Calls from Bishops, Priests and Laity Worldwide for Optional Celibacy
Bishop Franz-Josef Bode Calls for Women in Decision-Making, Women Deacons. In a public discussion with a woman theologian Marianne Heimbach-Steins, Bishop Franz-Josef
Bode of Osnabruk, Germany said it was obvious that future church leadership could not be confined to ordained men
alone. “Who knows what undreamed of possibilities will come our way,?” he asked. He mentioned deacons as a function
“which women often ‘exactly fulfill.’ ” He said his own diocese welcomed open discussion of these issues. (The Tablet 7/31/10)
Three Belgium Bishops Question Mandatory Celibacy. The new Bishop of Bruges Jozef De Kesel has questioned celibacy for priests and called for an open discussion on the position of women in the Church. The bishop of Hasselt, Patrick Hoogmartens and Bishop Johan Bonny of Antwerp have also said that married men should not automatically be excluded
from the priesthood. (Reuters 9/22/10)
Half of Polish Priests Support Married Priesthood. Research conducted by Professor Jozef Baniak at Poznand University in Poland found that 54 percent of Polish priests support an end to mandatory celibacy. Nearly one-third are in relationships with women with 12 percent admitting they are living with a woman. Bishop Tadeusz Pieronek, a senior Polish bishop, said he distrusted the survey. (The Tablet 2/14/09)
Jesuits Call for Married Priests. The May 4,2009 issue of the Jesuit weekly America openly called for the “recruitment and training of married men”
as priests, ordaining permanent deacons to the priesthood, and welcoming back married priests.
Austrian Bishop, Priests Lobby for Married Priesthood. An Austrian group called Priest’s Initiative is intensifying its lobbying for ordination of married men and the return of priests who left the active ministry to marry. The group, comprised of more than 300 priests, points to a severe shortage saying one priest is often responsible for three or more parishes. Meanwhile, Bishop Helmut Kratzl, of Vienna has published a new book called A Church With a Future that calls for an end to mandatory celibacy saying celibacy is the reason for the drastic fall in vocations. (The Tablet 1/12/08)
Over 16,000 Aussies Petition for Married, Women Priests. In 2007, a petition designed by a group of lay and religious leaders in Australia generated over 16,000 signatures in just three months. The petition calls on the Australian Catholic Bishops to collectively discuss the possibility of ordination of married men and, separately, the ordination of women. The petitioners contextualized their call within the growing crisis of a lack of priests in many parts of Australia. More information is available at http://www.catholica.com.au/
President of German Bishops Supports Optional Celibacy.
In 2008, in a surprising vote, Robert Zollitsch, the Archbishop of Freiburg, was elected the new president
of the German Bishops' Conference. Considered a liberal, Zollitsch advocated easing the celibacy requirement
for priests. In an interview published in Der Spiegel, Zollitsch said that celibacy was a "gift,"
but not essential.
Dutch Dominicans: Eucharist Primary. At their June 2005 provincial chapter, Dominicans in Holland formed a committee of experts to study “whether celebrating the Eucharist depends on the ministry of ordained men, or whether it is possible that the Church community it has appointed, celebrate the Eucharist themselves.” In August, the outcome: “The Church and the Ministry” was sent to every parish in Holland. The 38-page booklet proposes that parishes choose Mass presiders from among their community and present selected candidates “women or men, homo- or heterosexual, married or single” to the bishop for ordination. At the time of the statement, the Netherlands had 1,557 parishes and only 1,112 priests, many of whom are elderly. (full text available at www.futurechurch.org).
Four of Twelve Bishop Groups at 2005 Eucharist Synod want discussion of Married Priests. Even though the final documents of the 2005 Synod on the Eucharist, affirmed mandatory celibacy, it is highly significant that four of the twelve bishop working groups wanted further study of married priests. Even though Australia’s Cardinal Pell sought to portray the synod as overwhelmingly endorsing mandatory celibacy, he was contradicted a scant three days later by Cardinal Walter Kasper who affirmed that not only was optional celibacy still up for discussion but so was communion for divorced and remarried Catholics. FutureChurch reports)
Eastern Orthodox want to renew order of ordained women deacons. At the January 2006 Isaac Hecker Lecture at St. Paul’s College in Washington, DC, Orthodox theologian Kyriaki Karidoyanes FitzGerald said that women deacons have “never totally disappeared in the life of the Orthodox churches” and there are signs the Church wants to renew the practice. FitzGerald noted that Orthodox perspectives on the subject “are important to Catholics, as Catholicism not only recognizes the validity of Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox sacraments [but] the Orthodox Church is also considered as a ‘sister church’ by Rome.” (America, 2/6/06)
Irish Bishops see possibility of women, married priests. The Bishop of Clogher, Joseph Duffy said in January that if the priest shortage continues women priests may become acceptable. But such a move would require agreement on a 'universal level' in the Church: 'It would only be on that basis that it would be introduced but I would have no objection to it.' Bishop Duffy said of 97 priests in his diocese, only three are under 40, and in 20 years most active priests will have retired. (Wire reports, Jan 18, 2006) In early January 2006, Bishop William Walsh of Killaloe Ireland told the Dublin Sunday Tribune the church is able to find room for both celibate and married priests. "I have known some very fine priests who have left the priesthood because they found the challenge of celibacy not life-giving for them. Men like that are a great loss to the ministerial priesthood,". (NCR 1/6/06)
French Archbishop favors optional celibacy. Meanwhile French Archbishop Roland Minnerath who served as secretary-general to Synod on the Eucharist, spoke in favor of married priests in his new book To the Burgunds Who Believe in Heaven and to Those Who Don't Believe. Minnerath, a canon lawyer from Dijon in Burgundy, noted that historically "Celibacy was convenient for the priestly vocation, but was not dogmatically bound. Ordaining a married man does not cause any doctrinal problems." (NCR 1/20/06)
Gallup shows Catholic parishioners favor married, female priests, want priest at last rites and Mass at least weekly. A 2005 Gallup Survey found that 68% of all U.S. Catholics are registered at a parish and have some definite opinions about solutions to the priest shortage. Sixty-one percent thought it would be good to ordain celibate women while 54% approved of ordaining married women. Eighty one percent supported the return of priests who have married and 75% favored ordaining married men. Only 20% thought it would be ok if no priest was available to administer the last rites and just 40% thought it was okay to reduce Mass availability to less than once per week. (Study funded by National Catholic Reporter and published 9/30/2005)
This resource was prepared by FutureChurch for the Optional Celibacy: So All Can Be At the Table project. www.futurechurch.org, 216-228-0869 Permission granted to photocopy upon receipt of emailed or written request to FutureChurch.