In the October 2006 issue of Crisis magazine, Fr. Ray Ryland, a married former Episcopalian minister, now a Catholic priest, wrote about his perspective on celibacy in the Roman Catholic priesthood. The December issue sees several letters from readers taking him to task, including this ad hominem non sequitur from a James P. Ward of Claymont, Delaware, which says in part:
Father Ryland expresses his gratitude that the Church has made an exception to celibacy for former Protestant clergy like himself who continue to live with their wives, but if he is sincere in his praise for clerical celibacy he will voluntarily leave his wife and embrace celibacy, which he so avidly venerates.
Hey Jim, bitter much? What kind of justice would be found in the abandonment of Fr. Ryland’s wife?
Ward treats Fr. Ryland’s marriage like so many of his own mindset treat celibacy. He has a completely self-centered and narcissistic view. They see celibacy—and marriage apparently—as an imposition on the priest or the husband instead of as a gift to the Church.
It would be like a husband who resents his wife’s expectations of monogamy and faithfulness because it puts a crimp in his plans for the clubs and bars on Saturday night.
Celibacy is a gift, and I don’t mean just in the sense that the Holy Spirit gives graces to the priest who lives it. No, it is also a gift of the priest to Christ and to His Church, willingly and joyfully sacrificing a good for a greater good.
What benefit is there if I make a sacrifice but only do so with a long face and much complaining and sighing? What love would I show to my wife if, when she asked me to take out the overflowing garbage, I did it only with loud grumbling and complaining?
Priestly celibacy is not just a rite of passage or test of loyalty, like the Japanese yakuza who cut off a fingertip when they pledge fealty to their leader upon membership. Instead it is the same gift of fidelity that a husband gives to his wife on their wedding day when he pledges to love her and only her for their whole life together. What kind of man would whine and complain about having to pledge his troth? What kind of priest would whine and complain about the same?