[freedomtowernight_edited.jpg] 26th Parallel: Padre Alberto: One More Perspective

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Padre Alberto: One More Perspective

After doing a little research and digging for a perspective with which to address the issue of Catholic priests and celibacy, I was going to present a few articles which downplay the "crisis" the Catholic Church: that they're really not losing all that many members (compared to other denominations where priests and ministers are free to marry), religious affiliation in the U.S. is very fluid, and the number of Catholic priests actually increased worldwide in 2008 (but fell slightly in Europe and the Americas).

If you believe the media and have been following the Father Alberto situation closely, you could get the impression that the Catholic Church is facing a major crisis because of its "outdated" laws and doctrines, one it may not survive over the course of the next few decades unless it goes through serious reforms. Although there is always room for some reform, the reality isn't so dire, fortunately.

Anyway, what I really want to express in this post is something that's been gradually gaining momentum inside of me but was confirmed at Mass this evening. That is, the Catholic Church is more than one charismatic priest who has done a world of good. Father Alberto, no matter how talented and influential, is not irreplaceable. Just as he - as a celibate priest, mind you - gave wonderful insights and advice to many people on faith and life, so can many others.

One group of people we have heard very little from in the past few days regarding Father Alberto are his fellow Catholic clergy. This is likely because of "professional courtesy" or perhaps it's an order from the Archdiocese, but one thing the media has lacked in its reporting is a perspective from other Catholic priests. Well, I think I got a good dose of perspective from that angle this evening. This weekend happened to be the first anniversary of the ordainment of one of my parish priests and 5 of his fellow classmates. All 6 priests - plus the parish pastor - officiated the Mass, and while no direct mention of Father Alberto was made, the issue was addressed implicitly. The highlight was when one of the visiting young priests delivered the homily and remarked on how there are many "holy" priests devoted to their calling. He then pointed emphatically at the other priests behind him and expressed their deep commitment to the priesthood. That got a rousing applause from the congregation filling the nearly-full pews, and frankly it was a reminder that all of us needed to hear after a week in which the Church has been dragged through the mud. You almost had to wonder if Catholic priests were becoming resentful of the attention one of their own was receiving for breaking his vows, when most go through similar struggles but manage to remain firm and faithful to those same vows. From a strictly professional standpoint, some resentment is understandable and perhaps even expected.

Our parish priest then talked about the lives his fellow classmates led before joining the priesthood: architect, accountant, banker, rock musician...and so on. He talked about how they were in our shoes before they accepted their calling, how they still relate to us through their life stories. The bottom line for me: each of us has a story and the ability to relate to others.


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