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Let’s move on from condoms. What the Pope said about the priesthood is more interesting

Despite the furore over condoms, Light of the World, the book-length interview with Pope Benedict, is about a whole lot more than sex.

By on Monday, 29 November 2010

Priests attend Pope Benedict XVI's Mass celebrated outside the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela (CNS photo/Stefano Rellandini, Reuters)

Priests attend Pope Benedict XVI's Mass celebrated outside the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela (CNS photo/Stefano Rellandini, Reuters)

Given the amount of ink spilled recently over Pope Benedict’s reference to the use of condoms during his interview with journalist Peter Seewald, people might be forgiven for thinking that his book, “Light of the World” is all about sex – in particular, sex in sinful circumstances. Thinking this would be a great pity. The conversation ranged over a large number of topics, to which the Holy Father responded with great frankness and originality. I am thinking especially of his reply to a question raised by Seewald on the need for married priests. This is part of what the Pope said:

“I believe that celibacy becomes a very meaningful sign, and above all possible to live, when priests begin to form communities. It is important for priests not to live off on their own somewhere, in isolation, but to accompany one another in small communities, to support one another, and so to experience, and constantly realise afresh, their communion in service to Christ and in renunciation for the sake of the Kingdom of heaven.”

The only other place I have seen this idea stated is in a scholarly treatise by Fr Jerome Bertram CO, entitled “Vita Communis” and published by Gracewing. In it the author describes the life of a typical parish priest in Britain today: overworked, isolated, struggling with the paperwork, often juggling a hospital chaplaincy as well as trying to run several Mass centres. Fr Bertram writes, “It would be impossible to think of any model of diocesan priestly life that could be worse than the one we have at present.” He thinks that in this country most parishes are too small to be viable, given the amount of administration required – and that priests are not called to be hermits.

Fr Bertram’s suggestion, which the Pope seems to gesture towards in his reply above, is that seven or eight priests of a particular area might live together in “association” – not a “college” but more than a deanery – and thus parishes could support them more easily. He cites Vatican II for encouragement of this form of a common life, “to deliver priests from the dangers that often arise from loneliness.”
There is no need to cite the obvious dangers arising from isolation; this and its consequent loneliness are quite bad enough in themselves. Even Pope Benedict – who might be described as a kind of ‘prisoner in the Vatican’ – fondly describes his own little “community” within its walls: he, his two secretaries and the four nuns who look after them, share meals, watch DVDs together and join in the celebration of Mass and each other’s birthdays. I am sure this small community helps to make the burdens of his office more endurable and less lonely. Parish priests, no less than the Holy Father, need fellowship, mutual support, the company of their fellows – in short, communities. I have known several cases of priests cracking under the strain of their lives. These were good and conscientious men, struggling to live their vocation. They did not abandon it; they were simply crushed by all the demands made on them.

Fr Bertram, himself an Oratorian and thus living in fraternity with fellow members of the Oxford Oratory, believes that if a more satisfactory model of priestly life could be developed it would mean increased congregations and “the long steady decline [in vocations] since 1964 could at last be reversed.”

Could we move on from the condom issue and talk about this instead?

  • EditorCT

    I don't think it's a case of “moving on” from the condom issue – that is very grave matter indeed, and is causing turmoil in the Church – but it is, of course, important to address issues of concern in the priesthood today. These are two issues of importance and we can discuss the latter here, without in any way giving the impression that the condoms issue is done and dusted. No way. It never will be now. It's part of the history of the Church.

    I read the blog article with much interest. Since we don't hear about any other group of people who have made a free choice to live a particular vocation (teaching, medicine, marriage) “struggling” to live out their vocation, it strikes me that this fact alone – that priests seem to struggle all the time – is very serious. Maybe the current crop, generally speaking of course, are not cut out for the priesthood? I've read loads of lives of saints, including many priests, and not one of the struggled with their vocation.

    The “struggle” which priests today experience, appears to be with sexual issues, I am personally convinced now, after much deliberation from a number of angles, that no candidates for the priesthood should be accepted unless they are men do not want to marry. If they are making a big sacrifice of marriage, then they must apply to themselves the warning of St Paul that it is better to marry than to burn. That does not apply to those choosing celibate lifestyles after commitment – they must be absolutely certain beforehand. Otherwise, a job in Asda is advised.

    Shock horror, I hear many of you say, but there are people who are perfectly normal and who are not living in sexual frustration, who do not and never have wanted to marry. They are very happy people. Trust me.

    Men who want to make the world a better place through being priests, should be declined. They will not make good priests (because priesthood is about preparing souls for eternity, not for making the world a better place) and if they are “sacrificing” marriage, well, the chances are these days, that they won't persevere.

    It's good that the Pope can enjoy some community life with his secretaries and the nuns, but unfortunately an awful lot of priests are manifestly uncomfortable around women. This is the sign of a priest who is “sacrificing” marriage. No use. The priests whom I am blessed to count as friends are at ease with women and, tellingly, they LOVE being priests.

    The priest must be completely committed to his mission of saving souls. He must know that he relies on the grace of God to do this. If he needs some psychobabble therapist to see him through the day, he is in the wrong line of work.

    Men who are able to interact normally with women, as with sisters, will make good priests. Spare me the self-sacrificing priest whom (sound Catholic) women want to avoid because they're afraid of being a source of temptation. I've known a few.

    The bar of chocolate that looks so longingly at me from the sweet shop counter, alongside the fresh cream meringue in the bakery next door, will never know how deeply they tempt me.

    The same should be true of each one of us – including priests. Priests who wear their temptations on their sleeve, in my view should never have been ordained.

    And those who are ordained should make sure their day is well divided up, from the hour before the Blessed Sacrament, that Archbishop Fulton Sheen said was a guarantee against priestly defections, to the Rosary, weapon against all heresies, to wholesome friends of both genders – which only the priest who really doesn't want to marry, who wants to be a saving-souls priest, can enjoy with safety.

    These are my random thoughts on the contemporary priesthood – St John Vianney, Cure D'Ars, Patron Saint of priests, pray for them…

  • Toby Lees

    Encouragingly I see that the book has sold out on Amazon UK and The Book Depository and it's sales rank is pleasingly high (however, don't look at what's above it, it's a little depressing to see how discovering what Keith Richards has to say is a little higher up the priority list in most households!).

    I'm eagerly waiting for my copy to arrive from CTS and from the snippets that I've read in reviews, I think this book is going to be a real treasure and could have a very important legacy.

    I would suggest rather than a bottle of whisky this would be a great present for the Parish Priest, at least he will then have the company of the Pope's reflections in periods of loneliness. The Pope's points here seem very important. Priests in England often have to make huge sacrifices to keep our current small parish model going. People are understandably attached to their parishes, but with that and the vocations shortage comes a responsibility on us, the laity, to offer companionship to their priests . . . dinner should not always be to discuss some issue we have, it should be about friendship too.

  • Adrian

    As someone discerning their vocation, and believing it to be diocesan priesthood it is very reassuring to hear that these issues are being discussed. It is such that our priests are doing their upmost to shepherd the flock and not always receiving as much support as can be possible. Celibacy in the priesthood seems to be a matter of truth not opinion, and I believe that our priests strive valiantly to uphold this vow.

    Celibacy is one way in which our love can more resemble that all encompassing love of Christ, and this needs to be not lost in the discussions around our priesthood. I pray for all priests that they are able to offer to God their lonliness in union with the most Sacred Heart of His Son Jesus Christ.

  • Amy


    Since we don't hear about any other group of people who have made a free choice to live a particular vocation (teaching, medicine, marriage) “struggling” to live out their vocation

    Really, you never hear about teachers that want to quit or feel stuck in a job they don't like just because they aren't really trained for anything else? You've never heard of doctors just going through the motions to get their paycheck. And one of the major differences between the priesthood and nearly every other professional vocation is that no one thinks much of it if a teacher gets a non-teaching job, but a priest leaving the priesthood is a major thing. Also, given the high rate of divorce, I think it's ridiculous to claim that people aren't stuggling with their vocation to marriage.

  • PhilipH

    While I agree with most of the article, I do disagree with the sentiment that most parishes are too small to be viable. Surely they need to grow, as does the church, and you cannot do that by retreating from certain towns and areas. Otherwise you'll just end up managing decline. As for the burden of administration, shouldn't the laity be doing most of the routine paperwork and office tasks etc.? That would free up the priests to do what they're best at, administering the sacraments and spreading the gospel.

  • paul

    God made humans perfect, he also made them with irrational emotions and raging hormones. Sex is a healthy natural expression. To suppress the natural urge for sex is I believe quite damaging.
    The ideas of purity and celibacy are medieval ideas rather than existing from the beginning of the Church, it was only after 1123 that priests could not marry and therefore had to stay celibate.

    If celibacy was so necessary then what exactly was God doing for the first half of the Church's existence in which priests could marry?

  • Scwhitson

    As a father of eight children I have to ask this simple question. Study what the Church teaches what you should do as a husband and father. Then ask yourself if you truly lived what is demanded of you as a Christian father would you have any more time left in the day to be a parish priest. I mean one or the other would have to be sacrificed. I believe this is the biggest and most reasonable reason why the Church teaches what it does regarding this issue.

  • Toby

    Everybody should suppress the natural urge for sex; you can't have it anytime you want – it's just a question of degree. Celibacy allows total devotion to the cause. I'm not against married priests, but the celibate religious life is a great gift to the Church.

  • P A Comensoli, Edinburgh

    I am a diocesan priest from Australia, living in Scotland. The idea of a group of priests living together, while undertaking their various individual duties in a parish or region, is certainly not an new idea for us, but it is good to read what Benedict has said.

    Two observations might be worth keeping in mind.

    Firstly, the notion itself has much that is appealing about it, basically for the reasons outlined in the blog entry. Living a common life as priests might suggest a way of promoting the value of mutual support and fraternity that priests often are without these days. The large and geographically spread-out situation in much of Australia often leaves individual priests isolated, with all the attendant risks that that poses. Finding ways of living that could overcome this situation is worth pursuing.

    Secondly (but on the other hand), we diocesan priest are not religious, and we tend to cherish our independence. So, there are some very significant piratical issues that would need to be overcome. For example, would parishes or regions be willing to not have a priest 'on site'? Would the people and dioceses be willing to put up the money needed to build new presbyteries/rectories that would suit both community life and quasi-independent living? (Most presbyteries are designed for a parish priest, plus a curate, and usually the curate's quarters are considerably less commodious!) Would a parish priest be willing to give up some of his own work and living arrangements (and authority) so as to accommodate two or more other priests on something of an equal footing?

    While the practical issues are significant, they should not stop our creative thinking around what is an important and timely question.

  • Jflare29

    Though your comments are short, I see several errors running rampant through them. First, God created our first parents, Adam and Eve, perfectly. By their sin though, they “handed down” a tendency toward sin, concupiscence, to each of us. In this sense, God doesn't create us perfectly, but calls us to receive his grace throughout our lives, to be perfected upon our death, thus to enter into communion with Him for eternity.
    Accordingly, though each man and each woman DOES experience sexual urges–one of our most powerful desires–we are still called to chastity, a divinely-aided mastery of our urges. This is true for both single AND married. Chastity in it's truest sense is not a renunciation of sexual urges, but rather a requirement to redirect one's energies towards other efforts, thus to help build the Kingdom of God. Celibacy, the priestly requirement, is a vow aimed at celebrating a gift from God to build the Kingdom of God in a qualitatively different way from that of the laity.

    You believe purity and celibacy to be medieval ideas? OK. Are you aware of Christ's words in the Bible? He said that God makes some eunuchs from birth, others are made so by man, but some CHOOSE to be eunuchs for the sake of God's Kingdom. These words of Christ came somewhere around 32 AD. That's hardly a time acknowledged to be “medieval”.

    I don't know where you get your date of 1123 for priests to be formally required celibates. This discipline may well have been formally imposed about that time as a correction to rampant abuses in various locations. That would be a discipline that had been a common expectation well before then though. It would not have been a rule that some Pope or other suddenly made up to satisfy his whims for earthly power.
    Interestingly, the Orthodox (Eastern churches) allow married men to be ordained (I think) to this date, though I gather they do NOT allow these priests to become bishops. Celibacy is not a completely unique requirement to the Roman (Western) Church. Keep in mind, the Church has always had the authority to ordain married men as priests, though She may not allow a priest–with active, ministerial faculties–to marry. Don't be fooled by the scandal of the latter 20th century failings. Celibacy remains a gift to those priests who dare to live out their calling in the truest manner possible.

  • paulpriest

    Fr Bertram's idea is far from new but just as deplorable as its other manifestations in varying proposals over the decades for 'superchurches' – hubs dealing with vast regions – it's commensurate with the Futurechurch paradigm aimed towards a dissociative, alienating, disenfranchising elitist professional laity-centric operations where local communities and the pastoral/spiritual/sacramental/communal necessities are leased out to an impersonal central network – it's a natural consequence of recent clerical training in 'pastoral ministry' which is both counter-intuitive and contrary to the clerical mission – no longer would a priest know their parishioners, go out to them, house-visiting, school chaplaincies etc – rather they become a head facilitator/enabler/co-ordinator of centralised pastoral provisions where the 'professional laity' [usually at an exorbitant fee] perform these functions with episcopal and presbyteral executive authority.

    This is a despicable paradigm – ostensibly appearing to be parishioner-directed when it is in reality nothing of the sort – it is directed towards personal clerical agrandisement, the formation of an elitist professional lay team executive and the abandonment of any Catholics who are sick, housebound, unable to travel ,all those who wish to be daily mass-attendants etc. It should lead to the dismantling of all parish affairs [clubs/meetings etc] and ultimately destroy every parish as a parish – turning them into mere mission churches – something attempted by the anglicans in the early 90s and subsequently abandoned as detrimental, counter-productive, extrememly costly and , I repeat – disenfranchising – IT IS ANTI-CATHOLIC and absolutely contrary to a Priest's pastoral role !

  • J,F. Lundy

    Both issues, condoms and community living, are viewed by those originating the comments, that is the Pope and F. Phillips, in a theoretical way and not as the consequences will be acted out in the real world. Those commenting in this blog space, generally, take the same line.
    In the real world ,today, the Pope's words will be heard by 99% of the masses as “condoms are Ok” for Catholics now. The Pope, himself, must loudly, widely, clearly and fully, explain in simple speak, what the official position is on condom use.
    In the real world today, with the large numbers of homosexuals in the priesthood, community living would greatly increase the occasion for sin of already gravely defective personalities.

  • EditorCT


    People are still queuing up to be teachers and doctors and they still want to get married.

    There is a huge difference between the normal workplace and family problems and the image of a struggling priest in every presbytery. It is not an attractive image.

    How can you expect young men to give up the possibility of married life to live as a priest, when he's surrounded by priests with long faces who talk constantly about the “problem” of celibacy?

    When I had student teachers in my department (I've held several Head of Department posts) I certainly made sure they were aware that life is not a bunch of roses in the profession, that teachers have to be committed and that it is really much more than a job, but I also emphasized that teaching is a wonderful profession and that they would be very happy indeed as teachers. That's not the message the majority of contemporary priests are sending out.

    Frankly, I think living arrangements/loneliness, is the least of their problems. I've met married people who've told me they have never been so lonely as since marriage – everyone, in the end, is alone. Especially at the moment of death, so it's a mistake to focus decision making on loneliness. The problem is the emasculation of the priesthood, the reduction of the priest to a mere social worker or tree hugger or whatever else is fashionable to make the planet a better place to live. Check out this excellent article.

  • EditorCT


    You don't think lay people populating the sanctuary in droves and replacing the priest at every turn, has more to do with the dissatisfaction of priests and the drop in new vocations, than living arrangements?

    Check out this article by a priest who really does say it all – more or less.

  • EditorCT

    Well said, Adrian.

    I've copied this link in a couple of other posts, but in case you miss it, I'd value your opinion.

  • EditorCT

    Well said, Toby. I would add, however, that celibacy is not merely for the purpose of allowing priests to dedicate themselves to a cause – as if to be free to DO things – although that is a very important reason.

    The central reason why priests are called to celibacy is because Christ – The High Priest – was celibate, and Catholic priests are called to be “other Christs” in the world. For the world to see a Catholic priest, as one preacher once said in my hearing, is for the world to be shocked in realising that God alone is worth our total self-giving. No other human being, no material goods, nothing, no-one but God is worthy of such total selflessness from us.

  • anonymous

    It's very true, and a practical result, but not the primary reason.
    I believe the theology of the Trinity and the manhood of Jesus provide a profound focus of the sacrifice and single-hearted mission of priesthood in our world. I also have seen and can testify to the wholesome and faithful community of priest and laity living in friendship and mutual encouragement. Fellow priests living in households and praying together, building one another up in daily encounters is a life-giving and grace-filled situation. We would be wise to support our priests as men with real human need for fellowship, not as servants for our every need.

  • licjjs

    I spoke to my parish priest about this twenty years ago, suggesting that all the priests of our area live together, each with his own apartment within a large house. I argued that God did not necessarily intend a priest to live in the middle of nowhere on his own. The PP's reaction was, “They will never accept it. They do not want that way of life.”

  • Ratbag

    Oh, how I agree with you, EditorCT! My prayers are always for the Pope, priests and those in the religious life, asking Almighty God through His Son Jesus Christ to give them strength, hope and consolation in their lives as well as joy, happiness and peace in the same.

    The matters of the Church's teaching on contraception is important and will always be. However, it would be wrong for that subject to overshadow something that is equally important – the priesthood.

  • paulpriest

    What happens to the local communities when their priests are withdrawn to a centralised communal hub?
    You're basically destroying a parish and turning the church into a mass centre open once a week! Which incidentally contravenes canon law on dozens of levels…

  • licjjs

    It is only my opinion. I admit to favouring a return to a monastic structure – like the Celtic Church – so I see things differently from you. If the priest went out to his area with the spirit of an Evangelist there is no need for his parish or area to resemble an abandoned house. Mass can be said every day (would it really be difficult for the priest to commute six or seven miles?) and people would phone 'their' priest for sick calls etc.

  • paulpriest

    I'm sorry Toby but you're applying reverse-induction to a problem [ ever Chesterton's essay on thinking backwards? ]

    the vocations 'crisis' – is part of a well-planned ideological scheme for an elitist 'futurechurch' for the professional laity and professional 'specialised' clergy ; wrought in anti-clericalism and anti-sacramentality and lay-empowerment [i.e. those who are 'devoted' enough and interested enough to pay should be afforded all the privileges that school and church closures and sales can provide] – they want superchurches and foundations/learning centres – the destruction of the parish system and all the responsibilities and duties of maintaining and shepherding local communities – you know the concept of the undeserving poor ? this is extended to the 'undeserving catholic' those who don't participate other than through mass attendance and private devotion and prayer – they aren't physically participating, they merely 'spiritually' mantain the faith, and raise their children into a Catholic lifestyle – they are surplus to requirement – a drain on resources.

    Ever heard of vocations scrutiny committees ? where the professional laity are invited to interrogate potential seminarians and veto any unsuitable to their 'vision of becoming eucharist'?
    Any idea what these entail? Any idea how much anti-catholicism is involved?
    What does a seminarian think on remarriage for divorcees? contraception ? gay marriage? environmental issues? ecological sustainablity and population control ? Yoof ishoos? What's their political persuasion ? What do they think of that anachronistic defunct cruel ignorant fool ratzinger ?

    Any idea how many young and middle-aged men fall at this first hurdle ?
    By being an Orthodox Catholic they fall foul of the system at the first hurdle and are precluded from even testing their vocation !

    …and that's before we get to seminaries with their inherent anti-clericalist argot; the only priests worth their salt are 'specialists' – those who don't bother with trivialities like shepherding a parish and leading the faithful in their spiritual lives through the sacraments and preaching/consoling/advising…and therefore what they're taught is a dissemination of authentic Catholicism – scripture is neither historical nor true – the real Christ was nothing like that – the early Church neither believed nor practised as the Church of today – the Church went awry after Constantine and only began to get back on the right tracks after Vatican II…morality involves self-determination and empowerment, the evolution of the collective conscience in environmental and socio-political arenas…

    So when a man is finally ordained and thrust into a parish – is he prepared for it ? has he a spiritual, moral, doctrinal and pastoral grounding and training to be a shepherd ? Not at all – so you see the cracks rapidly beginning to become ruptures – out go all the parish groups like the legion of Mary, the UCM , the SVP – well they're either eliminated or ignored and left to their on devices without any priest participation – in come groups where the priest can show off his special-nature – bible study, meditation, yoof groups, RCIA etc. Sunday masses ? well out go any services after 11a.m. on Sunday, weekday masses? well one disappears because the priest must have his day off, another disappears because there's a school mass, another because there's a convent mass, and the saturday morning mass[and the confession] goes because well? there's now a saturday evening mass….

    parish visiting ? well a new lay-ministry can 'become eucharist' [they use all the nuspeak] by distrbuting the sacrament to the housebound; the priest might have hospital duty-call one week a month and there is a deanery meeting once a month and there's perhaps a diocesan committee meeting once a month – so the priest can find all manner of excuses to basically put off visiting their parishioners.

    So what happens?
    basically the new priest either vanishes from the parish for up to three weekdays [travelling to their day off, their day off, coming home from their day off] and for the rest of the week makes himself available to a few of the 'professional enthusiastic laity who want to be lay ministers' for a few hours; and the rest of the time locks himself away in his 'castle' – only coming out on saturday evening and sunday morning.

    What does this isolation do ? alienates him from his flock, disenfranchises the parish, gives the priest more chance to become utterly disillusioned by the very nature of his priesthood – seeing it all as irrelevant and futile – and thus he might fall into depression, laziness, self-pity and anxiety – and thus be open to all manner of temptations or self-indulgences – falling back on food, drink, tv, the internet or sexual impropriety….all because the priest was neither trained nor educated into how to be a priest – to work to ensure that his loneliness was more a spiritual form and less a physical reality – lacordaire said a priest should be a member of every family yet belonging to none – yet the way the modern priest is trained in 'pastoral ministry' where they don't actually reach out or go out to their flock – they merely wait for them to come to him [and they never do because they don't know him!] and even then they have to deem themselves more a 'sociological expert' rather than a paternal consoling friend.
    Why do you think 'confession' has been the most desecrated and eliminated sacrament over the past generation ?
    because priests are neither educated nor trained in how to understand the human condition, how to understand the nature of sin, how to relate to people and how to preach the sanctifying redemptive power of Christ [and you have to see it's very difficult when a seminary-professor has told them there's no such thing as original sin, Jesus probably didn't bodily rise from the dead, confession is an invention by the church, and confession's only necessary for 'serious' sin - and nobody really sins any more - they're just manifestations of faults in their psychological development - society or bad-parenting's to blame, not the individual] The priest doesn't really believe in sin and doesn't believe that they're really forgiven… because even though they might have previously believed it – they've had years of a seminary indoctrinating it out of them….

    the more a priest is non-functioning and isolated ? the more a parish collapses ; the more readily he's acceptable to a notionof a superchurch-futurechurch scenario where he can run away from his parish duties and become a 'specialist' and be adored by professional laity fans and students – no longer will he need to spend any time with the old folk smelling of wee and the brats in the middle school and the nagging old dears who bend his ears about special devotions to our lady or how they're worried their son might be gay or becoming an alcoholic after a marital break-up – in one fell swoop all those pastoral duties and responsibilities disappear – no need to penny pinch the budgets and worry about leaking roofs – instead a nice cosy apartment – good food – adoring fans and pastoral duties they want to perform…

    Seriously Toby – this is an all-out assault on the parish-system, the nature of priesthood and the very nature of the sacraments – and we need to fight it !

  • paulpriest

    Father I'll echo what editorCT says [which is why I argued below without referring to the fiasco of professional lait hijacking the mass] – but I urge to read my response to Toby below…
    I spent some time with the Archbishop of Perth a coupe of decades ago so I know the australian situation is very different -but seriously – there is an all out assault on the parish system and a plan for the eradication of millions of 'undeserving' catholics from the system and the formation of an elitist 'professional' futurechurch.

  • paulpriest

    Adrian – trust me – you MUST develop a personal spiritual life ; you must engage in private self-education on doctrine, morality, exegesis and you MUST become involved with people's lives and learn to understand and share their burdens, and help give them consolation and comfort – and learn how to preach – training yourself with fulton sheen and chesterton and st francis de sales

    PLUS you must realise that priesthood is a sacramental grace – it's a sacrificial role of service – read what lacordaire said on the priesthood – recognise your weaknesses and things you don't like doing – and work on them and challenge yourself – some priests don't like the elderly or kids, or they hate confessions or funerals, or they can't engage in small talk, some can't stand committees, some hate one-to-one interaction,

    Priests should immerse themselves in structured timetables – with secretary or housekeeper and a parish who'll help them maintain it – any idea how many priests fail to say their office or continue with canon law's mandatory ongoing education? at the end of your seminary life you might see the ritualistic lecture note textbook burning with deacons acclaiming 'never again!' – do not be one of them !
    …and keep a close network of friends and be a regular communicator – you need that support and you need training in being a supporter…
    …the main reasont he modern priesthood is failing is because priests are simply not being priests – because they don't understand the nature of being a priest and they've become disillusioned with the faith – not believing half of it because they've had a seminary and a tabletista/modernist anti-clerical anti-catholic agenda indoctrinated into them in seminary and rammed down their throat via the media and the so-called catholic press – cling to the saints – cling to the teachings of the doctors and fathers of the church – run to the cross – cherish our blessed mother – and when someone tries to force a historicist revisionism that says the church doesn't say or teach something or the early church never did that or it's a medieval invention or that the papacy is a tyranny and that the world has left catholicism behind – realise that it isn't Catholicism has failed – it's merely the catholics who are not being Catholic – laziness and self-deceit are our main failings…and we have few qualms in making life easier for ourselves – a priest can get away with doing virtually nothing in a parish…and thus they destroy themselves in the process…

  • paulpriest

    well I'm sorry licjjs but not only is this contrary to canon law and a priest's/bishop's apostolic mandate ; it's downright obscene to disenfranchise a parish and alienate its flock as if it was a burden – a stop-off shop on the priest's 'true' mission – that's the biggest lie going – a priest is called to be a shepherd !
    You want a paradigm like a department store where the general manager tours the floors once in the morning asking how everything's going, giving a little pep-talk to the workers and then p*ssing off for the rest of the day…I'm sorry but it's an obscenity to consider the priesthood like that.

  • licjjs

    You are attributing many things to me none of which is true. Many parishes are in the charge of Religious Orders even today. I doubt whether these priests would thank you for denying that they are the shepherds of their flocks.

  • Toby

    Paul – you've read far more into my post than was intended. My experience from being in presbyteries is that the phone and door bell never stop going and it is always “I need this Father” . . . “can you get here for Last Rites Father”. Now this is all right and well, but it's just my observation that a gesture every now of thanks and friendship can be a great help to Priests rather than only ever calling on them when you need something.

    Now some of what you outline in your posting I agree with, other aspects are foreign to me, but irrespective of that there are Priests who are isolated, there are Priests who may not be properly formed. We can help on both fronts. I do not for one minute which to confuse the roles of Sacramental Priesthood and laity or advocate superchurches. What I am suggesting is a way whereby Priests divorced from their parishes hopefully becomes less necessary as spiritual support and friendship is provided from the congregation, although obviously the ultimate support and friendship comes from Christ.

  • Onthesideoftheangels

    I'm sorry but I fail to see in what way that relates to the issue at hand – a Parish being controlled by a religious order is very different from a dozen parishes being disenfranchised from all things communal and parochial while being 'facilitated' from a centralised hub of priests living in a glorified fraternity house!

    Don't you see what the problem is?

  • Ratbag

    Congratulations on a brilliant post, paulpriest!

    The most memorable and beautiful priests I have known are those who actually practise what you have written. One in particular (a canon) knows Chesterton, TS Elliot, the Doctors of the Church and the lives of the saints inside out and intersperses them into his homilies so beautifully and compellingly that you are on the edge of your seat. He is not afraid to speak his mind about the relevance of the teachings of the Church and pulls no punches. He doesn't kow-tow to the PC brigade. The young, the very young and the old make up the congregation and there isn't as much as a budge out of any of them throughout. The masses are full to capacity and the church is rarely empty when the Blessed Sacrament is exposed.

    I'm appauled at the attitude of the seminaries – no wonder they are empty!

    The Church hungers and cries for their priests and religious to be holy and radiate that holiness. What is the point of a priest speeding through Holy Mass as though its a once-over job with a dishcloth? Is that any way to treat Our Lord and the people of God?

    As in most things in life, “…if your heart isn't in it, then how the heck do you expect everyone else to feel a part of it?”

    Christ has given his priesthood example, the Holy Father follows closely and priests should follow suit…

  • Fatherlouis

    The Pope is right-Priests should come together in community and pray and work together!

  • Nick Turner

    I don't understand why people are always trying to make secular priests live together. If they had a community vocation, they'd live in community. The secular priest is supposed to be part of his parish community, as its father, in the world, but not of the world.

  • Harryk847

    Well with all due concern and respect the Pope ought to see the numbers of priests having secret intimate love lives and
    nuns too.. In many cases, its no longer secret. Celibacy doesnt make sense to most of them. An ancient tradition and not a rule of the faith it ought to be thought over and changed in our changing times. No Catholic would mind having a Married Priest in his/her parish in fact it would be welcomed. Hoping for a better future of the church.

  • Giorgio Roversi

    Let's start by preventing the closure of an historic seminary like Ushaw.
    You can sign the petition concerning the future of Ushaw College at…/

  • Recovering Catholic

    Dec. 15, 2009

    VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI has made changes in church law to clarify the role of deacons
    The modifications were ordered by the pope in a document, “Omnium in Mente,” (“In the Mind of All”) published Dec. 15, 2009 in Latin and Italian by the Vatican.
    Two rewritten canons in the Code of Canon Law reinforced the distinction between the role of “governance” belonging to bishops and priests and the role of “service” belonging to deacons.

    The changed language on deacons more clearly reflects the doctrinal position of the church,

    The new wording introduced by Pope Benedict says that the task of “governing” on behalf of Christ, the head of the church, is proper only to bishops and priests.

    The new version adds the phrase: while deacons are enabled to “serve” the people of God in the diaconate of the liturgy, the word and charity.”

    I think that was the very message Jesus was trying to convey when he washed the feet of the apostles at the last supper!

    God is on His heavenly throne, shaking His Holy Head.

    Per Pope Benedict:
    “We must ask ourselves what was wrong in our proclamation, in our whole way of living the Christian life?”

    What is wrong with our proclamation?…”Jesus came to establish the Kingdom, and the Roman Catholic Church arrived instead.”

  • Guest

    Yes I truly agree… A priest I know has been in a steady intimate relationship with my young friend… He says he doesnt believe in celibacy..but yet wants to serve the lord through priesthood..

  • Ac4k

    BY making them live together it would only foster more homosexual relationships

  • Linda

    Are condoms OK to prevent disease by gay priests, since there’s no danger of the use being to prevent conception?