VI. “And He Is Divided”
In my article series on Medjugorje – Discerning the Spirits, in Part VI, Section 4.A. (found here: http://wademichaelstonge.blogspot.com/2010/08/discerning-spirits-vi-satans-motives.html), I spoke about the phenomenon of “lay ministry”, and how many popular Catholic figures and “speakers” are getting so busy with their work in the Church that they neglect their duties as husbands and fathers (because many of them have chosen to marry instead of taking a vow of celibacy, which would be more suited to the path of ministry they chose). I would refer you back to that section and recommend you read it before continuing.
Rosalyn R, a poster on CAF, who says she is a “certification student at the TOB Institute” and has “attended one week long class with Christopher West at the TOB Institute”, said the following about his sabbatical: “I'm glad to see that he is taking a break and reflecting. He has a large family and is away from them frequently giving talks.” [emphasis mine]
In this whole controversy, what I think is the biggest problem is what Rosalyn points out. And I believe that is the main issue Mr. West needs to address. He needs to spend more time with his family, if I may be so bold to say. As I will argue in And He Is Divided, I do not believe that a man truly called to evangelize on such a wide scale, who is truly called to be an itinerant preacher, would be called to married life rather than celibacy. All of the great men called to important missions and to evangelism in the past were celibate monks, nuns, and priests. Even Protestant John Wesley mandated celibacy for itinerant preachers. These are the conclusions one arrives to when immersed in a hermeneutic of continuity.
As I said on the forums, “I know many lay ministers who get so busy ‘saving souls’ that they neglect their wives and children. I know one man whose wife recently left him because of this. He got an award a few years back for all his ‘work in the Church’. It is a scandal that he was ever given this award - but so many Catholics (even Catholic leaders) today really think men who serve the Church, even at the expense of their children and marriages, are doing a great ‘work for the Lord’. This is a common error in the Steubenville / charismatic crowd. In fact, some of the theology professors are examples of it (I won't go any further on this point). This is an example of the ‘Protestantization’ of the Church. Our defence for married lay ministers (and permanent deacons with young children) who get busy like this are the same arguments used by Protestants in defence of a married clergy. Is it any wonder, then, why so many on these forums are calling for a married priesthood?”
Mr. West, I would humbly submit, based on the fact that he is a gifted evangelist, may very well have been called to celibacy. And indeed, what a great witness it would have been to have someone living out the pinnacle of Theology of the Body – the eschatological sign and witness of celibacy – after having been “fully redeemed” from a sexually-repressive cult and his subsequent reaction by indulging in fornication and pornography. However, as I will argue in And He Is Divided, when one has been sexually active, it is very difficult to then embrace a celibate call if God attempts to call that person. As married people on the CAF constantly remind us single people, “once you’ve had it, it is a lot harder to live without it.”
The other problem I see with this – and this will be included in And He Is Divided as well – regards the subject of “Catholic celebrities”, and the negative impact this may have on young men being inspired or attracted to a priestly vocation. On the CAF forum, I wrote: “The problem is, the more young men see these chastity speakers traveling the country and teaching audiences of thousands and reaching tens of thousands before going home to their wives and children, being a celibate priest in a small parish of 200 families seems a lot less ‘important’ [or comforting] (yes, celibacy is still a pretty huge ‘sacrifice’ - despite the fact (actually because of the fact) that it is the “higher” call). What West is doing seems like a pretty attractive ‘gig’ in comparison”. I wrote elsewhere that “I really do believe that will allure some (not all, of course, or even most) away from a possible priestly vocation. At no other time in the Western Church (the Eastern practice is a whole different ball of wax) could a person have his cake and eat it too to this degree (ministry [including ordination] and family life), and do so licitly (most priests in the twelfth century had concubines, but this was, of course, immoral).”
However, the part such young men who aspire to the “Catholic speaking circuit” seem oblivious to is that “pride goes before a fall”, as Solomon wisely prophesied (Proverbs 16:18). The crowds who feed on the every word of these Catholic speakers, who give standing ovations, who solicit and take advantage of photo-ops with these “celebrity” speakers and post them as their profile pictures on Facebook for people to comment on and “ooh” and “aah” over (because of that person’s “increased status” due to being “associated” with someone famous – this is all Hollywood mentality, not Catholic, by the way), get “puffed up” with pride. I have met some of them – and there is one very popular speaker in particular who is among the most smug and arrogant men I have ever personally met (although there are TV personalities that I have not met personally who come across as even more arrogant). This is a scandal and another of the Church’s dirty little secrets that remains a pink elephant. I spoke about all of this in Discerning the Spirits – my series on Medjugorje – in Part VII, paragraphs 3 and 4, for any reader who would like to refer to that. http://wademichaelstonge.blogspot.com/2010/08/discerning-spirits-vii-gods-motives.html.
Ms. Eden stated the purpose of her thesis was as follows: “I decided to assess his presentation and prominent critiques. My goal was to offer positive correctives that would help catechists give a fuller, deeper, and more accurate presentation of Church teachings on marriage and sex.” (3) I too have sought to do likewise, and my purpose for contributing this piece was to point out certain things that I believe have been missed, as well as “bridge” the two sides of the debate as I saw a synthesis between the two where others were only seeing opposition.
What was intended to be a 10 page piece has turned into a document as long as Ms. Eden’s thesis. As every writing project, this took a lot out of me, and I will now have to “recharge my batteries”. To everyone who has read and benefited from this piece, I ask you for a brief prayer to Mary, our Mother, whose birth we celebrate today. “Pray for us, O Holy Mother of God, that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ”.