For Immediate Release 10/21/09
|Contact:||Sr. Christine Schenk 216-228-0869 X 4 (W); 216-513-3647 (C)|
|William Wisnewski (Married Catholic Priest) 330-931-0111 (C) 330-297-4153 (W)|
|Mary Louise Hartman 609-921-9134 (W) 609-915-2258 (C)|
[Cleveland] “We’re surprised and pleased to see Vatican flexibility in permitting married priests for Anglican converts, but we need the option of a married priesthood in the Latin rite of the Catholic Church too,” said FutureChurch executive director, Sr. Christine Schenk.
“Parishes in Europe, the United States and the United Kingdom are closing while thousands of Catholics in the developing world have virtually no access to Mass and the sacraments because of too few celibate priests, said Schenk. “According to a 2007 article in the New York Times, 80% of all Sunday celebrations in Brazil are led by lay leaders because there are no priests.”
“I think this may be painful news for married Catholic priests who are not permitted to serve the Church, said FutureChurch board member Bill Wisniewski, himself a married Catholic priest. “It’s past time for Rome to welcome back the nearly 110,000 priests around the world who left the active ministry to marry. We must also work to enfranchise the tens of thousands of women ministering in the Church.”
“I’m just wondering how its going to work to have Catholic seminarians who cannot marry, study next to Anglican seminarians who will presumably be able to marry,” said Mary Lou Hartman, a FutureChurch board member from Princeton, New Jersey. “I’m guessing more than a few Catholic seminarians may just decide to join the Anglican branch.” Hartman was referring to a statement by Cardinal Levada issued Oct. 20 “The seminarians in the Ordinariate are to be prepared alongside other Catholic seminarians, though the Ordinariate may establish a house of formation to address the particular needs of formation in the Anglican patrimony.”
“Overall the decision is a mixed bag,” said Schenk. “On the one hand it is a positive that Catholic structures will apparently have flexibility to accept married priests. But it is sad that the decision comes at the expense of women and gays in ministry. We have gay priests in the Catholic Church right now who are ministering very effectively." Some experts estimate that from one third to one half of Catholic priests are gay. (Cozzens, Changing Face of the Priesthood). Sixty one per cent of US Catholics believe women should be allowed to be priests (2005 National Catholic Reporter survey) and 83% believe it is morally wrong to discriminate against homosexuals (Contemporary Catholic Trends Survey). "Ordinary Catholics may not be as sympathetic to conservative Anglo-Catholic beliefs as they expect, and this could create some tension," concluded Schenk.
Four years ago, FutureChurch lobbied the Vatican’s International Synod on The Eucharist asking for open discussion of mandatory celibacy and women deacons. Four of the synod’s twelve working groups wanted to study married priests. “At the synod there was much talk of allowing “viri probati” (“tested men”) to perform priestly functions,” said Schenk. “So perhaps that conversation helped prepare the way for yesterday’s announcement that Rome will make special adaptations for married Anglican priests and bishops to join the Church.”
Last June FutureChurch launched a new initiative: Optional Celibacy: So All Can Be At the Table. The international electronic and paper postcard campaign asks Cardinal Hummes at the Congregation for the Clergy in Rome begin "discussion at the highest levels of the Church about the need to return to our earliest tradition of permitting both a married and celibate clergy." To date over 2000 postcards have been sent from the US and scores of organizing packets have been downloaded from the FutureChurch website. An international campaign will begin in November with electronic postcards in German, French and Spanish.
Because of the priest shortage, U.S. dioceses will be forced to reconfigure parishes for the foreseeable future. According to the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, 75% of the 18,000 active diocesan priests in the U.S. are over 55 years old, but the U.S. is only ordaining about 350 new diocesan priests each year. In 20 years, presuming ordinations remain constant, the U.S. could have as few as 11,500 active diocesan priests for our 19,000 parishes. At the same time, numbers of deacons and paid lay ministers have increased significantly to 14,000 and 30,000 respectively. Presently "parish life coordinators" are pastoring an estimated 600 U.S. parishes.
Between 1975 and 2005 the world's Catholics increased by fifty-seven percent from 709.6 million to 1.115 billion, but the number of priests increased only four-tenths of one percent (0.4%). (Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA)
In June, the president of Paraguay, Fernando Lugo, who is a former bishop, said the church should rethink its stance on celibacy. Lugo created a sensation when he admitted to fathering a child after he resigned as a bishop but before being laicized. His remarks prompted archbishop Eustaquio Cuquejo Verga of Asuncion to say the Catholic Church has no reason to reconsider celibacy for Latin-rite priests. This, despite a February 2008 petition from some 18,000 South American priests asking to change celibacy rules.
For more information about FutureChurch’s international Optional Celibacy campaign, Official Catholic Directory statistics for every U.S. diocese, and results of our survey of priests in 57 U.S. dioceses visit www.futurechurch.org
Release updated 10/26/09
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