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Need a sacrament? Call Rent a Priest.

CHICAGO - Is there a sacrament shortage in your town? If Louise Haggett has her way, church communities across the country will follow the example in Saginaw, Mich., and call upon married priests to minister to them.

Haggett, 52, a Framingham, Mass., marketing executive, is starting an information network she calls Rent a Priest, part of Celibacy Is The Issue, a nonprofit organization she founded about a year ago. She hopes that by making both married priests and laypeople aware of their canon-law rights, no one will be deprived of any sacrament because there aren't enough celibate priests to go around.

When Saginaw's Save the Churches group needed a priest for a protest Mass last summer (see main story), Haggett put them in touch with Father Leo Lynch, a local married priest. Lynch obliged.

Nineteen canons give married priests the continued power to minister the sacraments and laypeople the right to receive them, Haggett said. Her Rent a Priest brochure cites some of them, along with suggestions on how married priests can be called upon for everything from baptisms to divorced-Catholic marriages and nursing-home Masses.

"The Christian faithful do not need permission from anyone to act in order to fulfill their pastoral needs in emergencies," Haggett writes. "Empowerment to act lies within the emergency canons themselves."

Haggett said she got her legal interpretations from a married priest who has been studying canon law for 20 years. With the help of CORPUS and other organizations of resigned priests, she has compiled a list of thousands of priests who have chosen secular life. Many of them would be willing to minister on a full- or part-time basis, Haggett said.

"The biggest surprise of this whole thing has been that I have heard from so many priests (married and celibate)," Haggett said. "I never anticipated when I began that I would become a sounding board for priests."

She hopes to establish a 1-800 telephone number to make it easier for married priests to get in touch with the people who need them.

No one is really going to go out and rent a priest, Haggett said; the Rent a Priest name is a "marketing ploy." She said she is in the business of marketing other people's work, and she knows how to reach "Joe Six-pack."

Catholics should be governed by the Bible, not church law, Haggett said, despite her emphasis upon the emergency canons. As the brochure states, "In the Catholic church, practice leads to custom and custom leads to law."

New laws may be a long time coming, Haggett said, but for married priests and sacramentally deprived Catholics, the watchwords for today are, "Do it!"
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Title Annotation:network of secularized Catholic ex-priests
Author:Gibeau, Dawn
Publication:National Catholic Reporter
Date:Feb 26, 1993
Words:442
Previous Article:Married priest celebrating Mass in Saginaw: parish cites canon law, invites priest.
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