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The Priest as Man, Husband, and Father | Fr. John Cihak, S.T.D. | March 26, 2007 | Part 2 |
The Priest as Father
The priest's manhood and
spousal relationship with the Church also makes him a father. True love always
generates life, and in the priest's case it is spiritual and eternal life. St.
Charles Borromeo often gave conferences to his priests when he was Archbishop
of Milan. In the opening lines of the conference he addressed to his diocesan
synod on April 20, 1584, he writes:
"She was with child and she cried out in her pangs of birth, in anguish for delivery."
(Rev 12:2) said John in the Apocalypse concerning the mother, of whom we
proceed to speak. O what pain, O what wailing of Holy Church! She cries out
with prayers in the presence of God, and in the presence of you through my
mouth, pronouncing divine words to you. It seems that I am hearing her saying
to her betrothed the Lord Jesus Christ what Rachel had formerly said to her
husband Jacob, "Give me children or I shall die" (Gen 30:1). I am truly
desirous of the one to be born. Indeed I dread this sterility; so unless you
come Christ and give to me many sons, I am precisely at this very moment about
to die. This is the spirit of our most beloved mother, in whom we are
principally gathered here. I especially long for this, so that we may have it.
The implication of his words
is that Holy Mother Church cries out to her Divine Bridegroom, and to the one
who participates in Christ's spousal relationship, for children. The priest's
spousal love is necessarily generative. Jesus' priest, therefore, is not a
bureaucrat, a hired hand, a CEO, or a careerist, but a father.
We are used to calling
priests "father," yet it is no metaphorical or poetic designation. The priest's
fatherhood is real because it is a participation in divine fatherhood (1 Cor
4:15, Eph 3:15). Therefore the priest's fatherhood is constituted by our
heavenly Father's fatherhood--total, complete self-giving. It is the Father who
gives Himself away in generating the Son, and then to save us gives away what
is most precious to Him, His Son. It is the Father who says that if we want to
see Him to look upon the face of His Son (Jn 14:9)--what humility! As a father
the priest does not abandon his family or use his family for his own benefit,
but rather is the first to
sacrifice for his family. He is eager to build and generate new spiritual life
in his family.
Thus, the man called to
priesthood strives to renounce his own desires and plans, and take up his
ministry of prophet-priest-king as an expression of his spiritual fatherhood. His priestly ministry generates spiritual life in the Church. His priestly ministry
leads his Bride along the path of deification, holiness, transformation into
the likeness of Christ, the high priest
In the current renewal of
the clergy, the Church emphasizes in the teachings of Vatican II and Pope John
Paul II that the priest is relational as a man, as a husband, and as a father.
A renewal of this inherent relationality, which has always been part of the
essence of Jesus' priesthood, will bring about the renewal in the priest's
teaching, sanctifying and governing.
With this intense focus on
the nature that is configured by the grace of the priesthood, we can begin to
understand more deeply the Church's recent and more specific clarifications
about the priesthood, for example, the reiteration of reserving priestly
ordination to men alone, or of mandatory celibacy in order to adequately
express Christ's spousal love as Bridegroom of the Church.  The focus on
the priest as man, husband and father also underlies the recent clarification
that men with "deep seated" homosexual tendencies cannot be admitted as
candidates for the priesthood since such a tendency necessarily implies a
rejection of the complementarity of woman, a rejection of his spousal
relationship with the Church and a rejection of his spiritual fatherhood. 
This more recent clarification is not difficult to understand intellectually,
especially in light of the Church's teaching on the human person, but perhaps
can be a difficult clarification for some to accept.
This article investigated a
renewal of the priesthood based upon a re-appropriation of the priest's
fundamental human identity as man, as husband, and as father. This fundamental
human identity, given to man in his creation, is also revealed in Jesus
himself, the Redeemer of man.  The priest's fundamental human identity is
as man, husband, and father because Jesus relates in His priesthood as man,
husband and father. The priest is called to be in a deep relationship in his
fundamental human identity, which includes his weaknesses and vulnerability, so
that his human personality--indeed his entire manhood--becomes a bridge for
others to encounter Jesus Christ the Redeemer of man, and thereby lead them to
the life of Heaven.
As regards his inherent
relationality, the priest's first and foremost relationship is with Jesus
Christ. The priest who is not in deep relationship with Jesus is not being
fully honest about who he is called to be, and cannot safely guide others to Him.
From that deep relationship with Christ, the priest can grow in relating to
others in a more human manner, that they might profit from his deep
relationship with Christ. It is in his weakness and vulnerability, imbued with
divine grace, that the priest knows himself as dependent and in constant need
of grace. His weakness reminds him that he is not an island, but needs help
from on high and from others. Through his relationship with Christ and others
and the awareness of his weaknesses, idiosyncrasies and pitfalls, the priest
can be shaped in his human personality to be a bridge for others to Christ and
to the divine life of Heaven. A re-appropriation of the fundamental human
identity of the priest is the path to authentic renewal today.
 It is important to
observe from the beginning that clergy sexual abuse is not unique to the United
States although most of the media attention has been focused there. The media,
moreover, has characterized the scandal as a problem of pedophilia. The studies
commissioned by the Bishops of the United States on clergy sexual abuse help to
give us a better understanding of the nature of the crisis, which is more
nuanced than the media reports, and which I believe supports the line of
argumentation in the present article. The data from the John Jay Report of 2004
indicate that a great majority of the priest offenders were not in fact
pedophiles. Their data stated that 81% of the sexual abuse victims were male
(19% were female) with 78% of the victims between the ages of 11-17. Moreover,
77% of the priest offenders molested adolescent boys and 63% of the male
victims were between the ages of 14-17. Thus a great majority of the victims
were actually post-pubescent adolescent boys. The study further states that a
majority of the priest offenders had one or two victims. Such statistics
indicate that the sexual abuse crisis is less a matter of pedophilia and more a
matter of deep seated homosexual tendencies. Cf. John Jay Report, section 4.3, at 69-70; Catholic Medical
Association, To Protect and To Prevent: The
Sexual Abuse of Children and Its Prevention, 2006, 5-6.
 The priest's
fundamental human identity also includes his identity as son, but this important dimension of his identity
extends beyond the scope of this article.
 Cf. Catechism of
the Catholic Church, n. 1577. [CCC hereafter] For a more detailed study of the
indispensability of the priest's manhood, cf. Manfred Hauke,
Women in the Priesthood? (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1988);
Robert Pesarchick, The Trinitarian Foundation of Human Sexuality as Revealed
by Christ According to Hans Urs von Balthasar. The Revelatory Significance of
the Male Christ and the Male Ministerial Priesthood (Tesi Gregoriana Teologia 63, Roma 2000).
 It may be argued
that a candidate for the priesthood may take refuge in the cultic relationship
of priesthood, in which the relationality is scripted according to rubrics, in
order to avoid the difficult task of the constant relational improvisation
required by the teaching and governing offices of the priesthood. Such refuge
taking is understandable. It is much easier to be in a relationship that is
already scripted, and fallen human persons tend to relate in a way that is more
secure and requires the least amount of vulnerability. The solution to the
problem of "hiding" in cultic relationality, however, lies not in
de-emphasizing the cultic relationship (the approach of some seminary
formators) or by hiding in the cultic relationship (the approach of some
candidates), but rather in going deeper into the candidate's relationality as a
man. Trying to shape the candidate's relationality by emphasizing or
de-emphasizing one of the munera
does not get to the root of a candidate's difficulties in relating. Since
relationships are founded upon trust, it seems best in my view for the formator
to affirm the candidate's ability to relate in the cultic realm, and from that
point to help him unpack the tremendous vulnerability that the Lord Jesus asks
of His priest in the cultic realm. Then the candidate can be more easily led
down into his ability or inability to relate as a man. Cultic relationality is
necessary but not sufficient for a priest. However, it can be argued that the
priest's cultic relationality is primary among the three munera because his relationality as priest is necessarily
Christ's priestly relationality. Without a foundation in the cultic
relationship, the priest's relationality easily becomes unfettered from
Christ's priestly relationality and devolves into simply his own. The cultic
relationality of the priest is Christ's total self-giving to the Father on the
Cross. Christ's total self-giving in love seen clearly in the cultic realm sets
the pattern for the priest's relationships in preaching and governing.
 Cf. CCC, nn. 371-372
 Vatican II. Dei Verbum, 2.
 Cf. John
Paul II. Pastores Dabo Vobis, 1992, nn. 43-44. [PDV hereafter]
 PDV, n. 44.
 CCC, n. 2342.
 Cf. CCC, nn. 2337-2339, 2342.
 Cf. Gen 2:21-25;
Jn 19:34-37, Eph 5:23-25, Rev 21:2.
 Cf. Vatican
II. Presbyterorum ordinis,2; PDV. 16, 22. The
Church affirms her identity as Bride not only in her teaching but also in her
Liturgy, for example, in the Easter Exultet, in the Preface for the Dedication of a Church, and
in the anamnesis of Eucharistic Prayer III. The priest as husband to the Church
has a strong theological current in the Fathers. The other strong current in
the Fathers is the priest as friend of the Bridegroom. I emphasize the first
current while recognizing the importance of the second. The two currents are
related. The first shows the priest that he indeed participates in Christ's
spousal relationship to His Bride. The second current reminds the priest that
he is not Christ, and thus his sharing in Christ's spousal relationship is
participatory and not identical.
 This point is made with
priests of the Latin Rite in mind, but it also reveals the fittingness of the
ancient tradition of obligatory continence for clerics. Cf. Stefan Heid,
Celibacy in the Early Church: The Beginnings of a Disciple of Obligatory Contience for
Clerics in East and West (San
Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2000).
 For this reason, I
believe, PDV (cf. n. 46), the Program
of Priestly Formation, 5th ed (cf. nn. 26, 110, 125, 280) and the Directory on the Ministry and
Life of Priests (cf. nn. 60, 68, 85)
emphasize the importance of the priest's living and affective devotion to the
Blessed Virgin Mary. The complementarity of woman is never abolished or left
behind in the priest's free promise of celibacy. The complementarity of woman
does not threaten the priest's celibacy, but actually supports it spiritually
since her complementarity is necessary to his perfection as a man.
 Acta Ecclesiae Mediolanensis,
Pars II, 20 April 1584, 347. [Translation G. O'Connor]
 John Paul II.
1994. The tremendous symbolic value of
the priest's free promise of celibacy in showing Christ's spousal relationship
to the Church is a compelling reason why the Latin Church must exercise extreme
caution in ordaining married men to the priesthood.
 Congregation for
Education. Instruction Concerning the
Criteria for the Discernment of Vocations with regard to Persons with
Homosexual Tendencies in view of their Admission to Seminary and Holy Orders, 2005.
 Cf. PDV, n. 43.
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Fr. John Cihak, S.T.D., a priest of the Archdiocese of Portland in Oregon, works in the Vatican. He helped to start
Quo Vadis Days camps promoting discernment and
the priesthood at the high school level that now operate in several US dioceses. He has been a pastor and served in seminary formation.
He is the author of
Balthasar and Anxiety
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