Fr. John DeCelles, parochial vicar of St. Michael’s in Annandale, authored the letter below in response to a group of Milwaukee priests calling for optional celibacy. Ninety Arlington priests (60%) signed. In a cover letter Fr. DeCelles clarified that the letter “in no way represents a vote by the priests of the Arlington Diocese—the gifts of Christ and the venerable traditions of the Church do not require our approval for legitimacy.” Les Femmes extends a heartfelt thank-you to the signers. Editor

Most Reverend Wilton D. Gregory
President, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

Your Excellency:
It saddens us to learn that brother priests from the Archdiocese of Milwaukee have publicly called for an end to mandatory celibacy for priestly ordination. In response to their letter we, the undersigned priests of the Diocese of Arlington, declare our support for this discipline, which we joyfully promised at ordination.

They hope that permitting the ordination of married men will generate more vocations. Common sense and historical experience indicate, however, that reducing the demands of the priesthood will not increase vocations, because lessening sacrifice never inspires men to offer their lives to Christ. In times of crisis, the wisdom and instinct of the Church have always been to respond with greater sacrifice, not less. What will inspire more vocations is celibacy lived well, not celibacy set aside.

The theological and pastoral reasons for mandatory celibacy in the Latin Church are well known, set forth in the documents of Vatican II, the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the writings of our current Holy Father. The celibate priest participates in Christ’s spousal love for the Church, bears witness to the Kingdom of Heaven, and serves Christ and the Church with an undivided heart.

We desire that you and your brother bishops know of our devotion to this source and sign of pastoral charity, and our desire that it remain mandatory for priestly ordination. Further, we believe that continued discussion of this issue only confuses the faithful and deprives the Church of the clarity needed to inspire vocations.

Finally, we wholeheartedly commend you for your treatment of this matter in your letter dated September 3. May God bless you in your important work for Christ and His Church.

Sincerely in Christ,

Rev. Msgr. Thomas P. Scannell, Rev. Julius J. Cilinski, Rev. Msgr. John T. Cilinski, Rev. Msgr. Frank J. Hendrick, Rev. Joseph J. Loftus, Rev. William F. Ruehl, Rev. Frank J. Ready, Rev. Salvator L. Ciullo, Rev. Philip S. Majka, Rev. Franklyn M. McAfee, Rev. Gerald Weymes, , Rev. Robert E. Avella, Rev. Mark A. Pilon, Rev. Jerome W. Fasano, Rev. Christopher M. Buckner, Rev. Richard Dair, Rev. James R. Gould, Rev. James C. Bruse, Rev. Robert J. Rippy, Rev. William P. Saunders, Rev. Daniel S. Spychala, Rev. Paul L. Dudzinski, Rev. John D. Kelly, Rev. Lee W. Gross, Rev. John C. Cregan, Rev. Jerome R. Daly, Rev. Paul F. deLadurantaye, Rev. Charles W. Merkle, Rev. Christopher J. Mould, Rev. David P. Meng, Rev. Denis M. Donahue, Rev. Francis J. Peffley, Rev. Jerry J. Pokorsky, Rev. James S. Barkett, Rev. Michael R. Duesterhaus, Rev. Edward C. Hathaway, Rev. John J. Riley, Rev. John H. Melmer, Rev. Daniel J. Maher, Rev. Daniel L. Mode, Rev. Thomas P. Vander Woude, Rev. William J. Ettner, Rev. Dennis W. Kleinmann, Rev. Michael T. Orlowsky, Rev. Donald J. Planty, Rev. Michael G. Taylor, Rev. Lawrence M. Violette, Rev. Alexander R. Drummond, Rev. Richard M. Guest, Rev. Vincent P. Bork, Rev. Ronald S. Escalante, Rev. Paul M. Eversole, Rev. Daniel N. Gee, Rev. Michael C. Kelly, Rev. Mark E. Moretti, Rev. Richard A. Mullins, Rev. Terrence R. Staples, Rev. Joseph J. Clark, Rev. John C. De Celles, Rev. Ronald J. Gripshover,Jr., Rev. Christopher D. Murphy, Rev. Paul D. Scalia, Rev. Terry W. Specht, Rev. Stefan P. Starzynski, Rev. Jerry A. Wooton, Rev. John A. Ziegler, Rev. Matthew H. Zuberbueler, Rev. Francis deRosa, Rev. John P. Mosiman, Rev. James C. Hudgins, Rev. Christopher J. Pollard, Rev. Brian G. Bashista, Rev. Terry A. Cramer, Rev. Michael J. Dobbins, Rev. John F. Heisler, Rev. Kevin J. Beres, Rev. Paul M. Grankauskas, Rev. Stephen Holmes, Rev. John M. O’Donohue, Rev. Richard T. Carr, Rev. Frederick H. Edlefsen, Rev. Stephen F. McGraw, Rev. Edward E. Perez, Rev. James M. Poumade, Rev. Brian G. Belli, Rev. Geronimo A. Magat, Rev. Keith M. O'Hare, Rev. Michael D. Weston, Rev. Edward R. Horkan, Rev. Mark Mullaney.

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