If You Pay Them, They Will Build

I had not realized that Dwight Longenecker, the Roman Catholic priest in Greenville, SC, and graduate of Bob Jones University, is married. I should have figured it out. He made this revelation in a recent piece about the limited valued of married priests. First, Fr. Dwight doesn’t think married clergy will solve the sexual scandals that have plagued the church recently.

But more important, he thinks married priests are expensive:

When a Catholic enthuses to me about having married priests I usually ask, “Are you willing to put an extra twenty bucks in the collection plate every week to make this happen?” It’s amazing how quickly the subject changes!

Speaking of the married priest’s family, has no one else seen the most obvious problem? If a young priest is married and he and his young wife are fertile they would be expected to live within the moral teachings of the Catholic Church. Yes, it is still Catholic policy that artificial means of contraception are forbidden.

The Catholic priest and his wife would be expected to live within that teaching. Do the parishioners who are so gung-ho about married priests really want to support the priest’s children? Would they want to re-build the rectory to house them? Pay their health insurance, deductibles and orthodontics? Would they be willing to cough up to send the priest’s kids through Catholic school and college? What if the priest had six, seven, eight, ten or twelve kids? It’s not really cheaper by the dozen.

I was surprised to read this because I recall Fr. Dwight posting several pieces about the new (and seemingly expensive) parish in Greenville that he has overseen:

Having seen the attempts at modern churches in other parishes since the Second Vatican Council they were firmly convinced that their new church would be built in a traditional style. But how is this accomplished? Purists sneered at using modern building methods—a steel structure clad with an exterior veneer of brick and a plaster-board interior skin. “That is simply a pastiche!” they cried. “It is a pretend, artificial confection similar to Cinderella’s castle at Disneyland!”

I had to agree with them when I visited a new church built in Texas in an English Gothic style. The stone trim was plastic. The carved wood was molded resin. The steel frame was designed in such a way as to give the walls “the illusion of depth.” The limestone exterior was no more than a thin veneer. Was this a house of God with integrity or just another example of Disney-fied America—where every other building is fabricated in an artificial style? Drive around America and see: here a fake Tudor mansion, there a pretend hacienda; here a mock English castle, there a faux fisherman’s cottage. The whole suburban landscape is like one huge theme park. As a dour Englishman commented on his return from Orlando, “It’s quite amazing what the Yanks can do with plastic!”

So I found a young architect who shared my views. He designed a church built in the Romanesque style with modern building materials: cement block. He had the idea to cover the cement block with modern stucco product and he equipped our church with modern facilities. Here was the answer: to build a traditional church in a traditional way but with modern, affordable materials. The problem was that we still could not afford it.

Turns out, Our Lady of the Rosary (Roman) Catholic Church could afford it, even with a married priest. Could this turn Fr. Dwight’s original point about married priests on its head? The more parishes call married men, the bigger their building budgets will grow?


25 thoughts on “If You Pay Them, They Will Build

  1. So if the theory is that married priests would reduce the number of sexual predators in the priesthood but would cost more money would that change the formulation from:

    Pay, Prey (ahem), & Obey to Pay, Pay, and Obey?


  2. It’s not difficult. If I allowed married priests, besides just those norming effects, I open up the vocations to an enormous segment of the population that heretofore was excluded or wouldn’t consider it and hopefully take the pressure off seminaries and formation centers to push through ‘questionable’ candidates because the need for priests wouldn’t be as great. All clergy is STILL going to attract predators because predators seek opportunity, access, standing and cover. But, if I leseen the demand and urgency, I can screen those guys more carefully and afford to say no to them.


  3. IOW, the RCC is sticking by a poorly evaluated discipline. The vocation shortage has been going on at least as long as I’ve been alive and the urgency to overcome that shortage has caused much more damage and money by the time all the diocesan settlements, closed parishes(reduced donation base) are tallied up, not to mention damage to souls and psyche, than any cost you want to tabulate to house and provide health insurance to a priest and his family. Also, you might want to rethink birth control, jus sayin’.


  4. Cw, you and I should run for a joint pontificate. It’ll be all conciliar-like. There is no way we’d do worse than the current or former crews. We could wear tuxes instead of cassocks.


  5. sean:damage and money by the time all the diocesan settlements, closed parishes(reduced donation base) are tallied up, not to mention damage to souls and psyche, than any cost you want to tabulate to house and provide health insurance to a priest and his family.

    thought I’d look up the settlement part anyway – ”and $3 billion is certainly an underestimate” http://www.bishop-accountability.org/settlements/


  6. cw and sean – WRONG 1) stepbrother is not even a category in the believer family 2) maybe you are not even in the family if you have only sorta χάρισμα !


  7. But I though, in theory, RC moral teaching says marriage and childbearing is a good thing. So let’s not have that good because it’ll cost too much?

    Maybe they could sell those relics.


  8. DH does not get it.

    Married priests, most obviously, are THE solution to the RC’s egregious problem of a pink priest cadre. But traditionalist are against that because it is an affront to the romantic old appeal of Catholicism as ‘Other’. Even if such appeal is based on an era long since gone. But to admit that is to admit that Vatican II was a clusterF—. And Vatican II was an ecumenical council. So….

    Not to mention Protestants have no problem supporting a married clergy corps, so does that make Catholics believers who can’t put their money where their very vocal mouths are….?


  9. Makes one wonder how the orthodox get buy.

    However I’m not convinced this will do much. My understanding is that sex abuse among rc clergy is lower than general population. The scandal is not that predators infiltrate communities with easy targets. The scandal is that Bishops not only facilitate this (e.g. by sending known predators to run South American orphanages), but attack victims, provide advice on how to avoid debts to victims, and celebrate Cardinals who are known to have fascilitated abuse.

    The problem is clericalism and a lack of accountability. But of course “regulatoty capture”, protection of cronies, and using the institution to serve the leadership at the expense of othrr stakeholders is a common source of corruption in all human bureaucracies. The rcc is no exception.


  10. “Protestants have no problem supporting married clergy corps”

    This isn’t universally true, to congregations’ great shame. I can recount a number of pastors who either have to be “worker priests” and get full time jobs, or serve two or more parishes/congregations. And they still might be dismissed for having too many children. Best to spell it all out up front: your wife works, your kids will be enrolled in the parochial school, you have to stop at 3 (reasonable, right?).

    Actually, Assembly of God missionaries used to have that 3-kid rule. Not sure if it still stands


  11. cw – Way to go, Katy. Cue the howlers.
    Surprised, restrained, firm howl here. Ahoo.

    sdb – Makes one wonder how the orthodox get buy.
    Because there’s a great deal more to life on the ground than is apparent if your only data source is such admittedly problematic info.

    As usual you raise fine points (I appreciate the doses of reason you provide), although I think the problems point to human weakness rather than a fundamental flaw (I don’t expect wide agreement amongst present company), and that the institution carries within it the only real solutions available- yet they are almost inexplicably ignored.

    I had some questions at the top of https://oldlife.org/2015/12/spotting-the-difference/comment-page-6/ which were addressed to Jeff (who I expect may have missed them or is busy with work), but could equally as well have been addressed to you- any interest in weighing in?


  12. Back to Fr. Dwight’s building project — did he consult the architects of Cathedrale de Sproul in sunny Sanford, FL? Dwight’s project makes more theological sense than RC Sr’s, which has images of deity in the lobby, at least.


  13. He didn’t have to go that far for the inspiration, CW. Rick P is right down the road. That picture I posted above is from the sanctuary.


  14. How many shades of red would Rick turn if Fr. Dwight bumped into him at the sub shop and said “Hey, prot — nice stained glass of X. We hope ours turns out so well.” No doubt Rick inherited his images. But they remain.


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