[Letter to
an artistic Taoseña,  close relative of Padre Martinez –
written 2004, revised 2012.]




Fr. Juan Romero

Dear Maya:


ask my opinion on clerical celibacy.  Yes, I think it should become
optional for any diocesan priest.  In my view, this would greatly enhance
the freedom with which a priest to whom God has given the charism of celibacy
will live it.  Within a few sentences discussing marriage, adultery,
divorce, and virginity or celibacy, Jesus’ disciples suggested, “it is better
not to marry.” He answered, “Not all can accept [this] word, but only those to
whom that is granted…. Some [are incapable of marriage] because they…have
renounced marriage for the sake of the kingdom of heaven….Whoever can
accept this ought to accept it.”[1]

Paul gave his own witness in favor of celibacy for practical motives as well as
for theological reasons.  He was single-hearted, and counseled
celibacy to other disciples and evangelizers to be fully concerned for the
service of the people to whom they are sent instead of being wrapped up in the
cares of wife and family.[2] In
Paul’s teaching, celibacy is a charism, a special gift given by God for
building up the Body of Christ, the Church.  It is a gift freely given,
and awaits a free response.  Both the gift and response have to be free if
God is to be pleased.  If a response to a gift is somehow forced,
then there is no real freedom in the response.  Freedom has to be from
within the mind and heart.  If celibacy is a charism, a gift God
gives to a particular person for the good of the whole Church, let us hope that
such a person freely accepts the gift.

a person must also be free not to accept a particular gift from God
without in any way fearing s/he might be punished for not accepting a gift
offered.  Furthermore, no one should try to pretend s/he has a gift
from God if in fact s/he does not.  The pretense is worse if the
person then tries to live as if s/he has a gift of “wisdom, knowledge, healing,
mighty deed, prophecy, discernment of spirits, gift of tongues, interpretation
of tongues,”[3]…or
celibacy.  For example, being an artist is a gift of God; it is a talent
that comes from Him.  For sure, one has to work at it in order to better
develop it.  While only some may have the gift of celibacy, there are
others who definitely do not.  Any gift God gives is for His greater glory
and the service of people.  Of course, a gift—talent
or charism—given by God may also be used for self-fulfillment and as a way
to make a living, but only secondarily.

Pauline text on Marriage and Virginity[4] merits
prayerful reflection by anyone interested in understanding or
appreciating celibacy.  The footnotes in a bible[5] are
worth studying and contemplating.  Here are some texts from Chapter 7 of
St. Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians that I particularly recommend for

  • “Indeed,
    I wish everyone to be as I am, but each has a particular gift from God, one of
    one kind and one of another.”[6]
  • “…Everyone
    should live as the Lord has assigned, just as God called each one.”[7]
  • “Now
    in regard to virgins I have no commandment from the Lord, but I give my
    opinion…that it is a good thing for a person to remain as he is,”[8]
    i.e. either married or single.
  • “I
    should like you to be free of anxieties.  An unmarried man is anxious
    about the things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord.  But a married
    man is anxious about the things of the world, how he may please his wife, and
    he is divided….”[9]
  • “So
    then, the one who marries his virgin does well; the one who does not marry her
    will do better.”[10]

celibacy matters because of the example of Jesus, the exhortation of St. Paul,
and the practice of several centuries in the Western (Latin Rite) Church.[11] However,
for a Catholic clergyman to be required to be celibate is not a dogma of the
Church, and therefore theoretically could be changed.[12] The
apostles were all married, except for St. John. We hear about how Jesus cured
Peter’s mother-in-law when he lived with them.[13] For
the first ten centuries of the Church, the great majority of clergy were
married.  At the same time, there has always been the witness of monks and
later religious order priests such as Franciscans, Dominicans, etc. who are
religious by definition because they take the three vows of
poverty, chastity, and obedience.  Celibacy is an evangelical
counsel, not a divine mandate.  Although clerical celibacy is not
essential to priesthood, it is a serious discipline.  For Catholic
clergy in the Western Church, celibacy is a matter of church law as well as an
evangelical counsel.  The bishop may punish celibacy’s flagrant violation
with the ecclesiastical censure of suspension from officiating at the sacred
duties of presiding at Mass and administering

In my
opinion, if the rule mandating celibacy were to be changed, that would
strengthen the freedom of celibacy as a charism by which one freely
responds to God’s call.  It is a vocation that can be lived with
authenticity only if it is freely chosen in response to God’s initiative.
It is obviously not for everyone, nor is it even necessarily a “better
way,” but only different.  It is, however, very definitely a call to
some.  Part of its importance within the Catholic community is that it
bears witness to the future—the fullness of the coming of the kingdom—when
giving in marriage will no longer be.

life of celibacy is essential to the chosen life of a vowed religious priest,
brother, or sister. Taking the vow of celibacy, together with the vows of
poverty and obedience, is what makes a Franciscan, Dominican, Jesuit or member
of any religious order fall into the category of a religious.  A diocesan
priest—sometimes called a secular priest[14] because
he lives “in the world, but is not of it”— is not
irreligious.  However, he is not a religious in the manner of one who
takes vows to keep the evangelical counsels.  This is one of the main
distinctions between a diocesan/secular priest and a religious order priest or
sister.  Nevertheless, the diocesan/secular priest promises to live
in the spirit of the evangelical counsels as they apply to his state of life,
but is not bound to them by the virtue of religion.

important difference between a diocesan/secular priest and a religious is that
a religious priest is immediately subject to the authority of his religious
superior, sometimes called a provincial.  On the other hand, a
diocesan priest is immediately subject to the authority of the local bishop of
his diocese.  A diocesan/secular priest belongs to a diocese, the local
church.  The priest is “incardinated into” or hooked onto a
particular diocese, like a hinge on a door. The diocese is the “door,” and the
“hinge” is the promise of reverence and obedience to the particular bishop
of that diocese, together with the promise to serve the people of that local
church. The real authority for any priest has to be Jesus Christ, but his
immediate earthly authority is either the superior for a religious priest, or
the local bishop for a secular/diocesan priest.  In the sixteenth and
seventeenth centuries–when there were only Franciscans in New Mexico–the
Franciscan Custos (Guardian) was the main person directly in
charge of priest-personnel.

the ninth century, celibacy became a rule for all priests of the Latin Rite in
the Western Church.  One of the primary goals of the rule, as
Father Cozzen explains,[15] was
to insure that church property would not be passed onto the children of a
priest.  Priests that you are familiar with are of the Latin Rite.
Most western Catholics are not well informed about the Eastern Rites of our
one, holy, Catholic (universal), and apostolic church.  Eastern Rite Catholics believe
all the same doctrines (dogmas) that we do; they have the same sacraments
(Eucharist is central for them as well); they honor Blessed Mary with great
devotion, maybe even more than we do; and they are in union with the Holy
Father in Rome.

the Eastern Rite Catholic Church in union with Rome, as well as the Greek
Orthodox Church separated from Rome, maintain their custom of a married
clergy.  However, in the early twentieth century, the Latin Church
imposed its discipline of celibacy upon Eastern Rite clergy residing and
ministering in the United States. Eastern Rite Catholics are not to be
confused with members of the Eastern Orthodox Church who also
adhere to the same dogmas, have the same sacraments, and honor
Mary.  However, they do not acknowledge the authority of the pope in
the same way we do.  Their members are our closest brothers and
sisters within the family of Christians.  Although the will of God
and prayer of Jesus is that we “all be one,”[16] we
have sadly and scandalously been estranged since Great Western Schism of
1054.  We Roman Catholics believe that our Holy Father in Rome is the
successor of St. Peter whom Jesus chose—together with all of Peter’s
successors—to be the visible head of the Church on earth.  “And so I say
to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church…”[17] The Greek
Orthodox Church may have great respect for the Bishop of Rome as the Patriarch
of the West, but it does not see him in the same way as Catholics.

my opinion, a change in the rule of celibacy making it optional for priests of
the Latin Rite to marry or not would enhance the practice of celibacy. God
freely gives the gift (charism) to whomever He wills.  Some diocesan
priests who have received and accepted the charism of celibacy happily and
faithfully live out that life.  Other diocesan priests who perhaps feel
called both to priesthood and to marriage would be able to integrate both
vocations into their lives.  Monks and religious order priests, however,
would always live their charism of the celibate life that is intrinsic to the
nature of their vocation, fidelity to the evangelical councils that includes

change in policy would allow diocesan priests to either marry or to remain
single.  Many priests perhaps may choose to marry if given the
option.  However, those who choose to remain single “for the sake of
the kingdom of heaven”[18] would
do so because God has called them to live a celibate life and has given them
the graces to do so.  With His actual graces, the Lord helps a priest
or religious woman live their celibate vocation fully and freely.  These
graces enable a person to act with an enlightened mind to better discern God’s
holy will, and an energized heart to fully, faithfully, and freely follow God’s
will. The Lord gives these special helps (graces) to the persons He wills to
bless with the gift (charism) of celibacy.  However, each person so
gifted has to freely accept the gift, and to ask the Lord for His help to
remain faithful in living it out.

may be surprise you to know that even at the present time in the Western
Rite—in both Europe and here in the United States– there are Catholic priests
in good standing who are also married!  This is the case of some Lutheran
and Anglican men who were married clergymen and later became Catholics.
Keeping their wives, they were ultimately ordained as Catholic priests.

predict there will someday be a change in the discipline of celibacy that would
allow some so-called “permanent” deacons who are married to eventually also
become ordained as priests while retaining their wives.  Deacons are
already part of the hierarchy– the “holy orders” of deaconate, priesthood, and
episcopacy. Such deacons ready and willing to respond to the call to
priesthood will have already shown well-developed qualities of stability and
spiritual maturity.  Their stability is reflected in solid marriages, and
their spiritual maturity echoed by consistent and effective service as deacons serving
the community over a period of years, perhaps seven.  Such a deacon would
likely be required to spend a year or two in formative preparation for
ordination to priesthood.   If there is to be a change in the
discipline of celibacy for clergy of the Western Rite, the Holy Spirit will
show the way, and it will happen in God’s good time, God’s right

briefly review for you some history of your antepasado: Antonio
José Martínez, born of the Martín Serrano clan in 1793 at the Plaza of
Santa Rosa in Abiquiú, validly married a distant relative when he was a
young man of 19.  He fathered a daughter in the town of his birth,
but the following year, his wife died in childbirth.  Two years
later, leaving his daughter with her maternal grandparents, Antonio José traveled
to Durango to enter the seminary and study for the priesthood.  At
the time, all of New Mexico and surrounding regions belonged to the diocese of
Durango that was part of the Kingdom of Spain. The year before he was ordained
in 1822, the Republic of Mexico had become independent from Spain, and Taos
became the northern frontier of the new Republic.  After six years of
study, he was ordained a priest at the age of 29.

he returned to Taos before formally finishing his studies, and lived with his
parents while recuperating from his breathing ailment. Meanwhile, Padre
Martinez helped the elderly Franciscan pastor of San Geronimo parish whose seat
was at the Taos Pueblo.  The parish included Our Lady of Guadalupe
Church at the Taos Plaza, a mission of the Pueblo Church, and the church of his
boyhood.  He got better, and was assigned as the priest in charge of
Tomé south of Albuquerque, and then another stint at
Santo Tomás Church in Abiquiú where he had been baptized,
married, and where his wife lay buried.  During this time, he had the
opportunity to re-connect with his daughter who was living with her
grandparents, his in-laws and parents of his deceased wife.  Alas,
within a year, his daughter María de La Luz also died at the young
age of twelve in the year 1825.  By 1826,
Padre Martínez was assigned to become the priest in charge of San
Geronimo parish that included his beloved church of Our Lady of Guadalupe in
Taos.  He was to have an eventful career for the next forty-two years
not only as a priest, but also as an educator, journalist-printer-publisher,
rancher, lawyer and politician.  His concern for the poor wherever he
was became a hallmark of his ministry.

1851, Santa Fe and its environs (including Taos) became part of a new diocese
within the United States.  However, after a few years, he began to
have conflicts with his bishop, and the last years of his life were clouded in
controversy with his new bishop.  However, his peers in the
Territorial Legislature continued to hold him in high regard, and upon his
death in 1867 carved this encomium upon his tombstone: “La Honra de
Su País
/The Honor of His Homeland.”

Martinez was an intellectual and practical leader who did wonderful things for
the benefit of the people of New Mexico and beyond.  His
accomplishments were great, and so were some of his faults including pride and
obstinacy.  Bishop Jean B. Lamy suspended him in 1856, and
excommunicated him in 1858 for his “scandalous writings” against the bishop’s policy
re-introducing tithing.  Even as a young priest, as far back as 1829,
Padre Martinez had resisted that policy enshrined in the civil law of the
Republic of Mexico because it was an excessive burden on the
poor.  He later, during the mid 1830s, used his legislative skills to
change civil law to make tithing illegal.

Bishop Lamy nor his Vicar General Joseph Machebeuf ever
alleged immoral behavior on the part of Padre Martinez, but the fact is that he
did have children while serving as the priest of Taos.  He definitely
had a vocation to the intellectual life, and service for the benefit of the
people, especially the poor.  He may have had a vocation to the
priesthood, but he certainly did not have the charism of celibacy.

Your tío Vicente
has written clearly about the progeny of Padre Martínez, and is publishing
the results of his extensive research.  I commend to you his work
soon to be published in a genealogical journal, but wish to highlight a few
items I deem especially significant:

  • In his
    Last Will and Testament, modified and ratified a month before he died in 1867,
    Padre Martínez mentions briefly—almost curtly—his only legitimate
    daughter María de La Luz who was named after his young wife that died
    in childbirth.  He was to have two other daughters given the same
    name, the first also died as an infant.  Padre Martínez had
    a predilection for the name, and a great devotion to Blessed Mary
    under the title La Purísima Concepción de María.  He
    kept and revered a favorite image still extant among the heirlooms of
    the family; his private oratorio and graveside (campo santo)
    were dedicated to La Purísima.
  • His
    first son was born in July 1830 around the feast of Santiago (July
    25).  There have been questions about the identity of the mother,
    whether or not Padre Martinez was actually the father, and from whom did
    Santiago get his last name of Valdez.  It seems clear that Padre
    Martinez was indeed the father of Santiago Valdez, and a certain Theodora
    Marquez was his mother. Your uncle Vicente Martínez deftly
    and thoroughly provides answers to most questions raised, and I emphasize a few
    items. Padre Martinez had a special love
    for Santiago—educated him well in his own schools (elementary school, seminary
    and law school), brought him up as part of his own family (the Padre refers to
    him in his Will as “mi familiar”), named him administrator of his Last
    will and Testament. He also asked Santiago
    and Vicente Ferrer, the next to youngest son and future Presbyterian
    evangelizer, to be care-takers of his private chapel. The Padre bequeathed to Santiago and to his
    descendants the use of the Padre’s own family name of Martinez, i.e., children
    of Martín.  Finally, Padre Martinez left his precious books and
    documents to Santiago Valdez. In 1877, a decade after the Padre’s death,
    Santiago would stitch together the Biografía del Presbêtero Antonio
    José Martínez, Cura de Taos
    today found in
    the Ritch Collection of the Huntington Library near Los Angeles. A fully annotated scholarly version English
    is scheduled for publication in the near future.
  • Padre Martinez had other children with Teodora Romero
    Trujillo.  At 16, she married a Mr. Oliver, and gave birth to a
    daughter in 1826.  Within a short time and maybe at the same
    time—perhaps in an accident—both father and daughter died.  This
    was the same year that Padre Martínez returned to Taos as the new
    priest in town.  The young widow Theodora lived with her parents
    next door to the Padre’s house, and she eventually became the priest’s
    housekeeper. Human circumstances led both first to mutual friendship, and
    eventually—within four years–blossomed into a more intimate and long-term
    relationship.  Their respective fathers had known each other and
    worked together in Taos since the early nineteenth century.  It is
    quite possible that Severino Martínez and José Romero–the respective fathers
    of Padre Martinez and Teodora Romero–were business partners.  Their
    names are associated with the land and building of Guadalupe Church in Taos
    since 1804. Furthermore, Severino obtained
    some nearby land that in 1825 he gave for the building of a residence to his
    son the new parish priest in town.
    Moreover, both Padre Martínez and Theodora had been widowed at
    a young age, and each also had lost a daughter. The priest and his young
    housekeeper had a son, and over the following fourteen years, the couple would
    have a number of children.  As a loving and dutiful father, Padre
    Martinez in his Last Will and Testament explicitly and adequately provided for
    each of them.

Padre Martínez named
his next son, born of Theodora in 1831, George—not Jorge.  By
family lore, it is thought that this name in English was given to honor George
Washington for whom Padre Martinez had great appreciation.  The
maternal grandparents were José Romero and María Trujillo.

  • Next
    to the last son was Vicente Ferrer Romero, born in
    1844.  He is a significant figure in New Mexican history insofar as
    he carried on the religious and publication legacy of his father, the
    priest.  However, he did so as a Presbyterian evangelist and
    publisher of Protestant tracts.  When in his formative
    teenage years, thirteen and fourteen, the controversy between
    Bishop Lamy and Padre Martinez was cresting and exploded into
    suspension and finally excommunication by 1858.  By the time Vicente
    Ferrer Romero was a mature man entering his thirties, he came into contact with
    the Presbyterian minister Rev. Roberts, and in 1873 invited him to Taos where
    Vicente helped him establish a school. Vicente Ferrer Romero became
    an effective circuit rider appealing to many disaffected Catholics who were smarting
    and devastated the denunciation of their beloved Cura de Taos.

band of Jesuit priests gave missions in Taos after Padre Martinez died in
1867. As a result, many families and
individuals who had been disaffected returned to the Catholic Church, but
certainly not all.  What is true is that both Catholics and
Presbyterians over the years have become more united in their appreciation of
Padre Martinez, Cura de Taos, and appreciative of his
legacy.  At the unveiling of the bronze life-sized memorial of Padre
Martinez placed at the center of the Taos Plaza in July
2006, Edmundo Vasquez—a relative of the Padre and committed
Presbyterian layman—prayed the main prayer of dedication for the event.

Martinez died reconciled to his Church through the sacraments of Penance,
Anointing and Holy Communion administered by Padre Lucero of Arroyo Hondo—his
former student, friend and neighbor.  In my own prayers, I often
commend Padre Martínez to the Lord, and I invite you to do the same. He
succeeded in doing a lot of good, and followed his conscience.  May
we do the same.


God bless him and all of us!

Padre Juan

Juan Romero







[1] Mt. 19: 10-12, New American Bible.

[2] I Cor. 7.

[3] Cf. I Cor. 12-14 for St. Paul’s theology and
practical exhortations about  charisms for
the good of the community.

[4] I Cor. 7.

[5] Such as the New American Bible published by Oxford
University Press Inc., New York.

[6] I Cor. 7:7.

[7] I Cor. 7:17.

[8] I Cor. 7:26.

[9] I Cor. 7: 33-34.

[10] I Cor. 7: 38.

[11] The discipline of clerical celibacy has been the rule for
Catholic clergy of the Roman Rite since the Second Lateran Council in the tenth

[12] For a history of Celibacy in the Church, and an opinion of
its possible future direction, Cf. Donald Cozzens, Freeing
© 2006:

[13] Mt 8:14.

[14] From the Latin saeculum that means world.

[15] Cozzens, op. cit., passim.

[16] Jn 17:21.

[17] Mt. 16: 18.

[18] Mt. 19:12