The clock radio – ever punctual with its reminder that I can't laze around in bed forever – began blaring its commitment to morning talk show prattle at 5 am as a way of freeing me from my cocoon of blissful slumber. I initiated phase one in my ritual of pre-dawn sloth by reaching for the snooze button, but found my hand hovering in midair as, much to my dismay, a discussion caught my attention. Confound it all anyway. I was counting on at least two more rounds of dozing in nine minute intervals and wasn't pleased when I learned that (according to news reports) Pope Francis has rewritten Church history by opening the door to the possibility of priests marrying.
I reigned in my "Groundhog Day" déjà vu and listened intently. Yes. He did. He did it again. The pope simply cannot resist muddying the waters of marital intrigue by turning the priesthood into soap opera fodder.
As IR readers have come to understand, I am not exactly a card carrying member of the Pope Francis Fan Club and the news that the Holy See might be set on changing a millennium of tradition with a wave of his shepherd's hook didn't register as completely unrealistic at 5 o'clock in the morning, so I merely rolled my eyes and mumbled something along the line of, "What else is new?"
On this high note, I grumpily began my day.
As I was buttering the kids' toast, my morning fog began to lift, and I was able to start thinking through the probability that Pope Francis had truly converted to Protestantism with just a smidgen of judiciousness. "I wonder what he actually said," thought I as a glass of milk made contact with a bevy of hands vying for it and went flying across the table. I grabbed a towel to clean the mess and began sifting through what I know about this pope and matching it to the morning's titillating report.
By the time I had started the daily cleaning of the cat box…and why scooping litter was the thing that finally brought me out of my hazy thinking, I may never fully understand… I had worked out the possibility that the MSM was blowing Pope Francis's words out of proportion.
And with the kids on the bus, an ounce or so of caffeine coursing through my veins and a willing and able internet to guide me, I learned very quickly that my creeping doubts were justified. Pope Francis opened neither door nor fresh possibility to the marriage of priests. He has restated what has long been true. Priestly celibacy is not dogma – that is to say, it is not an article of faith revealed by God. It's doctrine which is synonymous with catechism which is a summary of principles. Dogma is infallible. Doctrine is not.
What the pope said:
"Celibacy is not a dogma. It is a rule of life that I appreciate very much and I think it is a gift for the Church, but since it is not a dogma, the door is always open."
What the catechism states:
"Clerics are obliged to observe perfect and perpetual continence for the sake of the kingdom of heaven and therefore are bound to celibacy which is a special gift of God by which sacred ministers can adhere more easily to Christ with an undivided heart and are able to dedicate themselves more freely to the service of God and humanity" (Canon 277)."
There are thousands of Catholic traditions that are not dogma and could change but won't. The pope has altered nothing with his statement. He has, however ambiguously, preserved Church teachings. The more pressing concern that Catholics ought to have right now is that by choosing to be coquettish with the press, the pope has simply reinvigorated the controversy that he is resistant to speaking with impeccable clarity for his international audience.
As for me, I tire of cat and mouse games with regard to the pope's politics of meaning. I am fundamentally incapable of trusting a man who won't speak plainly, and I continue to be put off by Pope Francis's oratory style for this very reason. The only topics with which Pope Francis seems to speak with laser-like precision are his renditions of Church teachings of social justice in all their malformed glory. Every other doctrine trembles at the feet of a pope that induces simultaneous irreverence and foreboding through his apparent willingness to negotiate. Moderate. Blur distinction. Reach a hand across the aisle and work with his opponent…which sounds entirely progressive until you consider who his opponent is.
But the MSM – having sensed weakness and ambiguity – is poised to kick in any door that will budge regardless of whether the pope intended to leave it open or not. For the life of me, I do not understand what difference it makes to the media whether priests marry. It is unclear why the Church is increasingly swayed that it must be Protestant in order to gain acceptance from the press. When confronted by the question of celibacy, the answer should be, "Priests don't marry and since no man that I know of is being pressed into the service of the Church, the policy should concern no one. If a man wants to marry but also wants to take an active role in the Church, he may become a deacon."
Permanent deacons – by the way – can be either celibate or married. The decision must be made prior to ordination. Deacons are ordained ministers of the Roman Catholic Church. They perform various services at the parish level and are regarded as servants of the Pope, as opposed to priests, who are assistants to the Pope. This is not some glorified altar server that we are talking about. Men who are interested in becoming deacons must go through a rigorous eligibility process before they are allowed to train for years for this position.
So it turns out that the Church has made room for married men in the hierarchy, and if there was truly such a demand on the part of American Catholic men to hold elevated positions in the Church, the station of deaconship would be overflowing with applicants at this very moment.
But it's not. Because becoming a deacon requires a spiritual commitment that most American Catholics don't have time for. Changing the rules on celibacy won't alter that fact. It doesn't matter what traditions the Church revokes in the name of inclusion. Unless Pope Francis publically denies the divinity of Christ, he converts none of the spiritually parsimonious to the path of salvation. Priestly celibacy is just the cause du jour and the current excuse for continued attacks on Catholicism.
Heightened media pressure over a subject most journalists won't bother to understand only underscores the narrow bias with which the tolerance crowd operates in these United States.
The MSM will take the opportunity to intrude upon the non-debate and proselytize the need for Catholics to adapt to twenty-first century mores because these are somehow healthier. I beg you. Please show me how American sexuality is in any way healthier for its having given way to a liberalized value system. Human sexuality is increasingly diseased. Disordered. Disproportionate to every other aspect of human existence.
Sexual expression both neurotically and psychotically saturates every mode of communication in a way that is borderline inhuman, and in making the mere act of coitus…if you'll forgive my Sheldon Cooper impression… the focal point of existence, it has left the nation and the world darker, colder, duller.
Humans are progressively isolated from one another in spite of increasing opportunities to connect physically. Does anyone honestly believe that by changing the canonical tradition of celibacy, the Church will immunize itself from the spiritual corruption at the heart of the world's sexual addiction problem?