Thursday, 16 March 2017

Priests for the Future

Pope Francis has my prayers and admiration as he listens to the Holy Spirit and faces challenges from members of the Vatican household. This is nothing new; after all Peter was challenged by the words of Paul shortly after assuming a service of leadership in the footsteps of Christ. I'm not sure that the challenges of those who are unhappy with Pope Francis are of the same value as those of St Paul.

The mention by Pope Francis in an interview with a German magazine that the possibility of married men of proved virtue being ordained is interesting. There is no doubt that since Pope Benedict XVI welcomed married Anglican priests to Ordination, the clerical landscape has changed. It seems that this development has settled in well in places where priests, married and celibate, minister side by side. Parishioners with whom I have spoken, express happiness with this situation. The Eucharistic celebration ranks of greater importance with people than the personal status of the priest presiding. It is necessary for me to remember that there are wives and family members to be treated sensitively in any discussion of married clergy in the Catholic church or in other denominations.

My question about the proposal to ordain men of proved virtue, to what issue is this offered as a solution? If a male priesthood, married and celebrate, is the only one possible, then in one sense, why not ordain more men to celebrate Mass? But, if the question to be answered is not so much about the shortage of priests and a remedy, but about going to the roots of the church as given by Christ, perhaps another set of issues also need to be addressed.

In an interview published in the Sunday Tribune Newspaper [ceased publication], 24th August 2009, I suggested that recruitment of candidates for the priesthood should be suspended for as long as it takes to get to the roots of the revelations of child abuse by clergy and religious. Since then I would add that there is need to address:

  • The treatment of survivors of clerical and religious abuse
  • Why people like Marie Collins find it no longer acceptable to stay on the Papal commission
  • Criteria for the acceptance and formation of future candidates for priesthood and religious life
  • The outcome of the Commission examining having female Deacons (ordained).
Dealing with such serious matters - this is the Body of Christ - new wine will need new wine skins. Patches on the present clothes of the church will tear away quickly. The foundation, Christ, is sound but He has asked us to assist with building the Kingdom.                                               A.T.

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