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?