In the Catholic church, married priests are not new (there were many in early times. Nowadays of course, there are many more who have joined the Catholic church after first serving as married priests with other denominations. I noted recently there are also a very large number of priests who have married after leaving active ministry and receiving “dispensation” to marry.
There are also very many gay priests (possibly half of all US priests, according to some estimates). Many of these have partners, some have married them, quietly and discreetly – but this is the first occasion I have come across of a priest who is not only marrying, but doing so in the full glare of publicity. In Toronto, Father Karl Clemens is getting married Saturday to his partner Nick.
Fr Clemens is 70, retired from parish work and has spent the past decade ministering in Toronto’s gay village, so it is perhaps not quite as dramatic a move as if he were a young parish priest with a suburban congregation. Still, he will have to face the reaction of the local bishops and other Catholics, many of whom are unlikely to be impressed, and some of whom will be vocal in their self-righteous outrage. Clemens says he is not doing this to start a revolution, but because he feels strongly that it is the right thing to do.
Of course it is. It is well known by now that clerical celibacy is a myth. A substantial proportion of priests are sexually active, notwithstanding their supposed celibacy. Pretending otherwise, and continuing the fiction that they should at least be striving to maintain this unnatural state as a compulsory imposed condition, simply forces them into a clerical closet, and leaves in its wake countless numbers of abused victims. I was taught at my Catholic school that honesty and truth are vital ingredients in a Christian life. This applies also to sexual honesty. The ECLA last summer, in approving the decision to recognise lesbian and gay pastors in committed, monogamous relationships, stated that they wanted them to have the opportunity to be accountable to their congregations, just as conventionally married pastors do. open, honest and accountable sexual relationships for clergy are far healthier than the secret, exploitative and opportunistic liaisons that are otherwise all too common.
In making a public demonstration of their commitment to each other, Fr Clemens and Nick are behaving honestly and honourably. I applaud and congratulate them both for this honesty and courage. I hope that this brave move will encourage others to follow.
From the Edmonton Sun:
Canada’s first openly gay Catholic priest is to mark another milestone.
Father Karl Clemens is getting married Saturday to his partner Nick.
He says he’ll be the first man of the Catholic cloth to enter into a same-sex marriage in Canada, and maybe even in North America.
“I’m not doing it to start a revolution, but if people want to exercise their right, and so forth, that’s terrific,” Clemens told Sun Media yesterday.
“I feel very strongly about it.
“I’m leading the way, or pioneering, as it were, in something that I think is very important,” Clemens said. “It’s a human right.”
Clemens, who is approaching 70 and who retired from the Kingston, Ont. diocese after serving there for 33 years, moved to Toronto more than a decade ago to work in, and advocate for, the city’s gay village.
Regarding his same-sex marriage, he’s prepared for a backlash from the church and some of its followers, as he was when he came out of the closet in 2005.
“There will be Catholics who feel, because of their lack of understanding, that this is a very wrong thing and therefore will not be pleased,” Clemens said.
“But those are consequences we have to be willing to deal with because we feel strongly about the issue at hand, which is the right to be able to enter into same-sex marriages.”
Clemens and his partner will be married Saturday afternoon in the couple’s home.