Priests Council's Synod call for married clergy
The number of Australian Catholic priests needs to increase more than 20-fold by reopening the priesthood to married men and possibly women, according to the National Council of Priests.
The Sydney Morning Herald reports that the Council is calling on the Vatican to revisit celibacy to meet the global goal of having one priest ordained for every 50 families or 200 Catholics. But priests acknowledge that the targets cannot be met unless the criteria for priesthood are radically altered.
As well as opening vocations to married men, the council, which represents about half the country's Catholic clergy, has reopened debate on women priests, questioning whether their exclusion from the priesthood is as a result of divine direction.
In a submission to a bishop's synod in Rome that began on Sunday, the council says: "Vocation is very much God's calling. The discernment about whom God is calling to the priesthood at this time is possible only if the whole church is speaking to God and listening to God."
A Melbourne priest and statistician, Fr Eric Hodgens, estimates that in Australia there is one working priest for every 4500 Catholics. As priests from the baby-boomer generations retire and die the ratio is likely to grow.
The council's chairman, Fr Hal Ranger, says it is not uncommon for parish priests in Australian capitals to attend to the spiritual health of between 5000 and 10,000 Catholics. The Vatican's official ratio for Oceania, which includes Australia, is one for every 1746 Catholics.
The council's suggestions for radical change in an "honest and open discussion" have been handed to Australia's three episcopal representatives at the Rome synod, who include the Archbishop of Sydney, George Pell.
More priests needed, even married ones, say clergy (Sydney Morning Herald 4/10/05)
LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Media Release on Submission from the Executive of the National Council of Priests of Australia to the World Synod of Bishops XI Ordinary General Assembly (National Council of Priests of Australia)
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)
Ordination of married men is raised at Vatican synod (Leading the Charge 3/10/05)
Top Cardinal Plays Down Priest Shortage (Leading the Charge 3/10/05)
4 Oct 2005