Are priest shortages intentional?

I imagine many of us have read about the fact only 58 priests were ordained in Germany last year.   This is an astonishingly low figure for a country the size of Germany.

A German journalist and editor asks whether this priest-shortage is intentional.  Maike Hickson writes an article on Alexander Kissler’s piece at OnePeterFive.com here:

Alexander Kissler convincingly demonstrates, by quoting from these current diocesan booklets, just how these new “participatory parishes” are implemented from above – and “initiated top-down” – in order to “make [the Church] step-by-step more compatible with the life realities of the people.” In this new “system,” the priest appears to be a stumbling block, according to Kissler. “The stubborn priest slows down the annexation [Anschluss] to the Wonder-world of Participation.” Thus there can be found in the diocesan documents a call to urge “more insistently and more consequently” the ordained priests “not to stand in the way of the changes.” Priests, according to the documents, “should not block whole parishes.” The aim of the reform is “to search” and even, if seen to be fitting, to find “new bosses, new forms of leadership” (in Kissler’s words). Kissler rightly then asks whether or not there is any place left for “Canon Law and Catechism.” In one of the recent  documents of the Diocese of Limburg, called “Kirche der Zukunft” (“Church of the Future”), “there is not even a single mention anymore of the very word ‘priest,’” as Kissler emphatically notes. The clear goal here is to form a “common priesthood” and a “general priesthood.” Kissler trenchantly asks: “Shall Luther be re-catholicized, or shall the Church be lutherized?”

If the priesthood is diminished to the point where anyone can do what the priest does but can also marry and have a family, then why would a man make the sacrifice of the goods of family to become a priest?

Having had much exposure to evangelical Protestantism, I understand very much the priesthood of believers.  But coming into the Traditional Anglican Communion, and learning about sacraments such as Holy Orders, I began to see there is a distinction between the ordained male priesthood and the priesthood of believers that we all participate in through our Baptism.

I also began to see the issues around Holy Orders are not secondary to the point of being optional.  They might be secondary only insofar as they might not be the primary elements of the faith when evangelizing, but for a Catholic, they can not be unraveled or you begin to unravel the whole Church.

Bishops should be extremely cautious about responding to the priest shortage by clericalizing the laity; hiring more professional lay ministers and horizontalizing the parishes because the those practices will beget more priest shortages.

The old-fashioned methods of prayer for vocations, encouraging apostolates such as the Spiritual Motherhood of Priests; catechizing priests and laity about their respective roles and about the Eucharist;  faith in a supernatural God is the way to overcome priest shortages.

 

 

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6 Responses to Are priest shortages intentional?

  1. Such a strange situation, if true. Do you think this is simply engineered? Most of the Catholics I know Stateside would be happy with this arrangement. (I went to the local Catholic parish near my mother on the North Shore of Boston several Christmases ago for the vigil, only to find that the priest was totally vestigial — lay leaders and the choir did everything. The priest literally walked around the aisles with the deacon, and greeted people at the door. That’s it.) I wouldn’t write it off as some conspiracy, when everyone –well, almost everyone except for the less-than-one-percent– seems to be in on it.

    Also, have you read _The Banished Heart_?

    • Rev22:17 says:

      Gregory,

      You wrote: (I went to the local Catholic parish near my mother on the North Shore of Boston several Christmases ago for the vigil, only to find that the priest was totally vestigial — lay leaders and the choir did everything. The priest literally walked around the aisles with the deacon, and greeted people at the door. That’s it.)

      Living in the Archdiocese of Boston, I can assure you that our present archbishop, Cardinal Sean O’Malley, and his auxiliary bishops and episcopal vicars would crack down on liturgical abuse in a heartbeat if they were to learn of it. Thus, I presume that the principal celebrant, at the very least, (1) led the gathering rites, (2) conferred the blessing upon the deacon prior to the proclamation of the gospel, (3) prayed the offertory prayers and the eucharistic prayer at the altar and led the communion rite, (4) distributed communion personally, and (5) led the concluding rite and gave the final blessing at the end of mass.

      But Chapter III of the General Instructions to the Roman Missal (GIRM) actually does assign most other functions to other ministers.

      >> The proclamation of the gospel, the announcement of the general intercessions, the preparation of the altar, and distribution of holy communion are the duties of the deacon, if one is present. A deacon also may preach the homily if the bishop has granted him preaching faculties. (When there is no deacon present, the proclamation of the gospel becomes the province of a concelebrant, if there is one, or the principal celebrant, and a concelebrant also may preach the homily, but announcing the general intercessions falls to a lay reader.)

      >> The proclamation of the readings from scripture other than the gospel is the duty of installed lectors or lay readers.

      >> The leading of singing is the rightful province of the cantor and/or the choir, who are usually members of the lay faithful. A cantor designated to sing the responsorial psalm is called the “psalmist” in the GIRM.

      >> The service at the altar is the rightful province of an installed acolyte or a lay altar server.

      >> Lay people also may assist with distribution of holy communion, as extraordinary ministers of the sacrament, when there are not enough clergy participating in the celebration to supply all of the communion stations. This faculty includes situations in which (1) the distribution would be unduly protracted with fewer stations due to the size of the congregation, (2) the procession would not flow smoothly due to the physical layout of the building, and (3) the additional ministers permit distribute both the host and the precious blood to the entire congregation.

      So the reality is that a parish mass never should be a “one-man show” in which the principal celebrant does everything. Even in a so-called “private” mass, the GIRM requires the presence of another minister who performs all of the ministerial functions assigned to lay persons.

      Norm.

      • I would never expect a one-man show. I grew up Anglo-Catholic, and am used to tons of hands in the pot; I am now Orthodox (so the Byzantine rite), and there are lots of people who do lots of things, but the similarities are overwhelming between the two rites, and between these two and the Coptic services I’ve been to, compared with every Roman rite Catholic Mass or Vespers or Vigil (this one Christmas vigil felt like a big choir performance — there was no Mass that I saw in the 45 minutes I was there) I’ve been to in the GBA.

        Glad to see a Boston Catholic on this page. You probably know at least one of my friends. 😀

      • Rev22:17 says:

        Gregory,

        You wrote: … (this one Christmas vigil felt like a big choir performance — there was no Mass that I saw in the 45 minutes I was there)…

        So, then, you did not stay until the end of the service?

        Many Roman Catholic parishes have a custom of singing carols for some period of time — often an hour or more — before the “Mass During the Night” (formerly known as “Mass at Midnight” because it historically was celebrated commencing at that hour). This comment makes it sound like you went to the singing of carols and did not actually stay for the mass that would have followed.

        Norm.

  2. Rev22:17 says:

    Deborah,

    You wrote: I imagine many of us have read about the fact only 58 priests were ordained in Germany last year. This is an astonishingly low figure for a country the size of Germany.

    Yes, but lack of vocations is a symptom of lack of commitment of faith, most especially among young adults. If parishes and families were instilling faith in their young, at least some would perceive a calling to the clergy or to religious life. Where faith is lacking, the Lord’s call is not heard.

    You continued: A German journalist and editor asks whether this priest-shortage is intentional.

    It’s only intended by Satan, in the hope that it will somehow undermine and kill the church.

    Of course, that does not stop God from using it to give us layfolk a good swift boot in the tail and to tell us to get off of our complacent hind ends and start pulling our share of the weight for the glory of the Kingdom….

    Seriously, the Second Vatican Council taught clearly that all who are baptized have a duty to work in the church’s mission of evangelism. This is not optional. Five decades ago, it was very easy for the laity to sit back and let the clergy and the religious do it — and there was an attitude among the clergy that laity were too ignorant to be trained to do it, anyway. Today, that attitude is no longer viable for either the clergy or the laity.

    The situation reported in Germany is nothing different than what has been happening here in the States for quite a while now. Three decades ago, when I was studying theology in a summer program operated by a national seminary in southern Indiana, the adage that I learned in the Midwest was: “The Archdiocese of St. Louis has three priests per parish, and the Archdiocese of Indianapolis has three parishes per priest.” For better or worse, the latter was characteristic of many parishes in rural areas, and there was a major concern that clergy in rural areas were too isolated and that they lacked a minimal amount of moral and spiritual support of clerical fellowship. I’m aware of one specific situation in which a diocesan bishop promoted a mission to parish status only after meeting with the parishioners and telling them that they would have a lay administrator indefinitely because he simply did not have a priest available to be their pastor. The situation grew considerably worse since, to the point that some parishes can have mass only every three or four weeks because their priest must serve other parishes as well — parishes that are often widely scattered. Many of these parishes do have lay administrators who perform the whole range of non-sacramental ministry because the priests who serve them simply are not available to respond to immediate pastoral needs. One of the scariest book that I have ever seen is sitting on my bookshelf. It’s an official Roman Catholic liturgical book bearing the title Sunday Celebrations in the Absence of a Priest — and many of these rural parishes are using it way too frequently!

    Seriously the really scary part of this book is what’s inevitable when a competent lay leader prepares and leads the celebration of Sunday in the absence of a priest properly, so the people of the parish find it very nourishing spiritually, three weeks out of four, or even four weeks out of five, and then Fr. Clueless shows up totally unprepared, celebrates mass in a very shoddy manner, and delivers a rambling homily that parlays very clear scriptural texts into sentences of vacillation and paragraphs of doublespeak that provide no spiritual nourishment to anyone. It is not going to take long for the people of such a parish to start to prefer the lay-led service — perhaps even to the point of going to the lay-led service in the parish in the next town on the weeks when Fr. Clueless comes by to celebrate mass for the congregation! Also, we have already gone from the normative celebration of Sunday being the bishop’s stational mass in a cathedral to the substitutionary parish mass with a presbyter as the principal celebrant. Now we’re talking about another service that’s a substitute for the substitute. How many levels of substitution can we stand, without losing essential elements of our faith?

    You wrote: Having had much exposure to evangelical Protestantism, I understand very much the priesthood of believers. But coming into the Traditional Anglican Communion, and learning about sacraments such as Holy Orders, I began to see there is a distinction between the ordained male priesthood and the priesthood of believers that we all participate in through our Baptism.

    I also began to see the issues around Holy Orders are not secondary to the point of being optional. They might be secondary only insofar as they might not be the primary elements of the faith when evangelizing, but for a Catholic, they can not be unraveled or you begin to unravel the whole Church.

    Yes, exactly. It’s the “both-and” here, rather than the “either-or” — both priesthoods are essential. In particular, the sacrament of Holy Orders is the cornerstone of our sacramental life.

    Norm.

  3. EPMS says:

    Fr Hunwicke reports here http://liturgicalnotes.blogspot.ca/2016/04/tales-from-ordinariate-2.html on an occasion in an English parish where the presence of a priest rather than an Extraordinary Minister was not welcomed by those thus displaced. People get used to a certain way of doing things and change, even for the better, is unwelcome. I don’t think we need search for a conspiracy. Priest shortages exist to different degrees in different countries but no country is exempt; even Africa has a serious shortage, even while exporting priests to Europe and America.

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