FR Kevin Ryan has once again highlighted the shortage of priests (CL 11/1/04) as he did last year and the year before, but the situation continues to deteriorate.
In the same edition of The Catholic Leader, 113 priests in St Paul-Minneapolis archdiocese consider the shortage of priests a ‘grave threat’ to the US Church.
The same is true in many other countries. The issue is about the shortage of priests, not just about the celibacy of priests.
The celebration of the Eucharist and reconciliation are major issues in our Church and that is why we need more priests if we are to remain a sacramental and sacrificial Church.
Without a priest there is no Mass. It was the Mass that kept the faith alive in Ireland in penal days and in Communist countries in the last century. There is no substitute for the priest for those two functions.
Several stop gap methods are being used to make up for the shortage of priests – combining parishes, greater use of the laity, fewer Masses etc, but the celebration of the Eucharist and reconciliation are the major issues.
The priest doesn’t just say Mass, he has got to be able to preach and teach and that is very difficult in a Church that is now divided in many things.
Seeking foreign missionaries is now very difficult, especially with language and cultural problems. We need more than viri probati (approved men) to celebrate the Mass.
Changing the mindset of pre-Vatican II Catholics, be they lay or clerical, nourished in the Catechism or the Catholic textbooks of the day, implies not only an intellectual transformation, but a cultural one as well. Being the proud possessor of a Bible is not enough.
The documents of Vatican II may be rich in content, but in the words of Karl Rahner, they smack of ‘dogmatic positivism’.
Christianity is a historical religion going back to Jesus and the apostles but I find very little historical context in the new Catechism of 1992. It is plain doctrine.
The historical-critical method that has been applied to Scripture in the 1960s has scarcely touched the field of dogma 40 years after Vatican II, and the social-cultural context is as important in theology as in Scripture.
Theology does not make sense without history and the history is meaningless without the theology.
Canon, creed and clergy are as important today as in apostolic times. Our problem is lack of clergy.