My first on-camera interview

My first on-camera interview

I was interviewed for “Chronicle”, “the nation’s only locally produced nightly newsmagazine,” yesterday. They’re doing a show on the Boston parish closings and I spent some time on the phone talking to the producer a few weeks ago. He’s also been reading the blog (and may in fact be reading this!) So he wanted to sit down with me in front of the camera for me to give my unique perspective. I’m neither on the side of the sit-in protesters, nor completely on the side of the archdiocese which is doing the right thing by closing some parishes but has munged up the process a lot.

Of course, I wasn’t satisfied with all my answers. I have a tendecy to go back and say, “I wish I had said it this way,” but overall I think it’s okay. We’ll have to see how the edit it. (Hint, hint, Tony.)

The questions were interesting, including some on women’s ordination and letting married priests return to active ministry. On the former, I repeated the basic, “It ain’t gonna happen”, and on the latter I said that there are a lot of practical reasons for not doing it: If we’re strapped for cash now, who’s going to pay the just wage for a family man? Above all, I tried to keep an upbeat attitude, conciliatory yet firm. “I understand the pain and anger of parish closings, but acting like a rebellious teenager is not the answer.”

The hardest part was not looking at the camera, schooling my expressions, and not saying “Um” or “Uh”. It’s harder than you think. But this is why I’m a print journalist.

I’ll let those of you in the Boston area know when the show is going to air when I find out.

  • “The questions were interesting, including some on womenent>
    2005-01-10 18:48:32
    2005-01-10 22:48:32
    Did you wear your new hat on the interview???

    It’s nice that Chronicle looked beyond the usual same old, same old, from Groome, Post, etc., and got a new and orthodox voice to put some perspective to the parish closings story.

  • “Both of them (women and married priests) were brought up by dissident groups as possible solutions to the priest shortage in Boston.”

    Of course. Now all you’d have to do is pay for them, and continue to support the parishes in question financially—which is usually at least one of the reason that most parishes are closed or merged in the first place, regardless of the number of priests.

    Add to that the wives and children of priests, not to mention “hazard pay” for having your children living in those neighborhoods, and whaddaya got?

    Right back where you were before.


  • Dom:

    I would love to hear your thoughts on this.  I’ve also raised the point about the extra money it would cost if our parishes had to support a married priest with children versus a single male.  (Now don’t read what follows as a call for the end of the celibacy requirement.)  But I have to say the argument has left a bad taste in my mouth, recently.  Essentially, it is an argument for cheap labor.  (Obviously, it isn’t just that.)  But I wonder what it says about the people comprising the Church that our willingness to support the Church financially is such that only single males willing to accept a poverty-inspired lifestyle can afford to be priests.  Poverty isn’t all bad or we wouldn’t recognize the vow of poverty as a positive.  But there is something more deeply wrong with our church culture when most people barely put a dollar in the collection plate.  Not that I would want any family to sacrifice and pave the way necessarily, but I wonder if people had to deal with the reality of a married priest and knew that there was a whole family dependent on him, if our giving habits would improve.

  • The cost of families vs. single men wasn’t the only argument I made, but it is a practical one. You’re right that it should not be the first argument. After all, it would be nice if more parishes could afford to hire laypeople to their staffs at family wages.

    Another part of the argument: Obviously the pastor and his family would live in the rectory. Where would the associate pastor and his family live? Giving them a large enough wage to pay for a home would be an added burden on the parish.

    But my point is that married priests doen’t address the immediate problem. Fixing the tithing problem won’t be quick, and in the meantime having married priests would only make financial matters worse.

    The other argument is the cost to families of priests. Being a priest is a 24-hour-a-day job, even more so than for a Protestant minister. Priests are on call to provide the sacraments at any hour of the day or night. They say Masses every day, perform funerals, visit the sick, prepare homilies, and then act as administrators to boot. I’ve lived with priests: they are so busy I can’t imagine any time being left in their days for families.

    And how about assignments? Priests would be uprooting their families every few years to go to another parish. Kids would be taken out of schools, wives might have to leave jobs (or you’d have to pay them more so the wife doesn’t have to work.) And so on.

    Obviously the Eastern rite churches have to deal with some of this, but there are enough differences between Latin and Byzantine that we can’t just copy the Byzantine model.

  • Dom:

    For what it is worth, I just want to clarify I wasn’t at all suggesting a change in the celibacy requirement or that there weren’t other reasons for why a celibate, unmmarried priesthood is a good idea.  Just commenting on the attitude I sense (even in myself) when it comes to the financial arguments made in its favor.  I’m just struck that as a community we do not feel a greater sense of responsibility to the Church with our finances.  Having done the back-of-envelope math on weekly contributions per offering envelope, I’m downright ashamed by what it usually demonstrates (and there are plenty more people at mass than those who use envelopes).  I am as much at fault here as the next.  Again as I said, a bit of a tangent to what your original thread was about.  But since you brought it up, exactly what are the differences (besides number of people) you see between the Latin and Byzantine rites that you think make a married priesthood acceptable for one but inappropriate for the other?

  • Not sure about the Byzantine rite priests but I know a lot of the married Orthodox clergy work a regular job to supplement their parish income which isn’t enough to support a family.

    There are stats out there that show the divorce rate of Protestant clergy is the same as the divorce rate is for the secular world. That’s a big wrinkle and scary when you think about it seriously.

  • Jack,

    I am more familiar with the Latin rite than the Byzantine rite, but I think Colleen has the gist of it. I think that in Byzantine churches in the US, you are also more likely to have only one priest per parish.

  • In this part of the world, a pastor of an Eastern Rite parish has the advantage of the surrounding infrastructure being of a another jurisdiction (that is, a diocese of the Roman Rite), thus the damands on him tend to be confined to his own parish, which is typically very small by Roman standards. There are a number of married Catholic priests, working quietly in Eastern Rite and Anglican Use parishes. Those close to the phenomenon, including those who specialize in counseling them, will say outright that either the marriage or the ministry suffers to some degree. In the end, if the number of priests in Boston doubled tomorrow, the parishioners will probably still be just as cheap (and in some neighborhoods, just as scarce) as they ever were.

  • Dear Dom, DLA, Colleen, et. al.,
    Thanks for taking notice of the interview and my effort to give more balance to the coverage of the current struggles of the Archdiocese of Boston than perhap some of my colleagues have.  I raised the question about married priests because of a letter written to Archbishop Sean by a married priest who suggested that allowing him and other laicized priests to resume pastoral responsibilities—without compensation BTW—would solve the priest shortage in the A of B. I raised the question about the ordination of women because in visiting services conducted at a number of the parishes in vigil, I noticed that women were often officiating at them. I wondered, therefore, if this experience was not paving the way for members of these parishes at least to become more open to the idea of the ordination of women.  On these and other questions, Dom’s answers were clear and firm without being overbearing, leaving me to believe that I had made a sound choice in selecting him to represent a point of view that has not much been heard in the coverage of Catholicism in Boston. BTW, Dom’s is not the only voice on behalf of traditional Catholicism I intend to include in my show.  For I’m aware that, as the viewpoints represented on this blog well demonstrate,  there are various perspectives that can be considered traditional or even orthodox.  Thus, I’ve also interviewed both clergy and laity in the Latin Mass community and taped both their services and CCD classes for inclusion in the show.  As Dom noted, the final product will be the result of how I edit this and other footage—from the more than nine hours of material I currently have on hand down to the 16 minutes of editorial content in a Chronicle show.  I have no doubt that whatever choices I make will be bound to offend at least some in the wide spectrum of Catholic opinion.  My only hope is that, on balance, I will be seen as an equal opportunity offender respectful of the variety of views in the broad community of those who consider themselves devoted to the RCC.
    Tony Hill

  • Tony,

    Considering the respectful way you have communicated with me in person and via email, I am confident that you will provide the best possible report. As a fellow journalist I can understand the constraint of having to report a complicated issue based on extensive research with a limited time or space to do it in. I’m looking forward to seeing the final product.