“The priesthood is like marriage. You are wedded to the Church and you don’t just leave.”
Equating marriage and the priesthood is a common but mistaken practice in the Church. Marriage entails love between two people. The love in mandated celibacy is supposedly between the priest and Christ or the priest and the Church, but this love does not require celibacy. A person may wish to be celibate as a symbol of their commitment, but it is not “marriage”.
In marriage, the spouse is in a position to look behind the curtain of their loved one's life, speak truth to them and challenge hurtful and insensitive behavior. Who looks behind the curtain of the celibate’s life and speaks truth to them? Who challenges them to charity and sensitivity, when their behavior is hurtful? Without this accountability, what kind of “marriage” is that? From my experience in the priesthood, few if anyone challenge “Father”, unless it’s serious enough for the Bishop to get involved.
Here we see why celibacy was born and nurtured within a monastic community where the celibate was in an intense relationship with others. The analogy of marriage in this setting may be more credible.
For several years, I lived my celibate priesthood in a rural congregation and alone in a rectory where I had to drive thirty miles to visit another priest. I found living as a young celibate in that situation to be lonely and painful. Having a marital companion would have been far more rational and humane.
If marriage is an analogy, then so is divorce. A spouse in an abusive relationship finds divorce to bring freedom and peace. Similarly, priests required to live in an abusive relationship with an irrational and authoritative Church also find freedom and peace when they leave. Both "divorces" are understandable and under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
"Leaving the Priesthood". Are these words to be taken literally or is it just a case of semantics? I was always taught that the essence of the priesthood is "engraved" as it were into the very soul of the priest so that no one, not even the Roman Catholic Church can take it away. In the Code
of Canon Law, Canon number 290 it says: "Once validly ordained, sacred ordination never becomes invalid." There is no such thing as an ex-priest or a former priests. There are only priests who left the active ministry either of the Roman Catholic Church or outside of it.
.From Active Priests
I just wanted to let you know how grateful I am to God for the call to live a celibate lifestyle that He has given to me. It has given me freedom in my own personal spiritual life to love God in return and to devote my life to the spreading of God's Kingdom.
I am sorry that you felt robbed of this freedom, either through your formation or the early years of your priesthood. I hope and pray that God will always allow men in the priesthood to feel the freedom to accept His invitation in light of their desire to do His will.
I will be praying for you and for this website that it will change its over all goal of helping priests who are troubled to be firm to their commitment and to live out their priesthood fruitfully instead of offering them the slide of hand to leave. I see the hand of the devil passing through its pages for nothing brings more joy to Satan than to get a priest to leave the free assent of his will he made to God in choosing to respond to God's call.
May the Holy Spirit penetrate your heart and give you the freedom of His love.