The main challenge facing the Church is not simply to resolve questions of priestly celibacy, the ordination of women or communion for the divorced, but to relearn how to communicate a more intelligent and relevant religion, writes Fr Francis Quinn.
- The New York Times
I am a Catholic, born in 1921 of Italian and Irish families and raised in California seminaries. After decades of work as a priest, I was astonished that Pope Paul VI appointed me a bishop in San Francisco. I love my Church, and every night I pray that I might die in her warm, loving arms.
Yet I worry about my Church’s future. Basic doctrines will not change. But the Church may change policies and practices after doing serious study.
So, as we await Pope Francis’ visit to America, I offer a peaceful contribution to the controversies that convulse the Church today.
American Catholics are divided, primarily, by three internal church conflicts.
The first is over priestly celibacy. Observers within and outside the Church point to mandatory celibacy as a principal factor driving down the number of American priests.
A celibate life is admirable for a priest who personally chooses it. For 1,000 years, great good has been accomplished because priests could fully devote their lives to their ministry.
Nevertheless, in recent years married clergy of other Christian churches have been accepted into service in the Catholic Church. So far, the ministry of these married priests has appeared successful.
The Church should start relieving the desperate shortage of clergy members by also accepting for ordination, men of mature age, of proven character and in stable marriages.
Optional celibacy allows a choice between an abstinent life, totally free for ministry, or a married life that enables better understanding of the lives of parishioners.
American Catholics are also divided over the ordination of women as priests.
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