FutureChurch member and CTA Pittsburgh chair Sarah Wellinger with three members of the Association for Pittsburgh Priests who organized three lectures on the priest shortage.
Optional Celibacy Discussion Expands
While Vatican officials send discussion questions for the 2005 Eucharist Synod to Bishops all over the world, priests and laity in the U.S. are holding prayer services, organizing conferences, writing letters, signing petitions and conducting discussions about the need to have both celibate and married priests so Catholics will have access to the Eucharist. The need could not be more acute. The Boston Archdiocese recently announced plans to close one of every five parishes. Similar consolidations are being discussed in dioceses across the U.S.
A new group, the Priests Forum on the Eucharist met for the first time in April to work toward optional celibacy. Sixteen representatives of concerned priests in nine U.S dioceses plan to hold a large-scale meeting on the topic in the Spring of 2005.
Also in April, 240 priests meeting at the National Federation of Priests’ Councils convention challenged Milwaukee Archbishop Timothy Dolan to address official church dialogue on celibacy, married priests and due process for priests accused of sex abuse. Leaders hope Dolan, who is head of the Priestly Life Committee, will raise their concerns at U.S. Bishops’ meetings in June and November.
In the meantime, the FutureChurch/CTA Campaign for Optional Celibacy is growing by leaps and bounds. At press time results for 48 of an estimated 63 diocesan surveys on mandatory celibacy are in. The overwhelming majority of priests surveyed support discussion of mandatory celibacy. (See summarized percentages by dioceses here). Final results are expected in mid summer but already media stories have appeared in many major dailies.
The surveys are an important part of the Corpus Christi Campaign for Optional Celibacy, a two year drive to educate ordinary Catholics about the deepening priest shortage, celebrate the centrality of the Eucharist on the feast of Corpus Christi
(June 13) and garner thousands of petitions to the International Synod on the Eucharist.
To date nearly 8,000 people have signed the petition to the International Synod on the Eucharist with hundreds more coming in each month. An estimated 34 Corpus Christi celebrations and educational programs are scheduled for June of this year in parishes and small faith communities all over the U.S.
Members of Welcoming Vocations in Minneapolis-St. Paul strategize next steps in their optional celibacy education and petition campaign.
In May, Sr. Chris Schenk gave two organizing workshops on the campaign, one sponsored by the Association for Pittsburgh Priests (APP) and the other by Welcoming Vocations in St. Paul- Minneapolis. APP has already gathered over 1000 letters to U.S. Bishops asking for discussion. Workshop participants from four Pittsburgh parishes hope to sponsor education and awareness programs in the coming year.
Welcoming Vocations plans a similar educational outreach and hopes to collect 12,000 signatures supporting 120 priests of the diocese who publicly called for discussion of mandatory celibacy. From March through June, the group conducted signature campaigns in 16 Minneapolis-St. Paul Parishes.
Swiss Bishop Kurt Koch supported a recent call by lay Catholics for ordaining
married men. In a statement carried by Swiss television, he said the Church’s sacramental needs were good reason to change current discipline and he would personally favor ordaining married men.
Now if we can only persuade more U.S. Bishops to do the same.