In Formation

Saturday, May 18


Cardinal Kudos

Karl Schudt beat me to the punch in announcing Cardinal George's bold idea. The news came out in the middle of the Cardinal's "instruction" to eleven men he was going to ordain a few minutes later. He announced he is planning to sell the bishop's mansion. The reason? I'll translate it this way: riches place hurdles in the way of those who want to believe and those who need to live the gospel life. The splendor for priests and bishops ultimately has to be tied to the Church, to the Sacraments, to the Lord. Earthly splendor is fleeting, and the call of Christ is to Gospel poverty and simplicity.

This was no publicity stunt. It will surely get press attention, but anyone who was there can tell you that he didn't dwell on his proposal as if it were the reason they were gathered. Not publicity, but pedagogy. He was teaching his soon-to-be newest priests what priesthood means: Christ's values not the world's; others first; no to self. He was showing just what it means that Christ's Kingdom is not of this world.

I don't believe Cardinal George needs to divest himself of his mansion. But, his newly ordained priests, those who were there when he made the announcement, and those he shepherds in Chicago will not soon forget his words and example today. That's because they point beyond themselves to Christ. And we all know in our depths that is what priests and bishops are ordained to do. His example is powerful testimony that Cardinal George understands why Jesus came:

The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; He has sent me to bring glad tidings to the lowly, to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners, To announce a year of favor from the Lord and a day of vindication by our God, to comfort all who mourn; To place on those who mourn in Zion a diadem instead of ashes, To give them oil of gladness in place of mourning, a glorious mantle instead of a listless spirit. (Isaiah 61:1-3, today's first reading at the Ordination Liturgy)

Kudos, Cardinal George

posted by Fr. Steve | 5/18/2002 |

Blogger Benefits

St. Blog's Parish is certainly a friendly place. It's been hardly a day since my first visit, and I've been welcomed warmly. I've been emailed, linked, and given encouraging words. What more could a novice blogger want? Honestly, I felt so welcomed I thought I must be in Blog Baptist. But no. All unapologetically Catholic. Thanks to Sean Gallagher at Nota Bene, James Kovacs at Integrity, Gerard Serafin at Catholic Blog for Lovers, and Karl Schudt at Summa Contra Mundum.

posted by Fr. Steve | 5/18/2002 |

Friday, May 17


Celebrating Celibacy

Yesterday, I sent a note to Emily Stimpson in thanks for her defense of celibacy. As I said in my email to her, I believe that celibacy will free me to serve the Church most effectively. I've been thinking a lot about this question lately, given that this is one of the hot topics that has surfaced in light of The Situation.

Generally speaking, I think the witness of the celibate priesthood and the model of total self-donation after the pattern of Christ is important for the Church. (After all, in heaven none of us will be married.) For that reason, I have no doubt that the celibate priesthood will perdure. In fact, most of the seminarians with whom I study believe we can be better priests if we aren't torn between family and Family.

However, that is not to discount the many good married priests we have in the Catholic Church. I know of good married priests, and a married, former Episcopalian priest, friend of mine who is studying for the priesthood in my diocese is sure to make a fine priest. From what I know of these priests, their wives have helped make them better men, and better priests.

Some of my fellow seminarians have wondered whether some celibates might not be better priests (or bishops) if they had someone in their lives (perhaps a wife and family) who could and would hold them accountable to their highest ideals.

There are, of course, many good, celibate priests and bishops. But the existence of good married priests means that celibacy by itself is not the reason. Celibacy is not what makes priests good, wise, and holy. It is Christ who conforms them to Himself. The good priests I know (married and celibate) listen to the still small voice in their hours of prayer, and heed the voices of good friends, confessors, and spiritual directors. Without a spouse, good celibate priests know they need to draw especially close to Him whose Bride they have committed themselves to serve. For them and for the Church, celibacy is a gift. But only when they embrace and live it well.

posted by Fr. Steve | 5/17/2002 |

Who said Aesthetics?

Reading Anthony Marquis' post more closely, I see that he was criticizing others for using aesthetics as a criterion for rejecting women as "priestesses." He is (in sharp contrast to my accusation) recommending looking to the apostolic tradition. I apologize. (I suppose it's no good claiming that I'm new at this?) In any case, my recommendation to him is a friendly suggestion to begin his investigation with Newman's "Seven Notes."

posted by Fr. Steve | 5/17/2002 |

Newman's Notes

Sursum Corda's Peter Nixon has included a survey of emails concerning his posting about the injustice of the male only priesthood. In his survey, he quotes two paragraphs from my email to him, questioning whether he was thinking properly as a Catholic about this question. The rest of the email went this way:

I recommend that you spend some time poring over John Henry Newman's Development of Doctrine. You are employing Protestant criteria to your evaluation of this doctrine. Instead, I suggest you look at the Seven Notes Newman offers for discerning what changes (and potential changes) are "developments" and which are "corruptions" . . . . On the specific question at hand, it seems worth noting that your son could be excluded from orders for reasons having nothing to do with gender. Priesthood is not a right, and to talk about it in "rights" language is to make a category mistake.

In his reference to this question, Anthony Marquis at Progressive Catholic considers women's ordination a question of aesthetics. Seeing with his progressive eye, he sees a future that includes Catholic women in vestments. For him, it seems obvious that the female priesthood is an obvious "development " and not, to use Newman's other category, a "corruption."

I am not pronouncing on the question, but take issue with the tack these Catholics are taking in their discussion. It is not the Catholic way of arguing and thinking to base truth on aesthetics or to shrink back from difficult teachings because we can't imagine having to defend them to our children.

I am not saying the question is not worth debate, but the way we talk about it must remain Catholic. Hence, my recommendation to them (and to all who would argue for major changes in the Church) is: read Newman on the Development of Doctrine.

Newman, of course, notes the importance of consulting the laity. But not as final judges of what is true. At times, as in the Arian controversy, the laity was the clearest voice (along with St. Athanasius) advocating the orthodox view. But the Magisterium is the infallible authority the Church has been given to ensure that teachings about faith and morals are correct. I simply don't think we can contradict the tradition without looking hard at Newman's "Seven Notes" to test whether a change would be a development or a corruption.

posted by Fr. Steve | 5/17/2002 |

It's worth a try!

I've been chiming in by email to other blogs, and one blogger (Mark Shea) innocently suggested that I start my own. Of course, that's no excuse. But now I've gone and done it. And you're going to pay the price for his suggestion and my willingness.

Just a bit about me. Today I finished my first year of theology in formation for the diocesan priesthood. Last year, I spent a year studying philosophy, and can't believe how quickly the time has passed. In fact, it seems like yesterday that Karl Schudt was teaching me about Thomas Aquinas last year. I'll actually be seeing him (fair warning, Karl!) tomorrow at the Priesthood Ordination in Chicago. (His reflections on ordination and the priesthood are worth a read.)

Admittedly, this is a tough time to be Catholic, and a difficult time to be a seminarian. But there is no doubt in my mind: I would make the same choice today I made two years ago when I applied. As one of my professors here says, "If God is calling you, what else are you going to do?" Indeed.

Please bear with me as I learn all about this medium, about linking, etc. In general, I'll be posting unsolicited (perhaps unwanted, but hopefully not unwarranted) comments about issues in the news, hot topics in blogdom, and my time In Formation. Thanks for stopping by. Email me if you wish. Peace.

posted by Fr. Steve | 5/17/2002 |