The Lobinger Model of Teampriests

Bishop Lobinger (South America) has written creatively about the future of ministry in the Catholic Church, in view of the impending, or real, shortage of priests in many parts of the world. His ideas are being discussed widely in some parts, especially Brazil and Germany. Below is a summary, in ten points, of the substance of Lobinger’s model.

ProjectTeampriests from and for communities“:

1. Three communities will be selected for the project, which, — due to limited personal and financial resources–, will not have a priest in the foreseeable future. However, they are determined to preserve their parochial or communal independence and will continue celebrating the Sunday Eucharist.

2. These communities will have to this day given proof of their viability by providing services and by building pastoral groups. A “community team” will be established which will bear responsibility for the life and the activities of the community. In the event of an ordained “team of elders” at any later time, this team will continue being responsible for the community.

3. The communities will undergo a spiritual process of renewal, its aim being to instill a fundamental missionary attitude. As many as possible are to grow in a spiritual process, enabling them to respond to their baptismal calling by saying an individual adult adsum, which will transform mere community members to be witnesses to their faith.

4. Suitable persons are to be selected in the communities. They will come from the midst of communal life where they have already carried responsibilities and thus are already “personae probatae”. They are in command of sufficient professional experience. In general, they are prepared to get engaged on a voluntary basis.

5. The local bishop ensures that those selected will undergo an intensive theological and pastoral formation course of three years. This may be one connected with a High school/University. In the case of a bachelor degree it needs to comprise a special pastoral emphasis. Team leadership qualities are to be taken for granted.
In terms of church politics: a project for the world church.

6. The local bishop is to be empowered by way of exception of can 1042 § 1, to ordain them and to assign them to the “Team of Elders” of a community within the larger pastoral context.

7. Intensive support of local presbyteries. After ordination special emphasis will be given to an intensive spiritual and pastoral accompaniment through a competent priest companion. Thus the three year formation period will be continued and deepened. This priest cares judiciously for solid spiritual and pastoral standards in the Team of Elders in the various parishes.

8.  Not recommendable is the exclusive ordination of “viri probati” in the traditional sense, the same applies to full time deacons. They would foreseeably prevent or minimise the communities’ advancement towards a missionary witness.

9. It is clear in consequence, that through the ordination of “personae probatae” an additional specific type of priests will emerge, which will compliment and enrich the traditional form of priestly service.

10.  Gathering of celibate priests in regional working communities
The creation of local presbyteries initiates the possibility of celibate priests living in community. The survey PRIESTS 2000 indicates that under contemporary conditions celibacy is closely tied to communitarian lifestyles. Surprisingly the formation of local presbyteries provides a new chance for ensuring celibacy in future by making it practically viable.




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  1. Mary Wood says:

    This seems to leave open the possibility of “personae probatae” including women and married persons?

  2. Pádraig McCarthy says:

    Small correction: Bishop Fritz Lobinger is a native of South Africa.
    More information:
    His article Homegrown clergy: The case for a new kind of priesthood in
    March 2010 at
    That article is given and reviewed at

    Could ACP invite him? Maybe invite bishops?
    His thinking could stimulate some creative approaches to our situation, where it seems there is no plan to address what we know is coming in the next 10 to 30 years.

  3. Eugene Sheehan says:

    Bishop Lobinger’s project is a laudable, creative proposal to satisfy the dearth of priestly vocations within the Catholic Church but why must we equate “priest” with “ordination”? I am an “ordained” out of ministry, now married with children, yet I am unacceptable as a “persona probata”, even to exercising a ministry as a permanent deacon! I have the philosophical and theological training to facilitate a priestly people deepen their relationship with God, but I can no longer accept, nor understand, the need for making an onthological distinction for ordained priesthood. Did Jesus require it then or now? How much is culturally and historically conditioned? How much of clericalism is simply an exercise of power, and this includes the rule of celibacy, as previously indicated by Bishop Vincent Long. I detect a certain amount of diplomatic “jumping through hoops” on the part of Bishop Lobinger to remain within the confines of Canon Law. As I continue to grow in awareness that I, and all reality, swim in the sea of Divine Love, such legalism pollutes the simplicity.

  4. Phil Greene says:

    To Eugene,

    I along with some of my female colleagues must make some business trips during the year. Before doing so some of us over the years have noted how we would get ourselves ready , ensure the kids meals are made, have the uniforms sorted, get the shopping in, and that the house was in order before we leave.. we would then go and do our work abroad.. and our mothers or our husbands mothers would be down to check and see if the dad is coping or needs any help… he is only a man after all, needs minding..

    When the hubby goes away , he packs his bag and heads off, everyone else will manage.

    It appears at times that the same thinking is applied to priests by women in the parish and they are looked after very well; one can see why this is another reason that the institution can see the benefits to keeping men on their own.. it lends to the feminine equivalent of “fight or flight” which as you probably know is “tend and befriend” . and so no wonder we see so many women supporting many parishes. Of course this is not the only reason but it is one of them and one that should not be ignored.
    My younger female colleagues when having to go to a conference abroad now say that the man is as capable as they are getting the children’s meals and looking after the house, at being an equal partner, they do not see him as “just” a man .. and the men agree and pitch in ….times they are a-changin’ ….

  5. Lloyd Allan MacPherson says:

    Nice one Phil @4 – you need to learn how to braid hair at some point. Women have fathers the world over. I’m sorry to admit but daughters are going to get what they deserve from life. Equal footing is one of them. Rhetoric needs to stand aside during these times where the actions of men and men-led nations are at odds with society, the environment, and all our futures, it seems. If there are certain types of men and women who will need to lead at some point, I’m betting it will be you at some stage, Phil. You are possibly the people we’ve all been waiting for.

    We can’t form a clerical bubble around one man or woman in a community – this will have to be large groups of men and women deciding on a way forward and sinking their teeth into areas of the community that are no longer acceptable – poverty being one of them.

    Church models have to become a little more cooperative inspired than hierarchical. There is a way that small community groups can make unbelievable progress along lines of necessity and mercy. Understanding a basic necessity, providing the infrastructure to make it readily available to everyone free of charge and making sure everyone is volunteering a specific time during the week. Everything is running smoothly.

    Pope Francis gives us the idea that there is a lot of work to be done in cleaning all this mess up – most of it clerical. Those 10 points sound more like a work in progress and not anything like the future of my church. My church baptises its babies in fresh water streams with a guarantee from parents that they are going to do everything in their power to protect that stream because it is that child’s future. We are all water protectors as Catholics now, thankfully – if you are listening to the cry of the planet and the poor.

    Can we put that in 10 point form. What will be expected of Catholic community leaders if they are to be committed to a cause greater than their own personal situations; the situation of one and all will be our concern as Catholics, won’t it? Ideas float from time to time from deep, dark depths. It could happen to us but only if we let it.

    What are we doing? We are watching a baptism of fire taking place the world over and are connected to it, active financial participants with as many departure options forming as can be expected, if you are looking for those things as Catholics.

  6. Phil Greene says:

    I think Lloyd some of us are a little late for having any major impact, or indeed perhaps a bit too early depending on your viewpoint! I am starting to see the reality of how one can be quite invisible when younger mortals are around …a mature-ish mind in a mature body is not necessarily an asset when seeking to be heard!
    Your words have struck home in many respects. We, but more so our children perhaps will be equally affected by climate change , then it will be about survival and one can only hope that this generation will see the necessity of everyone working together regardless of gender or creed… the pettiness of the institutional Church will not be of interest to anyone, it will , one hopes be about the good works , compassion and courage of the individuals that work with people on the ground that will stand the test of time..( “Mad Max” the movie keeps coming into my mind, I wish it would go away!).
    I agree with you Lloyd that the Lobinger model could be seen as a “work in progress” and would like to see the model rolled out in a limited capacity. It is an improvement on the existing one in which both the First world and the other worlds can both find benefits. It’s not perfect, (but does it need to be at this time?) priests are still celibate and one wonders how much involvement the laypeople had in it, if at all… and indeed how much “real” impact we would have once rolled out .. so let’s see it in action and let’s see what both lay people and clergy on the ground think of the process.. in action. A real step forward would be if the Vatican then took a look at it from both sides. Don’t like mandatory celibacy still hanging around in the model … one of the reasons being mentioned in my previous post above.. but that is for the clergy to speak as one voice to the institution.. Outdated dress codes and royal pageantry could cease too – nuns never went there!
    Tony Flannery gave this model the thumbs up so there is obviously merit to it and the fact the ACTA wanted a conversation about it at their conference shows it in an equally positive light .. so I am hoping it gets the green light for some diocese to try it and see.. a step or two in the right direction perhaps!

    Loved the piece on the Spiritfest too , It was run by the Pastoral Council and sounds such a success. Any of us in a vibrant parish know that this success is not down just to the Lay people , it is the energy and direction given by the parish priest in finding the right people in the first place , then allowing them to have an equal voice , be involved in the decision-making , and letting go.. it is making the best of the present outdated model..
    Congratulations to all of you, working..together.!

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