Posts Tagged ‘Bridgeport Diocese’


April 21, 2012

  Joseph F. O’Callaghan 

The right of the clergy and people of the diocese to choose their bishops is hallowed by usage from the earliest times, by canons enacted by Church Councils, and by repeated papal affirmation. Today, however, the pope appoints bishops without significant input from the faithful of the diocese.

 Since the Second Vatican Council theologians, canonists, and church historians have argued that the process of choosing bishops must be reformed. In 1971 The Second Synod of the Diocese of Bridgeport, convened by Bishop Walter W. Curtis, declared: “The basic Christian principles of co-responsibility, the dignity and freedom of persons, and the rights of Christians have traditionally dictated broad participation in the process of selecting bishops. With this in mind the Diocese of Bridgeport will work to develop means whereby priests and laity may have a voice in nominations of candidates for the Episcopal Office” (2:26). However, nothing further seems to have been done to implement that decision.

 Today bishops are usually strangers to the diocese over which they preside and are often transferred to other wealthier and more prestigious dioceses. As a result, bishops are often viewed as agents of an international corporation inRomeand as careerists anxious to move up the ecclesiastical ladder. Even Cardinal Ratzinger decried any sense of careerism among bishops.

 The time has come to acknowledge that the People of God, particularly the clergy and people of the diocese, should have the primary role in choosing their bishop, whose leadership will significantly affect their spiritual well-being. All the faithful, clergy and laity alike, are best suited to evaluate the challenges facing the diocese, to indicate the qualities of pastoral and spiritual leadership desirable in a bishop, and to propose candidates whom they believe to be worthy of the episcopal office.

 In doing so, the clergy and people will be observing the age-old tradition of the Church expressed by Pope Celestine I (422-32) who said: “the one who is to be head over all should be elected by all.” He added: “No one who is unwanted should be made a bishop; the desire and consent of the clergy, the people, and the order is required.”

Celibacy Issues

June 27, 2011

Joseph F. O’Callaghan

A story in the Connecticut Post (6/23/11) concerning the removal of Monsignor Martin P. Ryan as pastor of St. Edward the Confessor Church in New Fairfield on charges of harassing a female employee raises several troubling issues, both personal and institutional.

In the personal realm there is the question of priestly celibacy, the topic of this essay. Responding to accusations that Msgr. Ryan had molested a teenage girl at St. Theresa’s Parish in Trumbull, the Diocesan Sexual Abuse Review Board in 2002 stated that he had “celibacy issues” but should be permitted to function as a priest. Not quite ten years later those celibacy issues seem to have re-emerged. Msgr. Ryan’s example could be multiplied across the country and indeed the world.

Catholics must ask whether obligatory celibacy is in the best interests of the Church? The struggle to impose obligatory celibacy in the Latin Church was carried out with great violence in the late eleventh century. Not until the First Lateran Council of 1123 (canon 21) was the rule of celibacy made binding on all priests of the Latin rite. The history of the Church since then is replete with examples of priests, bishops, and popes who did not observe their vow of celibacy. The amorous cleric is also a figure in western literature.

The Greek Church allows the ordination of married men to the priesthood, but requires bishops to be celibate. The Anglican and Lutheran churches have allowed their clergy to marry. Recently Pope Benedict XVI created a special rite for Anglicans who wished to join the Catholic Church and to be admitted to the Catholic priesthood, even though they were married.

More than likely the apostles, simple fishermen, were married men with children. The story told by the evangelists of Jesus’s healing of Peter’s mother-in-law is evidence that he had a wife (Mk 1:29-31; Mt 8:14-15, Lk 4:38-9).

The earliest biblical description of the qualities desirable in a priest is found in the First Letter to Timothy (3:1-7; 5:17-19): “Whoever aspires to the office of bishop desires a noble task. Therefore a bishop must be irreproachable, married only once, temperate, self-controlled, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not aggressive but gentle, not contentious, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, keeping his children under control with perfect dignity; for if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how can he take care of the church of God?”

At the time the letter was written, the words bishop and priest were used interchangeably to describe the same function of overseeing the Christian community.

Given all the problems that celibacy has created over the centuries, is it not time to return to the earliest Christian tradition represented by the example of Peter, the married man, and the Letter to Timothy (see also Titus 1:5-9), and allow priests to marry or to remain celibate if they wish? If our priests, our bishop, and our pope shared their lives with their wives, would they not have a more profound and realistic understanding of the lives of the people entrusted to their care?