October 14, 2005

Priests Urged to Recruit Young Men for the Pulpit

The New York Times

Published: October 15, 2005
Faced with wounded morale and diminishing numbers in the priesthood, Roman Catholic bishops in the United States began a program yesterday to remind priests why they serve and to enlist them in a recruitment campaign.

In past generations, it was common for American priests to encourage young men to make lifetime commitments to the church. But a recent poll by the bishops found that one out of three priests were doing that now, said Bishop Blase J. Cupich of Rapid City, S.D., chairman of the bishops' committee on vocations.

"This program," Bishop Cupich said, "aims at having priests step back for a moment, reflect on their own service and their own vocation call and then not only use that as an opportunity to renew themselves, but also to encourage them to share their story with others who can then be called to follow in their footsteps."

The bishops made their announcement as their counterparts from around the world met at a three-week synod in Rome. Among the topics being debated there is how to deal with the worldwide shortage of priests. Although some bishops support allowing priests to marry, many others oppose lifting the celibacy requirement.

The shortage of priests is so dire that more than 3,200 United States parishes are without resident priests, according to the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University.

In 25 years, the number of priests in the United States has declined 26 percent, to 42,500, as the number of Roman Catholics rose 29 percent, to 65 million.

The Rev. Edward J. Burns, executive director of the bishops' Secretariat for Vocations and Priestly Formation, said priests in a recent workshop said that among the reasons so few actively promoted the priesthood were low morale, fear of rejection and the sexual abuse scandals.

In response to the scandals, the Vatican has been wrestling with whether to admit gay men to seminaries. Vatican investigators have been instructed to visit each seminary in the United States to look for "evidence of homosexuality" and see whether seminarians are being properly prepared to live celibately.

Posted by kshaw at October 14, 2005 11:20 PM