February 24, 2005

A solution to the priest shortage

Boston Globe

By Danielle Kinkel and John Kinkel | February 24, 2005

NOW THAT former priest Paul Shanley has been convicted and the pope is out of the hospital, Catholics can face other troubling realities. But time is running out. The church is in deep trouble, and we're not even talking about the clergy sexual abuse scandal. Over the last 25 years it has seen a steady erosion of the priest population. The latest figures are hard to think about. But Lent is a time to deal with reality.

For the first time in recent years, statistical reports have shown that the Roman Catholic Church has a shortage of about 160,000 priests worldwide, if we use staffing standards of 1978 when John Paul II became pope. US churches need about 10,000 priests. The number of priests has remained relatively stagnant during this pontiff's rule, but church membership has grown by 250 million. In the United States, for every one priest who is ordained, three are dying, retiring, or leaving for various reasons.

To reverse this trend, bishops must bring the church out of its tailspin. The focal point is figuring out how to recruit and train new priests -- and quickly. Otherwise, more churches will have to close.What can be done?

First, everyone knows that ordaining women is a papal no-no and will not be acted upon in the near future.

Second, calling back the 20,000 US priests who have left to marry in the last 30 years is not going to fly. The reason is that the church forgives, but it does not forget. The bishops do not want a new crop of priests to marry because the bishops have taken a vow of celibacy and it would look like backsliding. The thought of priests searching for soulmates on eHarmony.com is shocking to most bishops. Plan B to the rescue.

Posted by kshaw at February 24, 2005 07:24 AM