What’s the difference, really??

Here are two current stories about two very similar men whom the Catholic Church treats very differently.

The first is a man who followed a call to ministry, was ordained a priest within his church, and eventually became a bishop. Because that church allows priests to be married, Jeffrey Steenson also has a wife, three children, and even a grandchild.  Steenson, the former bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of the Rio Grande, Albuquerque, NM has since left the Anglican Communion, been welcomed into the Catholic Church and ordained a Catholic priest.  Most recently he was appointed head of a new Ordinariate intended to smooth the transition to the Catholic Church for Episcopalians who, for whatever reason, feel called to swim the Tiber. Although Fr. Steenson will not be permitted to become a bishop, his new position essentially gives him all the administrative authority of a bishop and he will even be a voting member of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The second man also followed a call to ministry within his church, and was similarly ordained both a priest and a bishop.  Though I don’t presume to know anything other than what is being reported today, Gabino Zavala apparently also felt called to the intimacy of a marital relationship and family life, and recently revealed that he is the father of two teenage children.  In the current structures of Catholicism, however, the requirement of mandatory celibacy makes all this a big “no, no.” And so, today’s big news is that the Pope has accepted Zavala’s resignation as an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. The Vatican announcement of this news cites that part of Canon Law (can. 401§2) which allows for the resignation of a bishop prior to the established retirement age of 75 due to ill health or “some other grave cause.”

Putting aside the fact that Bishop Zavala did not live up to the imposed requirement in the Western Church that priests and bishops be celibate, the question remains:  At a substantive, material level, how are these two men really different, and why does the Catholic Church treat them so differently?

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