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.
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.