Saturday, April 12, 2014

Pope Francis On The Possibility of Married Priests

For some reason when discussing the priest shortage, one rarely hears that one big reason is the increase in lay Catholics.  That the increase in Catholic laity is mirrored by the decrease in Catholic priests makes for an interesting statistical picture....... and in a not good kind of way.

  
Pope Francis has been in office for just over a year and finally he has given us an idea of what he meant when he suggested that Bishop's conferences should share in determining the direction of the Church in their own geographical areas.  I am not surprised that a married priesthood is one of the first of these areas.  The following is taken from the Tablet and is an excerpt of the article by Christa Pongratz-Lippitt.
 
Pope says married men could be ordained priests if world's bishops agree on it 
 
 
10 April 2014 15:23 by Christa Pongratz-Lippitt
A bishop who met with Pope Francis in a rare private audience on 4 April has said in an interview that the two men discussed the issue of the ordination of “proven” married men – viri probati – in a serious and positive way.

Bishop Erwin Kräutler, Bishop of Xingu in the Brazilian rainforest, spoke to the Pope about Francis’ forthcoming encyclical on the environment, and the treatment of indigenous peoples but the desperate shortage of priests in the bishop’s huge diocese came up in the conversation. According to an interview the Austrian-born bishop gave to the daily Salzburger Nachrichten on 5 April, the Pope was open-minded about finding solutions to the problem, saying that bishops’ conferences could have a decisive role.

“I told him that as bishop of Brazil’s largest diocese with 800 church communities and 700,000 faithful I only had 27 priests, which means that our communities can only celebrate the Eucharist twice or three times a year at the most,” Bishop Kräutler said. “The Pope explained that he could not take everything in hand personally from Rome. We local bishops, who are best acquainted with the needs of our faithful, should be corajudos, that is ‘courageous’ in Spanish, and make concrete suggestions,” he explained. A bishop should not act alone, the Pope told Kräutler. He indicated that “regional and national bishops’ conferences should seek and find consensus on reform and we should then bring up our suggestions for reform in Rome,” Kräutler said. (Every time I read a comment from a conservative Catholic that implies the priest shortage will be solved by conservative seminaries, I seriously wonder how informed their understanding of this shortage really is.  27 priests for 700,000 Catholics is not a shortage, it's a catastrophe. Bishop Krautler's diocese is far from alone in the global church.)

Asked whether he had raised the question of ordaining married men at the audience, Bishop Kräutler replied: “The ordination of viri probati, that is of proven married men who could be ordained to the priesthood, came up when we were discussing the plight of our communities. The Pope himself told me about a diocese in Mexico in which each community had a deacon but many had no priest. There were 300 deacons there who naturally could not celebrate the Eucharist. The question was how things could continue in such a situation. (The better question is why things have been allowed to get to this point.)

"It was up to the bishops to make suggestions, the Pope said again.”
Bishop Kräutler was then asked whether it now depended on bishops’ conferences, as to whether church reforms proceeded or not. “Yes,” he replied. “After my personal discussion with the Pope I am absolutely convinced of this.”

Last September the Vatican Secretary of State, then-Archbishop Pietro Parolin – who was then Apostolic Nuncio to Venezuela – answered a question put to him by El Universal newspaper by stating that priestly celibacy “is not part of church dogma and the issue is open to discussion because it is an ecclesiastical tradition”. “Modifications can be made, but these must always favour unity and God’s will,” he said. “God speaks to us in many different ways. We need to pay attention to this voice that points us towards causes and solutions, for example the clergy shortage.”.......(And this is just a nicer way of saying the solution will not include women.)

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For those who don't know, Latin American bishops brought up the question of married priests during Vatican II.  Pope Paul VI killed that notion.  This was over 50 years ago.  Since then the priest shortage has gone critical all across the global Church.  If American Catholics think it's bad in the States, in South America and Africa it's much worse, and it doesn't help these areas that Bishops in the West are filling their depleted ranks with priests imported from the developing world.  Demographic trends with in the priesthood project an even deeper crisis as the greater majority of today's priests reach retirement age in ten to fifteen years.  But the truth is, in many dioceses there really isn't any such thing as a priest fully retiring as long as they can still walk and talk.

The issue that has really mystified me is why the Vatican has allowed this situation to develop.  The trends were available to see back in the late 60's and 70's.  Paul VI's insistence on maintaining celibacy only accelerated the trends and while the Vatican lists about 69,000 priests as having asked for dispensation from the priesthood from 1965-2000, estimates which include those who left without asking for dispensation top 100,000.  As ominous as those figures are, the real clincher was the 90% drop in seminarians from the unusual levels in the 50's and this drop has resulted in the closure of 2/3rds of seminaries in the US alone. 

It is beyond me, that knowing all these figures, there hasn't been a collective demand for changes to the discipline in the priesthood from our bishops.  It is perhaps this issue that gives a real idea of the kind of 'yes sir, no sir' bishops bequeathed to us by the last two papacies.  Apparently the current zeitgeist in the collective clerical Church is that it is much better to lose the flock than advocate for any change in the priesthood.  I'm not sure there is a stronger statement about their lack of concern for the souls of the laity unless it is their dismal record with clerical abuse---and that was also motivated in part by the desire to protect the myth of the celibate priesthood.

While there is hope in this latest sign of potential change from Pope Francis, there is also frustration.  Ordaining viri probati  would certainly help, but there are also tens of thousands of priests who left to get married who could be reinstated if they so desired.  Many of them do.  And then there is the whole question of ordaining women, but that probably won't happen until the last male priest has taken his last breath and there is no other choice.  However, I think long before that happens, the Church will break out into intentional Eucharistic Communities who will not be tied down by mandates from Rome about who can or cannot say Mass.  The People of God will find their own solutions long before Rome comes up with anything meaningful and maybe that's the answer as to why the Vatican has refused to act for so long.  The answers don't reside in the Vatican.  They reside in the hearts of the People of God where in resides the Holy Spirit.

 

 





 

47 comments:

  1. It's almost as if they want to take the church to the brink of destruction, and keep it small, exclusive and very conservative.
    They have lost people. Married priests may help with the people that are in the church now, but many more changes will have to take place before they attract people or have people return.
    Although, they may want that small, exclusive, conservative church.

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  2. Intentional Eucharistic communities - Amen to that. It's no longer about Rome, if it ever was. Time to move on and beyond in creative and inspired ways.

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  3. I've talked to family members and other parishioners about married priests and they are totally against it even when I bring up that the Eastern Rites have had a tradition of married clergy. They think it's heresy.

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  4. That's true for a lot of conservatives and it goes directly to our indoctrination about the 'mystical' nature of the priesthood and the efficacy of the Sacraments. Unfortunately in Pope Francis' generation, and Pope Benedict's for that matter, I really truly believe they believe this is all true. It's the biggest reason I think intentional Eucharistic communities are the logical outcome of this kind of thinking. Too many Catholics no longer believe Jesus can be kept in that kind of priestly box....or ever intended such a thing.

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  5. Pope Benedict said as much. His vision was a smaller Church totally committed to the "eternal truths" of the Magisterium who would bring their children up in this vision and raise the Church from ashes.

    I'm not sure there won't be a version of Catholicism that is exactly that, but there will also be another version which will move on with the consciousness evolution in humanity. That version will have science behind it as science continues to prove that love and it's positive manifestations are the real organizing principles behind life.

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  6. Amen brother. The longer the clerical abuse crisis manifests the more lay Catholics and a certain amount of priests and religious will see that Rome is not just irrelevant, it's an impediment. Except for the new lay movements. LOL

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  7. Maybe it must be the Catholics I know , most of them are very conservative. Then again, I live in Denver, Stafford and Chaput's diocese, so that has probably a lot with the persuasion of a lot practicing Catholics here. Online, the big Catholic adult singles sites are all run by people affiliated with the Opus Dei/EWTN/John Paul the Great crowd so that probably explains the membership at these sites as well, it's very conservative.

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  8. sylvesterpatsteffenApril 13, 2014 at 4:23 AM

    This systemic change (of "proven men" ordained to the priesthood) of institutional Catholicism is a BIG step forward; probably a necessary first step toward implicating women in the priesthood. The next change could be married bishops ( "viri extra-probati") perhaps more problematical. Perhaps less problematical is the priesthood of women once the right biological/ theological relationship of men and women is understood by the elitist male hierarchy. In this regard, other Christian denominations are well ahead of the RCC, which may make them more attractive also to Roman Catholics. Ecumenical Christianity HAS TO HAPPEN. Ecclesial elitism stands in the way of bringing the Body of Christ together, which ultimately, One Body, One Christ is the objective of Jesus's Gospel of Good News.

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  9. True, but the two versions will probably end up worshiping in separate buildings, and Rome will only recognize the ultra-conservative version.

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  10. That is Partially why most of my friends that I grew up with and went to Catholic Schools within Denver, no longer participate in RCC. There are also two growing Ecumenical Catholic Churches with former Catholic Priests that are ever growing there. This group of priests were originally ordained by Old Catholic Bishops. The Old Catholics called valid but illicit in the RCC if that really means anything any way... There are many married former RCC priests that are part of this group. However, most of my former class mates call themselves Catholics who can not participate in the Denver Church. This points out the ripe time for growth in lay organization of Church.. Rome is not relevant to many and a hinderance for others

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  11. sylvesterpatsteffenApril 13, 2014 at 7:10 PM

    Neither religion nor culture can be authentic except both are on the same page of common truths -- truths based on natural, essential correlations. For example, theology supposes biology as faith supposes reason as grace supposes nature. Until theologians get biology, reason and nature wrong, they get theology, faith and grace wrong. The root problem of religion and culture is its misinformed sense of essential female/ male correlations, i.e. their mutuality, complementarity and subsidiarity as preconditions to authentic solidarity.
    Pope Francis is moving in the right direction, but there is a lot of make-up needed to undo past wrong-headedness and apply new learning to enlighten prevailing ignorance..Transformational Eucharist is as "in common" as are the suppositions of theology, faith and grace. The dictatorship of hierarchical arrogance pushes aside the essential presuppositions of biology, reason and nature.

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  12. It is long overdue (and I really mean overdue... some 1600+ years) for the word 'Roman' to be removed from reference to Catholics other than those who actually live and worship in Rome. The Catholic church has been very different in other times and places to the one currently promoted by the Vatican.

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  13. sure, francis of assisi would be no "proven man" in the eyes of the hierarchy of today's roman church . . . it's good to be old.

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  14. I am not sure Ecumenical Christianity will happen. There are too many people of power that will be threatened. One thing for certain the RCC will continue to loose valuable well educated people as long as it keeps its current structure of clericalism. Leaders are needed but to say that only Bishops decide who offers the Eucharist, officiates in marriage and Confessions was a power grab that has proven to be to great during the last 50 years.


    I think the best church would be to once again allow the laity to elect the people who will offer the Eucharist and other sacraments. Bishops and Popes should be elected as well with 7 yr. term limits.

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  15. Ignoring the typical weirdness of the final paragraph here, clearly it is worth examining the factors surrounding the advisability or otherwise of having married priests. Indeed, one could go as far I think as saying it would be a mistake not to.

    On the other hand, we should be careful not to put the cart before the horse in the matter, and allow policy to follow prayer, study, and rational assessment, rather than to get excited about "new possibilities" and rush into a potentially damaging course of action.

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  16. As I have said a million times, there is no shortage in vocations, only an institution unwilling to let go of their tightly held traditions of power and control. I know, probably hundreds, of men and women, raised Catholic, who have an authentic call to the priesthood (myself included), but who are unable to exercise this call within the Catholic Church because they are either the wrong gender, sexual orientation or wanting to be married. Come on Church, it's time to let your priests serve!

    Lauri Lumby
    Authentic Freedom Ministries
    Oshkosh, WI
    http://yourspiritualtruth.com

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  17. Wtf is "Ecumenical Christianity"? No such term exists anywhere on the Internet, let alone in a proper encyclopedia.

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  18. It has never been for the individual to judge the validity of their own call, it has always relied upon the judgement of the Church, of the established disciples. We should therefore be careful at letting individuals' sense of frustrated vocation count against the rightness of the Church, because we do not know (and cannot know) whether or not their are authentically called until they have put themselves forward and been properly and prayerfully examined, and have properly and prayerfully examined their own vocation.

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  19. There already are valid, licit, functioning parish priests who are married with children. The Church has lovingly approved their vocations under their particular exceptional circumstances.
    The Church has simply not yet made a change to the current norm of a celibate priesthood.

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  20. I can see that happening because we are seeing the building wars happening in the Episcopalian Church and Rome's best interest is to recognize the ultra conservative version.

    On the other hand if the other version still needs Rome's approval it won't have evolved very far. LOL.

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  21. Agreed. My alma mater, a Catholic high school in NJ, had a former Episcopal priest on the faculty back when I attended in the early 1980's. He was ordained as a Catholicppriest and would bring his wife and kids with him to school events sometimes.

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  22. Yeah, once more. Can someone tell me what this means? You all seem to be referring to it, but it has literally like zero hits on google, let alone hits from encyclopedias or dictionaries.

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  23. sylvesterpatsteffenApril 15, 2014 at 3:41 AM

    It is my sense that "Ecumenical" Christianity means "universal", everyone belonging, everyone called, in the cosmic sense. Jesus is The Cosmic Christ.
    ==================================
    "Ecumenical Christianity is already among you." Thanks for that Agni Ashwin. What you say is true. Biologically, all experience the ecumenism of God-Present in the Naturalis Sacrammentum Ordinis, and in the open Call of the Good News Gospel.
    However, theologically, this truth isn't universally acknowledged and celebrated. Roman Catholicism makes exclusionary claims on Divine Presence in the Consecration and Breaking of the Bread. This exclusionary assertion puts Christian denominations at odds institutionally, and in effect makes of pastors and priests front-line salespersons in the consumer capitalist game of commercial pietism. The game is to increase institutional membership -- at a price.
    Jesus's call is that "all may be one". The Christ Gospel of Good News nowhere calls for exclusion. Cultic exclusion is an artifice of institutional self-perpetuation -- not what Jesus was about nor what He sanctions.
    Christian Denominations should in good faith open their doors and invite all of good faith to their Tables in the "sharing of the Bread", without preconditions of denominational self-advantaging. Pope Francis seems to be tending in this direction. Bishops. Get on board with Jesus. Be unconditional in inviting people to the Table of the Lord.

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  24. But that is still exclusionary, don't you see? I mean, for a true Ecumenical Christianity, for a true uniting of ALL peoples, one must have to include not exclude the Muslim peoples, Hindus, pagans, otherwise you're just pushing your "we don't want you" line into a different place. How practically would you do this?

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  25. Ecumenical Christianity doesn't exclude anyone. It looks for the points of commonality and celebrates those points. Compassion is one such commonality and this is why the Charter for Compassion is making headway across all denominational/spiritual/religious categories.

    I won't see this movement gain ascendancy in my lifetime, but should I return in a hundred years or so, I might be very pleasantly surprised. The evolution of consciousness is towards unity, not division. The seeming split between right and left, conservative and progressive, socialism and fascism is the old understanding of social organization defending it's here to for unchallenged right to dominate. It'll be ugly for awhile, but humanity will move forward into the unknown and yet to be defined. It's called bringing the Kingdom to earth.

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  26. I see what you mean...but practically speaking, what should be the form and substance of our charter of compassion if we are to have Jews and Muslims feel welcome to be part of Ecumenical Christianity?

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  27. I think the very first thing that must be accomplished is an understanding of how that is enculturated through generations. Augustine posited original sin and it was, for it's time, a good theory. Now we understand the power of early enculturation and how that both fosters civilization and concretizes historical hate. We have to become far more mindful of this process.

    Secondly we have to take Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs far more seriously....and right now, I have to take that so seriously I must quit and go to work before I make myself late.

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  28. sylvesterpatsteffenApril 15, 2014 at 11:48 AM

    Communication has the potential of putting people on the same page in life. Today, virtually everyone can be connected to anyone globally. Communication transforms consciousness. Deep-rooted ignorance, no matter under what label, is challenged more and more by open communication.

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  29. But how will this openness penetrate the closed societies of the traditional Muslim, the North Korean, the Westboro Baptists?

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  30. Is it, though? I mean, 83,000, mostly white westerners, have signed up to it.

    While that's bigger than SSPX, it's smaller than Druidism or Rastafarianism, so not exactly well placed for the uniting together of 1billion+ Catholics with 1billion myriad other Christian types, with 1.6billion Muslims, 1billion Hindus...etc etc etc. Even Scientology apparently stands around 500,00.

    I mean, is it, really, making headway?

    Whilst violence against Christians in the Middle East becomes increasingly dire?

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  31. There's always going to be a certain percentage of folks whose need for security is going to trump anything else. Humanity will find ways to honor and care for those concerns because that particular segment will never be able to extend the same in the other direction.

    The internet is the tool that's going to connect and open a lot societies. The key is to look at what is happening in the expectations of women.

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  32. All it will take to make more headway is for religious leaders such as Pope Francis to sign on. And that will not surprise me should it happen.

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  33. How hopelessly bourgeois! The most desperately in need have to internet access, and no prospect of it in the near future. I think this is just a doomed white liberal meme. 100,000 signatories in...years now? Meaningless.

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  34. Well, it's not happening is it. It is doing nothing.

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  35. You need to check cell phone statistics in the developing world. You might be surprised.

    Need I remind you that Jesus started out with very few followers and no internet and in less than two hundred years Christianity was a major force amongst the white bourgeois of Europe and the not white bourgeois of North Africa?

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  36. It grew fast and had dedicated, socially diverse support, and the Holy Spirit.
    This has a YouTube video and a support base mostly drawn from viewers of TED Talks, the whitest and liberallest folks around.

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  37. sylvesterpatsteffenApril 16, 2014 at 10:01 AM

    Truth is insistent. And as errors are exposed by the enlightenment of truth, change will happen. The dynamic of divine Word-process will infect. Surely it will take time; cultural change happens in the course of history, of evolving enlightenment. Pope Francis is speaking to this matter even now. Credit some truth to all movements, religions, even though falsehoods continue to entangle truths. If we pursue conscience, the truth will out.

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  38. Hopeless... doomed....whitest.....liberalest. More of the same, unconquered. Good thing we have you here to harangue us into propriety.

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  39. Just wait. It will happen because otherwise Pope Francis looks like a solo scriptura Catholic.....and that he is not and never has been.

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  40. Matt this was totally funny. I think Invictus embodies the same criteria, except for the liberalist thing. LOL

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  41. I strongly suspect you never thought about this at all until I pointed it out. Yes Christianity moved fast and had dedicated, socially diverse support, because the Holy Spirit moves amongst people....not especially clerics.

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  42. The Mystical Body....it's getting harder and harder for Catholics
    educated under the Institutional Magisterium to make that connection.
    God we need more people to make the real connections. You seem to have done that Invictus
    and I treasure it, but don't let the Magisterium color it to the point you kill it.

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  43. We get educated by parents and parishes and schools, not by the Vatican. The Magisterium doesn't teach, teachers/catechists do.
    If things are getting between young people and a living faith, those things will be things in and close to their daily lives.

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  44. We have married priest in the Catholic Church now. My friend is a RCC priest is married and has children.


    Read more..
    http://www.ewtn.com/library/ANSWERS/MARPRIE.HTM

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  45. So that's how you have such a grotesquely high percentage of gays in the clergy; all the straights asked for a dispensation, the ones left behind didn't want to get married (at least not to women).
    What a freak show.

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  46. Wouldn't an "officially" schismatized church make things really interesting? It seems we are not that far from one now. My local parish community's culture is far different from what Francis professes.

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  47. Yes--they were popularly chosen in the early church. With life expectancy up short terms are a great idea as well.

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