Vatican seeks ‘courageous’ ideas to combat priest shortage

  • Jun. 8, 2018 3:53 p.m.

VATICAN CITY — The Vatican called Friday for courageous proposals to cope with a shortage of priests in the Amazon, and said it wouldn’t rule out debate on whether married men could step in to fill the “precariously-thin presence” of the Catholic Church in the vast region.

In a preparatory document seeking input from South American bishops for the Vatican’s 2019 meeting on the Amazon, organizers also said the church must identify new “official ministries” for women to play in the region.

The call was not a suggestion that women could be ordained priests, which Catholic doctrine forbids and Pope Francis has reaffirmed.

But it leaves open the door to making official some ministries that women in remote parts of Latin America already perform, including celebrating baptisms.

And it calls for “new ways” to increase access to the Eucharist in a part of the world where the church counts around one priest for every 10,000 Catholics and where remote communities can go weeks or months at a time before a priest arrives to celebrate Mass.

The call for “courageous, daring and fearless” proposals suggests that the Vatican wants the region’s bishops to put forward concrete proposals on whether married men of proven virtue — so-called “viri probati” — could celebrate Mass in places where priests are in short supply.

The “viri probati” proposal has been around for decades, but has drawn fresh attention under history’s first Latin American pope thanks to his familiarity with the challenges facing the Amazon church.

At a press conference Friday, organizers of the Amazon synod said the document and the attached questionnaire will solicit suggestions from regional bishops that will then be incorporated into the document that will guide the October 2019 debate.

Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri said he didn’t use the term “viri probati” in the document because he wanted to let church leaders in the field make their proposals.

“We don’t want to preclude anything,” he said.

Similarly, he didn’t identify which “official ministries” women could undertake.

Women currently do much of the heavy lifting in the Catholic Church in the Amazon region. Francis has appointed a commission of experts to study the role of women deacons in the early church, presumably with an eye to seeing if an ordained female diaconate could be permissible today.

Deacons, an ordained ministry currently reserved to men, can preach and preside at weddings, baptisms and funerals. But only priests can celebrate Mass.

Unlike women’s ordination, which is forbidden as a matter of church doctrine, the practice of a celibate priesthood in the Latin rite Catholic Church is a discipline that could be changed. Many eastern rite Catholic Churches allow married men to become priests.

Just Posted

Central Alberta school divisions to support rural students through agreement

Wolf Creek to bring Enhanced Learning Model courses to Clearview schools

WATCH: Red Deer Catholic students re-envision a local wetland for school project

Father Henri Voisin Grade 3 teacher introduces ‘real-life’-based education

Manslaughter charge stayed against Maskwacis man

Man was accused of manslaughter in connection with the death of his mother in 2015

Red Deer Mounties make numerous arrests over the past two weeks

Over the past two weeks, Red Deer RCMP have made a number… Continue reading

Leslieville Elks’ new hall rising from the ashes

Leslieville Elks Lodge grateful for outpouring of support

WATCH: Red Deer Catholic students re-envision a local wetland for school project

Father Henri Voisin Grade 3 teacher introduces ‘real-life’-based education

Charges dropped against Alberta property owner in rural shooting

OKOTOKS, Alta. — All charges have been dropped against a man accused… Continue reading

China blocks John Oliver on social media after scathing show

BEIJING — A popular Chinese social media site is censoring discussion of… Continue reading

Most Red Deer Advocate readers would call police when witnessing a crime

An overwhelming number of Advocate readers would call the police if they… Continue reading

So much TV, so little summer: Amy Adams, Kevin Hart, Dr. Pol

LOS ANGELES — The fall television season is months away but that’s… Continue reading

BlackBerry Q1 revenue, adjusted earnings beat estimates but stock falls

TORONTO — BlackBerry Ltd. shares sank almost 10 per cent to their… Continue reading

OPEC countries to pump more oil to contain price increase

VIENNA — The countries of the OPEC cartel agreed on Friday to… Continue reading

Man sentenced for Edson triple murder

EDMONTON — An Alberta man who fatally shot three people has been… Continue reading

‘Hot Dog Water’ seller in Vancouver gets laughs, sales with savvy marketing

VANCOUVER — A Vancouver man who sold bottles of “Hot Dog Water”… Continue reading

Most Read


Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month