We saw, in a recent Plain Dealer announcement, that the Cleveland Diocese will ordain four men to the priesthood this Saturday May 16th.
For these men, It will certainly be a joyous occasion. We wish each of them many blessings as they begin their priestly ministry.
However, there’s a larger story here. First some background. In 1970, the Cleveland Diocese had close to 600 male priests in active ministry. Now, that number is about 400. To make matters worse, only a very tiny percentage of these priests are under the age of 40. Just to maintain its already diminished number of priests, the diocese must ordain nearly 400 men in the next 30 years. Unless something changes drastically, this is not going to happen. In the next couple decades, as the total number of Roman Catholic Priests in this diocese falls below 200, we will see a large percentage of Catholic parishes closed, merged or functioning without a priest. In Cleveland, as throughout the developed world, the priesthood of the institutional Roman Catholic Church is in a slow, but inexorable decline.
The institutional Roman Church has nobody to blame but themselves. Many men and women are still called to the priesthood. More than enough to shepherd our parish communities. However, there’s a problem. Most men and women who are called to the priesthood are concerned with Social Justice. The Institutional Roman Catholic Church has a TERRIBLE reputation in this regard. The Rome led church is the largest institution in the world actively promoting the notion that women are inferior to men. Sure, they say nice things about honoring the unique and special “roles of women” or some such meaningless platitudes. However, the roles this all male leadership allow women to have ensure that women will remain subservient - that no woman will ever rise to a leadership position. This is wrong. Absolutely wrong.
The institutional Roman led church also has a deplorable record on social justice related to LGBT people. The institution clings to an ignorant and stunted version of “morality” which denies the fullness of human experience - love and marriage - to people who are gay and lesbian. Many LGBT people make excellent priests. Many heterosexual people understand that the Roman Church’s unjust treatment of LGBT people is profoundly wrong. A sense of ethics and justice would prevent these men and women, otherwise called to the priesthood, from joining an unjust institution such as the Roman Catholic Church.
And, tell us again. Why is it that priests can’t be married?
Until the Roman Church figures out how to do justice with respect to Women and LGBT people, we expect that the numbers of men becoming priests in this - currently - all male institution will continue inevitable decline.
In the mean time, men who feel the call to priestly ordination should seek that ordination in an organization which also allows the ordination of women.
Roman Church - hear this clearly - the days when you can exclude women are over. ORDAIN WOMEN.