January 14, 2008
Celibacy has been blamed for the declining number of Catholic priests in rural Victorian parishes with nearly half the number of priests in country areas forced to manage multiple congregations.
A recent study by the Christian Research Association has found ordained Catholic, Anglican and Protestant clergy work more than 50 hours a week, the Herald Sun reports.
Ballarat Bishop Peter Connors said it was common for priests to travel more than 200km for Sunday mass.
"I don't want to see fellows worn into the ground because they're so exhausted, but if they are young enough and have good people skills then they'll enjoy their ministry," Bishop Connors said.
According to the Pastoral Projects Office, the priesthood in rural Victoria has decreased by 9 per cent since 2001.
Professor of Intercultural Studies at RMIT University Des Cahill said the Catholic Church in particular was paying the price, because of its celibate priesthood.
"This is a situation that has been coming for a long time and was very predictable 20 years ago, but the Church has not thought creatively enough in addressing it, nor stood up to Rome in regard to the issue of celibate and married clergy," Prof Cahill said.
"Within some of these smaller and medium sized towns, the most senior Catholic official in the town is the principal of the local primary school who has not been trained nor wants to take on a broader pastoral role beyond that of the school.
"It results from the failure to recruit celibate clergy in sufficient numbers over the past 35 years."
Farmers, teachers fill clergy gaps, (Herald Sun 14/01/08)