Catholic Church must reform the priesthood


Pope Francis delivers his address during the weekly general audience in the Paul VI Hall at The Vatican, Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2022.

I join with the Rev. Lawrence M. Johnson in thanking our priests for their ministry and dedication (”Giving thanks to my fellow priests quietly doing good work,” Aug. 21). I do, however, believe that we must acknowledge the very serious problems in the Catholic priesthood that need to be fixed as soon as possible. As a parole and probation agent and supervisor in Baltimore, I worked alongside men who had spent several years in the seminary as well as men who had been ordained but had decided to leave pastoral ministry after several years. I also worked with men who left our agency to become priests and were eventually ordained. I can’t imagine anyone wishing to become a priest in today’s environment. The job is simply too hard and priests are spread too thin. Any checking of the assignments will note that a single priest is often assigned to more than one parish. These are euphemistically called pastorates. Also, it should be noted that we would be in even worse shape if it were not for missionary priests arriving from Africa, Asia and Latin America. The current situation is not sustainable.

There are two main factors causing this institutional shortage of priestly personnel: the celibacy requirement and the refusal to ordain women. The first is totally hypocritical as there are married priests in the Eastern Rite and more recently Pope Benedict allowed married Episcopalian and Lutheran ministers to be ordained. Only single men or men with dead wives can be ordained. So why do we have this inconsistent prohibition regarding married priests? There is some debate as to whether any of the 12 apostles were married. It is believed that Saint Peter, the first pope, was or had been married. Of course, why is it necessary to pursue this line of theological debate as there are currently married priests in both the Eastern and Latin Rite? Problem solved, but not so fast. The Catholic Church is hurting Catholics by refusing to ordain married priests. It is simply being defiant.

The ordination of women has become a thorny issue for no valid reason. There has been talk of ordaining women as deacons which would ensure the continuation of women as second class Catholics. We call this throwing the dog a bone. Why aren’t women satisfied for being less than men? Humility is a virtue — for women. What will they want next? This is a confrontation of hormones and genitalia versus intellect, heart and soul. It’s hard to imagine men who love their daughters and other women family members and friends accepting this cruel and unjust discrimination.

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