Future of Priestly Ministry
2010 Open Letter to U.S. Bishops

A 2010 Open Letter from the People of God to the Bishops of the United States

Priests, People Rise Up in US and Abroad

“Silence, blind obedience, and unquestioning trust on the part of faithful Catholics can no longer be viable options if the Church with the Eucharist as the center of its life is to survive. Now is the time to act as well as to pray.”   So reads FutureChurch’s new Open Letter from the People of God to the Bishops of the United States.

Priest and parishioner groups in Austria, Australia and the United States are publicly asking Church officials to open ordination to married men and ordain women to the permanent diaconate. 

According to Georgetown University’s Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, the US priest shortage is approaching crisis proportions.  A 2008 study found that half of 19,302 active diocesan priests plan to retire by 2019.  Since the US Church is ordaining only 380 new diocesan priests annually, in just eight years, there will be only 13,500 active diocesan priests to serve our 18,000 parishes, presuming ordinations remain constant, as they have for over a decade.

The Open Letter calls on US Bishops “to embrace your roles as shepherds…” and “open dialogue about restoring our early traditions recognizing married and celibate priests and women deacons.” Created by FutureChurch’s Optional Celibacy Advisory Committee and launched in early June 2010, the Open Letter is open to additional signatures.

Support from US Priest Groups, Church Reform Organizations. The letter has attracted support from two local priest groups, the Southern Illinois Association of Priests and the Convening Board of Milwaukee Priests’ Alliance.  Likewise national Voice of the Faithful and Call To Action have pledged support along with Faithful of Southern Illinois Laity, Association for the Rights of Catholics in the Church, CORPUS, New Ways Ministry, Southeast Pennsylvania Women’s Ordination Conference, Federation of Christian Ministries: Roman Catholic Faith Community Council, Fortunate Families and Pax Christi, Maine. The supporting organizations have just received special emails to send to their networks so we hope to at least double the number of signatures soon.

International Priests, People Ask to Open Ordination In Austria:  Three hundred priests issued a “call for disobedience” that suggested saying a public prayer at every Mass for Church reform; giving Communion to everyone who approaches the altar in good faith, including divorced Catholics who have remarried without an annulment; allowing women to preach at Mass; and supporting the ordination of women and married men. In Australia: A new survey of 1550 Australian priests found that 70 percent of the 542 respondents believed celibacy should be optional. Nearly 17,000 Mass-going Catholics signed a petition to the Catholic Bishops of Australia asking them to acknowledge the “major crisis in ministry” within the Australian Church, discuss ordaining married men, women’s ministerial and decision making roles, and invite priests who left the active ministry to return.

Statement of the Association of Catholic Priests - Pope Francis and the ordination of married men

International Postcard Effort Growing Nearly 10,000 electronic and paper postcards from around the world have been sent to the Congregation for the Clergy and to local bishops. Our website is configured in German, Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese and English.  We plan to deliver verification of postcard signers and open letter signers to Rome in March of 2014.

Sign on to the Open Letter:

  • We invite signatures from individual Catholics, Catholic parishes, organizations, prayer groups and justice groups.
  • If you wish to remain anonymous it's ok to sign the first and last name field with something like "concerned pastoral minister", "overworked priest" or the like.
  • The open letter will be published in one or several national Catholic publications.
  • It will contain a link to an online version that contains the names of all organizations and individual signers who wish to be identified. (Only your name and diocese will be included in the online listing.)

Download Resources to Educate Your Community

  • Open Letter from the People of God to the Bishops of the United States - Printable Template A printable copy of the Open Letter, to circulate in your faith community.
  • Tips, facts and sample letters for Bishop Dialogue This download contains everything you need to reach out and get a meeting with your bishop or other diocesan officials to discuss the priest shortage crisis, optional celibacy and women deacons. Includes tips for meeting with your bishop, talking points, three sample letters, and an important research article from America "Fewer and Fewer" documenting that only the Catholic Church has a clergy shortage.
  • Open Letter Organizing Kit This kit gives you tools for organizing around this Open Letter. We hope you will find it helpful, easy to use and inspiring so you can be a part of the organizing effort working towards a solution to the impending crisis of priest availability.