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Mass Funerals will End Church We know

Group weddings? No problem. The Pope recently presided over one of them.

Of course, if you have His Holiness marrying you, you're not exactly going to get picky about sharing the occasion with a few others.

But group funerals? Forget it. The funeral is the point at which we part with our loved ones and in the process come to appreciate what they were and precisely what their loss will mean to us.

One celebrant. One family. One set of friends. One coffin.

But that may change, according to the Association of Catholic Priests, who maintain that the vocations crisis has become so critical that it's just a matter of time before the shortage of priests will force some parishes to say one funeral mass for more than one dead person and one wedding mass for groups of couples.

"Unless the bishops make changes, we're facing a catastrophic situation in the next 10 to 20 years because there simply won't be enough priests," says Father Brendan Hoban of the ACP.

"That means there's a very real prospect of priests having to marry several couples at the same time. We could even be looking at the same for funeral masses."

Has the ACP got a solution that would prevent this? Yes. Bring back men who left the priesthood to get married, they say. Ordain married men. Ordain women to the diaconate (ordained ministry).

You know what's going to happen, as a result of Brendan Hoban's input? Sure as shootin', we're going to get ferocious attacks on the ACP, with the ACP fighting back.


It's like a religious version of climate change: rabid fights as the world spirals into disaster.

Or what happened on Easter Island where the great sculptures of the angular faces stand. The people who sculpted those faces seem to have used up all the trees on the island to roll them into place.

Without tree-roots holding the soil together, the island became barren, and the dwindling population spent the last few years of their existence overturning and pointlessly vandalising each other's statues

Christianity has a choice, right now, and it's a tough choice. It can bite the bullet and create a new class of celebrants.

Or it can turn one of the moments of greatest significance in the lives of the faithful into something as crowded as a rock festival.

The manner in which it makes that choice will determine its future. The Church can be as territorial and hostile as the guys on Easter Island, thereby ensuring needless extinction.

Or it can demonstrate faith, hope and love in the way it makes the decision.