Fr. Richard “Where’s my collar” McBrien is at it again. His latest essay begins as an examination of what the Scandal has “cost” the Church, primarily in terms of money and prestige. He then takes a swipe at conservatives and then returns to his favorite topic, which I hereby dub “freedom of the underpants” or what he calls optional celibacy for the priesthood.
The issue of celibacy needs to be aired and honestly examined, and the church must be open in principle to adopting the most pastorally sound solutions—- solutions that are in keeping with the traditions of the whole Catholic Church (not just the Roman Catholic Church), in the whole of its history, not just the past six or seven centuries.
There is a tendency in the Church, post-Vatican II to an almost reverse chronological snobbery, which is really a Medieval snobbery. To some people, anything that happened between 1100 and 1963 is suspect. Benediction, kneeling, celibate priesthood are all opposed by them. To their way of thinking, only the stuff that happened in the first few hundred years of the Church is authentic. But they ignore that idea that while some old ideas are good and some Medieval ideas were bad, there is the possibility that a lot of the development in Church custom and tradition in the Middle Ages was actually for the good and not for the ill, that it was authentic development. In that vein, perhaps we have found that celibacy is better for the priesthood as a whole.
But, of course, McBrien has made clear that he desperately wants it to be otherwise, perhaps so he can find a lady-friend. Maybe he’s lonely. Whatever the case, his theological arguments against celibacy are full of holes. In fact, his only argument in this essay seems to be that there once was a time when Latin-rite priests could be married. He just asserts that celibacy was a factor in the Scandal, but never backs it up. Sorry, Dick, but you have to do better than that.