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Bishop calls priest crisis a media beat-up

Bishop Kevin Manning of the western Sydney Diocese of Parramatta has hit out at the media's "slanted advice" on the issue of priests marrying, suggesting that having fewer priests now than in the past does not mean there is a shortage.

Writing in the March issue of the diocesan Catholic Outlook newspaper, Bishop Manning commented on sustained media attention given earlier this year to reflections sent to Rome by the National Council of Priests (NCP) in which they floated the idea of married clergy.

He said the reflections were "used as a trigger for the secular media and some well-known Catholic commentators to have a go at the Church in their accustomed style".

Bishop Manning sought to put the issue in perspective, claiming that "globally, it is hard to accept there is a shortage of Priests".

"Some countries have more than enough," he said. "Frequently, Bishops in Australia receive requests from overseas Priests who want to come to Australia for a short, or longer period."

He said that there was an "abundance" of priests in Australia in the 1950s and 1960s.

"In fact, some areas of Australia were over-serviced. There are fewer priests nowadays, but does that constitute a shortage?"

He suggested that if Australian Catholics want more vocations, they should "pray insistently" and "encourage their children to enter the priesthood or religious life", in order to counter the "inherent selfishness, which regulates the number of children in the family and seeks the "good life" the principal goal of families".

Bishop Manning quoted cautionary advice from Fr Peter Rushton, one of the first Anglican Priests to be ordained to the Catholic priesthood. Towards the end of his life, Fr Rushton told a journalist that marriage "brings a tension into the life of a Priest" because "the Catholic people are too demanding of their Priest, they wouldn't respect fully his vocation also to the married life".

Did Jesus work from surveys? (Catholic Outlook March 2005)

Catholic Diocese of Parramatta | Bishop Manning
National Council of Priests

Bush bishop backs priestly celibacy debate (CathNews 31/1/05)
Alternative priests' council hits back on mandatory celibacy (CathNews 28/1/05)
Council of Priests argues for married clergy (CathNews 27/1/05)
Bishops' Secretary confirms priests' survey on celibacy (CathNews 31/10/04)
US priests urge optional celibacy (CathNews 21/8/03)

Scotland: first married priest ordained today (Independent Catholic News 2/3/05)
Parish priest supports change (Cowra Guardian 11/2/05)
Priest shortage ends tradition (The Mercury 14/2/05)

3 Mar 2005