Bishop rejects part-time priest proposal

Bishop Julian Porteous of Sydney has said that the Pope would never allow part-time priests, as suggested by a Melbourne priest-statistician in last week's Online Catholics.

The Catholic Weekly reports that Bishop Julian Porteous said that part-time priesthood represents a radical departure from the concept of priestly vocation and is not the answer to the reduced number of priests in the Church.

"I can never see the Pope allowing a part-time priesthood," he said.

Bishop Porteous (pictured) was responding to a call by Fr Eric Hodgens, an expert on priest recruitment trends, who suggested that future generations of priests should be allowed to keep their weekday job and become ordained part-timers.

In the Online Catholics article featured on CathNews last week, Fr Hodgens said: "Let the secretaries and pastoral workers run the parishes and have a roster of ordained part-timers to celebrate whatever number of Masses is needed for the weekend."

He said that priests should be allowed to "stay in their normal career and train for sacramental leadership in a part-time course."

Fr Hodgens said that the proposal is far less radical than allowing the mass to "become an occasional rather than a weekly event". "Critique or condemn the idea," he said. "But, if so, propose an alternative. The problem is not going away."

But Bishop Porteous stressed that priesthood was "not a job or profession or part-time activity". "A priest by virtue of ordination becomes a priest in his whole being," he said.

He said that in the short-term the Church was dealing with low numbers by creating partner parishes and encouraging lay people to become more involved.

"Lay people are taking on more active roles in the Church," he said. "They are being employed in things such as sacramental and youth ministry which can really help parish priests with their loads."

Bishop Porteous said he was confident the number of men wanting to be ordained in Australia would rise.

"In the last four years our numbers have doubled in the Good Shepherd seminary in Sydney and last year the Perth archdiocese ordained nine priests."

"It's certainly not impossible to see that there will be an increase in younger priests in the long term," he said.

Part-time priests aren't the answer: bishop (Catholic Weekly 23/4/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Staunching the clergy haemorrhage (Online Catholics 12/4/06)
Archdiocese of Sydney: Bishop Julian Porteous
National Commission for Clergy Life and Ministry
National Council of Priests

Priest shortage puts Mass under cloud (CathNews 31/12/04)
Maitland-Newcastle weighs priest imports (CathNews 23/3/06)
NCP chair says overseas priests will need help to settle (CathNews 16/5/05)

Not enough priests for last rites (NZ Herald 9/4/06)
Growing diaconate (Catholic Leader 9/4/06)
Desperate Australian Catholics importing priests (ABC Radio National The Religion Report 22/3/06)
Priests out of Africa (Catholic Leader 19/3/06)
Eight on road to priesthood (Catholic Weekly 12/3/06)

21 Apr 2006