Austrian pastor leaves church because of celibacy
An Austrian pastor resigned because of his love for a woman, restarting a debate on celibacy in the Catholic Church. “I do not want to lead a double life.”
No marriage and no children. Celibacy has been in force in the Roman Catholic Church for over 900 years. However, the 40-year-old Andreas Monschein was applauded when he announced his resignation because of love after Mass in early January. “It is not a good sign when people clap because the pastor is leaving”, says Monschein with a smile. “In all seriousness, the appreciation towards me is very high.”
Monschein explains his resignation and retirement as a priest in an interview with the Austrian daily Kronen Zeitung. He speaks of his longing for the truth and his fear for a game of hide and seek. “I met a woman with whom a common future seems possible and with whom I want to walk this new path together.”
“I want to be honest about this and try to live in the truth”, Monschein said, according to Kathpress. “For me, this truth means honestly admitting that I have fulfilled my ordination promise, which I made 12 years ago and acknowledge, just as honestly, that I can no longer live and would like to live in this way.”
However, it is not only love that is making Monschein retire. “The sticking point was getting to know a woman. But it is also very much about the esteem and position of the priest, not only within the diocese but among the people in general. We are becoming fewer and fewer, while at the same time the areas are becoming larger and larger.” According to Monschein, he had 91 baptisms last year - despite lockdowns. “You should think more about how to strengthen priests.”
Although celibacy was why Monschein quit, he does not think that lifting celibacy will solve all problems. “Merely letting priests marry is not enough.” Monschein thinks it is important to talk about celibacy, but some reactions hurt him. “It hurts to hear people ranting about the “evil” church now. The church is and will always be an important part of my life and I leave with no grudges.”
The Diocese of Graz-Seckau regrets the departure of the dedicated priest. “Andreas Monschein was a popular priest, pastor and pastoral room manager in our diocese. We are very grateful to him for his commitment and his services, also in many diocesan committees and working groups,” says Vicar General Erich Linhardt. The regional news portal Vorarlberg Online reported this.
Close to Christ
Celibacy has been in the Catholic Church for over 900 years. Advocates see clerical celibacy as “a special gift of God by which sacred ministers can more easily remain close to Christ with an undivided heart, and can dedicate themselves more freely to the service of God and their neighbour”, as is written in the Canon Law of the Catholic Church.
In February 2019, the New York Times revealed that the Vatican’s department overseeing the world’s priests has general guidelines for what to do when clerics break celibacy vows and father children. According to the British newspaper The Guardian, the document requests that a cleric who has fathered a child leaves the priesthood to “assume his responsibilities as a parent by devoting himself exclusively to the child.”