TIMOTHY NOAH APRIL 26, 2012
One of my lifelong hobbies has been to collect "aptronyms"--the newspaper columnist Franklin P. Adams's term for people whose names were curiously appropriate to, or provided ironic comment on, their occupations. I even once began, in a moment of madness, an alphabetical directory. Today reader Neil Hebert alerts me to the existence of a Jesuit priest, now deceased (and a candidate for future canonization) who back in 1998 penned an essay defending the priesthood's vow of celibacy ("Celibacy And The Catholic Priest"). Celibacy, this priest argued, frees one from "the worries and cares that necessarily go along with marriage and rearing a family":
I just can’t imagine living in wedlock and living also as I do, a 17-18 hour working day. There is freedom of mobility, to go wherever there is hope of God’s greater glory and the good of souls. [...] He has freedom of interest to devote himself exclusively to his priestly ministry and not be bound, as he would be in marriage, to preoccupations with so many things that would, therefore, divide his interests between the priesthood and his duties as husband and father of a natural family.
My work over the years has brought me into frequent contact and intimate relationships with Protestant ministers. I cannot tell you, and I quote literally, how many have told me, “John, I envy your celibate life. I love my wife and my children, but I often find it literally impossible to be what my people want me to be and my family, to give them the time and attention they deserve.”
The priest made an eloquent case for a doctrine whose wisdom even many Catholics have a difficult time believing in. If only his name hadn't been Father John Hardon.
Update, 5/6/12: NPR's "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me" tries (and fails) to stump Dick Cavett with "Father Hardon," but they get him on some other aptronyms (which they call "aptonyms") from my Slate days.