Spring 2001 Newsletter
"Contact the Cardinals and cc: Your Bishops Over Worldwide Priest
Shortage," says FutureChurch Campaign
The surprise May 21-24 consistory of the College of
Cardinals and the October synod of Bishops are important opportunities for Catholics
worldwide who are concerned about the deepening priest shortage and its impact on the
future of Catholic worship.
Reports from Church leaders in Europe, Asia, Australia,
Central America, Canada and the U.S. tell of an impending crisis. (see below). Prominent
churchman Cardinal Godfried Daneels of Belgium has said that unless an influx of new
priests occurs in Europe, Catholics will be starved of the sacraments. Interviewed by
the British weekly The Catholic Times (Reported in Catholic Trends May, 2000) he noted
that in Belgium "weve reached a very low level. Its the same low level as in
Holland, Switzerland, France and even Germany."
Recent statistics released by the Vatican give no cause
for hope. The Annuario Pontificio 2001 revealed that from 1998 to 1999 Catholics
worldwide increased by 16 million (1.6%), while the number of priests increased by only
383 (.09%). The number of seminarians increased very slightly (0.7% compared to the 1.6%
increase of Catholics).
There are now 1.038 billion Catholics in the world but
only 405,009 priests, many of whom are aged. In the U.S. there are more priests over 90
than under 30 according to a recent study by U.S.bishops. Vatican statistics also report
that of the 3.86 million people working in ministry, 2.44 million are lay catechists.
Presumably many of these would accept ordination were it open to them.
With news of the hastily called consistory, the time may
be ripe to take action:
The March 3 issue of the respected British Catholic
Journal The Tablet reports understanding "from a number of cardinals, that
the extraordinary consistory will address the issue of how to increase communion within
the Church -Vatican code for spreading decision-making powers among the bishops- and is
likely to sent the agenda for the Bishops synod in October."
The power to open ordination to all the baptized to stem
the priest shortage does not rest with local Bishops who have been weakened by a
centralizing papacy and curial bureaucrats. Presently in the Church, the Cardinals have
the most influence. especially as a new conclave nears.
Therefore the U.S. based FutureChurch has launched a "Contact
the Cardinals and cc: your Bishops" campaign to request that availability of
the Eucharist and other sacraments become a top priority in the May consistory, in the
October synod of Bishops and into the next conclave if necessary.
They ask that Church leaders look again at the options of
opening ordination to all those called to it by God and the people of God including the
married and women so that the Eucharist (the Mass) remains at the center of Catholic
FutureChurch is reaching out to other Catholic
organizations and groups all over the world asking them to encourage their membership to
make their voices heard on this important issue. Already, in the U.S. Call to Action,
CORPUS, the Association for the Rights of Catholics in the Church and the Womenıs
Ordination Conference have pledged their support. In addition to FutureChurchıs 4000
members and supporters, these groups have a combined membership of nearly 30,000 U.S.
Vatican IIs Lumen Gentium 37 tells us that we
"have the right, as do all Christians to receive in abundance.the spiritual goods
of the Church, especially the assistance of the Word of God and the sacraments."
Canon 212 (par 3) goes even further in informing us of our right indeed our duty
"to make our views known on matters which concern the good of the Church."
We encourage grassroots Catholics to become educated
about the issue. We ask them to write, fax or email letters of concern to the Cardinals
of their country (for addresses click here) and send a copy to their local
Bishops and the FutureChurch office.
Letters will be important even after the May 21
consistory since the Bishops will meet in October for an international synod, and the
Cardinals will be influential into the next conclave.
Most Bishops are already only too aware of the problems
as they struggle to staff parishes which risk going without the Eucharist because of the
Letters, faxes and emails to higher-ups in the Church
hierarchy can provide outside support for what the Bishops already know from the inside.
Something needs to be done, and it needs to be done quickly.
Please take action, and do it today. Our right to the
Eucharist and other sacraments is more important than the marital state or gender of the presider.
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