Ask your bishop to open discussion about married priests




Over the past forty years, the Roman Catholic Church in the United States and worldwide has experienced a steadily worsening priest shortage. At first, the process was so gradual that it was hardly noticed. But now, the rapidity of the decline is having a devastating impact on parish and sacramental life. 
According to a 2008 Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate study, half of the 19,302 active diocesan priests plan to retire by 2019 - just two years away! 
Learn what is happening in your diocese, in the United States, and in the world.
Here are some quick facts
relating to the priest shortage in United States:
1.  The number of Catholics is increasing.  It is estimated that since 1965 the number of Catholics has increased anywhere from 34% to 48%.
2.  The number of priests is decreasing.  Since 1965 the number of Catholic priests has decreased 34% (Diocesan numbers have declined 28%; Religious numbers have declined 50%).
3.  Priestly ordinations are down 58%.  The number of seminarians is down 45%.
4.  Since 1965, the number of active priests has declined from 94% to 63%.
5.  The number of parishes without a resident priest has risen from 537%.  
6.  Since 1995, the number of male deacons has risen 66%.
7.  Since 1995, the number of lay professional ministers has risen 117% and the number of lay ecclssial ministers has risen 81%
8.  At a time when Canon 517.2 should be invoked more often, the numbers have fallen.
9.  Overall, as the number of ordained males decrease and the number of lay ministers  increases, the church will need to adapt the organizational structure to meet the needs of the church.  


On a trip home from Tel Aviv, Pope Francis stated, "Celibacy is not a dogma of faith, it is a rule of life that I appreciate a great deal and I believe it is a gift for the Church. The door is always open given that it is not a dogma of faith."

Bishop Erwin Krautler discussed the priest shortage and future of the priesthood in Brazil with Pope Francis in 2014 where he has 27 priests serving 700,000 Catholics in his diocese.  In that conversation, Pope Francis urged Bishop Krautler and all local bishops to be "courageous" and to make concrete suggestions on the possibilities available to assist in this crisis, including expanding the priesthood to include married men.

In December 2016, liberation theologian Leonardo Boff, a married priest who still openly practices his priesthood, said, "the Brazilian bishops, especially the pope's close friend Cardinal Claudio Hummes, have expressly requested Pope Francis to enable married priests in Brazil to return to their pastoral ministry," Boff said. "I have recently heard that the pope wants to fulfil this request — as an experimental, preliminary phase for the moment confined to Brazil."

With its 140 million Catholics, Brazil needs at least 100,000 priests but it only has 1,800, which is a "catastrophe," Boff said. "No wonder the faithful are going over to the evangelical churches or to the Pentecostals in droves, as they are filling the personnel vacuum. If the many thousands of priests who have married are once again allowed to practice their ministry, that would be a first step to improving the situation but at the same time also an impulse for the church to free itself of the fetters of celibacy."

Following Pope Francis' model we ask Catholics in every diocese to urge their bishop and the USCCB to undertake a fresh examination of our early church tradition of a married and celibate priesthood, a diaconate served by women and men, and invite priests who have married back to ministry. Please encourage local bishops to open this important dialogue at a diocesan level particularly in the areas most affected by the priest shortage.

We urge Catholics to ask their bishop and the USCCB to open a discussion of these issues at their general assemblies with a view to presenting concrete suggestions for opening ordination to Pope Francis.

Finally, we urge Catholics to call our bishops and brothers in Christ, to encourage discussion of the genuine reform so necessary for the future of the Church. We have an opportunity to save our church a dead-end strategy of closing and merging parishes by opening our eyes to all who are called to ordained ministry and to open new opportunities to our lay sisters and brothers who are called to serve alongside those ordained.  

May God bless our Church with people of vision, wisdom and courage.

Additional projects: 
Future of Priestly Ministry