Married priests would solve problem of priest shortages - Catholic group
A lay Catholic group has lent its support to the Bishop of Kilmore's request for Irish bishops to examine the possibility of ordaining married men to the priesthood and appointing female deacons.
The Association of Catholics in Ireland (ACI) says the high percentage of priests over 65 years of age in Ireland and the low intake of seminarians suggest that in ten years time many parishes will be without a resident priest.
"Already the clustering of parishes has resulted in some parishes being without a daily Mass and on selected week days only having prayer services without distribution of Holy Communion," the association said in a statement. This development is "upsetting to parishioners, particularly daily Mass-goers", it said.
In a statement today, the ACI says Bishop O’Reilly’s proposals reflect elements of its own recent submission to Pope Francis for consideration at the Synod on the Family to be held in Rome this October.
"Married clergy would bring the warmth and richness of their lived experience to their pastoral ministry and be well placed to offer support to married couples and families in difficulties," the group said in its submission to Rome for the Synod on the Family.
The ACI is of the view that there is a cohort of ordained priests who left active ministry to marry and who could be invited back into ministry right now.
They would bring their experience of marriage to pastoral work while providing extra resources to meet the challenge of the shortage of priests, the organisation believes.
The ACI also recommended in its submission to the Synod that experienced married couples be involved in the training of seminarians for the ministry of marriage and the family.
Meanwhile, Fr Gearoid Walsh who is based in the rural community of Castletownbere, Co Cork, told independent.ie today that the church needs to be open to whatever is in its best interests.
“I’m certainly aware of the age profile and that we’re an ageing clergy. The number of priests who are into their seventies or 80s and are making a huge contribution, and then there’s no one to replace them.”
“There are significant distances which priests have to travel. One priest here has to say a mass and it’s a 45-mile roundtrip around the Beara peninsula back to his door.”