May 28th, 2009
05:39 PM ET

The call to ministry should not include celibacy

Editor's Note: Father Alberto Cutie, an internationally known Catholic priest who admitted having a romantic affair and breaking his vow of celibacy, is joining the Episcopal Church to be with the woman he loves, he said Thursday.

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/US/05/28/florida.priest/art.cutie.wltv.jpg caption="Father Alberto Cutie broke the celibacy vow and joined the Episcopal Church."]

Joe and Joan Koechler
Voice of the Faithful

Our first thoughts are congratulations to Father Cutié. We are sure he thought long and hard in coming to his decision. He can now be married and remain in ministry.

In the history of the Church, the celibacy requirement for priests is "relatively" recent – only in the last thousand years! The early Church, as shown in the Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles, evidences a married leadership (including Peter). (And note, there is no reference to "priests" in the New Testament.)

The Bishop of Miami noted that celibacy does have a role. It allows for total dedication of life to ministry. However, try to tell anyone with a career that marriage prevents dedication to that career. The reasons for celibacy are probably more nuanced. At the time the formal rule of celibacy was declared there were issues of property inheritance and gross abuses related to sexuality. And there had been a long theological theme going back to St. Augustine equating sexual relationships with baser instincts and evil inclinations, but needed for procreation.

Our conviction today is that the Catholic Church needs to recognize that the call to ministry is not restricted to a celibate clergy. And we need to recognize that the call to ministry comes from our communities as in the early Church where ministers were appointed by the local community with the subsequent blessing of the local Church leaders. Our tradition confirms this: our Eastern Rite churches have married clergy. The current practice of accepting Anglican and Episcopal priests into Catholicism with their wives and families moves us in the direction of a married clergy. The practice of most religions shows the value of a married clergy. Frankly, sometimes we believe that the current rule is meant to place marriage in a secondary role as a church sacrament, no matter what documents exist that extol the sacramental nature of marriage. (If you want confirmation that marriage has a second class status in our church, look at office of married deacon re-established after the Second Vatican Council – if a deacon's wife dies he may not remarry!)

Lastly, our Church now is in need of ministers. Churches are closing not just for lack of financial resources, but also for lack of ministers. At least half my class that was ordained in 1968 has left active ministry, some to move to Episcopal churches as married priests. There is no reason that a married clergy cannot meet the Catholic churches needs.

Editor's Note: Joe Koechler is a former Catholic priest and Joan Koechler is a former nun. They have been married 30 years. Both are members of the Voice of the Faithful, a group dedicated to Catholic reform.

soundoff (14 Responses)
  1. Annie Kate

    As a married woman with a career I can attest that one role does sacrifice for the other. To make progress in your career you have to be readily available at all times to do whatever needs to be done; it does not matter if it is little Johnny's birthday or you promised to take the family camping. Work may pay lip service to a balance between home and work but they reward those who show up, work long hours, etc. It is not humanly possible to do both and whichever one you decide to make primary in your life, you have feelings of guilt over the other one. I agree with the Church on this one – priests are more effective when they are single and can minister to their flock without worrying about their own family. I do think though that the church should consider letting women into the priesthood but I'm not going to hold my breath on that one.

    May 28, 2009 at 9:19 pm |
  2. Joanna

    Last time I checked, the Catholic Church didn't follow that much scripture, anyway. Most of it is made up man-made gibberish. (Glad my fiance doesn't twitter. I'd be in big trouble.) If marriage takes away from a ministry, how do pastors with families manage??? Think about it. Answer: they manage just fine and they understand the realities of marriage and children, which priests would never begin to comprehend.

    May 28, 2009 at 8:59 pm |
  3. Joe G. IL

    And the sifting goes on in places and all the right places.. Thanks to God the Almighty and Merciful.. Lay your serenity upon the fear of God and not on the outrage of your sense of justice and equality.

    May 28, 2009 at 8:23 pm |
  4. Mike, Syracuse, NY

    If the Catholic Church were to allow married priests again (yes until the 12th Century it was allowed) and allow women to be ordained, the priest shortage would be gone overnight. There is certainly no scriptural prohibition against either.

    May 28, 2009 at 8:17 pm |
  5. Linda B., Ga.

    I wish Father Cutie and his Lady much happiness, but, I also think he should have thought about what he did, before he did it and quit the Priesthood before he started going public. He knew what was and wasn't exspected of him, when he took his vows.

    May 28, 2009 at 7:41 pm |
  6. Dr Donna K Buechler

    It should not matter any more than gender or sexuality should matter. All kinds of people are called.

    May 28, 2009 at 7:30 pm |
  7. Cali

    I could not agree more. The reason the Cathlic church makes priests celibate is becaues if they have a family to support it takes away mony for the Vadican.

    May 28, 2009 at 7:22 pm |
  8. Sandy Hughes

    If the priesthood would let priests have a life/relationship it might keep more of them away from molesting children in secrecy. Never could understand why they couldn't have a spouse. That is just an extra person to work for the Lord.

    May 28, 2009 at 6:47 pm |
  9. Tim Gibson

    So now we celebrate a "religious leader" who lied to the people he served, which brings to question his morals. Yet we strip away rights of a minority through a vote in California and fail to follow the first and most important 52 words of our Constitution.

    May 28, 2009 at 6:33 pm |
  10. Natural is best

    There is no logical reason for celibacy. Sex is natural and to try and suppress that makes no sense. Is that why there are so many Catholic child molesters? Is that the only way they can release their sexual tension? The rules of religion are so outdated, why would anyone want to join?

    May 28, 2009 at 6:27 pm |
  11. RoseParvin

    The call to ministry is only prophetic when one chooses ceilibacy for it is natural to want to be with the god within which threatens the man and what happens is what happned to me in my prophtic journey! For the past 12 years I have been on the cross of primitive man who plays god and is threatened by the presence of god on earth for he has taken over earth and now that I have god within returning in the Holy Spirit within me seeking direct relationship with the children of god man has silenced and censored me! It is what put Jesus on the cross for the power at the time realized with the power of god within Jesus his take over would be inevitable as now with God in me! But there are multidimensions in man and god and in the time span of the prophecy! What sacred isolation that is a must at the beggining could change only if the partner is true believer and walks under the light of the same way together with the committed to the prophecy!

    May 28, 2009 at 6:23 pm |
  12. Lisa Altman, North Myrtle Beach

    Way to go Father! I for one feel that one thing has nothing to do with another. Falling in love is a natural thing and they should not be left out of that.

    May 28, 2009 at 6:07 pm |
  13. Toye Rhyne

    A celibacy clergy is unrealistic and un-natural. I believe it is the reason so many clergymen have violated juveniles.

    May 28, 2009 at 6:02 pm |
  14. Lois

    I could not agree more. As a young adult who has grown up in the Catholic Church I have always questioned the necessity for celibacy among priests. I understand the history of the rule, but as times change, the Church needs to, as well. Too many of my friends and family members have left the Church due to its inability to appeal to the younger generation. I myself struggle with receiving advice on marriage from a person who has never been married himself, and often understand my husband's anger towards Catholicism when we attend mass that centers on financial donations rather than faith and real-life. It's time for the Catholic Church to wake up and join the 21st century. Allow priests to marry. Allow female priests. Allow "non-traditional" hymns to be sung at mass. Make these changes and you'll find a LOT more young adults being proud of their Catholic heritage.


    May 28, 2009 at 6:00 pm |