The National Catholic Review

Silence and fervent prayer for vocations are no longer adequate responses to the priest shortage in the United States. As the church prepares to observe the Year of the Priest, which begins on June 19, open discussion about how to sustain the church as a eucharistic community of faith and fortify the pastoral life of Catholic congregations has become imperative. For making do within the limits set by present demographic trends presents a double threat to Catholic life: Catholic communities will become only infrequent eucharistic communities, or eucharistic communities will be severed from the pastoral care and public witness of priests.

In 2008 the sociologist Dean Hoge said: “We need at least a doubling of ordinations to maintain the American priesthood as we know it now. But this is impossible.” Of current diocesan priests, only 70 percent are available for parish ministry, with the rest sick, retired or absent for a variety of reasons, according to Mary Gautier of the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate. An increasing number of Catholics are unable to participate in a Sunday or weekday Mass. All this prompts the question, Will the priest shortage impose a eucharistic famine on the Catholic people?

The de facto remedy already applied in many places— making the priest a circuit rider moving from parish to parish to dispense the sacraments—risks narrowing the ministry of the priest and impoverishing the Christian life of the communities he serves. A narrowly sacramental definition of priesthood satisfies the requirements of only one of the three canons that define the pastoral responsibilities of the priest, Canon 530. As a consequence the sacramental office is as a practical matter severed from its integral connection with comprehensive pastoral care. Canons 528 and 529 provide a broader understanding of the priestly ministry. The first sees the priest as one who instructs, catechizes, fosters works of justice, shows special care for the education of children and brings the Gospel to those who have ceased to practice the faith. The second requires that he should come to know the faithful entrusted to his care, visit families, share their concerns, worries and griefs, help the sick and seek out the poor, the afflicted and the lonely. Diminishing numbers make it difficult to carry out this holistic vision of the priest’s pastoral ministry.

We hope that the upcoming Year of the Priest will lead to a broader discussion of the priesthood in the contemporary world and, in particular, will open examination of the various ways the shortage of priests can be addressed honestly and with imagination. New vocations can be promoted through youth rallies, the Internet and, as always, with prayer. In addition, the pastoral needs of parishes may also be met in part by more effective pastoral assignment of permanent deacons and by increased leadership by lay men and women.

What about the recruitment and training of married men as priests? Married priests already minister in the Catholic Church, both East and West. Addressing the married clergy of the Eastern Catholic churches, the Second Vatican Council exhorted “all those who have received the priesthood in the married state to persevere in their holy vocation and continue to devote their lives fully and generously to the flock entrusted to their care” (Decree on the Ministry and Life of Priests,” No. 16). That exhortation now applies to the more than 100 former Anglican priests and Lutheran ministers who have entered the Catholic Church, been ordained and now serve in the Latin rite. As we face the challenges of the priest shortage, some of the more than 16,000 permanent deacons in the United States, many of them married, who experience a call to priestly ministry might be called to ordination with a similarly adapted discipline. In addition, the views and desires of some of the more than 25,000 priests who have been laicized (and are now either single or married) should also be heard.

Our plea is modest. The bishops of the United States should take greater leadership in openly discussing the priest shortage and its possible remedies. These should not be conversations in which we face a problem only to find every new avenue of solution closed. Rather, they should be exchanges fully open to the possibilities offered by the Spirit.

In March, Cardinal Edward Egan, the newly retired archbishop of New York, said in a candid moment that the topic of married priests “is a perfectly legitimate discussion.” He added, “I think it should be looked at.” The cardinal later nuanced his statement, but the need for a creative re-visioning of priestly life to sustain the eucharistic life of the church in its fullest sense can no longer be delayed.


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BOB BROWER | 12/3/2009 - 11:40pm

Not only married men but women must be discussed in the year of the priest.

Lope Lindio | 10/14/2009 - 11:28am

I hope the Catholic Church will not overlook to tap its vast reserve of disenfranchised married clergy.  Their only only fault was to make a delayed desicion to raise a family. If the church would heed the common assertion, very well knwon in the Catholic countries, that "once a priest, always a priest," it has nothing to lose by mobilizing them, instead of suppressing their willingness to continue their vocation.

Whether ecclesiastically accepted or not, its verity is something  the church has not given enough judicious consideration. Why, indeed, put to waste thousand of years of training and experience of the married clergy when there's a shortage of priests to take care the spiritual needs and communal welfare of the faithfuls. In a world thirsting for models, married priests will have the credibility of actually struggling in a Christian like way to raise their family and serve the community. Being heads of a family, they will not be preaching in a vacuum on issues relating to marriage and child raising.  They are right at the forefront of real life experience.

The church is very well adviced to harness again the services of our lost clergy. Adherence to the celibacy rule is no longer working to build the church; on the contrary, it is hurting the institution where it counts most.  There is a steady loss of priest because the celibacy rule is calling them to become supermen to defy the law of nature. 

oferdesade | 9/7/2009 - 6:24am
what an unfortunate title.
i'm guessing you want to be taken more seriously than swift...
Tim timonera | 8/21/2009 - 4:36pm

At the current historical discussion regarding the married priesthood, the 'sensus fidelium' worldwide has affirmed the validation of the married priest-ministry. The pressing, most notable 'quaestio disputanda'  is  when and how to recommence this originative, venerable touchstone of service fittingly among the present, various ministerial structures of the Church.

Rev Bobski Makinano | 7/29/2009 - 1:10am
Rev. Dr. Anthony Padovano  wrote:
"Bishops once accepted our vocation as priests, asking for celibacy as an
addition. Now bishops are asked to recognize the preservation of our
vocation to priesthood, accepting our marital status as an addition to that
vocation."   We are earnestly praying for the restoration of
optional celibacy and the return of willing and qualified
married Roman Catholic priests to canonical or official church
ministry . Currently, there are over 100, 000 married Roman Catholic priests
world-wide. There is plenty of room for both celibate and married priests in the
Vineyard of the Lord, where presently there is a crisis in lack of adequate
pastoral leadership and service.  Rev. Bobski
Rev. Dr. Neil Parado | 7/28/2009 - 1:38pm
I heartily appreciate your Editorial " A Modest Proposal"  and thank you deeply for it; however, I take issue with your statement "In addition, the views and desires of some of the more than 25,000 priests who have been laicized (and are now either single or married) should also be heard."  May I respectfully point out that although the official Church prefers to identify dispensed married Roman Catholic priests juridically as "laymen within the Church", we prefer to identify them sacramentally and pastorally as "priests" who may be approached for sacramental ministry in emergency cases according to Canons 976, 986, n. 2, 1335,and 844. n.2 of the 1983 Code of Canon Law,  because "laicization" or the reduction of a priest to the status of a layman violates the Council of Trent definition in Session 23, Ch. 4, Can. 4 : "If anyone says that a validly ordained priest can again be converted into a layman, let him be anathematized or condemned" ( Cf. New Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 1583;and [url=][/url]  ). 
Rev. Dr. Neil Parado, Co-Chair of Alphamega Christian Community of Manitoba, Inc.
Rev. Dr. Neil Parado | 7/28/2009 - 1:37pm
I heartily appreciate your Editorial " A Modest Proposal"  and thank you deeply for it; however, I take issue with your statement "In addition, the views and desires of some of the more than 25,000 priests who have been laicized (and are now either single or married) should also be heard."  May I respectfully point out that although the official Church prefers to identify dispensed married Roman Catholic priests juridically as "laymen within the Church", we prefer to identify them sacramentally and pastorally as "priests" who may be approached for sacramental ministry in emergency cases according to Canons 976, 986, n. 2, 1335,and 844. n.2 of the 1983 Code of Canon Law,  because "laicization" or the reduction of a priest to the status of a layman violates the Council of Trent definition in Session 23, Ch. 4, Can. 4 : "If anyone says that a validly ordained priest can again be converted into a layman, let him be anathematized or condemned" ( Cf. New Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 1583;and [url=][/url]  ). 
Rev. Dr. Neil Parado, Co-Chair of Alphamega Christian Community of Manitoba, Inc.
Rev. Dr. Neil Parado | 7/28/2009 - 1:22pm
I heartily appreciate your Editorial " A Modest Proposal"  and thank you deeply for it; however, I take issue with your statement "In addition, the views and desires of some of the more than 25,000 priests who have been laicized (and are now either single or married) should also be heard."  May I respectfully point out that although the official Church prefers to identify dispensed married Roman Catholic priests juridically as "laymen within the Church", we prefer to identify them sacramentally and pastorally as "priests" who may be approached for sacramental ministry in emergency cases according to Canons 976, 986, n. 2, 1335,and 844. n.2 of the 1983 Code of Canon Law,  because "laicization" or the reduction of a priest to the status of a layman violates the Council of Trent definition in Session 23, Ch. 4, Can. 4 : "If anyone says that a validly ordained priest can again be converted into a layman, let him be anathematized or condemned" ( Cf. New Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 1583;and [url=][/url]  ). 
Rev. Dr. Neil Parado, Co-Chair of Alphamega Christian Community of Manitoba, Inc.
Laughing in Chicago | 7/28/2009 - 11:17am
In 1959, after making my first communion, I wanted to be an altar boy.  I knew the Latin, I was dependable, and it was an honor I aspired to.  I was told in no uncerain terms that even the stupidest, laziest, most uninterested boy in my class was preferable to me, because I was female.
No surprise that nothing has changed in 50 years.  The Jesuits - in all their santimonious glory - still ignore women.
Jaxsin | 6/30/2009 - 5:53pm

While I agree with the idea behind asking married men to join the preisthood

and/or asking those preists who left to become married to re-join and re-assume their preistly roles -

since Episcopal married men are allowed to be ordained now with Church blessing-

I still do not believe that enough men will answer the call.

There are steadfast, holy women in every parish, many of whom are single, who have "the call" and are denied the role. What about them? What about their vocation(s)?

JJ A | 6/26/2009 - 9:30am

Normal 0

Normal 0 There is sinful misogyny in the operation of the Church. Women do most of the work of the Church at the parish level and are relegated to the ‘fields’.  The ceiling is not made of glass it is made of spiritual arrogance that is apparent for the entire world to see.  There is no theological argument that women are unfit to lead,  they are just 'traditionally' unwelcome by the male hierarchy to the male hierarchy in the Catholic Church. The Church has lost its fundamental Christian moorings when it comes to justice for women, and humanity. The work of the Holy Spirit during the “pedophile crisis” has brought to light the truth, that men are unfit to lead. There is no women who would have sent a child abuser to another parish. The fact that 'America' would parce the Vatican's stand on celibacy before considering supporting women is another example of spiritual arrogance and blatant misogny. The Church is heading for a disaster that the Spirit will inflict for its continued sinful and arrogant behavior. Do we all see the parallels that Jesus faced with the Pharisees?

Judy Alves

Mary Ann Hinsdale | 6/25/2009 - 7:56pm

It will never happen because married priests (assuming as you do, they are male) will have wives-and Rome never consults women.  I hate to think how they would have to undergo seminary training (like the "married deacons"?).  And what will the role of the wives be at ordinations (like the now all male priesthood, where the men "dress" other men?).  I say, women first.

Soraya Matamoros | 6/4/2009 - 1:19pm
I knew Jesuits were liberal but my goodness!!! Is there any Catholicism left in this magazine? For those who disagree with Church teachings there are the protestant churches. Most of them have male and female ministers, single and married,homosexuals,bisexuals etc, etc, etc. Don't you realize that you have already separated yourself from the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church???? You just hurt our Church. We don't need you.
Rev. David Lupo, | 5/25/2009 - 11:31am
May 25, 2009 Dear Editor, I was a bit dismayed as I read the Editorial, “A Modest Proposal” (5/4) concerning vocations to the priesthood, in the context of the upcoming Year of the Priest. What bothered me was that an excellent magazine would give in to the lock-step thinking and pre-existent concepts that continue to dominate the discussion. I was the vocation director for my religious community (The Congregation of the Sacred Hearts) for over four years, and I have seen that the problems and solutions are not as one-dimensional as re-presented in the editorial. A married priesthood will not suffice as an answer. Catholics who have put no more than a dollar in the Sunday collection basket since 1954 have benefited by a celibate priesthood. Will tithing all of the sudden be welcome in the Catholic Church, with each congregant putting $40 or $50 in the weekly collection to support the Catholic pastor, and his family, as well as the community? How real a possibility is this? If the bishop re-assigns the priest to the area of town that is characterized by poverty and crime, will his family argue against this? Just a few things to consider. The obstacles blocking God’s call are severe. One problem has been around for a while now—Christian catechesis, and with it, sacramental formation. The way we “do” education and sacraments has become very problematic. Not many parishes have teens who willingly return after Confirmation. Many don’t return until marriage preparation, and then to baptize little Sam, and then for Sam’s First Communion, and then for Sam’s Confirmation. And then the cycle repeats itself. Through these years what religious formation they had as young people disappears. Priesthood is not attractive to young men. Unfortunately very, very few parents raise the vocation question with their children. Too many Catholic parents find the Catholic Priesthood to be unattractive. Even if a high school teen finds an interest, say, after a weekend retreat, his parents might talk him out of it, or at least not be very supportive. Catholic parents and teens are not immune to our culture’s depiction (through the media) of the Church and Priesthood as undesirable. An answer lies in the first part of the editorial: a vibrant, active, pastoral life in the parish. Faith is caught, not taught, the saying goes. The pastor must live out visibly the fullness of his priesthood, as the editorial noted as to be found in Canons 528 and 529. Many pastors (even young ones) refuse to visit their parishioners in the local hospital. This only injures the parish’s self-concept as being one body, the body of Christ. Parishioners must also be willing to shed blood, sweat and tears alongside the pastor in establishing meaningful catechesis, influential liturgy, compassionate social outreach, and a sound financial standing. Such activity is not opposed to praying for vocations to the Priesthood. We pray as if it all depends on God, and act as if it all depends on us. (Rev.) David Lupo, Fairhaven, Massachusetts
JUDITH OFALLON | 5/19/2009 - 11:04am
In addition to Dick Weeks' comment on the abundance of vocations to the deaconate (#96), it's worth noting the tremendous number of Catholic men & women of all ages who have felt called to the LAY MINISTRY since Vatican II. When contrasted to the decrease in vocations to the priesthood during the same period, these facts just might be telling us something about the Holy Spirit's current action in American Catholics.
RICHARD WEEKS | 5/18/2009 - 3:49pm
JUDITH OFALLON | 5/17/2009 - 6:51pm
Ninety-three of the previous 94 writers assumed that priests are absolutely essential in a eucharistic church. Why? None of Jesus' apostles were priests. I'm sure he could have recruited one or more priests if he'd wanted to ~ there were lots of Jewish priests in his society. Instead, he chose 12 lay workmen ~ and accepted a group of lay women as followers. Perhaps he thought that lay people could handle the activities involved in going forth to teach all nations ~ including those pertaining to community worship. Radical thought ...
Allan Wafkowski | 5/12/2009 - 12:35am
It really is worthy of pity to read what America's editors believe the answer is to the priest "shortage". It's the same mantra-like nonsense that has droned on nonstop since the post Vatican II plunge. The married priesthood. Just what we need: priests who are unable to make the commitment to God alone, but are willing to give it a try with a good woman by their side. Or, faithless former priests who are willing to once again take up their broken vows with their wives tagging along. Why is it that the Fraternity of St. Peter has more vocations than it can handle? They use the tried and true method of sound doctrine, meaningful liturgy and a little toughness during priestly formation. We have enough whining priests of the new school. What we need now are real men who understand what commitment to God and Church is about. That doesn't come from man-boys who view the priesthood as an option and not a vocation from God.
michael sprague | 5/9/2009 - 3:03pm
If married priests are the answer, why are mainline Protestant churches having a more difficult time with their vocations?
GJ | 5/8/2009 - 9:31am
What a wonderful step in the right direction but... How long will the Diocesan institution be allowed to discriminate against those "damaged" candidtaes ? Not even corporate America could get away with the overt discrimination practiced by the "private enterprise" known as the Diocese. Fortunately religious communities have recognized the talents offered by these, perceived to be damaged and embraced them and given them the opportunity to serve the Church and the people of God as priests without recrimination. One only has to look at the past 50 years of diocesan priesthood to see how well those "healthy" men did in making our Church a home where all are welcome. Ironically this same Diocesan system gets up "in arms" when a new Ordinary is named who is not "one of their own" and comes from a religious community ! Rather than rejecting damaged candidates the American church would be wise to help guide their talents and desire to serve the benefit of us all.
An Indiana Catholic | 5/6/2009 - 4:23pm
I generally support the idea of ordaining married men to the Roman Catholic priesthood. It has been the custom of the Eastern (Catholic and Orthodox) Churches for centuries. But I don't think the US Catholic Church is mature enough to integrate it. There would be those -- and we know who they are -- who would do theological mischief shrouded in terms of "justice" and "equality". Here's an ever more "modest proposal". Allow the Eastern Catholic Churches in the US to ordain married men, as is their custom elsewhere throughout the world. Permit married and single Roman Catholic men to change Rites and then to apply to Eastern seminaries for service in Eastern Catholic churches. Let's see how it goes, and then revisit the idea in 40 years.
J & M RANKIN | 5/4/2009 - 9:18am
The expectation that Bishops can think out of their box is pretty much inordinate hope. When we as Catholics begin to believe and act as if the Holy Spirit speaks and discerns through the whole Church then we can begin to trust the wisdom of our Bishops.
Mary Finan, Ph.D. | 5/4/2009 - 2:01am
"America" has shown leadership-- calling for a conversation can be risky these days. Do we believe that the Holy Spirit moves in the body of the faithful? If we do, why do we accept when an immature young man believes he is called to priesthood and yet the call of a married man or a mature, educated woman is suspect. How can we set limits for the Spirit? At present our church is in an adolescent stage of development, uncomfortable with gender and sex issues, ambivalent about authority. Whatever we can do to model mature dialogue and open these issues to the light of the Spirit will only benefit us all.
Nancy Roach | 5/3/2009 - 10:50pm
A reasonable and refreshing proposal. Thank you for the courage to challenge and invite thoughtful, committed Catholics to this conversation. I look forward to the opening of the windows and more fresh air in this coming year.
Thomas Farrelly | 5/3/2009 - 10:11pm
Between the obstinacy of the Vatican and the unwillingness of national Bishops Conferences to act on their own, the situation is probably hopeless. When Catholic priests die out in an area, the best recourse will be to join one of the Orthodox Churches.
Clayton | 5/3/2009 - 9:57pm
I've posted my response to this article over on my blog.
Phil Little | 5/3/2009 - 1:19am
The very state of "year of the priest" is symptomatic of the problem. The "church" is all about priests. Eucharistic congresses are all about priests. Holy Thursday is all about priests. But priests is the problem. The clergy machine has over centuries turned the church into a machine that feeds the appetite of a self-appointed sect to the goods of the religion and control over the people it claims as members. Richard McBrien in a recent article (NCR) talks about a grieving church where the clergy are moving backwards to a pre-conciliar church where the voice of the clergy was absolute and totally controlling. These are the types of vocations that are being inspired by the new sects like the Legionaries. It is time that Catholics walked out of their parishes, refused to put any money in the collection plates, and formed clergy-less faith communities. A spiritual diaspora - clergyless - but not without sacraments for the community will rediscover that the sacraments belong to the community not the clergy. A new leadership may arise - and the temptation will be to create a new clergy. We have seen since Constantine that clergy is always the problem - they will twist and turn to accommodate themselves to any power that will feed their ambitions. It is really a miracle that over 1800 years a few of them may actually have been saintly - but they have been the exception not the rule. It is not so much the evil of the person but the evil of the institution. Protect us from another "year of the priest". I was ordained some 35 years ago - coming out of the altar boy farm system - conveyor belt type training and it was good - but how naive I was and totally blinded to the institutional apparatus to which I was conveniently becoming a useful (but willing) tool. Of course it had its benefits and I sought to do good - but it was all wrong. I was blessed to be able to retire early and start my life over again - so many didn't jump when they could and remain as frustrated functionaries of a system that few believe in - but the real world out there has little space for post-middle-aged mid-managers of an obsolete system. Compared to the young fellows coming in - these old-timers (even with all their doubts and anxiety) appear the good guys. What about the message of Jesus? Who? When was he no longer an integral part of the system?
Sharon Powers | 5/2/2009 - 2:52pm
I couldn't agree more that we need to open the discussion of radical change to address the shortage of priests. Not only the possibility of married priests, but of women priests. I find it very discouraging, and people in my children's generation find it horrifying, to look at the altar every week and see only one man, the priest, while the eucharistic ministers, altar servers, lectors and cantor are all female. I am a strong believer in tradition but only when it makes sense. It is time to have an open, honest, respectful discussion on this most important issue.
Alejandro | 5/1/2009 - 8:23pm
I feel sorry when I see something like this column because it becomes obvious that we are trying to fix the Church like one would try to fix a army recruiting practices. Offering a "better deal" by doing away with celibacy is an obvious disconnect from the concept of what a vocation is: a call from God. The priest shortage is a challenge to be embraced, an opportunity for growth. The challenge of celibacy should not be seen as a detriment to priesthood but and enhancement; a calling that is intimately intertwined and enriched by priesthood. It is obvious many have forgotten that hope is a basic component of Faith, that God always provides for his Church. The fact that vocations are up in many places across the US is a fact easily ignored by the fact that the fruit of those vocations takes 6 to 8 years to be seen. Have a little faith in God, do not be afraid! It is in his hands, it is when we forget that that we try to "fix" the Church.
Rita Holland | 5/1/2009 - 5:52pm
Check Genesis. It is not good for man to be alone.Increase and multiply and fill the earth. Jesus did not call for a celibate priesthood. I believe it is a man-made rule due to cost and transfer of priest from place to place would be more difficult for families. Married priests would understand family life better and their spouses would be of help. The apostles were married. God made us sexual beings and desiring children and companionship. Why deny what God designed. ---thank you, Rita
John King | 5/1/2009 - 2:02pm
Ann D. Brown: Not quite. The idea of clerical celibacy goes back to the writing of the New Testament (1 Corinthians ch. 7), and was evolved all throughout the Middle Ages with increasing expectations regarding the behavior of the ordained. Interesting to note: the definitive pronouncement forbidding clerical celibacy, by the 2nd Lateran Council, was made more or less at the behest of the lay faithful, who were fed up with their priests celebrating Mass and dispensing the sacraments after having consorted with concubines, etc. Reversing the process is not only backward-looking, but invites abuse. Learn from history so as not to repeat it. There's also the practical matter of priests holding private property, and bequeathing it to their descendants. It was abused before, it may be abused again. We should not be inviting abuse and corruption into the Church. The laity of history understood that, and we should be affirming their sentiments.
Ann D. Brown | 5/1/2009 - 10:51am
AMEN! If you wil go back history you will find that celibacy was instituted in the 11th century and has nothing to do with the teachings of Christ.
Matt Nannery | 5/1/2009 - 8:38am
Dear Editor, I submitted a comment last night. Please don't run it as it's not clearly stated. Thanks, Matt Nannery
don baker | 5/1/2009 - 8:21am
While some might wish for a non-hierarchical "priestless future" in which lay people fulfill priestly roles, such an ecclesiology already exists; many protestant churches believe precisely that, and inevitably, some form of the hierarchy develops. It would seem then that such things are not Catholic, but human. We should focus then on making the hierarchical priesthood not merely more human, but humane. The real revolution has to be in the way the Roman Catholic Church - laity included - sees the priesthood. Lacordaire-esque fantasies about it not withstanding, the priesthood is demanding work, with long hours, little time off, lousy pay and no real pension plan. The bishops depend on this; use it, in fact to control their priests - but it is the laity who take it for granted. Celibacy for diocesan priests should be optional. But are rank and file Catholics aware of what changes that will mean for them? When Father has a wife and kids to feed, do Catholics really think that the dollar they throw into the basket will be enough? And given the size of most Catholic parishes,they will need not just one priest, but several, all of them with families AND insurance premiums. They will want and need equity in homes, and just pension plans. Given the liturgical, sacramental, and pastoral needs of most parishes, "part time" priests who have "real" jobs that support them would not be feasible. And justice would demand that those who are celibate be likewise compensated. If a real discussion of married priests were to happen it must include, maybe even begin, with fairer treatment of priests, realistic salaries and retirement. That alone might make the priesthood a more attractive vocation for some. But that means a real discussion amongst the laity of what this would entail for them. Without this, a married priesthood would solve nothing a because no married man would enter such a vocation - he could not afford it.
Fran Salone-Pelletier | 5/1/2009 - 7:01am
Although it is both in the province and responsibility of the bishops to address the issue of declining vocations and the possibility of optional celibacy, it is also incumbent upon the laity to express their thoughts and feelings in that regard. All of us together comprise the church. If we believe that we hold all things in common and that we share them with those in need, we must address the need for Eucharist. We must look for God everywhere, and listen to God's Spirit who might well be speaking and seeking a renewal some are reluctant to admit or even notice happening. My prayer is that God's people open their hearts to God's call and will and act on their convictions. Perhaps a withholding of finances will speak more loudly than writing and signing petitions and joining protest groups. When parishes are closing or melding because there are no celibate male priests available, perhaps the laity needs to seek, find, and publicly request the ministry of the married priests who are already in our midst. Perhaps the laity needs to call forth the womenpriests, as well. Historically, laws follow custom. I guess I am saying, "Build it, and they will come." May I live to see the building of God's kingdom in this way!
Anne Gilewicz | 5/1/2009 - 6:59am
If Rome does not open itself to a more inclusive practice of priestly ministry it will find itself bypassed in the Eucharistic solution as parishoners form alternative communities with women and married men as their pastors. Catholics are Eucharistic people and will not be denied their sacramental heritage. They are also intelligent enough to see that the restrictions placed on priestly ministry by Rome are based on a suspect theology and a distortion of Jesus' own Spirit.
rick | 4/30/2009 - 8:25pm
i think the Lord is telling us that the time is now to get married priests and women too ! the nuns & laity are doing most of the work now . we truly need to look to the Lord in this time of need and hear his voice which is loud and clear - the day of a few people being priests is over and start sharing our gifts with all people is now !
Paul Louisell | 4/30/2009 - 7:44pm
Maybe the critical shortage is needed to open our hearts and minds to "radical" solutions. Married priests? Female clergy? Why not?
Matt Nannery | 4/30/2009 - 6:28pm
I grew up on Long Island in the 1970s—a majority Catholic area where almost all your friends and anybody you ended up dating was more than likely Catholic too. St. Luke's R.C. Church in Brentwood, N.Y., pretty much represented God to me. Then, something interesting happened: Televangelists hit the airwaves en masse and religion was presented to me--and to Catholics in such majority Catholic areas as Boston, New Jersey, Philadelphia and New Orleans--in manner we were completely unfamiliar with. I didn't really know what to make of this. Were these people better Christians than me and everyone at St. Luke's? Why were we lukewarm when they were on fire? When I'd watch them on TV, the focus was always on the preacher. There he'd be; wearing a suit, bible in hand, leaning forward, quoting Scripture and speaking assertively, even aggressively, about the Kingdom of God. While I was more of a bible reader than most Catholics I knew, I couldn't shake the fact that my gut reaction to such preaching was negative. With the exeception of really thoughtful preachers like Billy Graham, it turned me off. But it wasn't necessarily the content of the preaching that disturbed me. It was, more than anything else, the delivery. Why? I think the reason was the life and manner of Catholic priests. Catholic priests always seemed quieter when they preached. They paused more. They seemed more reflective; less sure that “they” had the answer. My sense was that they, too, were trying to make sense of the Word and the world. And that drew me in to what I can only describe as a conversation with God—a conversation that they started. I couldn't help thinking of such things when I'd watch the televangelists on TV, as the feeling I've described almost never happened when I'd listen to them. But the reasons Catholic priests engaged me went deeper than either their manner or the content of their preaching. I knew they gave up a lot before they ever approached that ambo: The prospects of home of their own, a flashy car, the high salaries they could have earned in secular life, independence and—most especially—a spouse, kids and human intimacy. They had, in a sense that I could feel, earned that pulpit. The road to the altar was a tough one and involved a heck of a lot of sacrifice. But once there, they did a surprising thing: They stepped back into themselves and reflected with me and everyone around me. They seldom preached “at” us. And, sometimes, they'd take me and those seated around me for a wonderful little ride. This stayed with me all my life. After entering the seminary on Long Island, I did a pastoral year at St. Joseph's Church in Penfield, N.Y. While there, I preached at one weekday Mass per week and was in the regular weekend rotation: every fourth or fifth week I preached all five Sunday Masses. When I wrote those homelitic reflections, I'd always have one question in my mind as I read the daily Scriptures over and over again. It was directed at Jesus, and it was always the same: “What do you want me to say?” And when I walked from the ambo to my seat, my prayer was always the same: Not that they listened to me, but that whatever I'd said for those priviledged few moments got the wheels turning in their heads and helped them helped them enter into a conversation with God. I'm on a break from the seminary right now, and maybe I'd make a lousy priest. However, the opportunity to engage the People of God means an awful lot to me. And, like generations of Catholic priests before me, I'm willing to give up a lot of things society tells me I should desire in order to do so. I've noticed the same understanding among religious brothers and sisters. Among the finest reflections I heard while in the seminary came during the Liturgy of the Hours and were given by a Franciscan brother, Jeff Pedersen, and a Sister of Charity, Mary Louise Brink—two people who would likely have had brilliant careers in the secular world and made wonderfu
Dr. Dale Rodrigue | 4/30/2009 - 6:25pm
If the church practiced what it preached and followed scripture we wouldn't have these problems. From the Roman Catholic New American Bible: 1 Cor 9:5 "Do we not have the right to take along a Christian wife, as do the rest of the apostles, and the brothers of the Lord, and Cephas (Peter)?" Also, Phoebe the Deaconess is mentioned by the Apostle Paul (Romans 16:1-2) So who are the "a la carte" Catholics now? Not the laity!
Jay83 | 4/30/2009 - 4:19pm
Perhaps we need to take a look at the Armed Services as a model. Celibacy (which can be a great and vibrant witness)would not have to be changed. Instead, ordain men for a specific time period (say 7 years)after which they are invited to "re-up" If they wish to continue, GREAT! If they do not, we Thank them for their service and allow them to go their way!I think Catholic parents would be more supportive of a vocation if the baleful 40-50 years does not stare them all in the face. And please don't give me that tripe about "Commitment" people can be just as committed and sacrifice for a short period as they can for a long period. And lastly. marriage and priesthood cannot be compared (they are always lumped together, but are two different states!) Having lived both now, there is absolutely no comparison!
Frederick Miller | 4/30/2009 - 4:04pm
It seems to me that we have a plethora of married deacons helping out in many of our parishes. Here in our own St. Pius X we now have six (although two of those are about to be ordained as priests). How difficult would it be for the church to take the further step of letting these experienced married deacons become full fledged priests? It would seem to be a reasonable move and no doubt would be very helpful for the church as a whole.
Ray Gardi | 4/30/2009 - 1:10pm
Nice try, but way too late. The simple truth is that we no longer need priests to do the things they have been doing for the last thousand years: controlling, domineering, "dispensing" sacredness, pretending to be spokespersons for the Almighty. For the first 150 years there were no such thing as priests in the Church, and the church did just fine. People gathered to pray and be sanctified in the Spirit and the community prospered. Eventually, clerics took over and started to create dogmas, encassing themselves in the center of the church as the sine-qua-non for salvation. Scholarship over the last hundred years has now established as fact that Jesus did not start a church, did not intend a separation from Judaism, never ordained a priest, never instituted a sacrament, and never intended a hierarchy. All these were creations of the clergy to set themselves apart and create a caste system that still continues to dominate the church. Fortunately, despite this oppressive clerical system there are many wonderful men serving as priests -- a credit themselves and their marvelous spirituality. But the entire clerical system of domination needs to be discarded. And expansion of the clerical caste by whatever strategy is simply of no benefit to the believing church. The "priest shortage" is simply God's way of purifying the church from its dominators and returning it to the people, who already have started to establish non-clerical communities all across the world. The church is growing without priests, and it is not God's will to expand the clerical caste so it can resume its domination of the church.
Jiim Peterman | 4/30/2009 - 10:39am
This Sunday's liturgy highlighting the presence of the Risen Christ in our lives as the Good Shepherd tell us what to do about the shortage of priests. 1st Jesus tell us I am the Good Shepherd, who unlike the hireling abandons the sheep when a wolf attacks, I lay down my life for the sheep. Genuine dedication -- not an imposed law of celibacy(pretending to be dedicated) is what the priesthood is about. Jesus told us unless the seed falls to the ground and dies, it cannot bring forth new life. Restoring the married clergy, allowing dedicated men and women to serve as priests would give us leaders we need in our Christian Communities. 2nd The One Shepherd, one flock aspect of Christian community (based on Jesus' explanation of our intimate relationship to Him and each other as the Vine and the branches is the greatest challenge of all -- for Christians, whether Protestant or Catholic. We must be one with Christ and each other
Paul Ackerman | 4/30/2009 - 9:34am
WWJD? He "called" all around Him whether men who were married (Peter) or single (John) and women (Mary Magdalene, the first of the Apostles and spokesperson at the tomb on Easter Sunday);why not today throw open "leadership" to all who are of good character and interested in serving? It is my challenge to the leadeship of the CHurch that they try this; they might just be surprised at the movement of the Spirit in solving the current shortage...what is there to lose?
Cecilia | 4/29/2009 - 11:45am
Two points: The article fails to mention the role of families, especially parents, in encouraging religious vocations. No discussion that excludes the proper formation of parents is going to be helpful. Where are the wives clamoring for their husbands to become priests? Quite apart from the financial issues raised by various commenters here & elsewhere, I don't think there are a whole lot of women out there eager to have her husband making the time commitment of serving as a parish priest. There's a good reason most permanent deacons are older men; certainly deacons with small children are very much the exception, and the time commitments of a parish deacon are still very much less than a priest's.
Bill Finan | 4/29/2009 - 8:59am
Your modest editorial proposal is right on: we need organized intelligent loving faithful discussion under episcopal leadership. There are so many emotional issues at play here. One is doctrine; the current practice of allowing married Episcopalian priests to serve in Roman Catholic dioceses would seem to end that debate. There is also the underlying concern that any change would be a "victory" for Catholics often described as liberal. And there are very practical concerns, as evidenced in the comments from your readers. For example, how would parishes pay for families whose father is a priest? Would married priests be expected to move their families into a different, perhaps poor, neighborhood at a distance from where they now live? All of these issues need to be discussed calmly. I can imagine that different bishops would reach different practical conclusions. (For example, I suspect that the people of Oklahoma or some other relatively rural area might adjust to this more easily than people in Boston or Philadelphia; the northeast appears only now to be appreciating the complexity of all this.) And, finally, an orderly loving discussion might reveal to all that priesthood is a vocation, a calling. It is not higher than other vocations, nor are priests making greater sacrifices than good parents; they are simply living out the calling they have received. When this fact makes its way into people's heads and hearts, they will have to face the question of ordaining women who experience a priestly vocation. These are all big questions, and full of emotion, but they need to be discussed, openly and with love. As I suggested above, the "solution" might well involve different bishops making different practical decisions (presuming that everyone finally realizes that we can have married priests --- we already have them). I suspect that the Holy Spirit will move American Catholics in directions that are very generous and accepting. But for this to happen, we need some good discussion.
Patrick Johnson | 4/29/2009 - 2:32am
I don't know if anybody is interested in my response, but I might provide a necessary perspective. I'm 27 years old and a diocesan seminarian. I will be soon be ordained to the Diaconate, and will be a priest within a year. My home diocese, for which I am presently studying, had not been able to foster vocations for a number of years, but has recently experienced a resurgence in good, young (and old) candidates for the priesthood, all of whom are celibate. During our experience of decline it was all too commonplace to hear rumblings of the "Church is transition," or what the "Spirit of the Council" called for. In charity, a complete lack of formation led us to the point where people could start to advance their own opinions against the Church in her teaching capacity. What people failed to realize was that they were replacing dogma with dogma - no more explored or well developed than what we had traditionally been offered. A few years ago we gladly received a bishop who is, himself, faithful to the Magisterium. By making vocations a priority (which is, by the way, his sacred duty), we have seen a tenfold increase in men seeking ordination. Seminaries have just been given a clean bill of health (cf. the Apostolic Visitation), and newly appointed bishops (especially in preeminent Sees - see Tim Dolan) are happy priests, committed to the Church as to their bride, and faithful to Church teaching. For pragmatic reasons alone I would be in favor of seeing how Christ will provide for His Church, to whom He promises His everlasting presence (Eucharistically, as well as in other ways). Celibacy is a beautiful gift, and I thank God almost every day that He has called me to love Him and His people in this most special way. I eagerly await the day when I will love the Church (yep, that's you) with the same love that Jesus Himself pours out for each and every one of us. Our help is in the name of the Lord!
John Snyder | 4/28/2009 - 6:08pm
It makes sense. It should lead to a lessening of the growing burden now borne by our many good priests and at the same reduce the attractiveness of the altar to men of perverse inclination.
Tom Krosing | 4/28/2009 - 2:38pm
This is going too far for me. In my younger years I have studied in a seminary, but at the moment when I completed the minor seminary to go to the major seminary, in 1965 I had a call from Jesus Christ, not to go further in this, because I had another vocation. And it turned out much later that I was destined to be a wonderful husband to my wife I finally found in 2003, to engage her 7 Aug 2004 and marry her 7 May 2005 and this is my vocation for life. It also made me aware, that Jesus Christ always wanted the priests in his Church to be celibate, so that they as representing Christ at the Altar could show how Christ is the Spouse of the Church and so the priests should also see themselves not just as representing the Spouse of the Church, Jesus Christ, but also consider themselves to be married to the Catholic Church from the day of their ordination to the priesthood. I hope that I have made it clear to you, what celibacy really entails. And all of us Catholics should always pray for our priests, as they need this to function as priests in the Catholic Church their Bride.


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