Joe Mulvaney, We Are Church: Plentiful Vocations
PLENTIFUL VOCATIONS – THANK GOD
Many are called by GOD, but few are chosen by THE LADS (Joe 10:20!)
An editorial by Michael Kelly in The Irish Catholic (October 1, 2020) stated that Irish parishioners will have to get used to their parish priest being from India, Nigeria, or Uganda. I disagree with that diktat and flawed analysis in the absence of parish consultation and synodal decision-making within all Irish dioceses. I agree with Fr. Tomás Surlis – President of St. Patrick’s Seminary, Maynooth, in his response to The Irish Catholic (October 8, 2020 ) that relying on overseas priests is not the solution to the serious ministry crisis which has been developing over many decades.
The priests from overseas are most welcome and deserve training, orientation, and support. However, that alone is not the long-term or sustainable answer to maintain our precious parish communities and develop vibrant ones into the future. There are language problems and cultural differences which may hamper the overseas priests. It is difficult for them to know of the huge changes in Ireland since the 1930s and the issues such as abuse, cover-up, maltreatment of women, etc. which have alienated many people. The majority of Irish Catholics do not assent to the clerical teaching on contraception, homophobia, and apartheid for women. The hierarchy continue to reject the ordination of women and refuse to listen to the People of God who are moving away from sexism, patriarchy, and misogyny. People despair as the clerics double down on the failed arguments as proposed by the male elites a century ago against the suffragettes. Overseas priests need to know that a majority of Irish Catholics favour equality and justice for women in the leadership, governance, teaching office and ministry of the Catholic Church. They also think that the medieval policy of enforced celibacy is abusive, unjust, and potentially dangerous in some cases. People in the developed world have concluded that outdated restrictions by the male hierarchy against the consensus of lay people and pastoral priests is at the root of the tragic Eucharistic Famine and Pastoral Ministry Deficit worldwide.
My viewpoint is that a bounteous God has provided an abundance of Catholic women and men in every parish with the charisms and talents for wholesome ministry, celebration of Word and Eucharist plus mobilization of the parish to feed the hungry and act for justice. The artificial shortage of priests is largely caused by the sinful refusal of a small clerical group to affirm the priestly vocations of countless women and men, married and single. In the absence of power sharing, one logical option is to walk away from intransigent patriarchs. If we opt to stay, we need to speak out and act for reform to avoid collusion in the poison of patriarchy and misogyny as wrongly peddled by the ancient Fathers over centuries. There was some food in Ireland during the Famine. However, the authorities followed their own selfish interests and denied sustenance. Today, sadly, a small group of clerics are – unwittingly – acting as “dogs in the manger” and denying Eucharist and Pastoral Ministry worldwide. The People of God did not decide to impose the outdated restrictions to the detriment of all.
Another serious issue is that the dwindling number of priests are becoming heavily overburdened when at least some should be enjoying well deserved retirement. This is an ongoing abuse and injustice against men who have laboured long in the vineyard. Bishops need to come out of hiding and care for priests and people and parishes. Like all of us, the priests may fear extinction if bishops are missing in action and cowed by Rome. However, I am sure that the good pastoral priests will be more than happy to pass on the baton of priesthood, ministry and proclamation of Good News as soon as possible to women and men – married and single – gay and straight without any outdated restrictions.
It is depressing to read that domestic abuse, patriarchal domination, and the poison of misogyny remains prevalent in homes, parishes, and social media especially in pandemic times. If those evils are ever to be lessened, it is crucial that the Catholic Church confesses those obvious sins and embraces the reform. We lay people must use every means to communicate with bishops, priests, and nuncio in regard to the massive reform needed. Open conversation is needed in every parish and diocese leading to consensus and substantial change in Vatican III. The core Good News needs to be available to all in language, concepts and structures that make sense today.
There are lovely churches, fine facilities and wonderful people in every parish who can congregate post-Covid-19 to celebrate the Presence of God. I am convinced that there are plenty of talented women and men to be elected/selected by the People of God so as to dispense the riches of Word and Sacrament and Pastoral Ministry in every parish worldwide.
Joe Mulvaney (We are Church Ireland)
Dundrum, Dublin 16.
Thank you for this piece Joe, well reasoned, thought through and I couldn’t agree more with all the points you have made.