How Do You Think the Problem of Priestless
Parishes Should Be Addressed?
Throughout Britain, Catholics living in rural areas have been hit hard by the vocations crisis. Inevitably the small fragile communities have been the first to lose their priests, but if current trends continue the big-city parishes may soon be facing similar problems. The bishops of England and Wales keep telling us this is the "age of the laity," but without priests to minister to us, the future looks bleak. In 2014, 49153 parishes in the world had no resident priest or pastor (CARA services. Frequently requested Church statistics). The role of a priest within a parish is vital and parishes without a priest can cause great difficulties for parishioners. In recent times the total number of priests have decreased and the average age of serving priests has increased. This fact, coupled with the ever increasing world population size has led to an unprecedented need for a new generation of priests. The society that we currently live in is vastly driven by money and bursting with indulgences. This being said, the life of a priest is simple and modest and is therefore not a very attractive option for young men when they are deciding on their path in life. Whilst some young men of today’s generation still hold a great faith in God, at this time, faith alone does not seem to be enough. Very few young people would seriously consider commitment to a priestly life that has an immense workload and can often be lonely, removed from the reality of a loving wife and the possibility of having your own family. 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 was of life. Nevertheless, recently this image has been shattered by the media; priests who did not make a true personal commitment to celibacy, brought disgrace upon themselves, therefore putting the church under intense scrutiny. Many people believe that it was the fault of the church for putting so many rules on a priest’s lifestyle and have claimed that it was this lifestyle, in such contradiction to the lives of others, which has ultimately led to these events. Unless a resolution to make the priesthood more attractive to young people, the problem of priestless parishes will not only remain, but will deteriorate. Andrew M. Greeley addresses the question of why active priests decide to leave priesthood. He says that about a sixth of the men who do leave, do so primarily because of celibacy. He continues by saying “many of those who have left active priesthood in the last thirty years have named celibacy as their reason for leaving and insist that they would return to the active ministry is they could do so as a married man”. Many Catholic liberals have argued that if married priests were admitted back into the active ministry they would go a long way toward easing the shortage of priests. Researcher Dean Hoge explains "I was given a foundation grant to estimate if the celibacy requirement is a large or a small deterrent to keeping men from entering the priesthood, and on basis of a survey of Catholic college students, I found that it was the single biggest deterrent. If celibacy were optional for diocesan priests, there would be an estimated fourfold increase in Seminarians and the priest shortage would be over. The priesthood would grow until it hits financial limits". It is difficult to make sense of such restriction when most of a priest’s life is spent ministering to families and couples at key moments, from birth to death. The Vatican II recently redefined the role of the Bishop, yet no specific changes were made to the role of a priest (Life-Light Module 4). In my opinion, if we continue with the traditional form of the priestly ministry, the problem of priestless parishes is not being dressed. If changes are not made, this decrease in the number of men joining the...
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