by Joan Chittister, osb
Pax Christi USA Teacher of Peace
Watch the TV ads carefully these days. You may not have much interest in the particular product they’re selling at any particular time, but if you listen carefully, you can certainly learn a lot there about ecclesiastical physics. One advert teaches: “A body at rest tends to stay at rest; a body in motion tends to stay in motion.” And another one says: “Every action creates a reaction.” So there you have it. That’s exactly what’s going on in the church right now.
Whole bodies of people are moving forward while the bishops stay at rest. Most important of all, when the hierarchical church finally called for a response from the church at large about something important — marriage, family, relationships — material poured out of every lay group in the country. The data were clear: The laity was eager to respond. They wanted to be part of the conversation. They wanted to give back to the church the fruits of the sacrament the church has bestowed on them.
But not in one area alone or from one group alone.
For instance, the Association of Catholic Priests in Ireland has asked their bishop representatives to present three proposals to the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference with a view to forwarding them to Rome. Their proposals for official consideration include the acceptance of married priests, the ordination of women to the diaconate, and the recall of laicized priests to priestly ministry.
ACP members, in the minutes of their meeting record, know that “their proposals will cause disquiet and difficulty” but are nevertheless essential “to guarantee regular access to the Eucharist to the Irish Faithful.” In 1984, there were 171 ordinations in Ireland. In 2006, there were 22. In 2013, there were only 70 seminarians in all of Ireland even considering the priesthood….