Celibacy is a lifestyle Catholic priests are noted for but you probably have not heard about Father Josh and over 125 other married Catholic priests in the United States of America. These people capitalized on a loophole created in the pastoral provisions to get ordained as priests. The story of Father Josh opens up a side of Catholic priesthood you may never have heard of. That is why this article is an interesting read. It was first published on National Catholic Reporter. Read the story below;
In a Catholic world where debates over clerical celibacy have flared from Brazil to the Vatican, Joshua Whitfield is that rarest of things: A married Catholic priest.
The Roman Catholic church has demanded celibacy of its priests since the Middle Ages, calling it a “spiritual gift” that enables men to devote themselves fully to the church. But as a shortage of priests becomes a crisis in parts of the world, liberal wings in the church have been arguing that it’s time to reassess that stance. On Feb. 12, Pope Francis sidestepped the latest debate on celibacy, releasing an eagerly awaited document that avoided any mention of recommendations by Latin American bishops to consider ordaining married men in the Amazon, where believers can go months without seeing a priest.
Even the most liberal of popes have refused to change the tradition.
It is “the mark of a heroic soul and the imperative call to unique and total love for Christ and His Church,” Pope Paul VI wrote in 1967.
Then there’s Josh Whitfield.
Whitfield is a husband, a father of four and a relentlessly good-natured priest beloved by the parishioners at Dallas’ St. Rita Catholic Community. His life is spent juggling two worlds. He celebrates Mass, he hears confessions; he drives his son to karate practice, he encourages his oldest daughter’s love of baseball. He is, he says, “an ecclesiastical zoo exhibit,” one of the tiny community of married priests — men who slipped through a clerical loophole created 40 years ago — that even most Catholics don’t know exist.
But inside St. Rita, he’s just Father Josh.
“It’s people like you who are interested in married priests. Here at St. Rita we just get on with it. My job is just to do the tasks the bishop has given me as best I can, and try and make it work,” he said in an interview in his book-filled office, where photos of his wife and children vie for space with photos of popes and sketches of his religious heroes.
There are around 125 married Roman Catholic priests like Whitfield, an Episcopal convert, across the U.S., experts say, and perhaps a couple hundred total around the world.
Surveys of Catholics show widespread backing for a married priesthood. A series of reports in recent years by the Pew Research Center showing 62% support among U.S. Catholics, 56% among Brazilians — the world’s most populous Catholic nation — and 63% in Central and Eastern Europe.
One reason behind that is a church facing an immense, and growing, shortage of priests. In the U.S., the number of priests has dropped by more than one-third since 1970, falling to less than 37,000 in 2018, even as America’s Catholic population has jumped from 54 million to 74 million, according to the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate. Worldwide, the number of priests has remained fairly stable over the past 50 years — but the Catholic population has doubled to 1.3 billion.
But there’s one very small, very notable Catholic constituency that mostly doesn’t support opening up the priesthood to married men: married priests themselves.
“So many of the married priests, like myself, hold this sort of strange, almost contradictory position. And I get that it’s hard to understand. But that’s sort of the irritating beauty of Catholicism. The church persistently thinks theologically, and not sociologically and not politically, at her best,” said Whitfield.
The Catholic Church, which includes nearly two dozen rites, allows married priests in its Eastern Rite churches. It also allows in some married priests like Whitfield, a former Episcopal priest who converted to Catholicism with his wife, Alli, in 2009 and was ordained as a Catholic priest three years later.
(Read complete story here: National Catholic Reporter)