Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Will there also be a shortage of Clergy in all Faiths including Rabbis?

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  1. What are our rabbinic leaders doing to protect us from rabbis who abuse?
  2. What are our rabbinic leaders doing to protect our children?
  3. What are our rabbinic leaders doing to help Survivors of Sexual Violence?
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Priest shortage will shift power to Catholic laity
A. E. P. Wall
(FL) Orlando Sentinel - March 7, 2006

The obit pages sometimes seem like scrapbooks of mostly happy memories. I read about octogenarians, loved by three or four generations of family and friends, who were founding members of a parish church that also yields to old age. When they were young parents welcoming a new child every year, the parish and its ever-present priests was their world.

It offered mass on Sundays and everybody was there, even the men who stood just outside, smoking cigarettes. It ran the school, gym, banquet hall, bingo games, summer carnival, weddings, funerals, sodalities and the Holy Name Society. You can read about it these days, in the obits.

The shortage of priests threatens hierarchical control of the Catholic Church. There's little time or occasion for traditional instruction of the laity. Unlike their grandparents, many Catholics grow up seeing the church as an adjunct to their lives, not the center of their lives. They know a priest only as a presiding figure on Sundays. They don't steer their sons into the seminary or their daughters into the religious life.

Such is the laity given more leadership in parish and diocese because the clergy aren't there to do the leading. Lay men and women are more likely than previous generations to think of the church as another big institution in a world of intrusive government. Congress and corruption are more and more synonymous for Americans who are more and more cynical about institutions, even religious institutions.

There are signs of a new industry taking shape around the country. It does not yet appear in economic statistics, but lawsuits naming Catholic priests, bishops, dioceses and religious orders are a billion-dollar operation.

Allegations of criminal sexual behavior by priests, now and in the distant past, are made in the interest of justice. Victims of childhood abuse by trusted men are looking for justice, which is due them. The side effects are not their responsibility.

But side effects, as dioceses are pushed into bankruptcy by financial awards in sex abuse cases, inevitably affect the ability of churches to fund traditional outreach to the poor, the sick, the elderly, the children. Nobody knows what the long-term impact will be on the contributions Catholics drop into collection plates. Will people give more, helping to cover those unexpected drains of church funds? Will they give less, losing confidence in church leadership?

There's nothing comparable to the volume of claims against the church in other denominations, no bankruptcies triggered by sex scandals in Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, Episcopal and other churches. There's nothing like it in Jewish or Muslim institutions. This leads some Catholics to wonder whether celibacy has anything to do with the crisis.

The Catholic Church says that homosexual acts are "intrinsically disordered." Some wonder whether the imposition of lifetime celibacy on young men entering the priesthood is not "intrinsically disordered" in the 21st century. Celibacy, they suggest, should be optional.

The Catechism explains that compulsory celibacy allows men to give themselves entirely to God. It does not mention that it allows men to give themselves entirely to the church, to their bishops and religious superiors, who assign duties without needing to consider wives and children. Celibacy's spiritual gift to those it binds is accompanied by their own gift of service to church authorities.

In the 1960s American Catholics were surprised to discover that the mass no longer had to be celebrated in Latin, as it had been for as long as anyone could remember. Not only that, but before long the Latin mass was virtually forbidden. Fish on Friday? No more, after the Second Vatican Council turned things around, including even the altars.

Such traditions, including celibacy, are not optional for individual Catholics. They are optional for the pope to decide for the whole church. Benedict XVI, beginning his pontificate with a stirring encyclical on love, is a man of prayer and pragmatism, befitting a lover of God and humankind.

He is famous as a conservative. What he wants to conserve, perhaps more than celibacy, is the ability of the church to teach with authority.

A. E. P. Wall, author of "The Spirit of Cardinal Bernardin" edits an online journal at www.aepwall.com. He wrote this commentary for the Orlando Sentinel.


1 Comments:

Blogger bluumouse said...

What the hell are poeple doing here i mean god damn dude you now what i tell you i am jewish but damn start believin in other shit no matter how much you wanna help change sex in america there is always going to be the little perv

March 22, 2006 2:10 PM  

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