that squares with having the “laity central to the Church”. I would like to see a reduction in our dependence on clerics, and an increase in the numbers of laity assuming ministerial roles, previously inaccessible to them. (lay men and women)

  2. Eugene Sheehan

    Fair play, Liamy, you continue to describe eloquently the reality of a Church that refuses to acknowledge that there is no real crisis of priestly vocations, but a crisis of leadership. I can never accept that marriage disqualifies me as a priest for God’s people – it’s what I am trained to do! So many women are equally trained, willing and able to facilitate God’s people in the Breaking of Bread & the Breaking of God’s Word. So much of the nonsense being expounded by Church leadership is simply “a gong booming and a cymbal clashing.” Again, excellent presentation.

  3. Kathleen Faley

    Liamy, I would add another service to the list of those services that have all but disappeared from rural Ireland and that is the local creameries in parishes where farmers once queued in ass carts, horse carts, tractors and in more recent decades cars with bulk tanks in tow. The (mostly) men who gathered each morning met and discussed the recent news and happenings, locally, nationally and perhaps internationally. There was a sense of community active in this group as they gathered each morning and if my memory serves me well there was less suicide among men then also.

    I agree with your assessment of Parish Clustering and parishioners are now becoming so conscious of how busy their Parish Priest is who now has to undertake the Celebrating of the Eucharist in a nearby Priestless parish that they now know they can no longer take it forgranted the the Priest will be in the Presbytery if they need to call to meet him to discuss something with him beyond the remit of the Parish Secretary. Another aspect of Clustering is the sense of lack of the Priest’s presence in his Parish because he has to go to the neighbouring parish for Weddings, Funerals and other Sacramental Celebrations.

    I agree with what you write about the ‘relationship between God and Woman’ because for some time now over the past few years I have reasoned the same thing in the following way. Because Jesus was born of Mary(Woman) having being conceived through the Power of the Holy Spirit, Jesus was and is:

    Flesh of His Mother Mary’s Flesh
    Bone of His Mother Mary’s Bone
    Blood of His Mother Mary’s Blood

    None of this reasoning can be denied either Spiritually nor biologically. Mary could just as rightfully claim in the New Testament what I have written above just as Adam claimed in the Old Testament when God brought the woman to him and he said that she was flesh of his flesh and bone of his bone.

    One possible reason in the New Testament why the above was not ever consciously highlighted was because of the connotations it would have for the Eucharistic Host as containing the Real Presence of Jesus only.

    Does it not seem strange that the Old Testament began with Man-Adam and ended with a Man-John the Baptist, the last of the Old Testament prophets. On the other hand the New Testament began with a Woman, Mary the Mother of Jesus and ended with a Woman another Mary at the Resurrection the First Witness and Proclaimer of the Good News that Jesus was Risen from the Dead.

  4. MM

    I want to pay tribute to the integrity of our married priests (without portfolio as Liamy has put it). Thank you for your witness.

    Of course COMPULSORY celibacy has nothing to do with sanctity and everything to do with clericalism, control and the maintaining of a career orientated old boys club that must be maintained at all costs. It tolerates having a bit on the side if you must, as long as you don’t challenge the system or cause scandal by letting appearances slip. And we the laity, have dutifully played our part in this through our unhealthy deference and silence on the matter. Now is the time to speak up for an end to a system of compulsory celibacy that continues to directly and indirectly damages lives along with the credibility of the church.

  5. Darlene Starrs

    As I continued to reflect on the idea of a married male priesthood, I wondered, if there were any male married priests, who were lobbying the Vatican for their wives to be ordained?

  6. D. Healy

    Other churches also have a priest/minister crisis these days. The issues of female and married clergy deserve to be looked at. Indeed, this should have been done long ago. However, I do not think that initiating women and married men nor reinstating former priests will make any impact on the shrinking priesthood. Something so far unthought of and radical is required for the future of of our church.

  7. Darlene Starrs

    Hear Hear Mr.Healy! I second that!

  8. Mícheál

    Perhaps what needs to be considered is the theological notion of ontological change which priesthood brings to those who receive the sacrament. Perhaps we need to think of priesthood as service, where the one who serves leads in the breaking of bread. The functions of priesthood derive from the actions.

  9. Nuala O'Driscoll

    Micheal @8.
    It says much about the present ‘ontological’ status of the male dominated priesthood that after two thousand years we have arrived at a ‘perhaps’ we need to think of a priesthood as service! On the other hand the totally ignored ‘priesthood of service of women’ in the Church has been suppressed and unacknowledged for two thousand years.

  10. Mícheál

    Nuala
    I couldn’t agree more. The perhaps is not diffidence on my part!


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