In early August I blogged about a petition sent out in Australia to the bishops requesting, among other things, that discussion about the ordination of women be reopened. Now Bishop Pat Power, who is known for his support of "the spirit of Vatican II" (not to be confused with the actual teachings of the Council), has weighed in with a response to the petition. Some "highlights":
In our own Archdiocese in line with the experience of other parts of Australia, parishes generally and priests personally are under added pressure with an increasing load being borne by a diminishing and ageing clergy. The irony is that in this Archdiocese there are between thirty and forty priests who have married and thereby been debarred from active priestly ministry. Many of them and their families are active in parishes and other areas of Church life, but they are unable to celebrate the Eucharist. There was a recent instance where a priest failed to arrive for Mass and a married priest and his wife sat rather helplessly in the congregation while an acolyte and other members of the parish attempted to lead a liturgy of the word with Holy Communion.
There are varying ways of describing this sad situation, but "ironic" doesn't seem to be an accurate choice. How is it ironic that a man who took vows that included the explicit and knowing choice to not become married then broke those vows and thus was barred from the faculties that were contingent upon the vows? Forget "ironic"—how about "unfaithful"? After all, if I break my wedding vows and start slumming with Britney Spears and my wife bars me from the home, that isn't "ironic." It's a matter of common sense.
Of course, dioceses need to continue in their efforts to recruit men for the celibate priesthood...
Of course! Why hadn't this been mentioned before? I gather it's not a high priority. Which might explain, in large part, the vocations crisis.
...but the limited response must say something in terms of a long-term solution. Many dioceses have recruited priests from overseas with mixed success. Some such priests have fitted very well into the life of the diocese while others have struggled with issues of culture, language and vision of Church. In any case such solutions can only be partial and short-term.
Ah, the annoying issue of "vision of Church." I'll bet my Nancy Sinatra collection that term is code for something along these lines, "These guys from Third World countries are too darned orthodox!"
Your fourth point relating to the participation of women in the life of the Church is crucial for a healthy, life-giving and nurturing Church. While women's roles in the family, Catholic education and health-care are obvious, the opportunities for leadership in terms of the universal, diocesan and even parish Church are extremely limited.
I readily admit I don't know the situation in Australia; perhaps it is quite different than here in the States. But in the U.S., the vast majority of parish employees are women; in fact, I think it's safe to say that opportunities for lay men for leadership in parishes is rather slim due to factors including the available salaries. Regardless, the best is yet to come:
The 1997 inquiry into the participation of women in the Church in Australia brought out many of the gaps for which the whole Church, not just women, is the poorer. While I recognise the sensitivity to the question at the level of the Vatican, I am also aware that many loyal and committed Catholics want a more open and thorough examination of the issues around the ordination of women and the whole structure of the priesthood. A less clerical model of the priesthood is more in tune with 21st century societal values and arguably more faithful to the practice of the early Christian communities. [emphasis added]
"More in tune with 21st century societal values"!? So that is the great benchmark the Church founded by Jesus Christ 2,000 years ago is shooting for today? Amazing. Well, on the bright side, it is a much easier goal to obtain than, say, fidelity to the Gospel, holiness of life, humility in worship, submission of will and intellect to Magisterial teaching, obedience of faith, and understanding of the doctrines of the Church. Of course, there are plenty of other Christian groups who are standing, in rapt attention, in the line for "21st Century Societal Values." But considering it's such a crowded line and that the Church is founded on the person of Jesus and the teachings of the Apostles, wouldn't it be better to stay in line with the Magisterium?