12Apr Statement of the Association of Catholic Priests – Pope Francis and the ordination of married men.

Statement of the Association of Catholic Priests

The Association of Catholic Priests (ACP) welcomes the indication given by Pope Francis (in the course of a private audience with Brazilian Bishop Erwin Kautler) that the ordination of married men will be considered if bishops’ conferences around the world sponsor the reform.

The ACP and others have long argued that the ordination of proven married men (viri probati) could be a part answer to the Eucharistic famine about to afflict the Church, in Ireland as elsewhere.

Within the next two decades priest numbers in Ireland will plummet, with a tiny, ageing cohort of clergy struggling to say Mass in multiple parishes. The present ‘clustering strategy’, unimaginative and unrealistic, is no more than a short-term solution to the management of inevitable decline.

The crisis in vocations to the priesthood, now quantifiable and inevitable, demands strong leadership from the bishops, not least in Ireland, to ensure (as is their responsibility) that priest numbers are adequate to the needs of the people.

The ACP calls on the Irish bishops to respond with courage and conviction to the direct challenge presented to them by Pope Francis’ remarks.

This narrow window of opportunity – of ordaining married men, of proven faith, wisdom and quality of life – needs to be grasped with vigour and
imagination if faith-communities are not to become priest-less and Mass-less parishes.

19 Responses

  1. ANNE FORDE

    In our parish we have just been told tonight that we will not have Mass in our church this Holy Thursday as the parish priest has responsibilities for 3 churches this year and due to his age and recent ill health he is not able to say it. I’m not blaming him but I’m very angry that, after our community collecting over €200,000 to refurbish our church over the past five years, we now face into a future where it’s becoming more clear we will not be able to continue to have Mass on a weekly basis.
    This is so sad after keeping our church alive through so many hard times- just when we need it most – we are not going to have it.
    At a recent cluster meeting we told the Bishop how upset we were about the cutbacks in the parish and his response was that we needed to pray for more vocations and he himself was hoping that young people would respond now to Pope Francis and come forward. I think that’s very unrealistic. Even if some young people agree to become priests there are not going to be enough to cover the smaller parishes. If the bishops job is to get priests then that’s what they need to do and they need to get real about how this will happen. If married men from the Church of England can join our church and say mass then it’s time we got more of them or got some of our own if we are serious about evangelization.
    I hope Pope Francis is told the truth about how bad the situation is now in Ireland and if the bishops don’t tell him then the ACP should write directly to him.

  2. Shaun

    Would the Catholic people of Ireland be willing to put their hands much deeper into their pockets in order to support the wives and families of married priests? Families are expensive, and so are wives. This is a very practical consideration. Unless one is only considering more mature men whose children are all mature and self-supporting, but even then, the costs would be increased somewhat.

  3. John

    Shaun, Are you claiming that Irish Catholics are so mean spirited and tight fisted and miserly that they only want underpaid, overworked, elderly, bachelors as priests?
    This is a very unfair depiction of Irish Catholics.
    This, at any rate, is only an attempt to deflect from the case for married priests, please argue the principle for and against the matter. Can you convince me that married men and women should not be priests? I have yet to hear a persuasive and credible argument.

  4. Shaun

    John, the door is closed on women priests. It’s not going to happen; there are fixed doctrinal and theological barriers. Not only that, but I would never tolerate a women priest. Never. As regards married men as priests, it is possible but not desirable. A priest should be devoted entirely to God and His people. With a wife and kids a priest would be divided and his family would have to come first. Marriage and Holy Orders are two big vocations, and I think few men could make a success of both at the same time. St. Paul himself stated as much in his Scriptural writings.

  5. John

    Shaun,
    I still await a persuasive and credible argument.
    I am genuinely struggling with this issue.
    Saying that “there are fixed doctrinal and theological barriers” doesn’t explain. It merely states a positional stance. I can’t see the reason for these barriers you speak of. Many many others in church don’t see them either.
    Someone needs to explain them if they exist.
    I genuinely worry that what we have in our church is an ingrained, maybe even unconscious for many people, cultural misogyny at work. Maybe we are blind to it just as in the past there was a blindness to slavery.
    You say “A priest should be devoted entirely to God and His people. With a wife and kids a priest would be divided and his family would have to come first.”
    Please reflect on what you are saying about the very many priests of the Latin rite who are in this position; those who have come, with full approval, from the Anglican tradition, not to mention the many many Catholic priests of Eastern rites who are in full communion with Rome. I fear you might unintentionally slight these very good and devoted priests.They are not second class priests.

  6. Shaun

    John, I’d love to have a close look at the day to day life of one of these Anglican converts, and their ‘work/life’ balance, or rather, their family/Church balance. How much time is there, really, for Confessions, Mass, visiting the sick, being on call at all hours, etc… – does anyone know? If I am dying and need Last Rites, will little Tommy’s footie practise come first? Visiting a tea party or cake sale on a Saturday afternoon or opening a village fete really isn’t the same as what a hard-working Catholic priest does. I think we need evidence and right now there is none that I can see. There seems to be a big cultural difference between the role of the Catholic priest and the Anglican Vicar. I’ve never seen the process of transformation so I don’t know how successful the transition would be. The true priest is in the trenches with his Church militants, not hob-nobbing with the Queen! And again, personally speaking, I won’t be tolerating any ‘women priest’, not now, not ever. And there’s lots like me.

  7. Julius

    Import priest from Africa. Irish priest were here to evangelize we can return to Island

  8. Helen

    Shaun, you say you would not tolerate women priests and that the door is closed for women to become priests.

    Well, because of this attitude (and not only you think along these lines) I and many other women have now removed ourselves from the Catholic Church and have instigated our own Christian community which includes men – as we do tolerate men as they too are made in the likeness and image of God our Creator.

    Still, it is a democratic world we live in – pity the Catholic Church isn’t though.

  9. Joe O'Leary

    Married and female minsters of the gospel and sacraments were stupidly excluded on the basis of traditionalist reflexes. The result is a dysfunctional church. The all-male Tridentine phalanx was a formation that could not be kept up under current conditions. The writing was on the wall when there was a huge exodus of priests affirming their right to marry after Vatican II. It was perfectly predictable that a huge percentage of those remaining would be gay (which in some circles has actually cemented resistance to married and women presbyters and bishops).
    .
    Lack of open discussion and the cultivation of taboos and shibboleths have left the church greatly impaired in handling the psychological difficulties of the stunted residue of the celibate epoch; no one drew the lines between loneliness and alcoholicism; the total mess of the child abuse scandal was the last straw in this culture of taboos, silence, and lies. So back to the drawing board — bring in the viri et mulieres probati and put the show back on the road.

  10. Paddy Ferry

    Shaun, what have you got against women?

  11. Maureen Saliba

    I am often confused with the argument that priests cannot be both a good priest as well as good husbands and fathers..The issue of “time” seems to arise most often. How could they do both?!
    If we go by that theory, then OB/GYN’s should never be allowed to marry. They are often called in the middle of the night to deliver babies etc..Also, military personnel; they should never marry, they are called to war and are away for long periods..Clearly their time is not always their own, yet they are able to do their jobs and take care of their families. There are many examples of courageous men such as these..
    If the Church is convinced that the celibate priesthood is the only way, then why do we accept Anglican’s who are married with families? As well, there are the Eastern Rite Catholics that are allowed to marry.
    I believe there should be 2 vocations to the priesthood: Married and Celibate. A priest should have a choice.
    There are many good men who would love to give their lives to God and the Church but celibacy holds them back, and that is unfortunate.
    I hope some day very soon the Church will ordain married priests, it is long overdue.

  12. Martin Mallon

    Shaun, St Paul disagrees with you:

    To those who want to interrogate me, this is my answer. Have we not every right to eat and drink? And every right to be accompanied by a Christian wife, like the other apostles, like the brothers of the Lord, and like Cephas? (1Cor 9:3-5)

  13. Paddy Ferry

    Joe@9, what an excellent and succinct analysis. I have only really begun to think about this issue of homosexual clergy in our Church relatively recently. Many years ago I had read a major article in Time Magazine, in the late 1970s I think, under the heading ” American Catholic presbyteries now lavender houses”. I had never heard the term “lavender house” before.

    However, decades passed before I really began to think about the issue again. I think reading the results of some of Fr. Donald Cossens’ research and reading what Richard Sipe has been writing about this stirred my curiosity. There seems to be a fairly well- established consensus now that more than 50% of our priests and bishops in Europe and America are gay men. While I am sure the point you make about so many priests leaving to marry after Vatican 11, thereby leaving a disproportionately greater number of homosexual clergy, is undoubtedly true, that is now a long time ago and you would have to think that there must be other factors involved.

    Now I am writing this as someone who has absolutely no problem with homosexual priests.

    I am, also, someone who feels our Church’s official position on homosexuality is appalling. You, Joe, brought to our notice — certainly to my notice — a couple of years ago “Homosexualatitis Problema”, Ratzinger’s document of 1986. I know three families, once devout, who will now never darken the door of a Catholic Church again because our Church brands their child ” intrinsically disordered”. You cannot even start to defend the official church position– nor would you want to.

    However, if 5% ,or perhaps slightly more, of humanity as a whole is homosexual, then to ask why there is such a disproportionately greater number of homosexual Catholic clergy must be regarded as a legitimate question.

  14. Ned Quinn

    I see that three bishops in England have spoken out in favour of the possibility of ordaining married men to the priesthood. Bishop Seamus Cunningham said he would be making his views known to the bishops’ conference during Low Week. He said that this would enable the Church to make use of the many gifts which married men could bring to ordained ministry and would alleviate some of the difficulties that result from the present shortage of priests.

    So, apparently, the Pope’s call to bishop to “have courage to speak out” is being heard by some by a few.Nc

  15. DOM

    Cardinal John Henry Newman, in his Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine, wrote “In a higher world it is otherwise, but here below to live is to change, and to be perfect is to have changed often”.
    The comments on this article vary from the ultra-conservative to the ultra-progressive, surely there has to be a’Via-Media’. For example, the question of financial support for married priests and their families is one that can be solved, it is not of the essence but having sufficient ordained priests for the future is so essential. Consider an ordained priest, who works for his living to provide for his family and dedicates himself to providing pastoral care and in particular saying Mass on Sundays and Holidays and where possible on some evenings. Difficult times can demand sacrifices and commitment to moving forward and accepting new solutions to very real problems. It would be wonderful if Newman’s advice to change could be taken seriously.
    DOM

  16. Anne

    I agree with Maureen @11.There are many professions where married men are required to be available to the public at short notice. Examples are Doctors especially.GPs, Gardai,etc. Priests would have the advantage of working from home a luxury most married men do not enjoy,not to mention a mortgage free home.Everyone has to learn to live on whatever salary goes with the job . Also many women have their own careers nowadays.

  17. richard o'donnell

    I think the Roman Catholic Church is going to be a very lonely place for Shaun (4) shortly.Also Shaun does not seem to have noticed that many Irish wives nowadays financially support themselves and their families, including their husbands/partners.

  18. Phil

    I thought everyone was required to be devoted to God and the people. Or have I misread the commandments ?

    Paul’s ‘Scriptural writings’ ?

    Shaun, do you actually read the Scriptures ?

    According to 1 Timothy 3: 1-7: (Qualification/s)

    ” …blameless husband of one wife

    temperate, sober-minded, of good behaviour, hospitable, able to teach, not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, gentle not quarrelsome, not covetous.

    One who rules his own house well.

    Not a novice and of good testimony among those who are outside (non Christian).”

    Then there’s Titus – and a few others.

    I don’t see your version of ‘Paul’s scriptural writings’ anywhere.

  19. Ed Flaherty

    I think of Jesus as “inclusive” not “exclusive”. A priesthood with exclusively unmarried celibate men does not make sense to me. I think most of the church’s teaching is passed down to us by women … most of us learned our catechism from our mothers. Wasn’t Mary, the Mother of God, a disciple? There are so many people capable of serving that are excluded from the priesthood. In the 21st century can’t we realize that all are equal … black, white, man, woman, married, unmarried … isn’t it time to end discrimination? Would Jesus support discrimination? The issue of time and family has been discussed and as it was said here; men and women in many professions handle both a job and a family. I chuckled at what John posted “Are Catholics so mean spirited and tight fisted and miserly that they only want underpaid, overworked, elderly, bachelors as priests?”. Have you taken a look at the congregation at Mass every week? We need to change the Catholic Church before all that is left are the elderly.


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