A Calling in Crisis
Conversations with Catholic priests
(Page 4 of 5)
Later, the priests take up the subject while sitting around their kitchen table.Skip to next paragraph
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"I personally favor that," says McGreevy, who recently joined his two fellow Dominicans here in Oregon. "Why shouldn't we have women priests or married priests?"
Orique, McGreevy's younger colleague in this small Dominican "community," as they call it, is less sure. He is hesitant to endorse what would be a radical change for the church, and reluctant to appear critical of higher authority.
But he acknowledges the trend, and says, "there's a greater role for laity and for women, and that's a good thing."
The two priests' comments point up a difference between their generations. Those (like McGreevy) who entered the priesthood about the time of Vatican II often were caught up in the spirit of liberalization. At the same time, some began raising questions of their own.
Orique observes that his generation tends to be more respectful of authority.
"I'm not a papal-positivist," he says, adding that younger priests sometimes may voice criticisms on issues such as how the church has handled the sexual-abuse scandal. But in general, he says of his generation, "We love the church, we respect the church, respect the traditions and hierarchy of the church.
"The world doesn't need any more cynics," he says. "It's easy to tear down, but what's needed is to build up."
* * *
Life in a Dominican residence is not all formal robes, serious sermons, and sober discussions about how the church can survive unprecedented challenge.
Orique is taking classical guitar lessons, and Fones finds time now and then to play the bassoon he's had since he studied music performance at Michigan Technological University (where he majored in geophysics) more than 20 years ago.
Both point out, however, that those instruments actually belong to their religious order now, since they took vows of poverty as well as chastity when they became Dominicans.
The three priests here have a fourth housemate the Rev. John Rosenberg, a Lutheran minister and interim pastor of a church in Eugene who spends a day or two each week back home in Vancouver, Wash. Before he's off to his own pastoral duties each morning, Pastor Rosenberg joins the priests for their morning readings and prayers. Since he typically lights the single candle for this simple daily devotional, he jokes that he's the acolyte here.
Over a dinner of fresh Mexican food on a Monday night, he's trying to talk the priests into going out to a movie after their church's finance-committee meeting. "C'mon you guys, my wife said she'd pay for the tickets!" he urges them.
The movie offer is tempting, but they decide instead to stay at home, make popcorn, and watch a video of "Evita." It's another wild night at the rectory.
* * *
It's in those moments, out of the spotlight, that the priests confront the issue uppermost in their mind: the recent controversy within the church.
Seated in their plain but comfortable living room, the three Dominicans are discussing "Fall From Grace," a recent article in the National Catholic Reporter by former priest Eugene Kennedy, professor emeritus of psychology at Loyola University. The weekly newspaper describes itself as "an independent voice within the church."
Mr. Kennedy's long analysis of the problem pulls no punches. "Bishops believed that the good of the church justified denial, delay, and evasion in managing the problems of priests," he writes.
McGreevy, the oldest of the three, remembers the days when such sexual offenses were seen as a "simple moral lapse," and not something discussed in public.
"In my family, we never even talked about my cousin who had gotten a divorce," he says.
"If they didn't talk about it, it didn't exist," says Orique.
The discussion turns to the broader subject of human sexuality. "There's a need for a lot more open discussion of sexuality and where sexuality fits into the spiritual life," says Fones.
"We [Americans] are oversexualized, but people are starving for intimacy," Orique comments.
"And that's at the heart of spirituality intimacy, companionship, friendship," Fones chimes in.