This past week, a prominent Roman Catholic priest, Father Jonathan Morris, a television commentator, author and pastor in the Archdiocese of New York, announced that he has decided to leave the active ministry as a priest because he wants to be free to “marry and have a family,” although assuring his social media followers that he doesn’t have an “existing relationship.”
The news followed publication of an article in The Atlantic’s June issue entitled, “Abolish the Priesthood,” written by James Carroll, an author and a former Paulist priest. Morris’ departure has nothing to do with Carroll’s article. As it seems, Morris’ departure from active ministry is regrettable, but is a personal decision, and one believes that even after his potential laicization, Jonathan Morris will remain a practicing Catholic. Carroll states that he is not a practicing Catholic.
Like the author Albert Camus, an atheist who wishes that he wasn’t one, Carroll is a Catholic who is not practicing but who wishes he felt he could. It is devastating to read his comments. His article is a rather odd and rambling one. Basing his opinion off his own personal experience, Carroll states that if the Church is to have any future at all, it must be one without a hierarchy. Basically, Carroll is calling for an end to priestly celibacy and the theology of the priest being, by his ordination, ontologically changed. Carroll states:
“The Church I foresee will be governed by laypeople, although the verb govern may apply less than serve. There will be leaders who gather communities in worship, and because the tradition is rich, striking chords deep in human history, such sacramental enablers may well be known as priests. They will include women and married people. They will be ontologically equal to everyone else. […] The Church will be fully alive at the local level, even if the faith is practiced more in living rooms than in basilicas. And the Church will still have a worldwide reach, with some kind of organizing center, perhaps even in Rome for old times’ sake.”
The Church that Carroll is calling for is not the one built on the Rock that is Peter in Matthew 11. It is essential that we recognize the need for the basic structure of the Church that Christ Himself established and that we pray for our priests and bishops. We know that they are not perfect, as do they. We recognize that they are, like all people, sinners, but we know that in God’s plan these are the chosen agents of the Lord’s sacramental grace. Pray for your bishops, your priests, your deacons, your religious sisters and brothers, and, yes, each member of the Catholic faithful. We need our priests. Support them with your prayers!