Letter written by H.E. Mons. Claudio Gatti, Bishop ordained by God, to 68 cardinals, chosen according to criteria indicated by Our Lady, to propose a solution that, if accepted by the Ecclesiastical Authority, could resolve the serious and delicate problem of the priests who want to get married and to continue to exercise the ministry and of the priests already married, after obtaining the reduction to the lay state, who wish to be restored to exercise the sacred order
Rome, 23rd March 2008
Dearest brother in the priesthood,
we cannot keep on seeing, silent and powerless, the serious hemorrhage that has been affecting the Church for decades: the desertion of priesthood by tens of thousands of priests.
According to estimates, I don't know if reliable, the priests who asked the dismissal from the clerical state are about 150 thousand, a shocking amount if one thinks that those who exercise the priesthood are just a few more than 400 thousand.
After praying and reflecting for a long time, I formulated a solution that can be proposed to those priests who, more and more numerous, and sometimes also encouraged by bishops, they ask for the abolition of celibacy, the possibility of getting married and of continuing to exercise the priesthood. The same solution can be extended also to those priests who already obtained the reduction to the lay state, they got married and would like to be restored to exercise the priesthood.
My proposal would stifle the animosities and would sterilize the argumentations of some well-known persons who present themselves as prophets, sent by God, to restore in the Church the priesthood exercised by married persons.
Saint Paul affirmed that virginity is a free choice and not a precept imposed by the Lord (I Corinthians 7,25), but those who aspire to the priesthood, they must be like the First and Highest Priest and keep in their mind his words: "Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given. For some are eunuchs because they have renounced marriage because of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it" (Matthew 19,11-12).
It is true that for the first three centuries of the history of the Church bishops, presbyters and deacons could get married, but we have also to remind for which reasons the Council of Elvira (360) imposed the celibacy to the clergy: the lowering of the standard of living and the moral collapse of its members.
Up to that time the shepherds of the Church could get married, but only before the priestly ordination, not after. If they wanted to get married after the ordination, they had to give it up.
Saint Paul still warns those who get married: "will face many troubles in this life, and I want to spare you this. I would like you to be free from concern. An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord's affairs, how he can please the Lord" (I Corinthians 7,28-32).
The ministers of God must live the celibacy with joy, because through their chaste life they have to remind to the brothers laymen, often immersed in the material, the final condition of the man. Their life, vowed to chastity, is an anticipation of the state of resurrection: "At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven" (Matthew 22,30). The Mother of the Eucharist notified that God wants priests to live in a state of grace, to respect the celibacy and to practice the virtue of chastity.
To prevent the sacred ministers from sinning against the sixth commandment and to commit sacrileges, it is good to grant them, without offering much resistance on behalf of the Ecclesiastical Authority, the reduction to the lay state to get married.
To the priests who want to get married and keep on carrying on the sacred minister and to the priests reduced to the lay state and married who want to be restored in the sacred order, the Church, that must keep on loving them as beloved children, it can allow them to belong to the permanent deaconate to carry on the functions peculiar to the deacon.
These priests who studied theology, completed their formation, accumulated experiences, they are a precious potential for the Church, to which they can give a valid contribution.
They can be ordinary ministers of the Baptism, of the Communion and can be delegated to assist at the Matrimony.
They can give particular blessings and the eucharistic blessing. They can preach the Word of God and lecture for the preparation to the Baptism, to the First Communion, to the Confirmation and to the Matrimony. They can assist particularly the sick and the elderly, called by Our Lady: "The pearls of the Lord". As a matter of fact, they can go frequently and pay them a visit to give them the support of the Holy Communion and the comfort of the Word of God. Moreover, if the sick and the elderly were in peril of their life and it was not possible to find a priest to confess them, according to the canon 976 of the C.I.C., they could legitimately and validly absolve their sins.
The presbyters who exercise the functions of the deaconate must be hinged in a diocese and be under the authority of a bishop. It will be the duty of the Ordinaries to study the methods and to establish the times to restore them to exercise the sacred ministry.
I hope this proposal will be welcome by the Vatican and by the bishops to close a painful sore of the Church and I wish the competent Ecclesiastical Authority will acknowledge to me the paternity of formulating it.
Dear brothers in the priesthood, after reading this proposal of mine you cannot act as if nothing had happened to cover your responsibilities by the silence.
You will have to render an account to God and to the future Pope who won't be certainly that cardinal, known to all, who is carrying on a frantic activity to gather consents to ascend the Papal Throne.
To know how God acts when He calls someone to carry on a mission, read David's story (I Samuel 16,1-13).
Upon the bishops and priests who will have to judge my proposal, I invoke the light of the Holy Spirit.
May Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, protect us all (John Paul II).
Rome, 23rd March 2008
Easter Day: Resurrection of the Lord
Bishop ordained by God