For immediate release
February 3, 2015
U.S. priests ask bishops to start talking about ordaining married men “to serve pastoral needs of the people”
The largest organization of Catholic priests in the United States is asking the U.S. Catholic bishops to “start the dialogue” that could lead to the ordination of married men to the priesthood. The priests believe Pope Francis is open to the idea, if it is proposed by a national conference of bishops. The Association of U.S. Catholic Priests, with more than one thousand members, made its case in a letter to every archbishop and bishop in the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
The priests say, “The time has come. The door is open. The need for this is urgent.” The full text of the AUSCP letter follows this release.
According to a report, April 10, 2014, in the British Catholic newspaper, The Tablet, Pope Francis and a Brazilian bishop discussed the ordination of “proven” married men — viri probati. The article quoted Bishop Erwin Kräutler of Xingu, who said Pope Francis told him "It was up to the bishops to make suggestions” regarding the matter. The priests’ association approved a proposal at the June 2014 assembly in St. Louis, to formally ask the bishops of the United States to make such a request.
The AUSCP believes married priests are needed “to serve the pastoral needs of the people” — pointingout that married men from other Christian communities are welcomed into the Roman Catholic Church, and that many lay people are alarmed by the declining number of active priests and the closing or merging of parishes.
“Given the signs of the times and the diversity and challenges facing the church at this time, the ministerial priesthood needs creative options,” the priests said. They ask their bishops to “Please take advantage of the opportunity that Pope Francis provides for the sake of the Church in the United States: accept the offer of Pope Francis to consider the possibility of ordaining married viri probati as priests.”
Father Bernard “Bob” Bonnot, a priest of the Diocese of Youngstown, chairs the leadership team of the AUSCP and is available to speak for the association.
Phone: (330) 755-9819
More information is available at the AUSCP website: www.uscatholicpriests.org
or from the AUSCP office, 200 St. Francis Avenue, Tiffin, OH 44883-3458
Phone: (872) 205-5862
AUSCP REQUEST: ‘START THE DIALOGUE’ ON ORDAINING MARRIED PRIESTS
Following is the full text of the letter mailed January 23, 2015, to all members of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. The personalized mailing was sent to all ordinaries, auxiliaries and retired bishops in the Roman and Eastern Rites.
At the June 2014 Assembly of the Association of United States Catholic Priests in St. Louis MO, our members adopted by consensus a proposal concerning the ordination of married men to the priesthood. It reads:
That the AUSCP applaud the reported openness of Pope Francis to consider requests from episcopal conferences for the ordination of married men (viri probati) as priests to meet the pastoral needs of the people the bishops serve, and accordingly that the AUSCP ask the Bishops of the United States to make such a request in response to the pastoral needs of our Catholic people often expressed by them in their concern about having priests available to serve them.
This letter to you and your brother bishops in the USCCB results from this resolution. We ask you to start the dialogue toward making that request.
Some of the reasons for our proposal are these:
· The welcoming of married men, ordained by other Christian Communities, to be now ordained Roman Catholic Priests to serve our parishes and other ministries as priests, makes raising this issue timely and urgent. Typically these married men are welcomed by the faith community and bring the witness of the Sacraments of Marriage and Ordination to ministry.
· For many lay people, the declining number of active priests and the resultant closure or merging of parish communities is alarming. Both these heartaches have contributed to the disillusionment and exodus of many Catholics.
· The people in the pews we serve as pastors have been asking for this for years.
· For those priests who have remained there has been a great grief in the loss of their ministerial colleagues and, given the growing shortage of priests, an increasing and sometimes overwhelming workload. This grief is also shared by lay people who know and value their priests.
· The health and vitality of the priest’s role within the faith community is critical to the life of the Roman Catholic tradition and its ministry. Given the signs of the times and the diversity and challenges facing the church at this time, the ministerial priesthood needs creative options. The witness that could come from married priests serving the church with celibate priests is a crucial option to be explored.
· Providing this option will give bishops the flexibility they need for the pastoral care of souls.
We assume it is the pastoral care of souls in the church that has caused Pope Francis to open this door for his brother bishops so that they may consider the witness of married priesthood serving alongside the witness of a celibate priesthood. The pastoral care of souls is the primary cause for the members and the board of the Association of United States Catholic Priests to ask the USCCB to begin an open dialogue about a married priesthood. There are many voices in the church waiting to be heard on this—including our own.
The time has come. The door is open. The need for this is urgent. Please take advantage of the opportunity that Pope Francis provides for the sake of the Church in the United States: accept the offer of Pope Francis to consider the possibility of ordaining married viri probati as priests. We recommend that such a consideration and request follow a broad process of consultation and discernment among bishops, diocesan staffs, parish priests, deacons and the People of God -- the laity. Such a consultation would be focused completely on meeting the pastoral needs of Catholics in the United States.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
The letter was signed by the AUSCP leadership team and staff.
Bob Bonnot, Chair, Diocese of Youngstown
David Cooper, Past Chair, Archdiocese of Milwaukee
Kevin Clinton, Vice-chair, Archdiocese of St. Paul & Minneapolis
Dan Divis, Resolutions & Issues Chair, Diocese of Cleveland
James P. Kiesel, Archdiocese of Baltimore
Joseph Ruggieri, Communication, Diocese of Youngstown
James Schnexnayder, Secretary, Diocese of Oakland
John Stabeno, Diocese of Camden
Frank Eckart, Treasurer, Diocese of Toledo
Bernard Survil, Membership, Diocese of Greensburg
Frank Wagner, OMI, Oblate of Mary Immaculate
Sr. Jackie Doepker, OSF, Executive Secretary