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livin' on a prayer

Priests warn that Church will 'implode' if it doesn't start ordaining women

Catholic bishops will discuss the issue at their annual conference this week.

THE CHURCH MUST begin ordaining women and allow priests to marry if it is to survive, the Association of Catholic Priests has warned.

The ACP has made a number of recommendations to deal with the low number of vocations within the Church that will be discussed at the Irish Catholics Bishop Conference in Maynooth this week.

Fr Sean McDonagh of the ACP said that ordaining women as deacons would be “nothing unusual as they were ordained in the past”.

“It’s fairly clear historically that women have served in the Church, despite every effort to silence their voices since the 4th century.”

Women have to be a very major part of the future of ministry in the church. When you look around the church on a Sunday, who are doing most of the roles? Women.

McDonagh said that the Catholic Church was “facing an implosion in terms of vocations to the priesthood”, adding that there are only two priests under the age of 40 in the archdiocese of Dublin.

You don’t need to be a mathematician to see we’re facing a crisis.

The ACP is also calling for men who left the priesthood to marry to be called back to ministry in some form.

He noted that a 2012 survey of Roman Catholics in Ireland carried out on behalf of the ACP showed that 87 per cent of people thought priests should be allowed marry, while 77 per cent said they were in favour of women being ordained as priests. A further 72 per cent of respondents said mature married men should be allowed to be ordained.

In 1984 there were 171 ordinations or religious professions in Ireland compared to the more recent figure of just 22 in 2006. In 2013 70 people were studying for the diocesean priesthood in Ireland.

Papal approval

McDonagh said it was the “obligation of bishops” to raise the issue in Rome, He noted that Pope Francis indicated he was open to such suggestions in the past, stating: “We’ll take him at his word.”

The priest stressed that this was not an issue unique to Ireland, saying it was a problem “across the Catholic world that needs to be addressed”.

McDonagh said that praying for more vocations was “fine” but not sufficient by itself.

We don’t have a plan.

He warned that if the ACP’s recommendations were not acted on, parish churches could be forced to close down.

The Association met with representatives of the Irish Episcopal Conference last week. At the meeting Fr Brendan Hoban pointed out that there has been a priest in his parish of Ballina Co Mayo since the 8th century, but said, given the present statistics, he believes he will be that last.

Read: Three quarters of Catholics say Church teachings on sexuality are irrelevant

Read: Are Ireland’s priests heading for extinction?

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