The Perils of Criticism: Fr Alan Griffiths

What is the most important commandment? For Catholic priests, it often seems to be “Thou shalt not step out of line.”

Fr Alan Griffiths took the bold and unusual step some months ago of criticising the procedures that have been followed in producing the new translation of the Missal. In this he is not alone – there is much to criticise, and many others have done so too. For Fr Griffiths, the difference was that he was speaking with an insider’s knowledge, as one who had participated in the process. For his honesty, he has now been sidelined, and told that his services are no longer required.

From the Tablet:

ICEL sidelines priest who criticised Missal changes

A PRIEST who worked on the new English version of the liturgy but publicly criticised the way last-minute changes were made to the new Missal has been sacked by the body in charge of the new translation, writes Christopher Lamb.

Fr Alan Griffiths has been told by the International Commission on English in the Liturgy (Icel), that he will not be asked to do any more work for them. A priest in the Diocese of Portsmouth and a respected translator, Fr Griffiths is a longstanding advocate for a new translation of the Mass to replace the one prepared by Icel in 1973, and has been extensively involved with preparing priests and laity for the new version. However, he became critical of the final text after comparing it with the version approved by the Bishops of England and Wales in 2008.

The final text was then re-edited by the Vatican and appeared earlier this year. In a letter to The Tablet (30 October), he wrote: “The differences are so extensive as to argue that the 2010 text is not that which was approved in the first place.” He added that the new changes “are simply not correct English”, that they contravene agreed Holy See guidelines on how to translate texts and that whoever made the latest changes did not communicate with Icel. Fr Griffiths said he was “neither upset nor surprised” by Icel’s move and “guessed” that it was because of his letter to The Tablet. A spokesman for Icel said he did not wish to comment on the matter.

Son of a Priest, Son of a Bishop: Another Cost of Compulsory Celibacy

It is estimated that 1,000 people in Britain and Ireland are the children of Catholic priests

Three common Irish surnames translate as ‘son of the priest’, ‘son of the Bishop’ and ‘son of the Abbot’.

-Bishop Pat Buckley, quoted in the Guardian

When we try to assess the value or harm of the rule on compulsory celibacy, we usually think in terms of the priests themselves, or possibly on the parishes they serve. Does  a celibate life leave them better equipped to devote their lives to their parishioners, without distractions of their own family – or does it leave them simply incapable of understanding sexual and emotional complexities way outside their own experience?

Sometimes, recognizing human weakness, we acknowledge that universal celibacy is a myth, and then consider also the impact on the lives of their partners (male or female) who find themselves forced to live in a clerical closet not of their own choosing. Even less often, do we consider the impact on the lives of those unfortunate sons and daughters of priests, who find themselves growing up either without a father at all, or with a father known to them – who refuses to acknowledge them publicly (which is worse, I wonder?)

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Married Priests, Womenpriests, Gay Priests: Let’s All Stand Together

In ongoing debates, discussions and raging arguments over compulsory celibacy for priests, we usually overlook the simple, plain fact that there are already many thousands of married Catholic priests. The eastern rite churches within the Catholic church have always accepted a married clergy, and in recent years there has been a steady trickle of married clergy converting from other denominations, who have been ordained in the Catholic Church and are now ministering openly and officially in Catholic parishes, in many parts of the world. Most of us know this, even if we do not think about it consciously.

Eastern Rite Catholic Priests

We completely overlook, however, that by far the greatest number of married priests today are those who started out conventionally enough in the Western Church, but later left formal ministry within the institutional church. Many of these left in order to marry, others left and only later chose to marry. All, however, remain priests. In catholic theology, the principle is clear: “Once a priest, always a priest”.

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