Thousands of leading Roman Catholics including Lord Patten and Baroness Williams are calling on the Church to allow women and married men into the priesthood.One wonders about the author's definition of 'leading Roman Catholics' when coupled with the word 'thousands'. Are there 'thousands of leading Roman Catholics' in the UK? Also, one wonders why the report is so shy in naming the supposed 'senior clergy' who have signed the petition. If they were chuchmen of any note, then I'm sure their names would have been part of the report.
Senior clergy are also among the 2,000 who have so far signed a petition demanding that action be taken to tackle the "major crisis" of dwindling numbers of Catholic priests.
Looking at the online petition, I note that the wording is as follows:
We, the undersigned Catholics, wish to express our support for our bishops who are preparing the Catholic Church in England and Wales for new forms of ministry and leadership. We request the Catholic Bishop Conference to place the following items on the agenda for their next plenary meeting.
We ask that the bishops:Needless to say, it muddies the water significantly when the issued of married priests is linked to that of women priests. One also notes the vague talk about 'ministry' and 'authority structures'.
1.Acknowledge that there is a major crisis in ministry within the Catholic Church in England and Wales.
2.Acknowledge that there is no doctrinal or theological barrier to the ordination of married men. Our Church has already ordained married former Anglical priests.
3. Take practical steps towards ordaining suitably qualified married men.
4. Encourage a wide-ranging discussion of the role of women in ministry and in the authority structures of the church, including the question of women's ordination.
5. Establish appropriate scriptural, theological and pastoral training programs [campus, distance and on-line]to prepare suitable women and men for ministry. These candidates should have the recommendation of their parishes and communities, and should participate in mentored pastoral work.
6.Invite priests who have left the ministry to return to , subject to negotiation with the local bishop active priesthood.
Point 6 is interesting - it's not unknown for priests who have left ministry to return. However, calling for some kind of general invitation to them and talk about 'negotiation with the local bishop' doesn't do justice to the delicate issue surrounding such a return. In general, the decision to leave active ministry is not taken lightly and there usually are serious issues at question.
Is there a crisis in ministry in much of the Western Church? Certainly. However, I suspect that Pope Benedict has a better awareness of what the real issues are. Let's be frank - if the life of the Church as a whole was healthy, then there would probably be no shortage of vocations. The fact that the organizers of this petition think that the question of women's ordination needs to be looked at again shows that their understanding of the faith is defective. They may be sincere and holy people, but that's a theological non-starter. Benedict said the following to the American bishops:
Let us be quite frank: the ability to cultivate vocations to the priesthood and the religious life is a sure sign of the health of a local Church. There is no room for complacency in this regard. God continues to call young people; it is up to all of us to to encourage a generous and free response to that call. On the other hand, none of us can take this grace for granted.One needn't be in thrall to an exalted idea of 'authority' to recognize the simple good sense in what the Pope is saying.
In the Gospel, Jesus tells us to pray that the Lord of the harvest will send workers. He even admits that the workers are few in comparison with the abundance of the harvest (cf. Mt 9:37-38). Strange to say, I often think that prayer - the unum necessarium - is the one aspect of vocations work which we tend to forget or to undervalue!
Nor am I speaking only of prayer for vocations. Prayer itself, born in Catholic families, nurtured by programs of Christian formation, strengthened by the grace of the sacraments, is the first means by which we come to know the Lord's will for our lives.
And in other news...
Seraphic frequently blogs on free speech and religion issues in Canada. Today is no exception and she points to an article by a priest who is starting to worry. She (Seraphic, not the priest... see above) writes:
When I was 19 and heavily into the Canadian pro-life movement, my friends and I indulged in a little fantasy about persecution and the end times. I remember one adult pro-lifer who was allegedly told by police that if he didn't stop his kids from chaining themselves to clinic furniture, they'd be taken away from him. And there was some post-rosary conversation about demonic persecution or whatnot. One day there would be a big persecution of Christians, it was in Revelations, etc., etc.
I didn't really listen. Searching Revelations for references to current events is not really a Catholic thing anyway. Yes, I thought that eventually--at the end of the world--things would get really tough for Christians. But not any time soon. Even the pro-choice activists screaming hate and blasphemy couldn't make me believe that. I mean, this is Canada.
Well, well, well. Was I wrong?
When the "Catholic" Prime Minister Paul Martin shoved gay marriage down the throats of his cabinet, I wrote my frantic letter to my MP. After I finished it, I thought the man would write me off as a weirdo. Gay marriage, I said, would open Christians (and orthodox Jews, and observant Muslims) to all kinds of persecution. I found my own letter paranoid. But it sure looks like I was right after all.