A Modest Proposal

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.

RICH BRODERICK
7 years 10 months ago
Prayer and Silence and Priestly Vocations The idea of praying for vocations is like waiting for Godot. They are not going to show up. The suggesting of circuit riding priest coming in to a different parish each week to celebrate eucharist is a little like bowling alone. It should be a rare exception not the norm. I remember once being told that the stole the priest wears for the liturgy, was like a the yoke that binds him to the needs, aspirations, sufferings, joys hopes, and fears of his community. He is yoked to their daily lives. A visiting priest is at a big disadvantage if he does not know the story behind any one face in the gathered assembly. How can he find the right words that would touch the hearts of the congregation in his homily? How is it possible to pray the eucharist prayer with them in a way that expresses the ethos of that community if he is not living among them day by day. The presbyter needs to feel the pulse of the living community. He cannot pray as effectively in a vacuum. Sunday mass is the summit of the community’s prayer life. It is the most important thing done that week. The role of the priest presider is very crucial in the faith life of the community. As the number of priest decline, perhaps we will go back to the future and follow an ancient tradition in our Church when each community presented to their bishop, one from among them, whom they called to preside at eucharist and serve their community. Remember St. Augustine? And what about all those gifted women! fr. rich broderick
7 years 10 months ago
I believe that there is no shortage of vocations to the priesthood today. There are many married men, and also many women, who feel called to be priests today. I think that the Holy Spirit is asking us to 'think outside the box' with regard to vocations to the priesthood.
STAN FITZGERALD MR/MRS
7 years 10 months ago
I commend the Editors for addressing "the elephant in the room" that no one else will. Your suggestions are worthwhile. Sadly, if decades ago, our Church had opened its heart to considering women, religious and lay, we would not have a "priesthood problem" today.
William Allison
7 years 10 months ago
We are more than 2.5 billion baptized catholics in the world. We are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own, so that we may announce the praises of him who called us out of darkness into his wonderful light. The so-called lack of vocations might be a wonderful gift of the Holy Spirit to his Church, so that we all should assume our responsibilities partially hijacked by the clergy.
7 years 10 months ago
April 26, 2009 Laudetur Iesus Christus in saecula saeculorum! The reason the Church changed Its policy to one to ordain only men promising their celibacy is well known to those, who were willing to learn Church's history. I do not expect the mentioned U.S. Cardinal to know much of the world's and Church's, in particular, history as such study calls for lots of patience, diligence, a very intelligent memory and a constant willingness to read documents of the Church from the very past, past and present real, caring for the Church sources. With a sadness I note what I see in churches in Canada where visibly nothing is being done to bring new priests, religious orders to the service of the Church and of the society. I could list an endless list of mishandling of the problem of vocations right from the level of parishes to the level of most if not almost all members of Canadian Episcopacy and I would bet there is no better situation in the U.S.A. The "Modest Proposal" is an another proof what I said in above lines. God bless America again...as the further evolved song reads I quote "some of our people have forgotten Your role in America's greatness, Lord And honesty and character don't seem to count much with our leaders anymore. Lord, when You were involved, America was a beacon to the world, and with Your help, she can be - again. So please, God, - bless America - again" and I add - bless a neglected on all levels - Your Church.
7 years 10 months ago
One of the problems in encouraging vocations has been the resistance offered by many rank and file Catholics of the Baby Boomer generation who have staffed many of the schools and campus ministry programs in the US. Many of these people were in religious life themselves at one time, or knew people who had been in religious life and left. They either have not encouraged vocations or actively discouraged them. Fortunately, this generation is starting to move on and new people with a deeper respect for the religious life are starting to mature. We are starting to see a change. More young people are considering religious life thanks to the inspiration of younger priests and religious. This won't solve the problem, but it's a step in the right direction.
7 years 10 months ago
...And those young priests have something in common: a strong sense of identity, unwavering orthodoxy (but not legalism), immense compassion. They make the priesthood look worth the sacrifices, they illustrate by their actions how no one but a priest can provide their particular brand of hope and compassion (just as religious have something unique to offer, as do married people). These men show very clearly in their lives that they Are Jesus for us in a very special way. It is a shame that people ignorantly misunderstand this new generation of priests, labeling them as rigid and/or clerical and/or antiquated. These men are modern people who also respect tradition; these men are fully and joyfully aware that their consecration is wholly for service.
7 years 10 months ago
Whereas the ordination of married men in the Roman Church has a historical precedent, the suggestion of ordaining women is something new. Linking the two only conflates the issues and must be considered separately. I'm certain they'll be resolved in a century or two.
7 years 10 months ago
Such lies! Parishioners are not willing to pay for one priest, let alone a wife! And God forbid that a married priest have 7 to 12 children. People in the parish go crazy about me and my wife having 7 children and I'm not a priest! If a priest practices the true "Pro-Life" nature of marriage all of these lairs will be extremely critical and offensive! Doing this will only allow parishioners to think they can tell the priest how to raise his family, because "they" are paying for his family. And what if the wife wants a divorce? Who pays for that? And child support? How many side jobs will the priest have to do to support his family? I have these so called, "liberal", lairs trying to tell me how many children I should have and how I should raise my family. I can only imagine and it isn't hard for any church going Catholic too; how much trouble and grief a parish would give a married priest. God forbid adultery on the part of the priest's wife. All these people are looking for is the opportunity to create scandal!
Mike Evans
7 years 10 months ago
A lot of fear is being expressed out there and a lot of pressing the wider agenda regarding gender and orientation. First, perhaps honesty might prevail as we really take stock of the problems of the current situation. What do we do about third world dioceses where there is often one priest for 18,000 faithful? Do we pretend that is as adequate as one for 3,000 in the USA? What if all the fallen away and young folks suddenly came back? How could we possibly take care of them? I think we are just too afraid to explore this subject very deeply - we might find out we are in deeper trouble than we know.
7 years 10 months ago
A modest proposal that I hope prompts the Bishops to organize a national commission to address the broad issue of the shortage of priest. As a church, we are on the edge of a crisis (if not already there). Without a comprehensive and successful plan to increase the number of parish priests, we will rapidly become a much smaller church. How many souls will be lost as a result?
7 years 10 months ago
You should get out of the habit of leaving off the comma between the penultimate element and the conjunction in lists of three or more. It makes you look like foreigners writing English as a second language.
7 years 10 months ago
The "ME" society is hitting hard for what it wants-Not what is Holy. I guess we cannot use the K.I.S.S method here KEEP IT SIMPLE SINNERS! God have mercy on all of us!
7 years 10 months ago
I think both are acceptable. That is, the Oxford comma is perfectly OK, but is optional.
7 years 10 months ago
Thank you
7 years 10 months ago
Grow up! Let's talk finances. An American marrie4d Catholic clergy would mirror the American culture -- half the marriages would fail. Who pays the alimony and child support -- the parish? Who pays for the housing, health care and education of this family? The parish --who cannot afford to pay for their own health insurance? Will the wife and children of a priest agree to move from a middle class life to a life among the poor and uneducated? Get real! Anyone who recommends a married clergy should accompoany his recommendation with a complete budget. Only teenagers expect their parents to support them after they get married.
7 years 10 months ago
All I can say is that if and when the Church allows priests to marry, this married former Catholic with two young children will not only start attending Mass again, he will, in all likelihood, become a Jesuit.
7 years 10 months ago
Will the "discussion" offered be in the same spirit as Obama being honored by certain factions at Notre Dame? It's just another compromise. The sad truth is that the majority of those who responded favorably to this married priest article all have many more days behind them than in front of them and so few have actually been catechized appropriately. Our last two Holy Fathers have made ample statements on this topic. Unfortunately, it is being manipulated by some to further very un-Catholic ideologies. Our Lord has not stopped calling men to serve Him. There is no "vocations crisis." We have simply faltered in Trusting in Christ and have started looking elsewhere for a solution. The answer to the "vocations crisis" is fidelity to Jesus Christ and His Magesterium, not to "explore other avenues" because we can't see a solution ourselves.
7 years 10 months ago
Opm How interesting to read “America” talk about the shortage of Vocations. Does the Editor care a fig? When one sees how a large number of Jesuits have intellectually walked away from Rome, is it any wonder that confusion has entered into the minds of young men who may be considering entering the priesthood? I truly believe that The Jesuits have much to answer for when one sees the fall in vocations. The Society of Jesus has recently given such bad example to so many people, just look at the Jesuit Universities. Why not be positive and promote the many ways young people can be encouraged to enter the Priesthood, as illustrated in the vocations web site called www.vocationsguidetopriesthood.org instead of harping on your pet projects i.e. married priests and then at a later stage women “priests”. Shame on you Jesuits. St Ignatius would not know you.
7 years 10 months ago
A young man (in his early forties) who is a deacon in my parish lost his wife to a terminal illnes this past year. A requirment of becoming a permanent deacon is that one remain celibate for the rest of his life under such circumstances. This requirement, along with the requirment of celibacy as a condtion of ordination to the priesthood in the Latin Rite, is one that is purely arbitrary and one that has no inherent connection with ordination to either the diaconate or the priesthood. It is well known, or it should be, that a good number of our current priests struggle mightily with this requirment, and that there are more breaches than we would like to believe. In the case of our good deacon, with three young children to boot, tell me how the church will be better served by requiring his lifelong fideltiy to this requirment. The National Working Group for Priest Support of Voice of the Faithful (www.nwgps.org) has been advocating for a serious exploration of these and other areas relating to our priests and the priesthood. We invite your particpation in these conversations.
7 years 10 months ago
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.
7 years 10 months ago
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.
7 years 10 months ago
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!
7 years 10 months ago
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.
7 years 10 months ago
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.
7 years 9 months ago
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?
7 years 9 months ago
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
7 years 9 months ago
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.
7 years 9 months ago
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.
7 years 9 months ago
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!
7 years 9 months ago
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!
7 years 9 months ago
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
Paul Louisell
7 years 9 months ago
Maybe the critical shortage is needed to open our hearts and minds to "radical" solutions. Married priests? Female clergy? Why not?
7 years 9 months ago
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 !
Anne Gilewicz
7 years 9 months ago
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.
7 years 9 months ago
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!
7 years 9 months ago
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.
7 years 9 months ago
Dear Editor, I submitted a comment last night. Please don't run it as it's not clearly stated. Thanks, Matt Nannery
7 years 9 months ago
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.
7 years 9 months ago
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.
7 years 9 months ago
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
7 years 9 months ago
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.
7 years 9 months ago
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.
7 years 9 months ago
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?
7 years 9 months ago
I've posted my response to this article over on my blog.
Thomas Farrelly
7 years 9 months ago
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.
7 years 9 months ago
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.
7 years 9 months ago
"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.
7 years 9 months ago
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.
7 years 9 months ago
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.

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