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Sunday, October 21, 2007

Celibacy is NOT the Issue - Fidelity IS

Celibacy has been blamed for everything from the vocations "crisis" to the recent abuse scandal in the Church.

A few of my thoughts:
  • Other denominations are experiencing a "vocations" shortage, and in many cases worse shortages than the Roman Catholic Church. The Episcopalians are an example and they allow every type of person to live non-celibate "priesthoods". Women, married women, men, married men, homosexuals, and openly sexually active homosexuals. "Vocations" shortage just the same.
  • Other religious denominations are hurt by abuse scandals as well, they're just not reported on as heavily as those in the Catholic Church. This is not to diminish the outrage that the abuse scandal has been, and the damage it has done to the Roman Catholic Church as well as the dignity of the priesthood in the eyes of many. It is to say that celibacy had nothing to do with it. A lack of faithfulness had everything to do with it.
  • In regards to sexual misconduct and abuse specifically, the single largest group of pedophiles in the world, by a long shot, are married, or formerly married, men ("more than 70 percent of the males who molest children report themselves as heterosexual, and most are, or have been, married. "). The media simply ignores the plague that is sexual abuse in America. Best estimates are that between 50% and 66% of all adult women have been sexually molested or abused in some way, at some point in their life, with the overwhelming majority of those at the hands of men that supposedly loved them. Of those men, virtually ALL OF THEM are NOT "CELIBATE.
  • In education the numbers are terrible, and again none of the perpetrators are vowed celibates: From a CNS Story: A national survey of 2,064 students in 2000 showed that 9.6 percent of public school students from kindergarten through 11th grade reported unwanted sexual harassment or abuse by public school employees, mostly educators, said Shakeshaft, professor of educational policies at Hofstra University in Huntington, N.Y. The survey, done by the American Association of University Women, listed educators as responsible for 57 percent of the abuse with the rest done by other employees such as bus drivers and teachers' aides. Regarding victims, 56 percent of the reported abuses were against girls. Regarding offenders, students reported that 57 percent were males. If the survey were projected over the entire public school system, it would mean that 4.5 million students are subject to sexual abuse or harassment by [non-celibate] school employees, said Shakeshaft. Shakeshaft said a 1994 study she did on disciplinary action against 225 public school teachers who admitted sexually abusing children in New York state showed a lax policy. Only 15 percent were terminated and 25 percent received no disciplinary consequences, she said. Of the rest, 39 percent left the school district, many with a positive recommendation to teach elsewhere, and the rest were informally reprimanded, she said. Experts studying child sex abuse often refer to the sending of child-abusing teachers to other school districts as "passing the trash."
  • More on the subject of sexual misconduct in US Schools: AP: Sexual Misconduct Plagues US Schools Hat tip to the Curt Jester for finding this article, and inciting me to make this post. In his usual comic sarcasm his post is entitled: "I had no idea that ...
    ... so many teachers must have taken a vow of celibacy."
As I said, celibacy is NOT the issue, FIDELITY IS. What we need in the Church today are not simply vocations (and definitely not non-celibate vocations to the priesthood), but holy vocations, and in the case of the priesthood we need virtuous, heroic men, like the overwhelming majority of priests are, and have been, throughout the history of the Roman Catholic Church.


Brother James Hayes f.i.c. said...

How very true. Celibacy is indeed not the issue.

Keep up the good work! God bless.

Bro. James Hayes f.i.c.

P.S. I am Vocations Director (amongst other things) for my order in England).

A Simple Sinner said...

I disagree that the Episcopal Church is having a vocations crisis yet I agree it is having a vocations crisis!

As they have made it clear they are willing to ordain anyone, the numbers have been rising among the ranks of the clergy, but dwindling on the other side of the altar!

This points to the notion that opening ordination to pretty much any party that presents itself is destructive...

In 1994, when the Episcopal Church had 2.5 million members and 7,413 churches, it had 14,645 clergy, 170 members per cleric.

In 2005, they now have 2.2 million members and 7,155 churches, and we have 17,817 clergy, or 122 members per cleric.

Of those 17,817 clergy, 4,607 are women. As of 2005 that now equals 25.85%

Interestingly presbyteral ordinations have almost achieved parity with a 52/48% (male/female) split as of the numbers available in 2006 from Episcopal.org

1998 13.80%
2001 20.34%
2005 25.85%

Interestingly, those numbers are darn near identical to the Evangelical Lutheran Church - with whom TEC is in communion:
1999 13.50%
2005 25.23%

Now those numbers are from 2005. Since 2005...

Then TEC elected and consecrated V. Gene Robinson (openly practicing homosexuality after a divorce from his wife the mother of his children) as a bishop....

....and elected Dr. Katherine Jeffords Schori (an ex-Catholic) as Prime Bishop.

Since 2006 at least 3 openly gay, non-celibate candidates have vied for other bishop of the TEC Diocese of California Michael Barlowe, Robert Taylor & Bonnie Perry of Chicago. All of them lost, but Barlowe was in the running again for the bishop's gig in Newark, NJ for a second loss.

So 25.85% of total clergy is the 2005 number before those fiascos.

The new numbers? Who wants to guess?

Bare in mind, there was a time when PECUSA had 4M+ members...

But then on the opposite end of the spectrum are the Orthodox.

What is the ratio of clergy to parishes, or membership to parishes or clergy to membership? Do more clergy and parishes mean the OCA has grown? Good hard numbers that I trust have been hard to come by. But some of what I am seeing is leading me to indicate that they have been losing ground by not retaining the children of Orthodox families.

With some total 1026 clergy listed in the last year book (2006), 197 of them deacons, 829 priests...

Using the Hartford Institute's estimated membership of 39,000

You get -
ratio of clergy to laity: 38.01
ratio of priests to laity: 47.04
39,000 / 456 parishes = 85.52 members per parish

Using Fr. Jonathan Ivanoff's estimated membership of 27,196

You get -
ratio of clergy to laity: 26.50
ratio of priests to laity: 32.85
27,196 / 456 parishes = 59.64 members per parish

I believe the number of actual active membership is likely far closer to 15,000. That would mean that 1 out of 15 members of the OCA are a deacon, priest of bishop.

(YES, some of those priests are retired. Accounting for that could make some numbers look better, some numbers look worse.)

My point?

"Lots of priests" don't mean "lots of growth".

Divorcing orthodoxy from ministerial formation is suicidal.

Ignoring the value of well-formed, orthodox, committed celibates is beyond foolish.

Brad Watkins said...

Simple Sinner,

Wow. Thank you for the clarification, I stand corrected. And thank you for the extremely well researched information. I think this may need to be elevated out of the combox to a post in and of itself if you don't mind. Let me know.

In Christ,

A Simple Sinner said...


I would not say you stand corrected... Because you were correct - a lot of other mainline denominations have experienced much diminished interest in their ministerial formation programs...

I don't mind this to be spun off out of the combox but the TEC numbers are slightly dated... And more of the data I am looking at leads me to believe that actual active membership is well below 2.2M closer to the 1.7-1.8M mark... Some other studies are suggesting far, far lower numbers...

Sorting through the numbers isn't easy... There are lies, damned lies, statistics and then ecclesial statistics! But the chances are, that today the ratio of clergy to active members is much closer to 1:50.

(see http://www.virtueonline.org/portal/modules/news/article.php?storyid=2610)

PECUSA (as it was then called) had 3,615,643 in the year 1965 when the population of the US was 194,302,963 or 1.86% of the population. Had those numbers remained constant with population growth, there would be 5.58M Episcoplalians today.

Also, I should have noted your original proposition is correct in a real way. When it comes to having enough clergy to go round, there are still places in TEC and ELCA where there is a shortage. For as urban and modern as these communities have become, a lot of the "vocations growth" has been concentrated in urban areas leaving a lot of rural parishes without clergy... "Thick on the ground near the clubhouse" comes to mind.