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Confessions of a Married Clergyman

9/2/2003 - 6:00 PM PST

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©Deacon Keith A. Fournier

I recently returned from two events that gave me great hope for the future of the clergy. First, I had the privilege of visiting a seminarians retreat. There, I met forty wonderful men, in love with Jesus Christ and His Church, clearly called to the celibate life and ready to give themselves to the Lord and His people.

Later, I spoke to over a hundred permanent deacons, their wives, their priest director and their wonderful Bishop. These men are serving sacrificially as an order of clergy in the midst of the world, committed to the “new evangelization” proclaimed by the Pope.

I left both experiences with a deeper conviction than I already had (which was quite deep!) that the “gates of hell will not prevail” against our beloved Church. Like every person who has heard or been in any way affected by the “sexual scandal” and resulting crisis facing the Catholic Church, I am still outraged, deeply hurt, concerned and moved to both prayer and action.

I have prayed my heart out, appeared as a guest on Television programs, attempted to explain this horror to my children, tried in any way I can to support the victims, promote proper prosecution of the offenders and help provide insight to other Christians and people of good will who have been shocked by this grievous scandal.

Because I love the Catholic Church, I have proposed, along with many others, that this is a time of purification that sets a course, a way of response, paved by justice, truth, penance and authentic conversion, if she responds in a manner that is faithful to the gospel she proclaims.

This way has been forged by the Lord who "hears the cry of the poor" - the abused and the faithful who deserve a Church that can be trusted. He is the One who will guide us all through this time of testing, travail and eventual triumph. I believe that we have begun the path down that road and I am deeply grateful once again for the leadership of a giant in the Chair of Peter, John Paul II.

Because I believe that the Church is a gift, a communion that has been given from above, I know that it is intended to be a home for the whole human race. It is not the possession of anyone but it’s Divine Founder. The Church is also, as her servant/leaders said so well at the Second Vatican Council, "an expert in humanity."

I believe in faith that the Church will rise to the occasion and do what is right because the promise of her Leader and Savior that "the gates of hell will not prevail" can be trusted.

However, this is also a time when ideas on how to "fix" the perceived "problem" abound -some sincere and some not. Instant "experts" tell a troubled and angry public how to "remedy" the problem. This has become a "moment" for everyone who has an agenda with the Catholic Church to "jump in" and "pile on" From editorial writers, cartoonists to talking heads, they continue to do so.

Perhaps the ones I find most distressing are the disingenuous, those who have spent entire careers from within the Catholic Church seeking to conform it to their own designs. Ironically, many of these new "experts" have long supported a counterfeit notion of "freedom" that actually promotes some of the very deviant sexual behaviors that lie at the root of some of the criminal acts involved.

For example, months ago I was saddened to see one such priest /"theologian" who has systematically sought to serve as a fifth column from a tenured faculty position in a prestigious catholic School in the Midwest, don a collar (for the first time to my knowledge in many years) and become an "expert" during this scandal.

First, there already are married clergy in the Catholic Church. I am one. I have been happily married for twenty seven years with five children! Even that would surprise many readers. There are many of us however!

I am a Deacon, the first Order of Clergy in the Catholic Church. It is followed by Priest, and Bishop. The sacrament of "Holy Orders" unfolds itself through three stages as deacon, priest and Bishop. Each order of Clergy serves in a different way. Deacons are ordained for the ministry of Word, Service and Sacrament.

In the West, we are mostly married and serve as an order of clergy in the midst of the word. We go from the altar to the world, mostly also have careers and are called to manifest Christ the Servant in the real world.

Though in the early Church this order of Clergy was often a "terminal" order (meaning that men served as deacons for a long time, often for life) and never proceeded to priesthood, in more recent centuries in the West, it fell into "disuse" and became a "transitional order". That was changed by the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council. The ancient practice was resumed and Deacons once again are flourishing in both the Eastern and Western Church.

Deacons are ...

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