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"But just like in a pinch, [a practicing Jew] can eat a ham sandwich. It wouldn't be kosher, but it would still take care of your nutritional needs," he says.
Father John Vogt of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Scottsdale acknowledges that married Episcopal, Anglican and Protestant ministers can undergo a long study session and become ordained as Roman Catholic priests. But, he adds, this takes place only on a case-by-case basis; a special dispensation must be granted by Rome, after a bishop has made an official request.
Why can't married Roman Catholic priests ask for the same dispensation?
"We do not understand the rationale behind it at all," Vogt says. ". . . If they're [the Vatican] going to give those exceptions, I think they should make exceptions for the priests that want to be married and still be recognized in the church."
Nationally, the church has remained silent on the issue of practicing married priests, Haggett says, although she sent brochures to all of the bishops in the United States and to the Vatican. Haggett's not disheartened. "I don't believe the day will ever come when the pope is gonna say, 'Okay, you know, you guys can go back to work,'" she says.
But, Haggett adds, "There's a saying in the Catholic Church that goes, 'Practice becomes custom and custom becomes law.'"
She cites the example of altar servers. For decades, both boys and girls have been altar servers, although the church officially allowed only boys. Recently, the Vatican allowed that girls can be altar servers.
Haggett stresses that her main concern is that Catholics are not getting the sacraments. But she also believes mandatory celibacy can lead to sexual abuse of teens and adults in a priest's flock. (However, she says, celibacy is not a root cause of pedophilia.)
"The church has done all that it can to try to separate the two [celibacy and sexual abuse], to keep people from even questioning whether or not there's a connection," she says. "And I believe that it is time that someone started to question."
Haggett would rather not discuss the issue of sex crimes. She prefers to emphasize the positive. And for her, the best part of Rent A Priest is seeing married priests fulfill what they continue to consider their calling to God.
"The church just turned away so many years ago and told them, move away, change your name, we don't want to have anything to do with you anymore, you're no longer a priest," Haggett says. "And these guys are so excited they can consecrate Mass again. It's just such a beautiful thing.