Priest Shortage Prompts Desperate
and Dangerous Policy
Some decisions are like infections that require a period of incubation before full-blown manifestation. This has proven true of many of the “reforms” that have ravaged the Catholic Church in recent decades and that can be traced to language in the decrees of Vatican II or the policy statements of officials in Rome.
The harm in these formulations lay in the interpretation — and implementation — to which the wording lends itself. (See: “Liturgical Time Bombs In Vatican II, by Michael Davies”.)
This is why language is so important. The loss of Thomistic precision in favor of a supposedly more pastoral idiom, such as appears in conciliar and post-conciliar Church documents, has produced verbal vagueness, which in turn has contributed to confusion and instability in doctrine and discipline.
A circumambient caution should attend every public utterance from the Holy See and its Roman congregations, for the effects of official and semi-official pronouncements can work for good or ill in the Church Universal. A statement that has come to light in the Catholic Herald in the United Kingdom is a worrisome case in point.
Cardinal Ivan Dias, prefect for the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, has written a letter that is troubling when it is clear and more so when it is ambiguous. It concerns alterations in the role permitted laicized priests in local parishes. (See: “Let dispensed priests play active parish role, Vatican urges bishops”.)
The letter, in response to an entreaty by a mission in Australia, revises in one fell swoop the standing policy that prohibits laicized priests from performing a range of activities. It also relocates authority in the matter of relaxing restrictions on such priests from the Holy See to the local bishop.
Priests who have been granted what is called a “rescript of the Holy See” are permitted to dispense with their vow of celibacy at the expense of forfeiting their sacerdotal role. (See: “Laicization” in New Advent's Catholic Encyclopedia.) They may marry within the Church, but they are no longer permitted to say Mass, administer the sacraments or occupy certain teaching positions, among other things.
According to Cardinal Dias' letter, the local bishop may now allow laicized priests to administer Holy Communion and to teach theology and religion at Catholic institutions. It also permits such priests to engage in these roles at parishes where they have served prior to their laicization.
These changes are troubling on several counts, some of which should be quite obvious.
There are rare cases in which a man may belatedly discover that his vocation was not genuine but the result of a failure in proper discernment, whether culpable or not, and his laicization is judged by his superiors to be the best option.
Many cases of laicization, however, are not of this kind. Some are attended by public scandal. Pope Benedict has even urged bishops to facilitate laicization in the latter instance. (See: “Pope grants congregation power to more easily laicize some priests”.)
A priest who, by his own desire or that of his superiors, is relieved of his priestly duties and returned to lay life is, quite simply, a failed priest. This is not to judge his soul, but to state what is plainly the case in the objective order: he made promises he did not, will not, or cannot, keep. And these promises were sacred vows to God.
This is no light matter, and any action that would appear to portray it as such should be avoided. To allow a laicized priest to return in any sacerdotal role, especially at a parish where he formerly served, cannot help but to make his laicization seem something of a mere formality. It can also have a divisive effect.
When Father Jones becomes Mr. Jones, then returns to distribute the Eucharist and teach catechism, some parishioners may object; others may be more accepting. But certainly, Mr. Jones — with Mrs. Jones in tow, or worse, a significant other of either sex — will be an illustration of the breakdown of Church discipline and, in some cases, a continuing source of scandal.
Disorientation Continues in Rome
Meanwhile, Cardinal Mauro Piacenza, head of the Congregation for the Clergy, granted an interview with Catholic News Agency in which he addresses the Holy Father's called-for reform of the priesthood.
In the interview, His Eminence stakes out traditional positions, defending priestly celibacy and insisting the Church has no power to ordain women. (See: “Cardinal Piacenza explains 'crisis' of Catholic priesthood”.)
Cardinal Piacenza says some admirable things. He points out that celibacy is not a rejection of marriage, and as such a “no” to a big part of life, but rather an affirmation of a greater love, such as shown by Our Lady. Celibacy is a “yes” to God, not a “no” to marriage.
His Eminence also points out that viewing ordination to the priesthood in terms of power is not the proper perspective. Those who see the ineligibility of women for Holy Orders as a bar to power fail to grasp the essence of the Christian life, which is loving service in whatever condition God has placed us.
Cardinal Piacenza ultimately says that any reform of the priesthood must be spiritual, not structural, and resides in a greater love of the Eucharist and a deep respect for the dignity of priestly life.
These are all considerations worth pondering, but one wonders why one Roman congregation appears to be undermining another? The reform based on greater fidelity to priestly vows called for by Cardinal Piacenza is difficult to reconcile with the expanded role for laicized and married priests called for by Cardinal Dias.
One approaches the priesthood with reverence and talks of the need for greater holiness; the other tends, in effect, to minimize the gravity of Holy Orders, re-admitting those who have cast off their vows to limited roles in parish life.
The diabolical disorientation Sister Lucy spoke of is evident on every level both within the Church and without. No Roman Congregation, no policy or pronouncement can correct this disorientation. We have been given one prescription, simply and exclusively: Consecrate Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
We must work and pray ever more fervently that the Holy Father and the bishops will heed the requests of Our Lady of Fatima. (See: Petition to Our Holy Father — The Consecration of Russia and Petition to Our Holy Father — The Release of the full Third Secret.)
The Fatima Crusader On-line
In Issue #99 of The Fatima Crusader, read excerpts of the addresses given by three bishops at the “Consecration Now?” conference (Rome, May 2011) in which they pled and counseled for rejection of the false solutions to peace of a one-world government (ruled by money and power-hungry men) and a one-world false religion and to embrace instead Heaven's plan, given to us by Our Lady of Fatima. At this same conference, Father Gruner showed that the Fatima apparitions were a direct response to an appeal by Pope Benedict XV, asking that Our Lady show the world the way to peace — which She did — and that there is no genuine obstacle to excuse for not obeying Our Lady. Also read a brief excerpt from Father Kramer's new book in which he shows that the Consecration of Russia is the one and only way that mankind can be delivered from the terrible chastisements about to befall the world; and an analysis of a book that supports the false argument that the Fatima prophecies are fulfilled, the Third Secret entirely revealed, Russia consecrated, and the Message of Fatima remains only a general call to prayer and penance.
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