Eucharist for All the People of God

On Sunday, I was deprived of the spiritual goods of the Church. It was no fault of our pastor who was on vacation and had arranged for a substitute priest. It was no fault of the substitute priest who became ill. It was no fault of the deacon who did the best he could under these circumstances.
I went to church expecting a Mass and instead got a Eucharistic service. A Eucharistic service is not the Eucharist. The Mass centers on the Word of God AND the Eucharist. The Eucharist is effected through the Eucharistic Prayer. Father Emmanuel Charles McCarthy reminds us that the proclamation of the anamnesis has the power to help Christians confront and conquer the evil in the world. We proclaim that Jesus suffered, died, and rose. How did Jesus suffer, die and rise? Nonviolently. Jesus went to his death as the Lamb of God, the Suffering Servant of God. He returned good for evil. He blessed those who were persecuting him. He loved his enemies. He forgave them with his dying breath. In Eucharist, we remember how Jesus brought about our salvation. What we proclaim has the power to bring about that which is proclaimed. Lacking the Eucharistic Prayer, we were deprived of its power to help us live and confront evil nonviolently as Jesus did.
Fortunately, this is a rare occurrence in our faith community; however, in parts of this country and around the world, the people of God are deprived of the fullness of the Eucharistic Celebration on a regular basis. This is the fault of the patriarchal church that would rather preserve man-made institutions than provide the fullness of Eucharist to the faithful. Given the increasing shortage of priests, the church urges us to pray for vocations. And yet vocations are not increasing in sufficient numbers to solve this problem.
When the church was urged recently to reconsider the man-made institution of celibacy which became a required practice for the Western Church in the 12th century, the answer was shocking. (Remember that Peter, and probably other apostles, were married.) The church clearly said that maintaining celibacy is more important than providing Eucharist for the people of God. Balderdash! Patriarchy at its worst! Rearranging deck chairs while the Church Titanic is sinking!
There is also the issue of ordaining married priests who were ministers in other churches to the priesthood and allowing them to remain married. How can the church justify this?
Hans Kung (The Catholic Church: A Short History) discusses the church of the 12th century. It was a church characterized by politicization (papal supremacy over earthly rulers), militarization (the crusades, even against the Byzantine church), and clericalization (the clergy as a class set apart and above other members of the church). Kung writes:
Under the influence of the monks Humbert and Hildebrand, in a kind of pan-monasticism, Rome required of the whole clergy unconditional obedience, the renunciation of marriage, and a common life. Gregory VII took the extraordinary step of calling on all the laity of Christendom to boycott the ministries of married clergy. There were revolting witch-hunts of priests’ wives in the clergy houses. After the Second Lateran Council, of 1139, priestly marriages were regarded as a priori invalid and all priests’ wives as concubines; indeed priests’ children officially became the church’s property as slaves. There was a furious mass protest by the clergy, especially in northern Italy and Germany, but to no avail. Henceforth there was a universal and compulsory law of celibacy, though in practice up to the time of the Reformation this was observed only with qualifications, even in Rome (pp. 92-93).
Later, in the Epilogue, Kung writes:
The law of celibacy is in contradiction to Holy Scripture. . . . Compulsory celibacy is an extremely fateful deviation from a tradition going back thousands of years. The Eastern churches never shared in this development, and to the present day even priests in the churches of the East that are united with Rome are not expected to be celibate (pp. 210-211).
Maintaining celibacy, in my opinion, is based on faulty theology. How could someone who has sex with his lawful wife and procreate children represent Christ? He would represent Christ quite well I think; however, our pelvic theology leads to some strange conclusions! I am not even going to consider the argument that celibacy makes a priest more committed to Christ. Paul’s encouragement to remain celibate becomes a general norm. (Parenthetically, Father McCarthy is a married Byzantine priest who has thirteen children. Being married and having children has never kept Father McCarthy from bearing powerful, untiring witness for over 35 years to the nonviolence of Jesus.)
Not allowing women to become priests is also based on faulty theology. The patriarchal church early on tried to erase the rich tradition of the women who followed and served Jesus. Women were ordained to the deaconate until the 5th century. The Marys were at the cross. How do we know that they were not at the Last Supper? The bias against women needs to go the same way as the church’s once uncritical acceptance of slavery.
Preservation of celibacy seems to be the driving force for maintaining the status quo. A cynic might proffer that the real reason is that costs more to maintain a married clergy. In some cases, it will cost more. However, many of the married priests who left the ministry in the 70s and 80s are now retired and would gladly provide Eucharist at no cost to anyone. Those who are not retired would gladly provide Eucharist for the people of God. Even today, some permanent deacons hold down jobs and provide services to the people of God at no cost to the church.
If it wants to, the church can correct this grave problem. But, it probably will not do so in the near future. The intransigence of the patriarchal church does not leave the people of God without options. Celibacy Is The Issue (CITI) reports that there are 100,000 married priests around the world. There are 20,000 in the United States alone. Father Delmar Smoloinski, JCL, SWL, tells us that Canon Law (that’s right Canon Law itself) provides for the needs of the faithful in “emergency situations.” A complete list and discussion of the Canons which allow the faithful to secure married priests to celebrate the fullness of Eucharist can be found at
Howard Zinn, historian, constantly reminds us that change will be brought about in our nation when the people rise up and demand change. It is time for the people of God to rise up and demand the fullness of Eucharist on a regular basis. Using the services of married priests will provide a partial solution
The people of God need to rise up and demand that the patriarchal church reexamine its stance on celibacy and women in the priesthood. There are thousands of permanent deacons, religious brothers and sisters who are qualified by dint of their training to serve as priests in the church. Rome is fiddling around making pronouncements about when to stand during the Eucharist and declaring that other churches are not true churches while the people of God are perishing without the Eucharist.
Rise up, people of God. Help the church—the Body of Christ (us!)—realign its priorities and provide Eucharist for all the people of God on a regular, weekly basis. Rise up, people of God! Let your voices be heard. You are the church!

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