Recent Facts and Public Statements by Catholic Leadership About the Priest Shortage and the Need to Open Ordination:(Reprinted from Focus on FutureChurch)
1. The president of the Italian Episcopal Conference, Italian Cardinal Ruini recently decried the lack of vocations in Italy, and warned that in a few years time the problem will be acute. The Camerino-San Severino March diocese has not ordained a local priest in 16 years. (Zenit)
2. The number of priests in England and Wales has fallen from 7,000 in 1980 to 5,500 with half of all priests 60 or older. Worshipers will be asked to travel miles to neighboring parishes and to do many of the parish duties currently handled by the priest. Already, the Catholic Church has started to merge parishes and close churches with the number of parishes in Liverpool having been reduced from 60 to 27. (Nicholas Pyke, UK Independent News)
3. A November issue of the British Catholic newspaper Universe, reported that a growing number of priests in Great Britain are suffering from stress and depression from trying to cope alone in parishes once staffed by three or four priests. (Catholic World News, 2000)
4. Honduras has fewer than 400 priests to serve five million Catholics. (The Tablet, 3/3/2001)
5. Edinburgh Archbishop Keith O'Brien recently acknowledged that the ordination of married men was discussed in his group at the European Synod but never became part of the synod statement most likely because of a "lobby" by the curial bishops. O'Brien noted that "tensions" at the synod were not between East and West but "between the Roman Curia and the bishops who are working in our parishes." (The Tablet, 10/30/99).
5. Canadian Bishop Peter Sutton of Keewatin-Le Pas in the Northwest Territories has petitioned the Vatican to ordain married deacons to the priesthood to help with the severe shortage of priests. The diocese has 19 priests to serve 35,000 Catholics and now sees lay-led Sunday liturgies and funerals as inevitable. The diocese of Mackenzie, also in the NW Territories has 20,000 Catholics and only 8 priests (Davenport Messenger 5/11/2000).
6. Australian bishop John Satterthwaite has acknowledged that it is inevitable that priests will not be available to celebrate Sunday Mass in all parishes in the diocese of Lismore because of the vocations crisis. He noted that lay people may baptize and officiate at funerals in the absence of ordained clergy. (Internet article).
7. Australia, with five million Catholics has only eighty seminarians for the entire country (internet reports).
8. In a small workshop session at the January Asian bishops¹ meeting, one bishop told of a fellow bishop who decided that the only way to bring the Eucharist into a large priestless section of his country, was to ordain two married men. Which he quietly did some years ago. (National Catholic Reporter 2/28/00)
9. In the United States 27% of U.S. parishes do not have a resident priest and there are more priests over 90 than under 30 according to a comprehensive study released by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops. (From NCCB Website 6/6/00 and CARA)
10. The Diocese of Green Bay Wisconsin will lose one third of their total priests over the next six years and has completed a plan to close, merge or link dozens of parishes and to increase lay staffing. In 1999 the diocese had 206 parishes and missions served by 150 religious order and diocesan priests. By the end of 2005 it projects it will have only 99 priests. (Davenport Messenger 6/1/00)
11. In response to "several inquiries" the U.S. bishops’ Secretariat for the Liturgy said that no sacrament can be received by electronic communication. Director Fr. James Moroney said: "electronic transmission is never a fully adequate substitute for physical presence and participation." (Catholic News Service, 2000)
12. Two senior cardinals spoke out recently about the need for a reformed papacy. Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini of Milan and Cardinal Roger Etchegaray formerly of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and the Pope¹s former troubleshooter, both spoke to the need to "re think" the way the papacy is organized. They alluded to the Pope¹s encyclical Ut Unum Sint as an encouragement for their remarks. (The Tablet, 11/20/99)
13. In late November Pope John Paul II sought to quell demands for changing church law to allow women to serve as priests. In an address to German bishops he said: "Without a doubt, the dignity of women is great. But the human and civil rights of a person are of a different nature than the rights, duties and functions of a church minister." (Associated Press 11/20/99)
14. In its December (2000) meeting, the International Theological Commission will focus on a study of the role of "deaconesses" in different periods of history, as well as the forgiveness the church is asking for past faults. (Zenit)
15. A Montreal archdiocesan synod held in November of 1998 supported many resolutions promoting church reform. Of the 600 elected delegates, 74% favored ordaining married men, 73.3% supported women deacons, and 91% supported openness to divorced and remarried Catholics. Garnering 66.33% of the votes instead of the 66.66% needed for adoption, were ordaining women and permitting married priests to return to full ministry, a very close vote indeed.(Bread Rising, April 99)
16. Women delegates to an international meeting of Catholic charities asked that more women be given decision making authority and that programs focus more on improving the lot of the world¹s women. While women form the majority of Catholic charities employees and volunteers, they "are almost invisible at the national regional and international levels." In many countries, conference rules require that a priest be appointed executive director. (Catholic News Service 2000)
17. On February 22, 2000 the feast of the chair of Peter,over 4000 members of the Roman Curia and Vatican City celebrated their Jubilee. The Pope appealed to the Vatican work force to live this event with "a spirit of conversion," moved by an "authentic interior purification." In the curia there are 1,132 clerics and religious and 1,449 lay persons including 2171 men and 410 women. The Vatican City staff numbers 1403 including 74 clerics, 1294 men and 183 women.(Zenit)
18. Cardinal Paulo Evaristo Arns recently joined Cardinal Franz Koenig in criticizing the curia for being too centralist and bureaucratic. Arns stated that the curia operates independently of the Pope and sometimes ignores his wishes.(TheTablet 6/3/2000)
19. In March 2000, groups in Ireland, Canada, Germany and the U.S. staged prayer vigils at diocesan cathedrals and the Apostolic Nunciatures wearing purple stoles to pray and protest Vatican refusal to dialogue about women’s ordination and persecution of those such as Lavinia Byrne who support it.
20. The first ecumenical symposium on the Petrine office identified papal infallibility and the Bishop of Rome’s claim to primatial jurisdiction as the two main stumbling blocks to further ecumenical progress. The symposium, held at Innsbruck western Austria, was attended by bishops, church leaders and prominent theologians including leaders of the Austrian Orthodox Church. (The Tablet 4/8/00)
21. In December 2000, the archdiocese of Ottawa appointed a group of pastoral coordinators, lay people and religious women to oversee administration of some parishes and, when priests are not available, perform marriages, baptisms and funerals. The appointments were made in accordance with the Code of Canon Law (USCCB Lay Ministry Update Jan/Feb 01).
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