An opinion piece in today’s New York Times asked the question: “What will life be like for the wives of Roman Catholic priests?”
Yep. Wives. Of Roman Catholic priests.
See, the Vatican recently organized a “special division” of the Catholic Church—the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of Saint Peter—that will allow already married Episcopal priests to become Roman Catholic priests. As with all things Catholic, a consecrated host of rules surround this special dispensation. Nonetheless, it is remarkable news as Catholic priests have not been able to keep wives since 1123. Not to mention, the Vatican doesn't exactly have a reputation for instituting sweeping changes. Sweeping things under the rug is more their MO.
The article, written by a history professor, gave a synopsis of why the canonical kibosh was placed on clerical marriage. It also served up some surprising sociological insight on how wives of priests were viewed by the great unwashed of the 11th century. It seems clergy wives of old faced all kinds of mad hatred. You know, that special kind of abhorrence of which only Christians are capable. Ugly stuff.
At the very least, Medieval types saw wives as a distraction to the work of priests. I get that. Nearly a century later, work-life balance is still an issue for most. But what I found truly bizarre was that many believed marriage somehow sullied the priest. And “the priest who handled the body and blood of Christ should be uncontaminated lest he defile the sacred corpus.” Let me clarify that by “sacred corpus” we are talking about the disembodied flesh and blood of Jesus. Guess you can never be too clean to cannibalize your savior.
So, as our only frame of reference for the day-to-day existence of Roman Catholic clergy wives is coming up on 900 years old, the author’s initial question is a valid one: What WILL life be like for the ladies this time around? Being intellectually curious by nature, I say we find out. And not by way of a well-done documentary or responsible journalism, but via America’s entertainment of choice...a realty show. Let’s strap some cameras on the Real Rectory Wives of New Jersey and go where the Holy Spirit leads us.
But why stop in Jersey? The RC Church is global so, shit, we’d be remiss if we didn’t make it a franchise. We could hold each season in a different city. We could have specials where the parishes go to Hawaii and Europe...even Vanuatu. And don't forget the potential for crossover episodes: “Next week on Real Rectory Wives...Saint Francis Church of Hoboken invades the Church of the Madonna in Fort Lee. When tempers flair, it will be hotter than Hell.”
Think about it: the resentment, the temptation, the clash of old school priests vs. these wanton ex-Episcopals! What will ensue? Will it be nuns vs. wives in tabernacle Twitter wars?
God, I haven’t been this titillated since I typed “defile the sacred corpus.”
Real Rectory Wives offers a natural a framework for a reality series. I mean, we are dealing with a “special division” of the RC Church. The way I see it, we are already in spin-off territory, and it can only grow from here.
Man, do I hope someone picks up on this winner of an idea. The Real Rectory Wives franchise could be more popular than Jesus.