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For Catholic Priests, Compassion And Activism Don’t Matter

Posted in Editorials on April 12th, 2012

Adam posted about how the Pope rejected calls from Catholic priests all over the world to allow women and married people to be ordained. What he missed was the third demand,

[A]n Austrian group called Preachers’ Initiative… has issued a “Call to Disobedience,” asking the church to allow the ordination of women, to remove the obligation of priestly celibacy and to permit priests to give holy communion to divorced Catholics who have remarried without an annulment.

I think that this is extremely important. The Catholic church cannot continue without more priests, but it could probably hobble along just fine refusing to give communion to divorced people. Like the prohibition against contraception, there are many who simply ignore this rule. Many times, in large anonymous parishes, the priest or Eucharistic Minister does not even know they are breaking a rule. The problem would be for divorced people who “out” themselves or for priests and EM’s who know the truth but feel conflicted about the rule. Technically only divorced people who remarry outside the church without getting an annulment, or are cohabiting with a new partner are excommunicated – but that still excludes many people who wish to receive the sacrament.

As I stated in my previous post about the church,

Receiving communion is a big deal for Catholics. To be told that you may not do so can feel like a devastating rejection.

This feeling of devastation may account for why some people simply ignore the rule. Receiving communion, for many Catholics, is more important than following other rules of the church – even those rules about who is forbidden and who is allowed to partake in the sacrament. The priests who signed this letter to the Pope understand this on a deep level. They understand because as Catholics themselves they can empathize with the pain people who are being shut out from something so central to their lives, and also because some may have brought their pain on this issue to them directly and the cognitive dissonance of their empathy conflicting with their desire to obey the church is keeping them up at night.

And the Pope understands this, but instead of offering comfort, he mocks their troubles,

Benedict said that although such priests claim to act out of “concern for the church,” they are driven by their “own preferences and ideas,” and should instead turn toward a “radicalism of obedience” — a phrase that perfectly captures the essence of the theologian pope’s thought.

He’s pretty much telling them that they can shove their empathy for divorced Catholics in very uncomfortable place.

This is utterly cruel. It denies the reality of divorced Catholics and the priests who counsel them. They tried obedience and it wasn’t working. That’s why they signed the petition. They signed this petition at risk of excommunication, a fate which has befallen others who advocated for the ordination of women, or for simply being openly opposed to making abortion illegal. These priests had such compassion for their parishioners that they risked the same punishment. That is a moving display of service and selflessness which the Pope ignores and perverts by simply telling them to be more obedient. Secondly, Pope Benedict will never be a divorced Catholic seeking communion, nor the troubled priest being sought out for comfort. I would almost be glad for the latter as it would mean that no one would have to be subject to his twisted advice – except that he has so mush more power to abuse. That he is not capable of the empathy these priests are speaks ill of his character and makes him wildly unfit for leadership of any kind.

3 Responses to “For Catholic Priests, Compassion And Activism Don’t Matter”

  1. Justin Says:

    The Iron Law of Institutions says people with power will care only about their power within the organization, rather than the power of the organization as a whole.

    Pope Benedict is the last word on everything that goes on in the Church, officially. He is unconcerned that the Church cannot retain members. Besides, he’ll not live to see the mass exodus of adherents this sort of behavior will cause.

  2. Blah Says:

    You’re an idiot, and your title is insulting in it’s gross mendacity and deliberate dishonesty. I bet you don’t even think for a moment about the honest and great work of thousands of catholic priests you’re dismissing just because you disagree with the heirarchy about something else. You’re not a good person.

  3. Elizabeth Says:

    And you have deliberately misread my post, and resorted to name-calling and personal attacks instead of actually explaining why you disagree.

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