In England and Wales, three bishops are sounding a clarion call for a new solution to the impending priest shortage.
Bishop Crispian Hollis is calling for his brother bishops to “take very seriously the need to extend priestly ordination to married men, before ‘our daily bread and the forgiveness of our trespasses’ become a distant memory (The Tablet, 4 July 15).”
Bishop Hollis knows of other bishops who agree – up to ten bishops (out of 22) across England and Wales. He points out that, “a Church that cannot celebrate the sacraments for the people of God can scarcely be the Church that Christ founded.”
The following week two more bishops followed his lead.
“I would like to give my full support to the letter written by Bishop Crispian Hollis regarding the possible ordination of married men,” wrote Bishop Emeritus Thomas McMahon. Having worked with a number of former Anglican and ordinariate married priests in his diocese he noted, “they were extremely well received by the people. It seems to me that what people are looking for above all else are good priests and whether they are married or not would appear to be secondary.”
Bishop Emeritus John Crowley agrees and writes, “providing regular access to the Eucharist for the faithful trumps holding the line in defence of a largely celibate priesthood” (The Tablet, 11 July 15).
Bishops McMahon and Crowley, say England and Wales are in a “unique position to approach Rome to lift mandatory celibacy for clergy” (The Tablet, 11 July 15). Not seen as extreme, Bishop McMahon suggested that their regional conference “would have a very sympathetic hearing…”
In the United States the number of diocesan priests in active ministry will be reduced severely in just four years as half of them reach retirement age. A majority of Catholics support a married priesthood. Among Catholic leaders, there is a growing number speaking up in favor of a married priesthood. Archbishop Blaise Cupich recently said that having married priests in his lifetime “wouldn’t suprise him” (http://chicago.cbslocal.com/2015/05/05/married-priests-wouldnt-surprise-archbishop-cupich/).
Catholics continue to call on the U.S. Bishops to open ordination rather than closing parishes. Do your part. Sign our Open Letter asking bishops to start needed discussions. Ask our bishops to take up the issue at the November 2015 meeting of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Remind our bishops, now is the time to act!