Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Paint the Town Black

A group of Aussie priests wants to see the laity better served -- with different ordination requirements, of course

The National Council of Priests is calling on the Vatican to revisit the centuries-old prerequisites of celibacy to meet the council's global goal of having one priest ordained for every 50 families or 200 Catholics. But priests acknowledge that the targets cannot be met unless the criteria for priesthood are radically altered.

As well as opening vocations to married men, the council, which represents about half the country's Catholic clergy, has reopened debate on women priests, questioning whether their exclusion from the priesthood is as a result of divine direction.

In a submission to a bishop's synod in Rome that began yesterday, the council says: "Vocation is very much God's calling. The discernment about whom God is calling to the priesthood at this time is possible only if the whole church is speaking to God and listening to God."

A Melbourne priest and statistician, Father Eric Hodgens, estimates that in Australia there is one working priest for every 4500 Catholics. As priests from the baby-boomer generations retire and die the ratio is likely to grow.

First off, a priest for every 200 Catholics means that a diocese of 1 million would have 5,000 priests. Could you imagine the oversight that would require? And some think that the curial bureaucracy is overbearing as is....

And second, for the millionth time, anyone who thinks that rejiggering the criteria for priesthood would create a queue-up for the sem is horribly mistaken. I don't see the Episcopalians ordaining 50 a year, same goes for the Missouri Synod, the Unitarians, the Lutherans, and anyone else with a "wide open" vocations net. Even now, most Catholic dioceses here and elsewhere ordain more every year.

Just keep the focus on weeding out those dangerous "tribal chief" types and we'll all be OK.



Blogger George Collie said...

Episcopalians have too many priests in most dioceses, except for the rural and mission ones. Partially that seems to stem from congregations choosing men over women to be their rectors. Lot's of unemployed Episcopal priests with day jobs spending their weekends offering their services as "supply" priests.

Nationally, the median Episcopal Church congregation has about 75 people attending all of its Sunday Eucharists. If married men AND women were admitted as Catholic priests, we would have way too many. Even with just married men, the seminaries would be overflowing for decade or two to deal with the backlog.

But as a former boss used to say, this would be a good problem. The Church has the ability to deal with a diocese of 5,000 (or more) priests. Not ideal, but better than too few priests.

5/10/05 13:23  
Blogger Todd said...

Australia's Mass attendance figure is put at the upper single digits, about one-fourth by proportion of the US.

The figure usually given for minister-to-people is thirty families to one. For Catholic parishes with schools, that comes pretty close.

Which isn't to say that the Aussie clerics don't have a good oar in the river on other things like mandatory celibacy.

5/10/05 13:35  
Blogger Todd said...

I should've been more clear: parishes with lay staff and teachers come close to the 30 families to one ideal. The notion is that thirty tithing families (5% each) can support a minister (20 households) and the other church expenses per leader (10 households for utilities, paper clips, etc.).

Maybe Australia needs more lay ecclesial ministers.

5/10/05 13:37  
Blogger JTH said...

I am so tired of hearing people qoute statistics for other denominations as a reason that married clergy won't help resolve the problem of a diminishing clergy in the RCC...atleast in western culture.

The ECUSA has clergy coming out the wazoo. There are so many applicants that there are elaborate 'holding patterns' in the formation process to allow for retirements and parish openings. The episcopal church in Washington DC turns away about 10-15 applicants each year accepting about the same ammount..Only becuase there are no parishes to assign all the applicants if they were ordained. The issue is mission diocese where there are not enough parishes, or large enough congregations, to support a priest and his family. Hence in statistics there appears "clergy shortages." It is not for a lack of willing applicants. It is an issue of funding and where applicants agree to serve.

ELCA, Presbyterians, and the like are in the same position. So stop saying mandatory celibacy isn't the issue, atleast in relation to the married clergy of other churches. If there is an issue it would be how to support all the clergy. Let's be honest about the statistics and issues!

As a post script...I would wager that many, if not most, permanent deacons would consider ordination to the presbyterate.

5/10/05 13:58  
Blogger Dom Dominic said...

a priest for every 200 Catholics means that a diocese of 1 million would have 5,000 priests. Could you imagine the oversight that would require?

The Council of Trent (I believe-- and I am sure I will be corrected if I am wrong) suggested that a diocese consist of approx. twenty-five parishes, so that the bishop might actually know his flock.

A priest for every 200 people, and a bishop (or auxiliary) for every twenty-five parishes, is a good ideal. Could it ever happen without married priests? I doubt it.

5/10/05 14:58  
Blogger Ben said...

It seems that everyone is focusing on the policy side of the issue. How about a renewed sense of what the priesthood is. These protestant churches don't have the Priesthood. Why are we not talking about bringing holiness back to the priesthood. What we have is the loss of the sacred. If we give up celibacy we will give up maybe the last thing the Catholic priesthood has that stads us apart from the world. Come up with all the policy changes in the world but you will not solve the problem of the loss of identity within the priesthood. We need holy men. Not women. God does not and will not allow women in the priesthood. It is not their place. We must focus on formation of our sems. Caving to the world seems to be the scapegoat answer for everything these days. Reverance for God and His liturgy, reverance in the liturgy, all male alter server, reverance for the Eucharist, fathfullness to the magisterium and the like is what is needed to reform the church. When the church is reformed to holiness there is nothing impeeding God's work. We are so busy trying to hamper God's work yet we wonder why many good men are not responding to His call. Please everyone, if this just doesn't make common sense to yall then I really wonder about your motives.

5/10/05 15:03  
Blogger Dom Dominic said...

So stop saying mandatory celibacy isn't the issue, at least in relation to the married clergy of other churches. If there is an issue it would be how to support all the clergy. Let's be honest about the statistics and issues!

Members of CORPUS (Corps or Reserve Priests United for Service) have stated that they are willing to return to active ministry on a volunteer basis much like permanent deacons. Most members of CORPUS left only to marry.

In recent years CORPUS has become a bit left of Center for my taste, but they are one example.

5/10/05 15:15  
Blogger JTH said...

If we give up celibacy we will give up maybe the last thing the Catholic priesthood has that stads us apart from the world.

So quaint...but absolutely no understanding of the theological tradition the presbyter.

What interests me is the curia's willful conflation of reasons for celibacy. The tradition has always said religious are celibate as eschatological signs "celibate for the kingdom." Diocesesan priests, after having celibacy hoisted upon them by Gregory the Great to keep them from giving church property to their sons, was spiritualized to be "celibate for the sake of the people of God". JPII on occasion seemed to indicate that celibacy was now a countercultural sign against a hedonistic West, saying in effect, "you don't need sex, our priests don't!" Now all three of these reasons are thrown at diocesan priests, seminarians and the laity in an apparent attempt to force aggrement - such a reaction is only necessary when there is so little agreement about the value of celibacy within diocesan priesthood. They seem to believe they still function in a world that if you say it really lound and for long enough it will be true.

Let's be honest about what the theological tradition says. It does not say that one must be celibate to be a priest...lets remember the orthodox churches with valid sacraments...and non Roman-rite Catholic Churches have married clergy...and episcopalians and methodists are ordained into the presbyterate of the RCC, with thier families in tow.

The priesthood does not exist to stand apart from the world: It exists to engage the world. When an unessential practice gets in the way of proclaiming the gospel and celebrating the sacraments it should be jetissoned.

In Ut Unum Sint JPII offered up the proposition that the Roman Papacy is willing to renegotiate all aspects of the papacy which do not alter its essential aspects so to move forward the reunion of the seperated churches. It seems to me the time has come to offer the same reassesment of the diocesesan priestood. All aspects of priesthood that are non-essential should be re-thought in order to carry out the pastoral care of souls in as much as certain practices and structures serve to hinder rather than to build up.

Finally, Ad Gentes, VaticanII's declaration on the evangelization of people, indicates that where the church's structure inhibits the culture from accepting the church "it is hoped that the condition will be provided for in a special way."

It seems to me optional celibacy restores the true carism of religious life, diocesesan priesthood, and provides for the care of souls.

5/10/05 18:51  
Blogger Ben said...

Even if Jth is right(but he's not) and Gregory the Great invented mandatory celibacy, should we just assume he (The Great) was wrong? That's like throwing Gregorian Chant out too! Oh wait.... we did! Since Vatican II we lost many good things in our church which we are now paying for.(lets pray we get the good things back). It is not time to abandon celibacy all together. Because we all know that is what will happen when we make it mandatory.

5/10/05 23:32  

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