by Stella Ramsaroop
(Originally published in Guyana's Kaieteur News on 5 December 2006)
The Catholic Church is once again faced with the decision of maintaining their stance on celibacy or finding a way for their priests to minister and be married too, like many other Christian denominations.
About two weeks ago a very influential Brazilian Cardinal, Claudio Hummes, who was recently named to head the Vatican's office in charge of priests around the world, said the Church should reconsider its stance on celibacy and allow priests to marry.
This is a very controversial issue within the church, as we have seen recently in the letter pages of Kaieteur News. In fact, the dire shortage of priests worldwide is one of the primary reasons this extreme measure is being considered at all.
Recent letter writer, Leon Jameson Suseran, was very adamant that celibacy is the distinguishing mark of the Catholic Church and he maintained, “Celibacy is not a doctrine; it’s a discipline which allows priests and other religious to give their fullest attention to their God and ministry.”
This line of reasoning seems to be the primary foundation upon which those who do not want priests to marry base their argument. I can easily see the rational of this stance and appreciate the fact that if one does indeed wish to devote full attention to study and prayer, then family life would be a burden.
Since the Vatican is so determined to uphold its tradition of celibacy, then perhaps another solution should be explored that both preserves the discipline of celibacy and significantly bolsters the number of ministers within the Catholic Church – it should ordain women as priests.
Now I know as much as the next person that the Vatican would rather chuck its tradition of celibacy than to ordain a woman as a priest. After all, the Bible does tell the women to be silent in the church, right?
However, if the Catholic Church does not wish to become completely obsolete in a world that now moves at the speed of light, it would behove of the church leaders to follow the example of Cardinal Claudio Hummes and reconsider some of their dogmas.
For those who insist that celibacy should not be dismissed and value the role such a discipline contributes to the church, the best answer to the very troubling shortage of priests is to ordain women, who by the way are lined up and ready to serve.
There is a sizeable movement for women priests, but the church continues to hold to archaic doctrines that were obviously instituted by a patriarchal ideology. As a result, the Catholic Church has chased off most of its nuns who had come to understand that the same equality and dignity that women outside the ministry enjoyed also belonged within the Christian mission.
A new book released in June of this year by a former religion editor at the New York Times, Kenneth Briggs, entitled "Double Crossed: Uncovering the Catholic Church's Betrayal of American Nuns," explores the role of women in religious history and the near disappearance of nuns and their role in the church.
The nuns are all but gone and the priests are disappearing too. In a world of insecurity caused by terrorist attacks, wars and power-hungry leaders, people are seeking solace in the church more than ever, but in a few years will there will be anyone left to deliver the Eucharist?
The Catholic Church cannot continue on its current course if it wants to be around beyond the 21st century. In the last few decades alone, the church has experienced some serious decay and without embracing new concepts, like gender equality and married priests, it will have done itself – and its congregants – a great disservice.