Web editor's note: Do follow the link to Catholics for Ministry to see what our brothers and sisters in Australia are doing about church reform.
July 12, 2008
More than 200 Australian Catholics have written to Pope Benedict, asking him to start a 30-year trial in Australia of training and ordaining married men as priests to help ease the crisis in numbers.
The letters ask the Pope, who arrives in Sydney tomorrow for the week-long World Youth Day festival, to ordain married men immediately and consider ordaining women.
The campaign was organised by Catholics for Ministry, which last year sent a petition from nearly 17,000 Catholics to Australia's bishops, making similar requests.
"Our church is crumbling before our eyes," wrote a mother of six who is hosting overseas pilgrims. "We look at our community and see our priests struggling. I look at the anger and concern of tired priests and bishops and also see the real hurt, sadness and even anger of parishioners who are denied the sacraments."
A South Australian layman wrote: "Holy father, it is very easy to stay behind the walls of the Vatican and ignore what the people of Australia are trying to tell you, as does the emu with its head in the sand. In almost every parish in Australia there are ordained priests sitting in the pews. Their only fault — they got married."
The letters — written by laymen and women, church workers, people in religious orders, married deacons and priests — ask the Pope to intervene directly. They have been sent to Rome, according to organiser Terry Curtin, because the Pope's impenetrable security means he cannot be reached in Australia.
The letter writers say Australia does not have enough priests now to celebrate Mass and the sacraments, that parishes are being closed or merged, and that some rural priests must travel more than 600 kilometres every weekend to offer Mass.
The average age of priests is now 61, and too few are being trained to replace those who will soon retire.
The writers ask that the church in Australia be allowed to mount a 30-year experiment in which "carefully selected and thoroughly trained" married men are ordained.
They say that women do three-quarters of the pastoral work in Australia, but are not represented among senior church leadership.
And a humorous note on security in Sydney, courtesy of the Sydney Morning Herald:
A clerical first
Will the Pope's special message for World Youth Day be an announcement that the Catholic Church has given the go-ahead for the ordination for women priests?
We were forced to wonder if Rome had shifted on the controversial issue when a colleague, Kelly Burke, wandered into work to pick up her new youth day media accreditation pass. Much to her surprise she found the document bore a photograph of herself which was identified by the words "Monsignour Kelly Burke". To ward off any possible repeat of the Chaser's APEC jape last year, Burke, like thousands of others including priests and nuns, was required to submit to rigorous checking to obtain accreditation. And this included a NSW Police check. Declaring Burke a monsignor could raise serious security issues in these dangerous times. But the police have had long experience at spotting the differences between men and women, and as they issued Burke's pass without qualms, we can only conclude she is the first woman to be ordained by the Catholic Church. It's highly likely she was able to leapfrog priestly duties straight to monsignor status due to her experience as the Herald's former religious affairs reporter.