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Argument: Priests should be allowed to marry to increase vocations

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Rev. Donald Cozzens. "Commentary: Celibacy should be rethought". CNN. May 15, 2009: "For some years now I've been teaching in the religious studies department at John Carroll University in Cleveland. I've asked dozens of serious, healthy young students if they have given any thought to being a priest. They seem flattered by the question. With only one exception, each has answered, "Yes, I've thought about being a priest, but I want a family. [...] There are, of course, other factors, urgent and pressing, that will keep the celibacy issue alive. The Catholic priesthood is aging. The average age of active priests hovers at 60, and if retired priests are factored in, it is considerably higher. Moreover, Catholic seminaries are lucky to be half full. [...] Parish staffing challenges alone will press for a review of the celibacy rule. Catholic bishops simply do not have enough priests to meet the pastoral and sacramental needs of the Catholic faithful. Closing and merging parishes may offer some temporary relief for overworked priests, but the shortfall of priests will continue to challenge the vitality of Catholic parishes and the health of Catholic clergy for decades to come."

"Vatican 'must let priests wed'". Times Online. October 11, 2005: "There is a shortage of priests, and reformers believe that allowing married priests would help to attract newcomers.

There is one priest for every 2,677 Catholics, compared with one for every 1,797 thirty years ago. In the United States, where the Church has been hit hard by the crisis involving sexual abuse by clergy, the number of priests has fallen from 58,909 to 42,528. Meanwhile, the number of American Catholics has risen from 48 million to 65 million.

After the synod, the first under the new papacy, a papal document will be released banning even celibate homosexuals from seminaries, a move that could worsen the shortage of priests. The issue has been taken up by several members of the gathering.

Bishop Luis Antonio Tagle, of the Philippines, said: “In the absence of a priest, there is no Eucharist. We have to face the shortage of priests squarely.”

Bishop Roberto Camilleri Azzopardi, of Honduras, said that his diocese had only one priest for every 16,000 Catholics, while Bishop Lorenzo Voltolini Esti, of Ecuador, said that the number of people going to confession was dropping because priests were not available. Bishops from the Eastern, or Byzantine, branch of Catholicism, which allows married priests, were more forthright."

Muriel Porter. "Church will benefit if priests are able to marry". The Age. January 31, 2005: The present plea is justified on the basis that drastic action is needed to restore priestly numbers, which in the Western world have dropped markedly over the past 30 years. In Australia the decline is estimated to be about 20 per cent overall, with a much greater drop - about two-thirds - in the numbers of trainee priests.

The requirement of priestly celibacy is perhaps the sole reason for this unprecedented decline. The Anglican and Protestant churches, which permit their clergy to marry, have not suffered any significant shortage of trainees over the same period.

With so few recruits entering the ranks of the priesthood, the average age of Melbourne's Catholic clergy is now more than 60, compared with 44 in 1977 - an alarming statistic. Maintaining the traditional pattern of sacramental worship provided by priests will grow increasingly more difficult unless something is done urgently. AdvertisementAdvertisement

As commentators have pointed out frequently over the past few decades, a married priesthood would not only attract considerable numbers of potential clergy, but would also hopefully allow the return to active ministry of the many priests who left to marry. The acute shortage could be overcome virtually overnight.

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