On the night that World Youth Day festivities came to a close, the A.B.C. launched its counter-offensive against the Church with an episode of Compass entitled “Catholic Dilemma: Part 1: - Sex or celibacy”. Presumably one is supposed to categorise it as a documentary, but it was so totally biased that it is no exaggeration to describe it as a piece of advocacy, advocacy for the insidious agenda of the ‘Catholics for Ministry’ set. This ‘documentary’ failed to explain in a remotely adequate way the meaning of the Mass as a True Sacrifice and the importance of celibacy for the Priest in associating himself with Christ, i.e. the importance of celibacy for theological reasons rather than practical reasons; is it really too hard to convey that the Priesthood is primarily sacrificial rather than pastoral (contrary to Vatican II’s re-orientations as enshrined in the 1983 C.I.C., see here for more on this: http://christianorder.com/features/features_2001/features_nov01.html) and that whoever will not renounce marriage and family (the second biggest sacrifice that one can make, next after the sacrifice of life and limb) is not worthy of being the one through whom Christ offers Himself to the Father?
Now, this is to be expected from a secular humanist programme (since the humanist can only ever understand celibacy as a means to the end of ‘greater availability’; for him man is the end of all things, so that even if he tries to understand things with God in the picture he can only ever see the value of celibacy in utilitarian terms rather than as a sacrifice offered directly to God—see here http://news.stjamescatholic.org/2006/week51/index.html for H.H. The Pope’s thoughts on the matter, under the title “Benedict XVI Meets Roman Curia For Christmas Greetings”) but what was inexcusable was the biased selection of interviewees, who were all either opposed or seemingly neutral to the question of celibacy; none offered (or was allowed to offer) an articulate, cogent justification for celibacy, though one did offer a timid, materialistic argument based on the cost of supporting a married Priest’s family. What I found most remarkable of all, though, was that by a brilliant rhetorical sleight-of-hand, Mr. Paul Collins was able to position himself and, by association, his fellow-travellers in ‘Catholics for Ministry’ as the defenders of the Catholic understanding of Mass against creeping Protestantism! Listen to this (from Mr. Collins himself):
We’re talking about the unavailability of Mass and the Sacraments. We’re talking
about replacing the celebration of Mass with readings from Scripture and a
communion service. Now with respect, I mean I have a fairly good record
ecumenically, but with respect that’s a more Protestant approach and I don’t
belong to a Protestant Church nor do I intend to join one. I belong to the
Catholic Church. And at the core of Catholic belief is the Mass. And if we don’t
have the Mass then it seems to me we are taking away from the essence of being
No mention of sacrifice or anything, of course; the word only appears once during the course of the show, and not in a strictly theological sense.
Surely the producers could have found, somewhere in this wide brown land, a forthright defender of the gift of celibacy? Just a single apologist for this venerable norm? Instead the producers took care to portray the requirement for celibacy as a mere matter of positive law (achieved by the use of a non-cassock-wearing Jesuit canon lawyer), with the possibility of a theological dimension rejected through Mr. Collins.
Add to these shortcomings the usual stereotypes of Rome and the Australian hierarchy as out-of-touch and unresponsive, in contrast to the two former priests, the married convert from Anglicanism and a ‘pastoral leader’ nun, hard at work (over-worked, even) at the “front line” and you have a piece of journalism that gives only one side of the argument. It was truly dreadful. One can hardly wait to see what rubbish they’ll offer next week (I expect the word ‘deaconess’ will get a good showing).