The Catholic Church needs married priests now

— At the Last Supper, Jesus said, ‘Do this in memory of me.’ He did not say, ‘Be celibate.’

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Without the Eucharist, it seems obvious: There is no Catholic Church. It feeds us as a community of believers and transforms us into the body of Christ active in the world today. But according to Catholic theology, we cannot have the Eucharist without priests.

Sadly, in many parts of the world there is a Eucharistic famine, precisely because there are no priests to celebrate the Eucharist. This problem has been going on for decades and is only getting worse.

Last year, the Vatican reported that while the number of Catholics worldwide increased by 16.2 million in 2021, the number of priests decreased by 2,347. As a result, on average there were 3,373 Catholics for every priest in the world (including retired priests), a rise of 59 people per priest.

The Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate reports that in 1965 there were 59,426 priests in the United States. In 2022, there were only 34,344 . Over much the same period, the number of Catholics has increased to 72.5 million in 2022, from 54 million in 1970.

Priests are also getting older. In 2012, a CARA study found that the average age of priests rose to 63 in 2009, from 35 in 1970. When a Jesuit provincial, the regional director of the order, told Jesuits at a retirement home not long ago that there was a waiting list to get in, a resident wag responded, “We are dying as fast as we can.”

Archbishop Gregory Aymond conducts the procession to lead a livestreamed Easter Mass in St. Louis Cathedral in New Orleans, April 12, 2020. The FBI has opened a widening investigation into Roman Catholic sex abuse in New Orleans, looking specifically at whether priests took children across state lines to molest them. The FBI declined to comment, as did the Louisiana State Police, which is assisting in the inquiry. The Archdiocese of New Orleans declined to discuss the federal investigation. “I’d prefer not to pursue this conversation,” Aymond told AP. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, File)
Archbishop Gregory Aymond conducts the procession to lead a livestreamed Easter Mass in St. Louis Cathedral in New Orleans, April 12, 2020.

In many rural areas of the United States, priests no longer staff parishes but simply visit parishes once a month or less frequently. In 1965, there were only 530 parishes without priests. By 2022, there were 3,215 according to CARA.

All of these numbers are only going to get worse.


In the early 1980s, the archbishop of Portland came to a rural parish to tell them they would no longer have a priest and that most Sundays they would have a Scripture service, not a Mass.

A parishioner responded, “Before the Second Vatican Council, you told us that if we did not go to Mass on Sunday, we would go to hell. After the council, you told us that the Eucharist was central to the life of the church. Now you are telling us that we will be just like every other Bible church in our valley.”

Many American bishops have tried to deal with the shortage by importing foreign priests to staff parishes, but Vatican statistics show that the number of priests worldwide is also decreasing. New U.S. immigration rules are also going to make it more difficult to employ foreign priests in the United States.

The Catholic hierarchy has simply ignored the obvious solution to this problem for decades. Under Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI, the discussion of married priests was forbidden. Leaders in the hierarchy tended to live in large cities where the shortage had less of an impact than in rural areas.

Even Pope Francis, who expressed his respect for married clergy in Eastern Catholic churches, did not respond positively when the bishops meeting at the Synod for the Pan-Amazon Region voted 128-41 to allow married deacons to become priests. At the recent meeting of the Synod on Synodality, the issue of married priests was hardly mentioned.


The decline in the number of vocations has many explanations depending on whom you ask. Conservatives blame the reforms coming out of the Second Vatican Council.

Certainly, the council did emphasize the holiness of marriage and the vocation of the laity. Priests seemed less special after the council. Prior to the council, only a priest could touch the consecrated host. Today, lay ministers of Communion do so at nearly every Mass.

However, sociologists note that vocations decline when families have fewer children and when children have greater educational and employment opportunities.

Thus, in a family with only one or two children, the parents prefer grandchildren to a son who is a priest. And, in the past, priests were the most educated person in the community and therefore had great status. Today, parishes can have many lawyers, doctors and other professionals, and becoming a priest does not confer the status it used to.

Catholic priests participate in a thanksgiving Mass for the elevation of Archbishop of Hyderabad Anthony Poola to cardinal, at St. Mary's high school in Hyderabad, India, Thursday, Sept. 15, 2022. Archbishop Poola is the first member of the Dalit community, considered the lowest rung of India's caste system, to become a cardinal. ( AP Photo/Mahesh Kumar A.)
Catholic priests participate in a thanksgiving Mass for the elevation of Archbishop of Hyderabad Anthony Poola to cardinal, at St. Mary’s high school in Hyderabad, India, Thursday, Sept. 15, 2022.

Those who point to the continued increases in vocations in Africa and Asia need to listen to the sociologists. Already, there are fewer vocations in urban areas of India where families have fewer children and more opportunities for education are available. Africa and Asia are not the future of the church. They are simply slower in catching up with modernity.

Anticlericalism has also impacted vocations, first in Europe and now in America. Priests are no longer universally respected. They are often treated with ridicule and contempt. Being a priest is countercultural.

Despite this, there are still many Catholics who are willing to take up this vocation. People are being called to priesthood, but the hierarchy is saying no because those who feel called are married, gay or women.

A 2006 survey by Dean Hoge found that nearly half of the young men involved in Catholic campus ministry had “seriously considered” ministry as a priest, but most also want to be married and raise a family.

Having a married clergy will not solve all the church’s problems, as we can see in Protestant churches. Married ministers are involved in sex abuse, have addictions and can have the same clerical affectations as any celibate priest. But every employer will tell you that if you increase the number of candidates for a job, the quality of the hire goes up.

Nor is allowing priests to marry simply about making them happier. For the Catholic Church it is a question of whether we are going to have the Eucharist or not. At the Last Supper, Jesus said, “Do this in memory of me.” He did not say, “Be celibate.”

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Despite reforms, victims say church’s in-house processes to handle sex abuse cases retraumatizes

Pope Francis prays at the beginning of the third day of a Vatican’s conference on dealing with sex abuse by priests, at the Vatican, Saturday, Feb. 23, 2019. Five years ago this week, Francis convened an unprecedented summit of bishops from around the world to impress on them that clergy abuse was a global problem and they needed to address it, but now, five years later, despite new church laws to hold bishops accountable and promises to do better, the Catholic Church’s in-house legal system and pastoral response to victims has proven again to be incapable of dealing with the problem.

By Nicole Winfield

Five years ago this week, Pope Francis convened an unprecedented summit of bishops from around the world to impress on them that clergy sexual abuse was a global problem and that they needed to do something about it.

Over four days, these bishops heard harrowing tales of trauma from victims, learned how to investigate and sanction pedophile priests, and were warned that they too would face punishment if they continued to cover for abusers.

Yet five years later, despite new church laws to hold bishops accountable and promises to do better, the Catholic Church’s in-house legal system and pastoral response to victims has proven incapable of dealing with the problem.

In fact, victims, outside investigators and even in-house canon lawyers increasingly say the church’s response, crafted and amended over two decades of unrelenting scandal around the world, is downright damaging to the very people already harmed — the victims. They are often retraumatized when they summon the courage to report their abuse through the church’s silence, stonewalling and inaction.

“It’s a horrific experience. And it’s not something that I would advise anyone to do unless they are prepared to have not just their world, but their sense of being turned upside down,” said Brian Devlin, a former Scottish priest whose internal, and then public accusations of sexual misconduct against the late Scottish Cardinal Keith O’Brien marked the cardinal’s downfall.

“You become the troublemaker. You become the whistleblower. And I can well understand that people who go through that process end up with bigger problems than they had before they started it.”

At the end of his 2019 summit, Francis vowed to confront abusive clergy with “the wrath of God.” Within months, he passed a new law requiring all abuse to be reported in-house (but not to police) and mapped out procedures to investigate bishops who abuse or protect predator priests.

But five years later, the Vatican has offered no statistics on the number of bishops investigated or sanctioned. Even the pope’s own child protection advisory commission says structural obstacles are harming victims and preventing basic justice.

“Recent publicly reported cases point to tragically harmful deficiencies in the norms intended to punish abusers and hold accountable those whose duty is to address wrongdoing,” the commission said after its last assembly. “We are long overdue in fixing the flaws in procedures that leave victims wounded and in the dark both during and after cases have been decided.”

At the 2019 summit, the norms enacted by the U.S. Catholic Church for sanctioning priests and protecting minors were held up as the gold standard. The U.S. bishops adopted a get tough policy after the U.S. abuse scandal exploded with the 2002 Boston Globe “Spotlight” series.

But even in the U.S., victims and canon lawyers say the system isn’t working, and that’s not even taking into consideration the new frontier of abuse cases involving adult victims. Some call it “charter fatigue,” or a desire to move beyond the scandal that spawned the 2002 Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.

The Rev. Tom Doyle, a U.S. canon lawyer who worked for the Vatican embassy in Washington but now provides legal consulting for victims, says he no longer even advises they pursue church justice and instead work through secular courts.

Why? Because “the church will screw them every which way from Sunday,” he said.

Nearly every investigation into abuse in Catholic Church that has been published in recent years – church-commissioned reports in France and Germany, government inquests in Australia, a parliamentary one in Spain and law enforcement investigations in the U.S. — has identified the church’s in-house legal system as a big part of the problem.

While some reforms have been made – Pope Francis lifted the official pontifical secret covering abuse cases in 2019 – core issues remain.

—The structural conflict of interest. According to church procedures, a bishop or religious superior conducts an investigation into allegations that one of his priests raped a child and then renders judgement. And yet the bishop or superior has a vested interest in his priest, since the priest is considered to be a spiritual son in whom the bishop has invested time, money and love.

It is difficult to think of any other legal system in the world where someone with a personal, paternal relationship with one party in a dispute could be expected to objectively and fairly render judgment in it.

The independent commission that investigated the abuse scandal in the French church said such a structural conflict of interest “appears, humanly speaking, untenable.”

Even the pope’s own Synod of Bishops came to a similar conclusion. In its November synthesis document after a monthlong meeting, the world’s bishops identified the conflict between a bishop’s role as father and judge in abuse cases as a problem and called for the possibility of assigning the task of judgement to “other structures.”

—The lack of fundamental rights for victims. In canonical abuse investigations, victims are mere third-party witnesses to their cases. They cannot participate in any of the secret proceedings, have no access to case files and no right to even know if a canonical investigation has been started, much less its status.

Only as a result of a Francis reform in 2019 are victims allowed to know the ultimate outcome of their case, but nothing else.

The Spanish ombudsman, tasked by the country’s congress of deputies to investigate abuse in the Spanish Catholic Church, said victims are often retraumatized by such a process, which it said falls far short of national or international standards.

The French experts went even further, arguing that the Holy See is essentially in breach of its obligations as a U.N. observer state and member of the Council of Europe, which requires it to uphold the basic human rights of victims.

— No published case law. The Vatican’s sex abuse office doesn’t publish any of its decisions about how clergy sexual abuse cases have been adjudicated, even in redacted form.

That means that a bishop investigating an accusation against one of his priests has no way of knowing how the law has been applied in a similar case. It means canon law students have no case law to study or cite. It means academics, journalists and even victims have no way of knowing what types of behaviour gets sanctioned and whether penalties are being imposed arbitrarily or not.

The legal experts who investigated abuse in the Munich, Germany church said the publication of canonical decisions would help eliminate uncertainties for victims in how church law was being applied; Australia’s Royal Commission, the highest form of inquest in the country, similarly called for the redacted publication of its decisions and to provide written reasons for their decisions “in a timely manner.”

In-house, canon lawyers for years have complained that the lack of published cases was deepening doubts about the credibility and effectiveness of the churches’ response to the church scandal.

“All we can conclude is that this lack of systematic publication of the jurisprudence of the highest courts in the church is unworthy of a true legal system,” canon lawyer Kurt Martens told a conference in Rome late last year.

Monsignor John Kennedy, who heads the Vatican office that investigates abuse cases, said his staff was working diligently to process cases and had received praise from individual bishops, entire conferences who visit and religious superiors.

“We don’t talk about what we do in public but the feedback we receive and the comments from our members who recently met for the plenary are very encouraging. The pope also expressed his gratitude for the great work that is done in silence,” he said in a message to AP.

Complete Article HERE!

Pope Francis accused of opposing reforms to tackle clerical sexual abuse

— Activists say pontiff also ‘turning a blind eye’ to priests who assault nuns and force them to have abortions

Activists for the survivors of clerical sexual abuse say Francis has failed to fulfil his promises and new rules have made little impact.

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Pope Francis has been accused of opposing reforms that would seriously address the problem of clerical sexual abuse of children and vulnerable adults, while “turning a blind eye” to priests who assault nuns and force them to have abortions.

Francis promised to “spare no effort” to bring to justice paedophile priests and the bishops who covered up their crimes at an unprecedented summit in February 2019, an event that was supposed to mark a turning point in the handling of a scandal that has embroiled the Catholic church for decades.

A week before the summit, Francis became the first pontiff to publicly admit that priests had also sexually abused nuns, some of whom shared testimony during the event, and pledged to do more to fight the problem.

Three months later, the Vatican established procedures for every diocese to report allegations of abuse and foster accountability for the actions of bishops and cardinals. Francis also abolished the rule of “pontifical secrecy” – a kind of code of confidentiality – in an effort to improve transparency in sexual abuse cases.

Five years on, activists for the survivors of clerical sexual abuse say Francis has failed to fulfil his promises and the new rules have made little impact.

On Tuesday Anne Barrett Doyle, a co-founder of BishopAccountability, which tracks alleged clergy sexual abuse cases, cited 10 cases since 2019 that allegedly show the pope favoured accused bishops and clerics over their victims. The cases include that of Marko Rupnik, who was excommunicated in 2020 after accusations of sexual and psychological assault against nuns dating back three decades, but in 2023 was accepted into a diocese in his native Slovenia.

“It would be one thing if we were coming here to talk about an overall good record with an occasional inconsistency, but we’re not, we’re talking about a continued pattern of the pope backing accused abusers,” Doyle told reporters in Rome. “It’s not that this pope doesn’t have his heart in reform or is maybe being blocked by other members of the curia. I believe he is opposed to reform – his measures have been designed to produce little impact.”

Meanwhile, the Vatican had been aware of the abuse of nuns by priests for decades before the public acknowledgment by Francis, but “nothing has come of his commitment” to fight the issue, said Doris Reisinger, an activist and survivor of clerical sexual abuse who authored a research paper on the girls and women impregnated by priests and their subsequent forced abortions.

“While the pope publicly condemns abortion, comparing it to hiring a hitman, he turns a blind eye to the priests who force nuns into having abortions,” said Reisinger.

Reisinger said that while some nuns had come forward about abuse since 2019, they were mostly too afraid to speak out. There is scant care for abused nuns, many of whom have been thrown out of their orders and made homeless, and under canon law they “have no status at all”, she said.

“The pope has admitted abuse of nuns but he has not acted on it,” said Reisinger. “And we have never heard a pope or bishop acknowledge coerced abortion at the hands of priests. They always treat abortion as a female issue yet they have never spoken about priests forcing abortions, despite knowing it is going on.”

In her research, Reisinger had come across cases in which the priest paid for an abortion, including one occasion when money from the offertory collection was used.

The Vatican has been approached for comment.

Complete Article HERE!

End celibacy and bar on married priests

— Or risk having none in the western world in 30 years, former President Mary McAleese argues

Former Irish President Mary McAleese.

Trinity University Chancellor McAleese responding to comments by influential Vatican figure suggesting revising celibacy requirement

By John Breslin

The Catholic Church must end celibacy and the bar on married priests or there will be none left in the western world in 30 years time, former President Mary McAleese has said.

Mrs McAleese, currently chancellor of Trinity University, was speaking after a highly influential figure within the Vatican suggesting revising the requirement that priests be celibate.

Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta, an adviser to Pope Francis, said: “If it were up to me, I would revise the requirement that priests have to be celibate. Experience has shown me that this is something we need to seriously think about.”

Senior Vatican figure believes conversation on celibacy of priests must start
Archbishop Charles Scicluna

He told the Times of Malta: “This is probably the first time I’m saying it publicly and it will sound heretical to some people.”

“I am delighted he came out and said it because he is regarded very, very highly by pretty much everybody in the church,” said Ms McAleese, a canon lawyer and also a supporter of ordaining women.

Archbishop Scicluna first came to prominence in 2018 when he was tasked with investigating allegations of a sexual abuse cover-up in Chile.

This followed what Ms McAleese described as one of Pope Francis’ worst visits of his papacy, during which he essentially denied there was any evidence supporting the allegations of a cover up by senior clergy.

After their investigation in Chile, Scicluna and colleague Monsignor Jordi Bertomeu delivered a 2,600-page dossier which prompted the Pope to apologize for mishandling the issue.

“It established his credentials and integrity….when he speaks, people listen,” said Ms McAleese.

Many within the Vatican agree here are no theological arguments in favour of celibacy and that the bar on priests was introduced a millennia ago in order to protect the property rights of the church.

Pope Francis applauds while he remembers late Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI who died a year ago (Andrew Medichini/AP)
Pope Francis

Pope Francis has agreed there is no formal church doctrine on celibacy and marriage, and admitted a future pontiff may change the rules, but he has decided not to do so, Ms McAleese said, adding she believes the most “interesting possibilities” for the next Pope are from the “excellent leadership” in Belgium and Germany.

Proposals in recent years, ruled out by the Pope, include allowing elderly married men in the Amazon to be ordained to cover a chronic shortage in remote areas and to let the previously ordained who have married to return to church duties.

The latter are still regarded as ordained but Ms McAleese said proposals to allow older men to become priests or for ones to return “does not really solve anything”.

An entirely new cohort of eligible, younger, men are needed, she said, adding a warning if the status quo is maintained the church will be “looking at the western world in 30 years where there will not be any priests”.

Opposition to married priests – and ordaining women – is strongest in the more conservative “global south”, where the church is still growing and it is argued celibacy allows a man to devote himself entirely to the church.

Ms McAleese is not impressed, comparing the situation to Ireland 100 years ago. Young men, often surrounded by poverty, saw the church as a route to education, a job, status and influence, Ms McAleese said.

“And we know where that ends up,” she said.

Complete Article HERE!

Pope, cardinals continue discussion of role of women in the Church

Pope Francis and his international Council of Cardinals continue their discussion of women’s role in the church at the Vatican Feb. 5, 2024.

By Cindy Wooden

With the help of a woman Anglican bishop, a Salesian sister and a consecrated virgin, Pope Francis and his international Council of Cardinals devoted the first morning of their February meeting “to deepening their reflection, begun last December, on the role of women in the church,” the Vatican press office said.

Matteo Bruni, director of the Vatican press office, said Feb. 5 the pope and cardinals heard from Bishop Jo Bailey Wells, deputy secretary-general of the Anglican Communion; Salesian Sister Linda Pocher, a professor of Christology and Mariology at Rome’s Pontifical Faculty of Educational Sciences “Auxilium,” and Giuliva Di Berardino, a consecrated virgin and liturgist from the Diocese of Verona, Italy.

The pope and council were to continue meeting the afternoon of Feb. 5 and all day Feb. 6, focusing on other themes, Bruni said.

The Vatican has not shared details about the discussions on the role of women in the church nor the texts of presentations made at the meeting.

Cardinal Gérald C. Lacroix of Québec was present at the meeting; in Jan. 30 video message said he would “temporarily withdraw from activities in my diocese” after he was accused in a civil lawsuit of inappropriately touching a 17-year-old girl on two occasions in the 1980s. He has denied the allegations.

The Vatican press office did not comment on the cardinal’s participation in the council meeting.

In addition to Cardinal Lacroix, those at the February meeting included Cardinals Juan José Omella Omella of Barcelona; Seán P. O’Malley of Boston; Fridolin Ambongo Besungu of Kinshasa, Congo; Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state; Oswald Gracias of Mumbai, India; Sérgio da Rocha of São Salvador da Bahia, Brazil; Fernando Vérgez Alzaga, president of the commission governing Vatican City State; and Jean-Claude Hollerich of Luxembourg.

Complete Article HERE!