Maitland-Newcastle weighs priest imports

The Bishop of Maitland-Newcastle said that he is troubled by the "consumerist mentality" to import overseas priests for the convenience of the Australian church.

In an interview on ABC Radio yesterday, Bishop Michael Malone said that it concerns him "when bishops in different parts of Australia would ask overseas priests to come to their dioceses simply to fill gaps left by the fact that there are not any homegrown vocations for the priesthood."

The debate about overseas priests comes at a time when the archdiocese of Brisbane is considering forging a partnership with a Nigerian diocese to send priests to Brisbane for a six-year term.

Bishop Malone said that the trend to bring in overseas priests might "put on hold" efforts to involve the laity "in both ministry and in pastoral planning, and in the administrative structures of the church".

But he acknowledges increasing pressure from his own diocese in light of the shortages of regular masses. "(People) turn to me and say 'Why don't you bring in priests from overseas like other dioceses have so that we can have our regular masses like we used to?'", he said.

Teresa Brierely, Vice Chancellor for pastoral ministries, said in the ABC interview that there are mixed reactions from different communities to overseas priests who are culturally different to Australian parishioners.

"The major issue is their lack of understanding of what it is to be an Australian in an Australian church. That becomes a very big issue," Ms Brierely said. "But in some other places the people are thoroughly enjoying and love the priest from overseas."

Ms Brierely and Bishop Malone cautioned against calls for more overseas priests simply for the convenience of the local church.

"It (is) just that mentality that we've developed: because we don't have enough of it, therefore we can go out to poorer countries and just take what we need," said Ms Brierely.

Bishop Malone said: "That kind of attitude is very, very selfish, it's consumerist, and it speaks of a developed world wanting to be served by a developing world".

Desperate Australian Catholics importing priests (ABC Radio National The Religion Report 22/3/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle

NCP chair says overseas priests will need help to settle (CathNews 16/5/05)

Bishop to speak on industrial changes (Manning River Times 22/3/06)

23 Mar 2006