Monday, November 14, 2011

The need for new kinds of priests

by José Manuel Vidal (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Religión Digital

The data is chilling. It was unveiled yesterday during the presentation of the Diocesan Church Day in Zamora: The average age of its priests is over 68. Specifically, the Diocese of Zamora is composed of 111 active priests, to whom can be added another 50 retired ones, whose average age stands at 68.7, although most of the priests are aged between 70 and 80. And Zamora is not an exception among the Spanish diocese.

The average age of the Spanish clergy as a whole isn't clear. Various statistics circulate which place it at 64 and go up to 67. In any case, twice as many priests die as enter, while about two hundred leave the priesthood each year. There are clerics who have to care for twenty-five parishes and towns that see a priest only once a year.

The priests are coming to an end and increasingly fewer remain, but the institution still stands idly by, living nostalgically in the past and gambling on a single model of how to be a priest and on mandatory celibacy. If the Eucharist is the center of Christian life and we don't want to leave the faithful without it, it's essential to open the door to new priestly models.

Repealing the law of mandatory celibacy and establishing optional celibacy is no longer enough. It's urgent to take steps toward new models of priests, from married priests to women priests. From priests (viri probati) elected by the community and at its service to a kind of minister-priest, who is not even remotely official, to become truly the servant of the community.

If the Church will not make the transition gradually, reality will force her to make it suddenly. Or even rebellion itself by grassroots faithful which has already begun, as evidenced by the Catholics of Austria. And they'll have to put up with it. It's no longer worth looking elsewhere, not even patching with imported vocations. New ministries for a new era. So that the salt of the Gospel doesn't lose its flavor.

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