Saturday, March 26, 2011

A Swiss bishop supports relaxing the celibacy requirement

March 23, 2011

Msgr. Markus Büchel, bishop of St. Gallen, is not in favor of abolishing the celibacy requirement for priests. But he is proposing that "one should also be able to become a priest, without having celibacy imposed." In his diocese, the pastor of Gossau has resigned due to paternity. The priest, Niklaus Popp (44), became sexually involved with the parish housekeeper who is expecting the couple's child. He has chosen to leave the priesthood and stay with his partner and child.

This support for relaxing the celibacy rule is widespread in Europe, Msgr. Büchel stated in the March 23rd issue of the daily Blick, edited in Zurich. However, he adds: "We have to admit that basically, celibacy is on a voluntary basis. Nobody is forced into it. Every man who wants to become a priest decides freely to keep this promise and bear the consequences." He himself has never regretted opting for celibacy.

In the case in Gossau, the rule is as follows: the priest involved "must decide -- either the woman and his child, or the priesthood. It's clear; he can't choose both."

Msgr. Büchel stated in the St. Galler Tagblatt: "A relaxation of the celibacy requirement could help address the problem of the lack of priests in the Western countries." In ten years, there will only be about 30 priests under 65 in his diocese. But the bishop puts the problem in perspective. "There are many countries -- like France, or in Africa or Latin America -- where there are fewer priests per number of Catholics than there are here."

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Father Mora Got Married!

This story is extraordinary because this priest, who left the ministry in the Honduran Catholic Church because of a woman -- as he now reveals -- was Cardinal Oscar Andrés Rodríguez Maradiaga's right hand man before his resignation. In the original story in the photo captions, Father Mora's wife (photo right) is only identified by a pseudonym, "Paty". RG

La Tribuna (Honduras)
March 12, 2011

Father José de Jesus Mora was born in Granada, Nicaragua, but nothing reveals his Nicaraguan origins. He arrived in Honduras in 1984 when he was 15, his parents having decided to send him and his two brothers to Honduras to evade compulsory military service in the Sandinista army. In Tegucigalpa, he finished high school at the Vicente Mejía Colindres Institute, but he had begun it in the Salesian College in Granada where, at age 7, he felt called to the priesthood. He entered the Diocesan Seminary and in 1994, was ordained a priest by the then Archbishop Oscar Andrés Rodríguez.

Father Mora quickly became a confidant of Archbishop Oscar Andres Rodriguez, who appointed him Vicar of Communications of the Catholic Church and spokesman for the Archdiocese. Mora even lived in the same residence as Cardinal Rodríguez, but wasn't the only confidant in his circle and in December 2006, he resigned from his post and from the priesthood.

There were many rumors about the reasons for Father Mora's departure. He and Bishop Juan José Pineda appeared together on a television program, on which they said there were no lawsuits or grievances. The subject stopped being news and Mora disappeared from public view. He moved to San Pedro Sula to live as a layman with all that that implies: having a home, his own family, a wife, a child and another on the way, and working at the Universidad Tecnológica de Honduras (UTH). Four years later, Father Mora tells us about his new life and casts a critical eye on his journey through the Catholic Church.

Who is Jesús Mora outside the Church?

A completely satisfied person. In my current work with UTH, I am valued and held in high esteem by the president of the University, Roger Valladares, academic colleagues and the students...

Don't you miss the priesthood?

Contact with the people, yes, I miss that a lot -- the communities where I was, Ojojona, Teupasenti, San Martin de Porres parish, the Cathedral, Yaguacire, La Divanna, many communities that I served.

Are you happy outside of the Church?

As a baptized person, I'm still a member of the Catholic Church. I was definitely happy in the priesthood and now I'm happy in family life. I want to shout it out!...and how good it is that you are giving me the opportunity to do so now. I left the priesthood of my own will and chose to share my life with an extraordinary woman, with great human values and an excellent profession. She's a doctor, with a specialization, she has a dominant and attractive personality, a good sense of humor, she's very intelligent...I always say that before falling in love there was admiration for this person. She's a great wife and mother. Just as I fell in love with the ministry life, I fell in love with a person I admire and love. I made a very conscious decision...

Had you made this decision before leaving the Church or did the relationship emerge later?

It was simultaneous. It's not a situation one deliberately seeks out, but I'll tell you this: in this time that I've known her, I think I should have left sooner! (laughs)

Do you wonder why you didn't do it earlier?

No. I don't regret the ministry, quite the contrary. It's been a blessing and an undeserved grace that has marked my whole life.

I don't think God made a mistake in calling me to the ministry and I can say that I didn't make a mistake either at the point of choosing this life, so I don't feel the ministry and family life are incompatible...

Do you have any children?

Yes, a boy age one year and nine months; his name is José Alejandro. The second is on the way; she will be named Valentina…

What has this meant for you?

It's indescribable, all words fall short. Through experiencing paternity and family life, one's ability to love doubles, triples, multiplies; one becomes more human, more sensitive...

How has your life changed in terms of routine?

Even though he's one year and nine months, I still don't sleep the same (laughs). One is attentive to anything he might need. Living alone is not the same as living attentive to others, the wife, a child, and now two (laughs)...Some would say that I left with much desire to make the mandate of the book of Genesis -- "Grow and multiply and fill the earth" -- come alive, but it has been a blessing from God and a decision by mutual agreement and we are both so happy...

What's it like to share a house, to sleep with someone, after so many years?

(Laughs). Before, I used to be able to get out of bed on either side, now only on one ...

It's really a strange sensation at the beginning, but that's when one becomes convinced that God gave human nature the ability to love and at the same time, complementarily, added the need to be loved.

Before, I loved weekends for the pastoral work, for contact with the people; now I love them and I want them for the time to share with the family...

Do you think that a married man can be a good priest?

Of course! It's been demonstrated in the Orthodox and the Eastern rite church where the candidate to the priesthood chooses if he wants to get married or remain celibate. I can't state that the Catholic Church made a mistake on celibacy; I think celibacy is a great resource and it is oriented towards a greater consecration to God. A priest who lives out his celibacy and directs his strength to self-giving is very useful in the service of the gospel, but a priest who has agreed to celibacy and then has to live a divided life, "playing hide and seek", doesn't have the same commitment; it's not an ideal situation in the life of the priest.

What happens is that the Orthodox Church speaks clearly of the practical advantages of celibacy, while the Catholic Church stresses that this disciplinary norm is the express will of Christ and tries to sublimate it, to contain it with angelic spirituality.

But you made a commitment...

Yes, one takes on the commitment, in writing, in a letter, and asks for ordination. I did it, I signed it by hand. I promised to live out the ministry forever. Yes, I do feel I failed in this and I acknowledge that it was a half-hearted commitment, and I'm not going to justify myself now by blaming others...

This shows that under the cassock there are just human beings...

That's the main point, one that many don't want to acknowledge. One can't deny one's human nature; you ask for celibacy as a gift from God and it isn't reduced to just the sexual aspect. Some would say that "the fever hit him just like Padre Alberto." It's not that; it's the emotional dimension. Love is greater than the passion aspect; what fulfills people is living together, companionship, knowing you matter to somebody and now the existence of children who, whichever way you look at them, are one of the greatest blessings...

It's a human need...

More than 100,000 of us priests have abandoned the priesthood and they are an underutilized evangelizing force, because that's 20% of all priests. The Fifth CELAM Conference at Aparecida, recommended that bishops seek out those priests who have left the ministry because the contribution we can make within the Church is important, but it's clearly obvious that the bishops aren't interested in this.

Where is that treatment coming from?

I'm now being treated differently by many people than when I was in the clergy. Many didn't like or appreciate me as a person, but as a priest. I'm the same, but many people aren't treating me the same...

If the Church were to abolish celibacy, would you go back to the priesthood?

Yes, I've thought about it, I think so. Obviously, my wife would have to consent...(laughs)

Why didn't you go over to the Anglican Church where you could minister and be married?

Because I love the Catholic Church; I have a lot of gratitude and affection for it.

Jesus said: "Happy are those who haven't seen and yet believe" but I would paraphrase this and say: "Happy are those who keep on believing in spite of what they have seen."

I've seen many weaknesses in the Catholic Church and I've also seen the work it does, the self-giving of some priests, the good witness of some bishops. I really feel so united to the Church that, although I would like to minister and can't because of the decision I made and the current norms, I'm not going to renounce my Catholic faith...

You prefer to be just another layman...

That sounds derogatory. It's better to be a good layman than a priest who isn't giving the witness that's expected of him. Yes, I prefer to be a layman, to not renounce my faith and love for the Catholic Church.

There's a special person who's influenced my love for the Church a lot and that's my mother; it's a love that was spread rather than imposed. I'm certain that Jesus instituted the Church; we have a great wealth: the legitimacy of the sacraments, its Biblical and theological teaching, the witness of the saints throughout the history of the Church. I can't now tell the faithful that everything I professed, lived, celebrated and taught, was a lie...

Why leave something you loved so much?

There are a lot of things. I can't deny that each is responsible for his actions, but one becomes disenchanted...Although they won't admit it or say so, there may be gradual disenchantment in the life of some priests. Though they continue to minister, they don't have the same passion and that's not due to physical, but to existential fatigue. And when there's no openness, there aren't any channels through which to express that disillusionment or disenchantent and other compensatory mechanisms are sought -- emotional, economic, psychological, egocentric ones, etc...

As long as we're more concerned with good image, control and sanctions, less effort is devoted to what's really important: evangelization.

Did you feel frustrated?

Yes, there were situations in which I felt frustrated that many things were being handled in a businesslike way, for convenience, not seeking the truth so much as drowning it. It was frustrating to know that there were things that, in my opinion, could be solved differently. But what motivated me to make the decision wasn't frustration so much, but something more beautiful: the possibility of loving and being loved, of having a family. And my heart wasn't wrong; I'm very happy. I didn't leave, running away; I left, seeking.

What's missing in the training of clergy?

I think that seminary training fails to take the bull by the horns, to talk clearly, explicitly. Sometimes they talk metaphorically and ethereally. We've had a problem in the Church: we talk more to the head than to the heart, we make rational arguments, but the human being isn't just reason. He's freedom, will, desire, he's many things...They should recognize that those of us who are called to the priestly vocation are made of the same human clay as everyone else, with qualities and defects, virtues and weaknesses. I think that there's a human aspect that isn't being given the importance it should have: affective maturity and emotional balance. But as long as an ingenuous separation is being made between "we, the good and you, the bad", dialogue and maturity aren't possible.

There's no worse hypocrisy that faked virtue and you can't fool everyone all the time...

You know Padre Alberto. Do you identify with him?

The way it came about was a scandalous situation; it offended the sensibilities of many Catholics. I contacted him; there's a relationship of friendship, and I was with him a few months earlier and knew he wanted to take that step. We talked about it; I won't go into details because I'm respectful, but I saw him making the decision ...

Did you know he had somebody?

He didn't say it, but you could read between the lines. What's more important is that he told me that he loved the priesthood so much that he decided to continue in the ministry and the closest one is the Anglican Church. He has said that it's the same and yes, there are similarities, but canonically one cannot state that it's the same Catholic Church...

He used to tape his program here on channel 48. How did he react when they closed it down?

He felt uncomfortable, annoyed, and he even said, "what about the other scandals?" But I don't share this opinion of "why me and not the others?" I don't think Padre Alberto's exit was the best and I'm not saying that he wasn't within his right, but personally I would say that if they're legitimate programs, from someone whose development or subject will do good for a lot of people, why condemn or stigmatize him?

How's you relationship with Cardinal Rodríguez?

My affection for the Cardinal is unconditional; I have a lot to thank him for. He has a difficult job in difficult circumstances. Often he would say to me half seriously half jokingly: "Son, never ask God to be a bishop." I don't know if he said it from tiredness or because he was afraid I would stir up a revolution at the heart of the Church. (laughs) I appreciate him a lot, I maintain occasional communication with him. When I made this decision, I had been living in his house four years and I certainly got to know more about his human qualities, his pastoral charity. He works tirelessly, is a man of prayer, and was so fatherly and brotherly. When I visited him after my departure, he expressed particular appreciation towards me.

Father Mora was a faithful defender of the Catholic Church, its postulates and its authorities for many years. Time and circumstances have led him to take a more critical posture.

Father Mora knows that history isn't linear and that everything is subject to change and perhaps that's why he closes the conversation with this phrase about the mutual affection that has united him with Cardinal Rodriguez: "I'll tell you later if it's still there after this interview."

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

New Ways of Being Catholic

PR Newswire

BRUNSWICK, Maine, March 1, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- As Lent and Easter approach, many Catholics are finding new ways of being Catholic. Judy and David Lorenz are just two Catholics who, in the tradition of the first Christians, host Masses at home with married priest Rev Donald Horrigan. "I wanted to worship God, use my gifts," says Judy, and we wanted to "reach out to other Catholics who may have lost their spiritual connection for some reason."

Every year, many US Catholics are turning to married priests to celebrate thousands of Masses, weddings, baptisms, and other sacraments. Many of them had no spiritual place to call home -- their church was closed for lack of priests, they felt unwelcome due to divorce or other circumstance, or, like the Lorenz', they sought out a married priest affiliated with CITI Ministries/ (Celibacy Is the Issue) when they felt disenchanted with the institutional church.

Judy says, "It's sad that Fr. Don's 'priestly' ministry had to be put on hold for so many years, though it is clear to me from my experience with him in Emmaus that he was as much a follower of the Lord in his roles as husband, father, and school principal. It's just a bonus that now he can minister to the rest of us again!." While Catholic priests who marry lose their clerical positions, the church's own theology and canon law state that sacraments by married priests are valid because a priest is a "priest forever" and "cannot refuse" sacraments and permission is not needed from anyone no matter where it takes place (Canons 1335, 290, and 843).

CITI Ministries is a nonprofit organization that offers free referrals to married priests in almost every state. Married priests are available for special one-time services such as Holy Week or Easter Masses, weekly or occasional Masses, first or second marriages, baptisms, Holy Communion, Anointing of the Sick, funerals, spiritual guidance or group discussion, such as those among vigiling parishes who are trying to discern their future as a congregation. The extensive theological backgrounds and experience of these priests has been invaluable to those who might otherwise have fallen away from Catholicism.

For the first 1100 years of the church, popes, bishops, and priests married and fathered children. Celibacy was made a law in 1139 to prevent priests from bequeathing their homes to their spouses and children rather than to the church.

For persons seeking a new path to reconnect with their faith, a married priest may provide an acceptable pathway. A special individual or group Lenten retreat workshop entitled "Strengthening Our Spiritual Immune System" is also available on the website.

For more information: go to; 1-800-PRIEST-9;, or CITI Ministries, 14 Middle Street, Suite 2, Brunswick, ME 04011, 207-729-7673. See links also on YouTube, Vimeo or Facebook.

CONTACTS: David and Judy Lorenz (MD),; Jerry Siegmund (SC), 843-399-8065; Louise Haggett (ME), President/Founder, 207-729-7673; Rev. Rich Hasselbach (NY), 914-804-1944; Rev. John Shuster (WA), 360-551-9982

Catholic priest shortfall an 'imminent disaster'

Barney Zwartz
The Age (Australia)
March 5, 2011

Wednesday morning Mass at St Aloysius in north Caulfield, and barely a dozen of the faithful are scattered through the handsome old Catholic church built to house 1000, as Father Gerard Diamond celebrates the sacrament.

Two hours later, he is leading Mass again at St Anthony's in Glen Huntly for a healthier congregation of about 50. Father Diamond has no idea how many times he has said Mass but, at an average of nearly 450 a year for 44 years, he is verging on 20,000.

He has been parish priest at Glen Huntly since 1992, but in 2003 he ''acquired'' the Caulfield parish, and in 2008 the two parishes were formally merged.

Advertisement: Story continues below Father Diamond's telescoping parish ministry is a fine example of trends in the Australian Catholic church, which a new report says faces ''imminent disaster''.

The report, Catholic Parish Ministry in Australia: Facing Disaster?, is a statistical analysis by former priest Peter Wilkinson, a senior research fellow at the Australian Institute of Multicultural Affairs on behalf of an active lay group, Catholics for Ministry.

It shows that from a peak of one priest for every 518 Catholics in 1966, there is now one for every 1895 Catholics. But that ratio counts 1431 retired priests and those not in parish ministry - the real figure is much higher. In New South Wales in 15 years, it could be one priest for as many as 22,000 Catholics, one for every 13,000 in Victoria.

The catastrophic decline in parish priests - which will intensify as the boom clerical generation ordained between 1955 and 1975 retires or dies - comes as the Catholic population is rising rapidly, largely due to immigration. In 2010, based on Australian Bureau of Statistics figures, the Catholic population was 5.6 million, up 470,000 from the 2006 Census.

Already one in four Australian parishes is without a full-time priest. The Australian bishops - banned by Rome from even mentioning the possibility of married priests or women priests - are trying to meet the challenge by merging parishes and recruiting priests from overseas, often on short-term arrangements - a strategy, according to Dr Wilkinson, ''of despair and desperation''.

Since 1994 184 parishes have merged. Today 1282 Australian parishes have 1523 priests but by 2025, the report says, there may be as few as 600 home-grown priests for a Catholic population estimated to top 7 million.

But Dr Wilkinson says importing overseas priests - now 20 per cent of the Australian total - is no solution. Soon recruitment countries such as Nigeria, India and the Philippines will not be able to spare priests, and those who come now often struggle to adapt to Australian life and have a different focus - they see themselves as missionaries engaged in the re-evangelisation of Australia.

Catholics for Ministry co-founder Paul Collins shares that concern. ''Many of these foreign priests are inexperienced and come from cultures that are tribal and patriarchal. They have little or no comprehension of the kinds of faith challenges that face Catholics living in a secular, individualistic, consumerist culture that places a strong emphasis on equality, women's rights and co-responsibility between clergy and lay people,'' he said.

Dr Wilkinson says the situation is far more serious than he anticipated. ''The crisis is real and the scale is huge. The question is, what are the bishops able or prepared to do, and, from what I can gather, Rome keeps a very tight rein on them.''

He said the figures showed priests would be forced to focus on the sacraments and Eucharist at the expense of other important duties such as pastoral care.

Father Diamond accepts that priestly ministry is changing, but thinks a well-run parish can still cope. In a secular job he would have his feet up already, but priests do not retire until 75, seven years away. In fact, he knows he will be needed much longer - as long as he is mentally and physically capable.