Parishes are a common practice in the Catholic Church. They are a division of a diocese which has its own church and members of the clergy. A parish priest is appointed and entrusted with the spiritual care of his parishioners. In 2008, 49,631 parishes in the world had no resident priest or pastor (CARA services. Frequently requested Church statistics). Parishes without a priest can cause great difficulties for people. The role of a priest within a parish is vital; a priest is someone who is there for the sick and the dying, a shoulder to cry in times of need and a priest allows parishioners access to each of the seven sacraments.
In recent times the total number of priests has decreased and the average age of serving priests has risen. This fact, coupled with the ever increasing world population size has led to a large need for a new generation of priests. (The number of Catholics in the world nearly doubled between 1970 and 2008, growing from 653 Million to 1.166 Billion, the total number of priests decreased from 419,728 to 409,166. (CARA services. Frequently requested Church statistics).
We live in a society which is largely driven by money and filled with many indulgences. The life of a priest, simple and modest, can therefore seem a less attractive option to young men. Whilst some young men of today’s generation still hold a great faith in God, faith alone is not enough. It takes a lot of conviction, sacrifice and will to immerse oneself so deeply into religion. Forsaking life experiences such as marriage and children is too big of an obstacle for most people to overcome and so many disregard devoting their life to God by way of becoming a priest.
Unless a solution is found to make the priesthood more attractive to individuals, the problem of priestless parishes will not only remain, but worsen.
Priesthood in the Roman Catholic Church has traditionally been a respected and highly praised lifestyle, with many regarding it as the “highest” and most holy way of life. However, recently this image has been shattered by the media. Priests, who did not make a true personal commitment to celibacy, brought upon themselves disgrace and put the Church under scrutiny. Many believed it the fault of the Church for putting so many rules on a priest’s lifestyle and claimed that it was this unnatural lifestyle which led to these events.
Without agreeing with this point, I am of the belief that if the Catholic Church should make changes to the priestly ministry. One simple change would be to allow priests the freedom of marriage if they so choose. This change alone may be enough to solve problem of priestless parishes. There has been much discussion regarding this matter recently, with a rejected proposal being put forward to the Vatican II (Cf the Life light Module)
The Vatican II recently redefined the role of the bishop, yet no specific changes were made to the role of a priest (Life light courses). If we continue with the traditional form of the priestly ministry, the problem of priestless parishes in my opinion is not being addressed. If changes are not made, this decrease in the number of men joining the priesthood will resume.
Presently the lifestyle of a priest requires the priest to have an undivided devotion towards God. As a Catholic I agree that a great devotion to God is required of our priests. However, I believe that devoting your life to God does not mean that you cannot also marry. The sacrament of priesthood and the sacrament of marriage both have sacrifices and come with very different challenges. But they do not have to be mutually exclusive in my opinion.
Many arguments can be made for and against the decision to allow priests to marry. Some people say that Jesus did not marry and was committed to his mission, so therefore priests should follow his example. But that’s just it. Jesus gave us an example of how to live; A blue print. No two individuals are the same and certainly no...
References: Chapman. (1994). Congregation of Doctrine and Faith.,Catechism of the Catholic Church;nn 874-896;903.
Daly. B., (2009).Priestly celibacy.The obligations of Continence and Celibacy for priest.
Geary.A., (2013).Lifelight home study courses. Unit 5; The Church. pp 41-48
Jamison., C, Lundy., D & Poole., L. (1995). To live is to change. Rejoice publications. pp. 70-75
Winter, M. (1973) Mission or Maintenance?DLT.
Winter, M. (1986). Whatever happened to Vatican II
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