Author to Speak about Catholic Policy on Clergy

By Brian Lewis
The Tennessean [Nashville TN]
Downloaded September 28, 2003

A group of lay Catholics hoping to spur discussion on church policies such as the required celibacy of priests and the prohibition of female priests has invited a noted author on such issues to town.

Eugene Kennedy, author of 50 books including The Unhealed Wound: The Church and Human Sexuality, will speak in Nashville on Oct. 12, almost two months after more than 160 priests in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee signed a letter seeking a change in the celibacy policy.

Kennedy is a former priest who supports a non-celibate clergy and the ordination of women. He is a professor emeritus of sociology at Loyola University in Chicago.

He was invited here by the local chapter of Voice of the Faithful. The first chapter of the group was formed in Boston in response to sexual abuse scandals that have rocked the Catholic Church.

"A blind man would be able to tell there's a crisis in the Catholic Church and it is sexual in nature," Kennedy said in a telephone interview. "This has been the greatest, saddest, most tragic episode in the church's history in this country."

Kennedy said church members are struggling with questions of leadership, not a question of belief. The recent scandals, involving admissions of molestation by priests and of cover-ups by church officials, have "been a great wound for the Catholic people who love their church and really don't want to revolt against their bishops."

Jim Zralek, one of the leaders of the local chapter, said Kennedy addresses what is one of the major crises in the church today how it deals with sexuality.

"The unhealed wound is the reason probably that (Voice of the Faithful) ever began up in Boston," Zralek said.

Recently the bishop of the Diocese of Dallas banned a speaker with views similar to Kennedy's from giving a presentation on church property.

The organization that scheduled that event moved it to a Methodist church.

Nashville Bishop Edward Kmiec said that while he does not agree with Kennedy's views, he did not feel it necessary to bar him from speaking on church property. Kennedy will speak at the Cathedral of the Incarnation on West End Avenue.

"I have chosen not to stop this appearance and have confidence in the people of the diocese to discern the value of any speaker," he said. "Nevertheless, I would strongly caution anyone who attends to listen critically to his positions."

Kmiec said many Protestant denominations face a lack of clergy, so ending the celibacy requirement would not be a long-term solution to a declining number of priests.


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.