Friday, November 21, 2014

Married Men, The Byzantine Catholic Priesthood & Money

It always seems to come down to money, don't you think?

The personal reflections on this blog are completely anecdotal and are true only to my experience. Other Eastern Catholic clergy families might have a very different experience, and I am sure that celibate priests can be even more different.  How should I answer this:

"All these folks who want married priests
should be asked the following questions:
  • How much will you be increasing your weekly contributions to the Church to pay for the wife and kids, and their educations, and their medical and life insurance, and the large house and the second car and maybe third car? 
  • Will it be OK with you if your pastor gets four weeks vacation to be with his family?
  • Will he be able to charge overtime for sick calls and weddings on Saturdays, taking him away from his family?"
It always about money, isn't it? It is rather uncouth to discuss exact figures, so I will not share the exact amount that priests of my eparchy are supposed to be paid (my husband heads up two missions, so the guidelines don't apply to us in any case- he doesn't receive any compensation from the mission). The guidelines state that priests should receive an extra $100 monthly for each dependent that he has. That certainly wouldn't pay for four-week vacations, a third car (?!) and the children's educations. It covers groceries.

From our personal experience-
which is real and not some worst care scenario fantasy- there has never been a four-week vacation. The first time we were able to get the money together to visit the old country after five years of marriage, priest-husband stayed a week and the girls and I stayed for the summer. I will go with the kids to visit the US grandparents for two weeks between the summer semester and fall semester, and I don't see how he can fit it in. I am not throwing a pity party at all; this is the life we have chosen, but I am just gobsmacked by the attitude of so many people. As for the "second or third" car, we were just able to upgrade and donate our second small car- a Chevy with 250,000+ miles.

And since when has any priest "charged" for a sick call? That kind of activity would be worthy of Luther nailing his theses to the door of a cathedral. I suppose I was sensitive to this comment because as I was reading the post and following comments, my husband was going back to the hospital at night to anoint because no local priest was available....we do not live in a priest-lacking zone....Obviously certain liturgical activities will be private such as sick calls and confession. Does a surgeon bring his/her family into the operating room? But we participate in his life whenever it is appropriate. Weddings are family affairs and most clergy families will be helping as they can with whatever talents they have. Except for private counseling sessions, a wedding does not take time away from the family. I would say the problem is the opposite from what the commenter feared. The typical clergy family will be wedding coordinator, singer, florist if needed, and more- all for the 'price' of one- and that price is set by the bride and groom. They give nothing or a bit or a lot, depending on their ability and desire. But the priest and his family who have put multiple hours or days into the marriage preparation and wedding will never receive a stipend as large as the reception dj who is there for a few hours. It is what it is, but priests getting rich off of sacraments is a long-standing, false stereotype.

I just wonder, is 'time way from family' ever a common argument against a man becoming a doctor or a lawyer? I didn't think so, because he brings home a lot of money- after a few years of making virtually nothing as a resident or first-second year non-partner. But MD or Esq looks good after a last name, so the family can do without Dad as he works to bring home lots of bacon.

I just wonder, do Protestants or Orthodox look at their pastor's new baby and mutter under their breath that this baby is going to cost them money? Or is his family just part of 'doing (church) business' - also realizing that in his wife, they might have a 'free' secretary, cantor, wedding coordinator, lunch maker, coffee brewer, kid wrangler- as long as a different parishioner doesn't want to do those things? They might realize- he either needs to make more money (the worker is worth the wage) or the parishioners needs to be tolerant of time away from church  and help him with non-liturgical chores so he can make the 'big money' at a supplemental job.

I just wonder,
do Roman-rite parishioners fret over the cost of repaving the blacktop or taking care of the roof? Do they argue with the finance committee over the cost of weekly flowers and buying new banners? Could the money sent producing four-color brochures announcing a  new stewardship campaign and the subsequent mailings and four color outdoor banners on every Roman-rite parish be put to wiser use?

In my opinion, the only arguments to retain priestly celibacy in the Roman rite are theological and traditional. I am not here to disrespect celibacy. I do disrespect using money as an argument to retain celibacy. I could remind everyone that Fr John Corapi took a specific vow of poverty as a religious (not just a promise to live simply like a secular priest does) yet he owns two houses and had control over his ministry's financial dealings. Another worst case scenario- what happens when a celibate priest gets ill? The Church provides for him (as they should)! One person can become as expensive as many. At the wonderful Latin-rite parish where I  was the night phone and door person as a highschooler, the priests had  secretaries, cooks, housekeepers, cars provided, insurance provided, lay youth ministers, choir directors and more. Basically, everything was set up for them to do their priestly work. I do not discount their hard work and struggles, but I don't remember ever hearing comments like the ones above... just saying....

and another
"Dear Panyi Matka, As a Roman Catholic with an unending love and passion for Eastern Christianity, the Priesthood, and my girlfriend, I want to know if you could provide me with some guidance as to the possibility of moving into the Byzantine Rite of the Catholic Church and becoming a married priest. Thank you and may God be with you and your family always. In Christ, S---."
My first interior response was along the lines of- here is another Latin-rite Catholic 'using' us Byzantines for our traditional Liturgy/married priesthood possibility/opportunity to be a big fish in a very small pond instead of one in five thousand at the local Roman-rite church. He would put up with our smallness and different-ness for a year or two and then go back to his Latin roots (literally- I think the writer is Latino or Italian in origin) But then I got a hold of myself and re-read his question.
Father Maximos of Holy Resurrection Monastery has stated that a person's primary vocation is either celibacy or marriage. This might seem counter-intuitive because the priesthood is an eternal mark on the soul while marriage is not, but one should begin with discerning whether celibacy or marriage is God's plan for their life. The priesthood is a possibility with both a vocation to celibacy (a vocation to celibacy makes being a monk or priest monk possible) and marriage for a man.
But the Roman-rite has not had a married priesthood as a normal matter of course for hundreds of years. So what does this mean for a Latin-rite man's discernment process? Even if he likes Liturgy and theology and the Church and the idea of becoming a priest, if he has discerned marriage, the priesthood should be off the table. The diaconate is a distant possibility, but diocesan policies usually limit study for the diaconate to a man who has been married for many years. So as heartless as it sounds, a Latin-rite man who has discerned marriage (yes- even before he has found a future wife-possibility) should realize that the priesthood is not available to him. He should not attempt to finagle a way such as become Anglican and then attempt a change to Roman-rite Catholicism  or become Byzantine-rite and then really be Roman-rite with bi-ritual faculties. This is just not right or holy.
My husband- from the old country where most priests are married with children- discerned both marriage and a hoped-for call to the priesthood when he was seventeen. Everything education-wise and professionally has a connection to his priesthood and his obligation to support his family. When he was in seminary in his country, his bishop invited those seminarians who planned on remaining celibate to study for their Master's degree in Rome. He knew that he planned on getting married, so he declined the invitation. His integrity was more important than that. And I believe that God has rewarded his honorable interactions with his bishop. He was able to study in France for two summers and in Austria for a year. He was given permission to start a ministry in the United States. But he has never been to Rome.
So in a very roundabout way, I am advising the writer to be honorable. If you have discerned marriage, then that is what you must do. If you feel the Byzantine rite truly calling your heart, then  become involved with the closest church and begin the process to officially change your rite. I would hope that your girlfriend would change as well. You should change your rite with no thought to a future priesthood. You need to live about two years of being only Byzantine before you should contact the bishop. Practically, the Romanian and Ukrainian eparchies are more open to married men working towards the priesthood, but the Ruthenian eparchies are more pan-cultural and American. 

Be honorable and be honest with yourself. If your dream as a priest involves Ash Wednesday ash distribution, not singing Alleluia during Lent, preaching in front of a thousand people, rosaries and adoration, the Byzantine-rite will not fulfill the dream. This is why living a Byzantine life for about two years is important for you to discern if this is the life you want. In addition, every pre-seminarian and seminarian (of all rites) must realize that they will or won't be ordained at the bishop's pleasure. The priesthood is not a right even when one has all the education. In the Byzantine rite of ordination, the bishop asks the people- Is he worthy? and the candidate hopes and prays that the people will sing, "Axios!"
on a very practical note: a married man hoping to be ordained a (Byzantine-rite) priest should figure out how he will support himself and his family. Byzantine-Catholic churches are generally small and poor. If it is very small (like our two missions), he can plan to work an outside job. If grandma or auntie live close by and are willing and the church is too big to be away from, the wife might work outside the home. Different families have different solutions. The writer needs to prepare himself for a future with or without the priesthood.
....And maybe most importantly- the wife needs to be enthusiastic about a possible priesthood. She doesn't need to delude herself into thinking that all will be sunshine and roses. I knew that the day of my husband's priestly ordination was the day that satan really had the desire to destroy him and his family. But I was still game for the adventure. But if the girlfriend/wife is not hopeful and positive about it, stop. This may mean that he should not pursue this path. He was married first. As painful as it might be, he is called to be married first and then find a way to serve our Lord in His Church- just not with the priesthood.