Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Exegesis on Sunday's Gospel

I don't have time to post much this week, but as I am working on my homily, I thought you might like to see my "exegetical notes." One of the ways I prepare a homily is to spend some time doing "exegesis"--i.e., drawing meaning out of the text. What follows may -- or may not -- find its way into my homily for Sunday.

Why did Simon say, "Go away"? What was he afraid of?

He has the startling revelation of who Jesus truly is. Like Isaiah in the first reading, to realize one is in the presence of Almighty God is a terrifying moment; and in the brilliance of God’s own light, the sins we may not have thought much of, stand out as terrible stains.

Simon’s "go away" suggests he does not see himself changing or becoming other than he is, "a sinful man." But the Lord does not "go away"!

What did the great catch of fish mean—why was that frightening?

Simon and his fishermen partners fished all night, the proper time, and failed; Jesus—not a fisherman—fished in the day, the wrong time, and succeeded marvelously and effortlessly.

In the Old Testament, command of the seas and all it contains is seen as something only God has.

Simon first calls Jesus "Master"; after the catch of fish, he addresses Jesus as "Lord," the first person to do that in Luke’s Gospel. (Elizabeth calls him Lord in her dialogue with Mary before their children were born.)

This is where Simon’s name is changed. He will routinely be called "Peter" after this (in Luke, at any rate), until the issue of his denial arises.

While not certain, this may not have been the first time Simon and the Lord met.

The Gospel of John describes the Lord's encounter with Andrew and John, who are followers of the Baptist, when the Baptist says, "Behold the Lamb of God" -- and they leave the Baptist and follow Jesus. Then Andrew brings Simon to the Lord, who says, you will be called Cephas (Aramaic for Rock, akin to Petros, our Peter). If John's Gospel is describing a different incident, then the episode of the great catch could be a subsequent encounter when Simon "gets it" and actually does follow the Lord.

Sometimes Simon Peter and the other disciples are described as "poor." That may be overstating it.

Note it says the boat belonged to Simon, and that he and Andrew were partners with James and John. Matthew tells us they worked with Zebedee, James’ and John’s father; and Mark tells us they had "hired men."

So, we’re talking about a small business. They caught fish, and they sold fish. They might have been poor; they might also have done better than that—something like what we’d later call "middle class."
Sometimes the Apostles will be described as "illiterate." Again, I would question how certainly people say that.

Here’s what we know: the cultures of their time were not pre-literate: both their secular and religious lives involved reading and writing: commerce and government involved keeping accounts and records, same as today; the Gospels mention this, as well as mentioning our Lord standing up to read in the synagogue.

When he does, while it may be that not everyone could read, the passage doesn’t suggest his ability to read made him extraordinary; in fact, it makes the opposite point—the people considered him so much like themselves they were offended by him asserting a greater authority.

(In fact, "books" -- very much as we know them -- existed at this time: words written on paper, bound at the side. Paper was relatively cheap, and therefore, could be much more widely used than scrolls made of animal skins. The New Testament documents were all written on paper, if memory serves, and only later copied onto scrolls, which last longer. Of course, the limitation for books then, until the 1500s, was they had to be hand-copied; but at least they became a lot cheaper. It stands to reason a society that is interested in producing books, is one in which a good number of folks read, as opposed to a mere few.)

Following that thought…as businessmen, selling their wares in the marketplace—either directly to consumers, or perhaps to others who would sell the fish—then they might well interact with a variety of people, both Jews and Gentiles, and very likely, both speakers of Aramaic, and Greek-speakers.

They may well have been bilingual, speaking at least some Greek, in addition to Aramaic. They may even have had a few words of Latin.

After all, look at our world: ordinary people frequently are bilingual or a little trilingual today. Spanish-speaking working people in this country are often bilingual; go overseas, and if you go where lots of tourists go, you’ll find people who speak a fair amount of English, in addition to their native tongue. They often speak it fairly well.

When I was in Korea for a month, as a seminarian, the Korean seminarians I was with spoke a fair amount of English, and they knew a little Chinese. After all, China is their neighbor, with over a billion people!

So, these men, the Apostles, and their lives and world, are more like our own than we may realize.

"Put out into the deep" the Lord says. This is a key phrase.

Why was it necessary for the Lord to say that? It suggests they wouldn’t have tried it, otherwise; or perhaps they’d tried and failed. In any case, you’d think the fishermen would know their business!

Simon let down his net—even though (a) he wasn’t very convinced, and (b), he’d already cleaned his nets—he’d have to do it again. This is an admirable act of submission or obedience.

That Our Lord focused his comments to Simon suggests one or both of two things: he saw Simon as the leader; and it may just be possible that he already was something of a leader in this group.

Our late, beloved holy father, John Paul the Great, used this phrase and image in his letter, Novo Millennio Ineunte -- at the Beginning of the New Millenium, found here.


Anonymous said...

Hello! I am not a Catholic but have Catholic acquaintances and co-workers. Here is my question. I already know that Catholics take a verse from the book of Matthew to "prove" when the Catholic church was started, and that Peter was the first pope or bishop of Rome. This isn't a direct quote but I think the phrase went, "Thou art Peter and upon this rock I will build my church." What I don't understand is how Catholics interpreted this to mean starting up an organisation with a pope, bishops, cardinals, priests, nuns, etc. If you read the acts of the Apostles, you know there already was a church in place in Antioch, with its own liturgies and adherents. It was called the Christian church. What happened to it when Catholics made up their own church? Are there remnants of it today? I just can't quite make the hop from what Jesus said to Peter, to this mega-organisation the Catholic church is today. I just cannot find anyplace in the bible where it says, "Set up this complex system and create a monarchy with a huge headquarters (the Vatican) full of incredible riches." Somehow I can't imagine that is what Peter or Jesus would do. I have also seen in Catholic writings (by Catholic priest scholars, like Jesuits, etc.) that there wasn't a formally appointed and named pope until around the fourth century. I know from my Catholic acquaintances that many Catholics do not know anything at all about early Church history. Alot of them have already assured me that when Peter heard Jesus' statement to him, he immediately went to Rome to build the Vatican and preside over the church and until then there were no Christians. This just isn't true.
How do you think it all came about? To me, when I read what Jesus said to Peter, I just think Jesus was saying, "I won't be here forever but when I go there will be a church made up of my followers. You will lead it at first." All this other stuff about infallibility, etc., doesn't seen to ring true. Comments if you have time. . .many thanks.

Fr Martin Fox said...


You probably don't realize it, but your post is rather rude!

For one thing, it has nothing to do with the topic; so that's rude in itself...

And you might want to think a lot about the tone of your comments . . . which are loaded, and thereby insulting.

Think: is this really how you would approach a priest, or any Catholic, if you just walked up to him for the first time?

You are being rude. Want to start over?

Anonymous said...

Oh, I am very, very sorry, I am not an argumentative person at all and had no idea my curiousity was rude or would be ill taken. I didn't even realise it was off topic, because the parts of your blog that talked about Peter, the rock, etc., just reminded me of these things I don't understand about Peter in Catholic teachings, so it just seemed like a moment to ask questions. My questions were honest ones, but since I am not Catholic I guess I didn't have a clear idea that questions made them mad or that certain ones were forbidden to ask about.
So very sorry that somehow I have questioned things that should not be questioned. I will try to be careful not to ask Catholics any questions in the future. The more I think about it, there are probably alot of places on the internet I could look for the answers if I really needed to know them, rather than be offensive by asking Catholics or priests.
I am embarrassed, as I didn't know my questions had a "tone" or that they were "loaded" (loaded with what?) and I am backing out of this blog now. It feels like something is wrong here. I feel like I am the one being insulted, but since I do not understand you all too well maybe it looks different to you. In any case, so long!

Anonymous said...

I agree with your response Father. There is a way to ask questions that show an honest interest in the topic, and another that shows you are simply disguising attack with the use of a loaded question. No response to his "questions" would have made any difference. I would point him to watch the program Journey Home on EWTN to find week after week protestant ministers who have Come Home to the Catholic Church bringing with them a lot of talent and understanding of scripture. Most made up their minds after extensive review of the early church Fathers. It is an excellent program and I direct many to the program and have even given them tapes I have made of particular programs. What I find interesting, is that these people speak in the same language as many who are seeking because of their journey and thus can evangelize to them with very strong and meaningful statements. I do not know if you have ever met Marcus Grodi since he is over in the Columbus Zanesville area, but he is very talented and great at bringing out points and allowing guests to have time to talk.

Fr Martin Fox said...


"I am not an argumentative person at all and had no idea my curiousity was rude"...

"...I guess I didn't have a clear idea that questions made them mad or that certain ones were forbidden to ask about."

Who said any questions are "forbidden to ask about"? There's an excellent example of being rude, not to mention putting words in my mouth . . .

"So very sorry that somehow I have questioned things that should not be questioned."

There, you did it again.

I will try to be careful not to ask Catholics any questions in the future."

Oh, puh-leeze! Now you're being sulky. I didn't say you couldn't ask questions. Go re-read the last line of my prior post...


It may be this person is just be very young, or rather humble, but I don't buy that anyone is that naive.

Methinks Anonymous doth protest too much . . .

Jim said...

Getting back to the subject at hand, Father, I like this post. I made a comment on your "Am I Boring You?" post a while back that I like the inside look on how a priest does what he does.

This post is another nice example of that. Thanks.

the Joneses said...

I agree with Jim. This is the kind of writing I love to see.

It's especially helpful to me since I preach once a month. I like seeing how others go about preparing the homily.

Anonymous said...

I also agree that this post was enlightening. I spent a lot of time with Father Jim Willig while he was still with us in person and he was amazing at pulling apart scripture and bringing new ways of looking at it. He taught us a lot about how to do this and attracted many to follow.

Anonymous said...

A parenthetic insertion - sorry to interrupt but I did not have time to respond to something the past day or two. I am the first poster Anonymous whom someone refers to as "he" and "him". FYI, I am an 18 yr old female college student. Amazing what people take for granted when they see typeface on white space. Just wanted to put that in, and now goodbye, good Catholics, with no further questions.

Fr Martin Fox said...


Standard English usage is to use "he" "him" and "his" when referring to a person of unknown sex.

shadowmayhem said...


Not to put too fine a point on it, perhaps the anon commenter was merely trying to gather some information and understand something and honestly did not intend to offend someone... I know before converting and during the RCIA process I would ask some questions that may have come across as 'insulting' or 'rude' when just trying to understand or learn about something. Perhaps, there has been a missed opertunity for evangilization... of course I may not be privy to a history with this anon either so I could be off base. It jsut seems odd that instead of trying to explain something that a person may not understand and may not have enough understanding on HOW to ask certian questions of Catholics without comming across as confrontational that we immediatly become offended. . .

Just a thought.

Fr Martin Fox said...


I understand your point, but I don't agree.

A blast of questions (go read that first post, it wasn't one question), with loaded language ("take a verse from Matthew," scare quotes around prove; "when Catholics made up their own church?" "complex system" "monarchy" "full of incredible riches.")

And it included an assertion that is simply bogus: "A lot of them have already assured me that when Peter heard Jesus' statement to him, he immediately went to Rome to build the Vatican and preside over the church and until then there were no Christians." That's called the "straw man."

Now, no one refused to answer this young woman's questions; I invited her to start over.

Shadow, I've played the "bait the Catholic" game many times, and learned my lesson. And they always pose as "merely asking a question." But the merely-asking-a-question folks don't act this way.

The proof, for me, that this was an attempt to Bait the Catholic came in the sulky response about being "forbidden" to ask questions, which was flatly false.

Anonymous said...


I can see your point, but perhaps it could have been handeled a bit more diplomatically on both sides.

Anonymous said...

Fr. Fox,

Such are the pitfalls of comboxes. Sometimes it is difficult to "hear" inflection.

I think it was a missed opportunity because I read Anon's post as someone with a lot of questions, but not trying to be rude.

OTOH, she wouldn't know that you have two parishes to take care of.

Sometimes it just happens.

Anonymous said...

Fr. Fox,

You seem to be a little thin skinned with Anonymous' query. Better to give him/her the benefit of the doubt. You had a golden opportunity to enlighten a blind soul and bring it deeper into the Life of Christ; instead you chose to chastise this soul. Charity should have ruled to moment.


Fr Martin Fox said...


I disagree.

Based on many of these conversations, online, I have come to the conclusion that there are folks who are genuinely seekers, and others who are playing "bait the Catholic." I recognize the method and tactics. It shows up all over the 'net. And the subsequent reaction of the anonymous poster is completely consistent with those who are the latter.

I think I was charitable, and did give the benefit of the doubt. My first words were, "You probably don't realize it, but..." and ended with an invitation to start fresh. She had the opportunity to come back with a question, or not. Instead, she chose to sulk, and to make false attributions to me, instead of taking advantage of the offer.

Of course, I am happy to refer her and others to anyone else's blog who wants to handle questions in this manner (which I deem inappropriate). Let me know...

Anonymous said...

Dear Father,

how did the Universal Church develope from a hierarchy of
Father, Son + Holy Ghost


Father, Son + Holy Ghost
Religious Brother and Sisters

Some of them I can see clearly, St. Peter - Benedict XVI makes sense, even Apostles - Cardinals, and Deacons - Deacons, but the others aren't so clear cut to me, please could you explain.


Fr Martin Fox said...


If you go the Catholic Encyclopedia, you can discover the origin and development of various offices and titles pertaining to the hierarchy of the Church. As you will see, many are essentially titles of honor -- such as monsignor, and to a great degree, cardinal.

The hierarchy hasn't changed: God is still God, and the three-fold ordained ministry of bishop, priest and deacon, which began with the Apostles, remains.

The best stuff on the process of development was written by John Henry Newman, who was an Anglican when he wrote his essay on the development of doctrine. He became a Catholic more or less as he wrote it, if memory serves.

He made the point that a living thing ought to change and develop over time, rather than remain static. So the question is not, why did the Church develop, but rather, in what way? Was the development proper and authentic?

And if memory serves, he gave the example of the child growing into an adult: he becomes more than he was; yet all that he is as a man, is "contained," as it were, in the child.

A very good resource that I would bet would have some good stuff on this would be Catholic Answers, which has a link on my page. I suspect if you went there, and browsed around, you'd find a number of items of interest.

Anonymous said...

Good morning to all. I have been the father of several 18 year olds and the grandfather of 3 more of them. The way Rev. Fox addressed the young lady who wrote the first post argues the case for a married priesthood. If ever there was a way not to deal with a young person this age, Rev. Fox has demonstrated it, and I give him the benefit of the doubt by assuming it is from inexperience with young people such as a parent would naturally have. Sir, young folks do not think as you do, nor express themselves as you would like. They are still lacking in diplomacy and ask difficult questions in a very direct way which often includes some of their feeling about the topic. The feeling is often frustration over their misunderstanding of an issue, which I interpreted from this young lady's comments.
In scanning your other threads it seems clear that you become defensive and short with anyone who shows a different viewpoint. You seem to respond warmly only to those who praise you or agree with you. If you are an adult you will take these comments of mine under advisement and examine your attitudes with all the objectivity you can muster.
Though I am a cradle catholic myself it never ceases to amaze me how defensive catholics can be.
Why not reach out in kindness even if you don't agree with the other person's statements?

Fr Martin Fox said...

Anonymous father and grandfather:

Thanks for your thoughts; they touch on a lot of matters.

Why do you assume I have no experience in dealing with 18 year olds, just because I'm not married?

I'll say it again: the issue wasn't someone expressing him- (or in this case, her-) self badly. The issue for me was one of purpose and intent.

I may be wrong, but I am pretty sure I know someone operating with a hidden agenda, and I've seen it many, many times, in online conversations.

Someone says, "oh, I just have a question" . . . when in reality, the person is really attempting to debate. The person is not only concealing that true purpose, but also the person really has made up his or her mind on the subject -- usually the Catholic Church, rather than really be open-minded.

Now, perhaps you have never encountered such folks, but I rather suspect you have.

I have no idea whether you engage in such disguised debates -- which I call "baiting the Catholic." Some folks are happy to play along, either for fun, or for the challenge, or figuring, "ah, I'll show him (or her)."

That's fine, if you want to do that; and there was a day I did that. I don't anymore, for various reasons, but a sufficient one is that I choose not to feed that sort of thing.

If someone wants to say, "Look, I think the Catholic Church gets it very wrong, but I'm willing to debate the issue with you," then I'm going to say, "thanks but no thanks," but I am happy to point the person toward any number of resources they can look up.

Plus, that sort of dialogue doesn't work very well in this setting; it works far better over beers, or coffee, or late-night pancakes.

Now, it is certainly possible I mis-read the initial anonymous' purpose; all I can tell you is I have been down that rabbit-warren far too many times, and I know very well how it starts. I made a judgment, certainly not infallible.

Now, anonymous-grandfather (I''m trying to identify you from the other anonymouses -- anonymice? -- here), if you're going to cite other things I say or do, I'd appreciate something specific. To characterize things I've said elsewhere, in the fashion you do, is not exactly fair.

How do I respond? Or am I not allowed to dispute your characterization that I "become defensive and short whenever" (i.e., meaning always) someone offers a different viewpoint, and I "only respond warmly" to praise and agreement.

Now, I am prone to become defensive; again, I think that can happen to a lot of us. Perhaps I do so more than others.

That said, I happen to think your statements, as such, are wrong. That doesn't mean I have never been short with anyone; I'm sure I have. Nor does it mean I've never reacted more warmly to praise than to criticism; most people do warm up to praise and agreement.

But, you offered them as always/never assessments, and I think they are mistaken. And, insofar as you gave not one, concrete example, I fail to see how else I can respond.

Now, if you say, "well, it's far too much work to provide hyperlinks in this post to all the examples I have in mind," well I understand; but then, it might have been more considerate not to make a sweeping statement that I can't really defend against.

And not wanting to do all that work, when this is a casual web page, I also understand, which is why I didn't think asking blizzard of questions was exactly reasonable on the part of the original anonymous. (And, maybe I should merely have said that.)

Now, I'm curious about something. I may well misread you, but is the following presumption underlying your comments?

That is the presumption that I, in hosting this webpage, accept the obligation to respond to and engage any debate, challenge, criticism, critique, etc., that shows up here.

If so, I would say that while it can be worthwhile to do so, all the same, I don't accept an obligation to do so.

This web site is a little project I started, for no great purpose, and it just sort of took off.

It amuses me, and I think it accomplishes some good, and it is worth some level of attention.

Just because I allow comments, doesn't mean I'm obligated to respond--although folks might reasonably expect me to do so, insofar as I have been doing so. But I've been to a number of blogs where people direct comments to the author of the blog, without response.

My point in all this is simply that if someone gives me "a hard time," either deliberately or without any bad intent, on my web site, I fail to see why I am obliged to go along with that. At some point, it all becomes too much work -- more than I can or should devote to a blog.

So . . . yeah, at some point, some folks do want to go in a direction that makes this a lot of work, and I don't go down that road.

Occasionally, I've had folks who are very difficult, and even abusive; and you bet I am "short" when it comes to that.

But as far as disagreeing and criticizing? Feel free. You just did!

frival said...

Anonymous (the latest). Being (somewhat) young myself, let me be equally blunt. You're kidding, right? "[A]rgues the cas for a married priesthood" indeed. Aside from the fact that this baiting is well off topic, it's plainly false on its face - one could even call it an ad absurdum fallacy, but that might not be nice.

Fr. Fox is human just like the rest of us (with that one extra indelible mark) and sometimes people mis-read situations, particularly in cyberspace. Suggesting marriage, and therein assuming parental child rearing, as some form of cure-all for social interactions between people of different ages is simply, again, to be charitable, false. That would suggest that parents as a rule understand better how to deal with younger people than non-parents, and sufficient experience shows that simply to not be the case. It certainly has additive probabilistic potentialities but it is certainly far from deterministic. Please sir, that was far from fair to priests or parents.

And now, back to the original topic. I believe, Fr. your answer about the hierarchy was pretty good. The one thing I would point out is that the hierarchy drawn by the previous poster was not entirely accurate - Cardinals are not "superior" to (Arch)Bishops nor are Monsignors "superior" to other priests.

The best example of the position of Cardinal is that of Avery Cardinal Dulles who is, in fact, not even a Bishop while still holding the title of Cardinal. Cardinals (forgive the generalization) are only (usually) Bishops honored for their work by the Pope; the only special "authority" they are granted is the ability to vote for the next Pope. They also, I believe, receive a Titular See in Rome, as long as they are a Bishop.

The case of Monsignor is the same as for the Cardinal - it is, effectively, an honorary title granted at the request of the Bishop usually for work done for the service of the Church. About the only honor I know it gives to the individual other than the title is the change to wearing the purple sash and one or two other minor things.

Further, Religious are not "superior" to Deacons or laity in any way. In fact, the Religious would probably suggest ordained Deacons are "superior" (if they were forced to use that term) given they are ordained, having received Holy Orders, rather than professed. One should also note, of course, that a Religious can also be either a Priest or a Deacon should that be their calling. So in reality, the hierarchy looks more like this:

- Father, Son & Holy Ghost
- Bishops in union with the Pope (including Bishops, Archbishops and those Cardinals who are (Arch)Bishops)
- Priests (including Monsignors, not excluding ordained Religious)
- Deacons (including ordained Religious)
- Laity and professed Religious (those who are not Priests or Deacons)

Which looks pretty close to the original hierarchy the poster started at, with the addition of honorary titles and allowances for the growth of a Church to the point where the Bishop could not attend to the needs of his flock by himself (thus, priests) nor could all of the Bishops easily be brought together for a Consistory (thus, Cardinals voting for the Pope). I apologize for the generalizations, but this is a combox so perfect expression is a little difficult.

Anonymous said...

Oh come on guys, that first post was right from a Catholic bashing booklet if I've ever seen one. Catholic baiting 101, I love it and quite honestly, I'm on the look out for it and welcome it.
Now as to the parenting authority on 18 years old and somehow making that a case for married priests, oh puuuuuleeeze. I suppose a priest should have all of his family and friends die at ordination in order for him to console and do funerals. Priests like parents can't be everything to everyone. Some do some things better than others. There are plenty of parents out there screwing up their 18 years olds believe that. Not to mention that they may be doing it along the way. Which in fact later would be better to get advice from someone unattached to that history.
Anyway that young gal talked about early church I venture she hasn't read any of the early church writers.

Anonymous said...

Here comes another anonymous! You can call me Annie. I am an older lady and tend to agree with the grandpa who wrote in in defense of inquisitive and sassy young girls.
I don't know how old you are, Father, but you sound kind of young yourself. You're a nice guy but tend to get a wee. . .dare I say, on the paranoid side? That is why I think you are still young or perhaps not quite as mature as you're going to be in a few years. Questioners, doubters, and non-Catholics are not out to get you or the church. I am Catholic and all my non-Catholic friends are very respectful of that. I have never, ever EVER experienced any of the stuff people on Catholic blogs complain about. I just wonder if it even exists, or if it is a construct of their imagination. My Protestant friends are nicer about my religion than unlike-minded fellow Catholics - talk about pluralism, try and get somebody who believes in female priests in the same room who somebody who believes in putting a statue of Mary in the front yard to keep it from raining on wash day, and you will see the fur fly! Yet both are under the aegis of R. Catholicism! No, I am not making this up! There are now many, many beliefs and practices rampant within the Church. No one can dispute the reality of that.
As to fival and Eric on the idea that priests cannot understand 18 yr olds because they never had any, and even you, Fr. Fox, telling grandpa anonymous that he shouldn't assume you have no experience with 18 yr old girls just because you aren't married, think about it - being an authority figure who sees an individual child or young lady (whatever you consider 18 to be) once in awhile or occasionally in a classroom or on a basektball court, does not give you much in-depth understanding of that person or even that category of person. A parent is with a child 24/7 & knows waaaaaaay more about that child's character, personality, feelings, and hopes than you could ever surmise. It's like saying, "I see a plane flying over, so must be that I am a pilot." No, you do not have to have a child or children to be a priest, but having a family surely could rub the sharp edges off your thinking. I know of a parish up north where a former Episcopalian priest is now a Catholic pastor, along with his wife and several kids. It works out GREAT. He has a compassion that those who live unto themselves just cannot and do not develop. Sorry, but facts are facts, and yes, I am a Catholic who believes in a married priesthood. Celibacy is a man-made law and can be changed. For the church to survive, it will be changed, and to the benefit of all.
Annie, an "uppity woman"

Fr Martin Fox said...


I am 45, and did a lot of things before I became a priest. I've been a priest for four years. I've had lots of experiences.

Paranoid, eh? Who put you up to it? It was those pesky Amish, wasn't it?

Unknown said...

I think Fr. Martin was correct in his thinking the first post was "Catholic-baiting." I thought the same thing.

Forgive me for being skeptical, but how do we know for sure that "anonymous" is really an 18 year old girl. That's the thing about posting as "anonymous" (besides it being cowardly. If you have something to say, you should be brave enough to attach your name to it), you can claim to be just about anything.

Also, how do we know that the "anonymice" (good one Father!) are not the same person?

Anonymous said...

OK, Married priests?
Here my dear friends is your chance to sign a petition from the "Curt Jester"

Married Priest Petition
Fr. Sistare asks the obvious questions in response to changing the requirement for priestly celibacy.

Question: Who will financially support the married priest's family (not happening on current weekly collections!)? Question: Where are these families supposed to a rectory with a celibate priest? Question: What sort of unity will exist in the presbyterate if some are married and others are celibate?
Just a few questions some should ponder before they jump to so called quick solutions!

This coincides with at thought I had recently of creating a new petition for priestly celibacy for advocates of this discipline change.

Holy Father, we believe that now is time to open the priesthood to married men.
Many parishes are closing because of the priest shortage and allowing married men to join their celibate brothers in ordained ministry will provide additional millions of Catholics access to the Mass and the sacraments.

Making this extraordinary change now will demonstrate that Church leaders listen to the sensus fidelium (the Vatican-II-Spirit-inspired beliefs of the faithful). It will demonstrate that the Church can respond boldly to one of the major challenges that we, the people of God, face together. It will provide much needed hope to many Catholics who feel a deep sense of betrayal and alienation because of the scandal of clergy sex abuse of children and its coverup by many church officials.

If this request is followed we will be able to expand just as fast as the Orthodox and Anglicans are currently expanding.

Sign the petition:

Full Name

Because I fully support a married priesthood here is my credit card information so a suitable amount can be deducted each month to ensure the priest can support his family. This money will be used for buying/renting appropriate housing since the rectory will not be suitable. Health care, groceries, Catholic schooling and higher education and enough money to sufficiently supply a hopefully large Catholic family. In addition married Bishops will need a sufficiently large allowance so that they make take their families on Ad Limina visits and other occasions. If a Pope decides to get married please deduct a sufficient amount to make over the Papal apartments and to provide his and her popemobiles for Holy Father Family outings.

Card Number
Visa Mastercard Discover American Express Card Type
Expiration Date: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 Month Year 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2300

I waive the right to see a priest in other than normal working hours. After all he needs to take care of his family first and the spiritual care of his flock must be considered second place.

I promise not to be scandalized if the priest's marriage ends in civil divorce and if the marriage is annulled I will contribute financially to help support both his previous family and new one.

Please remove the following line from 1st Corinthians " The unmarried man is anxious about the affairs of the Lord, how to please the Lord; but the married man is anxious about worldly affairs, how to please his wife, and his interests are divided." and from Mathew 19 "and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven."


Anonymous said...

Frival, thanks for the explanation on the hierarchy-- the simplicity is easy to remember.

Eric, love your petition. Can't wait to solicit signatures and visa card #s from my progressive "Catholic" friends.

Joe K.

Anonymous said...

It's Anonymous Annie again. The pastoral clergy, married or otherwise, should never have to depend financially on unpredictable and varying weekly collections. A normal salary, in fact, a better-than-normal salary, should be paid to ALL priests, married or celibate, just as professionals in "the real world" are compensated appropriately to their services. So forget the begging bowl & stand up to assert your rightful entitlement, all you workers in the vineyard!
Where would this cash come from?
Need we hash over the obvious and documented wealth of the Catholic church? This is an institution whose higher heirarchy more often than not lives in luxury, while their "work" consists in endless meetings and crafting of orders or proclamations. . .the term "bishop's palace" did not come out of a Harry Potter novel; it is a reality of Catholic tradition. . .meanwhile, the clergy who work the hardest are forced to subsist on a pauper's income.
Not long ago I saw a program which described the monetary worth of the Toledo OH archdiocese as 177,000,000. This figure was dated about three years ago. I don't know what priests make, but certainly they could receive a substantial raise with that kind of surplus available.
If we had more priests, albeit with families, we would have a much greater church membership, who would add to the coffers via contributions.
And indeed, where would the married priests live? In houses. They would pay for housing out of their just wages. The priests who wished to be celebate would live in their own houses or apartments or condos. Who says all the priests have to live together?
Now I'm wondering if you all are the same person, joeh, jim, frival, et al.

Fr Martin Fox said...


I think if you dig a little deeper, you'll find out that $177,000,000 in total worth of the Diocese of Toledo is a lot of land and property, such as churches, and a chunk of it is accounts receivable, i.e., money owed it from parishes, to whom the diocese loans money. Only a fraction of that will be liquid assets, such as investments and cash.

So, it's awfully unrealistic to think a diocese can simply "tap" those assets; you don't want the diocese taking out mortgages on its parishes, do you?

Anonymous said...

Father, I would love to see the church hire some secular fiancial management and investment guidance, and to provide some accountability for how funds are dispersed within each diocese. There is a method in a domestic home that people use to "trim the fat" in household spending, and as a housewife with years of experience doing this from time to time when money was needed, I strongly believe it works and that it also applies to businesses, companies, and churches as well. In fact churches should be in even better financial condition than companies because churches are tax exempt.
We talk about social justice. It has been a pet peeve of mine for a long time that the Catholic clergy does not experience social justice itself due to blind spots within the heirarchy. I have never seen cardinals, bishops, or popes who were overly concerned with the issues faced by parish priests or their compensation for work well done - and it is work, so it does deserve compensation. If I were a bishop I would throw caution to the winds and automatically double the salary of every priest pastor.
But call me crazy, if you will. I just do not buy into the thing about, "There's no money." It's there - I can smell it - and you guys deserve the share your work earns.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Joe K, and right on. And Fr. thanks for explaining the wealth issue, saved me some typing. I tire explaining that to people.
Lastly dear Anne, I'm not sure what world your in and by the sound of it I wish your case was true everywhere but I can assure you it's not. Every faith out there besides Catholic is out there either carefully as to not offend, openly at least, or simply in your face, is on a recruiting effort. Baptists aren't trying to get New lifers, and New lifers aren't trolling for evangelicals and so on. No, they are all fishing the same waters and that is the 60 million Catholics in the US. Actually I prefer the ones that don't hide what they are doing and are willing to engage.
Anne, I'm truly glad your world is so, ummm, so accommodating. It almost seems like the cover of a Jehovah witness magazine with children petting leopards and lions tending sheep but from my 41 year old world where I travel throughout the US weekly I see Catholic bashing and fishing with lies constantly. In fact it is sadly clear that the only acceptable form of prejudice, at least in America, is against Catholics. Try doing a web search on the term "anti-Catholic" it'll make you stomach turn. If any of the accusations, comments, or false assumptions piled upon the Church were done to Blacks, Jews, Gays, Muslims, Native Americans, and on and on there would be an uproar like no other.
My advice, read the early church fathers, study as much as you can on the tenants of our faith and pray pray pray for a charitable heart and the humility of Christ. Reading John 6 often helps also.


Anonymous said...

Eric, I think the dichotomy between your view of "others" being against Catholics, and mine, which you think is a peek through rose-colored glasses, is explained by the class of people we are talking about. Anything you look up on the internet is going to include alot of ignorant or lower class (morally) people who want to contaminate others with their ugly views. I have seen and heard of some of that, but I believe it has less to do with attacks on a particular religion than it does with psychopaths looking for a peg to hang their hatred on.
The people I described in my frame of daily experienceare not psychopathic - they are normal. ev They are nice people on all levels. They are educated and openminded. None of them is a Jehova Witness :-) though one is a Unitarian and two are Mormons. Most are mainstream Protestant, Lutheran, Anglican, Methodist, Presby - many are Orthodox (my favorites, theologically). I have never experienced prejudice against Catholics among my friends or acquaintances, and that's a fact.
I have, however, encountered frequent hostility, suspicion, disdain, and prejudice from a FEW Catholics toward non-Catholics. Catholic acquaintances express these attitudes to me about the non-Catholics, not directly to the non-Catholics themselves. . .thank God for small favors!
There is one thing the Catholic church could do to help itself, which it is not doing. Other churches have incorporated it into their routine operations from the get-go. I have been to many churches (I am a professional theologian by trade)and observed how well it works, in addition to being a natural practice of true Christianity. It is just too simple for the Catholic church to recognise...somehow it slides under the Roman radar.
What it is, is simple fellowship among one's own local congregation.
The exodus from our church is not caused by demented "anti-Catholic"
websites taking people away from the church. Rather, it is the longing for fellowship with likeminded caring individuals within a church home.
In the Catholic church the focus is on heirarchy and ecclesia - and too often that focus is specifically defensive in nature. We can also get obsessive about ritual, sacraments, devotion, and in recent years, the heavy emphasis on social justice for everybody "out there", which had brought in heavy political overtones which most people seeking a spiritual connection are not interested in sorting out, especially at the beginning of their metanoic promptings.
But amazingly there has never been any real effort invested into the relationship of Catholics to one another. Yes, we meet and look at each other and talk on committees and volunteer together and laugh over a beer once in awhile and talk about our Cath school memories, etc. Sometimes a couple of Catholics or even a small clique of them form a friendship. But basically our interrelationships remain on the acquaintanceship level, not proceeding to the fellowship or friendship depth. Why is this?
Why do some people go to a Catholic church every Sun. and, unlike the Cheers theme song, nobody ever knows their name?
I gave nearly 2 decades of my free time to RCIA volunteering. 60% of those we took into the church were back out of the church within 2 yrs. National figures were similar to this. The biggest reason why they left, upon questioning, was, "I never felt at home in the Catholic church. Nobody talked to me. I was invisible. I couldn't stand it."
Our pastoral leadership tried to fix it in an impossible way, by urging RCIA grads to do volunteer work where they would meet other Catholics in the parish. They did this but the relationships there never ripened into friendship. They were talked at, accepted for the purpose of doing the work, but no real conversations or friendships developed. There simply was no focus or precedant for actually becoming friends with a new parishioner. Again and again we RCIA team leaders would get feedback(anonymous mostly)to the effect that it was a cold parish, a cold church.
When people seek warmth and acceptance, they find it in non Catholic churches. I am not saying we should stop being concerned with ritual, tradition, do-gooder projects and aims, or anything else Catholic. But we have a choice of stoking the fires of brotherly love among our own congregations, or watching our converts and convert prospects go on over to the churches where they are made to feel wanted.
This loops back to the idea of the way our own priests are treated by their superiors (there should not be anybody with a title like "superior" in any church, by the way; this never came from Jesus). Priests are trained to be humble (ask for nothing even if you need it to remain a healthy person), to accept mistreatment (obey your superiors like a slave because that's all you're worth), and lonely (you don't matter as a person, all that counts is doing what you're told). If they don't experience the basic human justice of fairness and caring themselves, how can they care if others receive the human justice of being accepted and appreciated within their parish?
In closing, it is not a few internet crackpots limiting the Catholic church. It is the church limiting itself by placing anything and everything above the human needs and longings of the people. Annie

Fr Martin Fox said...


About "secular financial management": under canon law, every parish is required to have a finance council; I believe there are diocesan finance councils; I know my archdiocese has one.

I have a business manager, and we have pretty good controls on the money: I don't keep the books, but I do sign checks; the one who keeps the books, cannot sign checks. I meet regularly with the finance council and we review financial statements. I realize not all parishes do that, but many do.

In our archdiocese, expenditures over a certain amount must be reviewed with the pastoral council for their consultation (not approval); over $50,000, they have to be submitted to the archdiocese for approval.

I don't know if this is standard, but I don't believe it's unique.

I'm not disputing a lot of parishes might well need to tighten up; but I have known a number of situations, and priests who urge great care aren't rare.

Running a parish is in many ways exactly like running a business. And yes, we do have to pay taxes, just not corporate taxes: we pay all the others that go with payroll, property taxes on the priest's residence, and sales taxes on items sold at bingo. (I pay income tax on my own income.) We have to comply with labor laws, etc.

Anonymous said...

Father, I am sorry if I didn't make it clear that I referred to
those beyond the parish level when I suggested trimming the fat.
I know that you, as a pastor, are absolutely excellent at making do and still getting major things done. It's astonishing how many fine improvements you have made to your two parishes in the short time you've been in charge there. It's just great! You have a good sense of what needs to be done and when, and you manage to get it accomplished very quickly, sometimes ending up with a surplus of funds which are then rolled over to your next project! That is great management.
Howeverm, I don't think there is much caution about spending on the administrative church level, in the diocesan offices and beyond. I am aware that figures related to expenditure, profit, and loss, budget projections, etc., are listed in diocesan publications at least once a year. Yet just like the government, the designations for expenditures can be a bit fuzzy. No one is examining expenses to ask, "Is this really necessary - or meaningful?"
I'm certainly not implying anything even remotely dishonest, of course, but it's true that ill-advised or superfluous spending can develop and snowball within any organisation, even churches. Five thousand bucks here, twenty thousand there - it all adds up, and soon there are no monies to disburse in more needful ways.
Please forgive me if I gave the impression that you - or any parish priest - fail to be responsible with budgeting. I didn't mean that and I don't believe it, either. You and 99.999% of Catholic pastors are doing a fantastic job against some pretty formidable odds, and you deserve to be highly commended for it!
And when was the last time you saw a parish priest cruising around in a new chauffered vehicle, hmm? Don't hurt yourself laughing, now.