On Church Leadership

On Church Leadership

Bret Stephens wrote an interesting column in the Wall Street Journal yesterday, on issues facing the next Pope and the Church in general. In highlighting the sexual abuse issue, he wrote:

“The obvious and needful solution is to abolish the celibacy of the priesthood, a stricture that all but guarantees the sorts of sordid outcomes described above. But that’s a matter for Catholics to judge for themselves”.

His column prompted me to convey my thoughts on the matter to Mr. Stephens, and I shared with him essentially the following points.

I am a life-long Catholic, and in fact studied for seven years for the priesthood as a seminarian in one of the religious congregations. I entered the seminary in 1966, when the Church was going through a period of intense change, and the vast majority of my class did leave the seminary over the following decade.
My reasons revolved almost exclusively around my growing desire to marry and have a family, and I would venture to say that was the primary reason for most of us who left the religious life.
It is tempting to say that allowing a married Catholic clergy would fix the problem of sexual abuse by priests, but I am not convinced that is the case. I agree that it would go a long way towards attracting more good men to the priesthood, allowing them to serve as priests and also to be married.
Sexual promiscuity and abuse are different issues, though, and a married clergy will not have a meaningful impact on those behaviors, in my opinion.
I think what is needed is for Church leaders to improve upon the recruitment and screening process for the seminary, and to be much more visible on pastoral visits.They need to allow time for frank and confidential discussions with the faithful, designed to encourage them to report problems. Of course, an aggressive treatment and/or termination process may also need to be employed, for troubled priests and religious.
The next Pope will need to lead in this direction, although changing the direction of an institution as large as the Catholic Church is probably a multi-generational task, and it will need the unwavering involvement of the Bishops. Strong leadership is essential, at all levels within the Church.
The outcome may be a smaller church, but one that is more faithful to the true message of Jesus Christ.
No Comments

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.