Excerpts from a talk by Father Robert Silva
President of the National Federation of Priests’ Councils
The Catholic Church needs an open discussion on priestly celibacy, said Father Robert Silva, the president of the National Federation of Priests' Councils.
"Why and how celibacy is tied to the priesthood in the Roman rite needs to be made more clear, since there are those who advocate celibacy for those who freely choose it."
Father Silva said church critics say that celibacy should not be mandated for all priests.
The direction of a celibacy debate "is up to the Holy Spirit. . . . But it seems to me that the promptings of the Spirit are pointing in the direction of a new, open, candid study of celibacy and its meaning for priests."
Father Silva said a discussion on celibacy would help priests understand its meaning and "live it more fruitfully."
Seminarians, he said, also would benefit from studying "recent developments in the biology of sex and contemporary psychosexual studies."
Father Silva called for a re-examination of the church's handling of troubled priests, saying they "cannot simply be cut off, dismissed or sent away."
[It should be noted that the Canon Law Society came out and called for due process of accused priests. See web site JKNIRP.COM for news report on Canon Law Society]
"Sin or no sin, crime or no crime, free or in prison, we are bound together for life. . . .We are a church, not a business or a corporation. We cannot let fear of litigation or liability destroy the relationships that exist between us.”
Father Silva said the current clergy sex abuse scandal has made many priests "sad and angry" because "the life that was once most honorable" is now "tainted and perceived as corrupt."
"Clearly, those things in the organizational and administrative life of the church which led to and permitted the abuses we are experiencing are in need of reform."
Father Silva said the "crime of child sexual abuse" was "most incomprehensible," especially when the child is harmed by a priest.
"The physical, psychological and spiritual trauma experienced by one whom we love at the hands of a priest is devastating."
Father Silva said the priesthood could become strengthened if priests become active participants in each other's lives, ready to "intervene" when a brother priest becomes troubled. "We cannot do this if we do not know one another, or simply have a working relationship with one another."
[It should be noted that some priests and lay persons commenting on the recent scandals on the web site JKNIRP.COM feel that one immediate action priests should take is to bond more closely with each other. As is commonly known, young and older priests do not come together as frequently as they did in past years.]
"We are commanded by Christ: 'Love one another as I have loved you.' My brothers, our people must see in us the community that they are to become."