Below is my response to a good friend of mine who happens to be a canon lawyer. In her email to me she made some very good points and has changed my thoughts on 'discussing' a married priesthood.
Your points are very good and perhaps you are right – perhaps there should not be any discussion of this at all – at least not by those without any decision making ability. And maybe I didn't even really mean to bring up the idea of “discussion”. I think, for me, the problem resides in the fact that almost all the faithful Catholics that write or speak on the subject (many of them priests) seem to either simply dismiss the subject or speak against it angrily. And I, believing myself to be a faithful Catholic priest, am very hurt when they seem to be so vehemently against the idea. The result is that I feel like a second class priest or that I am not a real priest somehow – at least in their minds.
Nevertheless, the more I think about it the more I think you are correct. This kind of discussion amongst the members of the Church can too easily lead to very bad situations. But, does that mean we don't discuss it at all? I don't know. After all, as you said, we can and should support all those celibate men now studying and who will study to enter the priesthood; but what happens if we run out of those men? Perhaps God is giving us the answer with having more married men as priests but we are not willing to see it? But then again, we must trust that the Holy Spirit does guide the Church and we don't want to be found fighting against Him. And, ultimately, it is up to the Pope and Bishops in communion with him to discern where the Holy Spirit is trying to lead us. But in contrast to that we cannot forget about the sensus fidei, although that applies not just to those members of the Church here and now, but throughout all time. I guess this could go on and on and that is why this is such a difficult topic.
But, I just realized something else. This is not just about my hurt feelings, although that probably is what spurred me on to track down Dr. Peters' email in order to contact him. Another issue that should be considered is this – my two boys (along with other married priests and their boys). The only thing my boys know and experience on a daily basis is a married priesthood. This is how they are being formed as Catholics and therefore what do we do when one or both of them desires to be both husband and priest?
So, what is the answer? I do not know and the decision to have a married priesthood or not in the Catholic Church does not reside with me. As I said in yesterday's post on this subject – I am not trying to start a crusade. But, I will continue to encourage my boys (and of course my girls as well, but we are talking about the priesthood here) to follow God's will and plan for their lives. And if one or both of them feel God calling them to be both a husband and a priest then I will encourage and support them in that and do all I can to help them fulfill God's plan for their life.