Call for ordination of parish leaders
Australia's next generation of Catholic priests could include single and widowed men nominated by their parishes and trained outside the seminaries, under proposals to be considered by the nation's bishops.
According to the Sydney Morning Herald, supervised and mentored by a traditionally trained priest, these "community" priests would be able to perform baptisms and marriages, preside over funerals and celebrate Mass.
The proposal is one of six options canvassed in a discussion paper the National Council of Priests has prepared to ensure that Mass is available to all Catholics at a time of an acute shortage of priests.
The paper, distributed to each of the 70 retired and active Australian Catholic bishops and every diocesan priest council and pastoral council, is one of the broadest attempts at consultation in the 30-year history of the National Council of Priests.
The paper also ponders the way Mass is celebrated, and its ability to unify and include the poor and marginalised, and the centralisation of church authority and its impact on local authority.
The council asks the church to "earnestly and seriously" consider extending the right of married clerical converts to other married men, as well as readmitting priests who have left the clergy to marry.
It invites comment on whether women should be barred from the priesthood, and the prospect of a limited tenure for priests of, say, 10 or 20 years.
The council's chairman, Hal Ranger, said the paper was intended to be a "discussion starter". About half of Australia's Catholic clergy, including 42 bishops and three cardinals, are members of the council.
"Its aim is to get people talking, not just about the ordination of married men, or the inclusion of non-Catholic Christians - it's talking about a whole of lot of other things, all of equal importance.
"Does one way of celebration suit everyone across the world? That raises questions about the kind of language used. It's about the tone of voice, signs and symbols, and even the dress of the celebrant … The celebration of Eucharist has to be about building communion with God and with each other rather than division."
Responses will be sent to the church's two bishops, who will represent Australia at a synod attended by every Catholic nation in October.
Parish leaders may attain priesthood (Sydney Morning Herald 11/6/05)
LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
National Council of Priests
Council of Priests argues for married clergy (CathNews 27/1/05)
14 Jun 2005