Priest editor questions mandatory celibacy for priests

“Is the man-made law of celibacy more important than people’s right to the Eucharist and to proper pastoral care?” asks the Editor of Reality magazine in the November editorial.

In his article, entitled:  ‘Facing up to the priest shortage’, Fr Gerry Moloney, CSsR, writes that the Year for Priests comes at a challenging and difficult time for priests as the “fall-out from the sex abuse and other scandals continues to reverberate”. In this context, the Redemptorist notes that “clergy are ageing, their workload is increasing, vocations are scarce, and morale has sunk.”

Discussing the impact of the vocations crisis, Fr Moloney writes: “We all know there is a vocations crisis and that it’s getting worse.”  He says the consequence of this is that “an increasing number of Catholics worldwide are unable to participate in a Sunday or weekday Mass.” Furthermore, parishes are being clustered or subsumed into other parishes. Worryingly, the Editor of Reality suggests that priests are “becoming mere sacrament-dispensers, moving from parish to parish administering the sacraments, with little or no time for the comprehensive pastoral care of their flock which is demanded by Canon law.

This, writes Fr Moloney, is “not good for priests, it is not good for those to whom they minister and it is not building up the life of the Church”.

Welcoming the introduction of the permanent diaconate in some dioceses and the increased pastoral involvement of lay men and women as a way of easing the burden on priests, he says it is good but “more is needed”.

In a forthright statement, Fr Moloney says: “The issue of mandatory celibacy has to be looked at”. Recognising that married priests already minister in the Church through former Anglicans who joined the Catholic Church, Fr Moloney asks if the thousands of men who left the priesthood in order to marry could be readmitted. He further asks whether the Year for Priests has anything special to say to women?

He concludes that the Year for Priests is “a wonderful opportunity to celebrate our priests and the work they do but it must also allow for an open, honest discussion about the priest shortage, and what the Holy Spirit might be saying to us about this crisis.”

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