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LETTERS TO THE TIMES

Celibacy in the Priesthood

October 18, 2003

Re "Priests Want Married Clergy Discussed," Oct. 11: The Eucharist is of the essence of Catholicism; a celibate clergy is not. Some Catholic Church rites require the celibacy of priests while others do not. Until about the year 1200, the Latin Rite allowed priests to marry. Because of abuses that arose, it was decided to require priests to remain celibate. The Maronite Rite, which is centered in Lebanon, has never required priests to remain unmarried. Pope John Paul II is a great pope, but his constant harping on priestly celibacy has given it in the minds of many the status of a dogma. Priestly celibacy has great value, but it is not essential. Providing the Eucharist to the faithful must be of greater concern to the church.

Henry Wyatt Moore

Lake Forest

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I read with interest, amusement and sadness your article on the clergy. I was interested because, as a Catholic priest, I often enjoy keeping up on news that relates to the church. I was amused because some suggest that discussion about married priests should begin at the "grass-roots" level. Throughout my 33 years as a priest I have become aware of numerous grass-roots discussions concerning the need for married priests, not only because of a shortage of priests but primarily because there are so many qualified married persons who feel called and are gifted to serve as priests. What is needed are not only more grass-roots discussions but organized efforts at grass-roots and higher church levels to provide the church with both celibate and married priests.

I felt a sense of sadness in reading the article because it was another reminder that the leadership in the church has not been bold enough to challenge those structures that hamper movement in the direction of an optional married priesthood. We already have some married clergy. There are deacons in the church who are married. There are also some married priests from other denominations who have become Catholic and are allowed to be priests. In fact, there is really no shortage of priests, only a shortage of vision. If the Eucharist is to remain a central part of our faith and if we are to have a wholesome sense of priesthood, then we must listen to Jesus' inclusive call to ministry (including priesthood).

Frank J. Ferrante

Los Angeles

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