A married priest’s case against change

SIR – I read with interest discussions about the possibility of married men being ordained priest as a norm in the Latin Rite (cover story, November 17). I am a married priest with children.

I suggest that the discussion about married priests is not very well grounded in the theology of fatherhood and priesthood. Often when people talk about fatherhood and priesthood it is in a metaphorical way – that priesthood is like fatherhood but not really fatherhood. The fatherhood of the priest is actually ontological.

The man is made able to have a different order of fatherhood by the sacrament of Holy Orders not by imitating natural fathers. The fatherhood of the priest is expressed most fully not by being pastoral but in the liturgy. It is only from the liturgy that it extends pastorally.

Fatherhood originates in God the Father. Many discussions are really about natural fatherhood lifted higher. Let us reflect on Holy Scripture, especially John 5:19, John 8:28, 1 Corinthians 4:14-15, Galatians 4:19, Ephesians 3:14 and 3 John 4.

Commonly people speak of the importance of the witness of a good domestic father first and from whom priests can learn how to be fatherly. But if we acknowledge that fatherhood originates from above, then in fact priests should learn their fatherhood from Christ and His Father. It is priests who are celibate, being more closely configured to Christ the High Priest, who provide the essential witness for domestic fathers to grow in their understanding of what it is to be a father.

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