Bishops Synod on the Eucharist
Posted Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2005 at 2:01 p.m. CDT

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Coverage of Bishops Synod on the Eucharist

Report #3:
Priest shortage continues to roil synod of bishops

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By Stacy Meichtry
Vatican City

Debate over how to solve Roman Catholicism’s epidemic priest shortage continues to roil the synod of bishops with some participants appealing to Pope Benedict XVI to expand the priesthood by loosening celibacy restrictions while others argued against the changes, advocating better distribution of current priests.

According to priests who briefed reporters on the synod proceedings in several languages on Tuesday, the debate produced a coarse exchange late Monday between Cardinal Angelo Scola of Venice, the general relator of the synod, and Melkite Patriarch Gregoire III Laham.

“Celibacy has no theological foundation” in the priesthood, Laham said, responding to an opening speech by Scola that cited “profound theological motives” for not allowing married men to enter the priesthood.

“In the Eastern Church married priests are admitted,” Laham said, adding that “marriage is a symbol of union between Christ and the church.”

Responding to Laham, Scola asserted that “in the Latin church theological reasons exist” for maintaining the policy on celibacy. He did not elaborate on those reasons. He then added, “The synod is a place to explore the Mystery, not to give directions on its use.”

Read more NCR coverage of the synod on the Eucharist
  • Report #17: Final draft rebuffs Latin Mass; priest shortage, divorce squarely on church’s pastoral agenda Posted Oct. 20, 11:00 a.m.
  • Report #16: Gregory: Little change expected but synod had honest talk of pastoral realities Posted Oct. 19, 11:00 a.m.
  • Report #15: Draft propositions do not recommend changes in church discipline Posted Oct. 18, 11:00 a.m.
  • Report #14: Women’s voices heard through interventions of 12 synod auditors Posted Oct. 17, 12:15 p.m.
  • Report #13: Statement on married priests likely in final list of proposals Posted Oct. 17, 12:00 p.m.
  • Report #12: Outreach to Latin Mass Catholics proposed for final message Posted Oct. 15, 9:32 a.m.
  • Report #11: Problems acknowledged, synod bishops seek middle ground solutions. Posted Oct. 13, 1:15 p.m.
  • Report #10: Despite frank talk, few breakthroughs expected from synod. Posted Oct. 12, 11:00 a.m.
  • Report #9: Key synod themes seem clear, but consensus may be elusive. Posted Oct. 11, 11:00 a.m.
  • Report #8: Inculturation of liturgy sparks debate at this and past synods of bishops. Posted Oct. 10, 11:30 a.m.
  • Report #7: Bishops of Global South link Eucharist and justice, local cultures. Posted Oct. 8., 9:52 a.m.
  • Report #6: Discussion of celibacy and marriage clergy continue to hold center stage. Posted Oct. 7, 10:21 a.m.
  • Report #5: Environment, social justice emerge as eucharistic themes. Posted Oct. 6, 10:30 a.m.
  • Report #4: Divorced, remarried Catholics topics of frank synod discussions. Posted Oct. 5, 3:00 p.m
  • Report #3: Priest shortage continues to roil synod of bishops. Posted Oct. 4, 2:01 p.m.
  • Report #2: Movements appeal for changes to make Eucharist more accessible. Posted Oct. 4, 2:00 p.m.
  • Report #1: Priest shortage takes center stage on synod's first day. Posted Oct. 3, 3:04 p.m.
  • Read The Word From Rome columns
  • The final set of propositions; The case of viri probati; Some worry the synod lacked theological heft. Posted Oct. 21, 2:07 p.m.
  • Latin Mass a non-issue; Interview with Bishop Skylstad; Scola's 17 questions to guide the synod. Posted Oct. 14, 10:46 a.m.
  • The synod so far; How to report on a synod; A view from Moscow; Document on homosexuals in seminaries will not create an absolute ban; Catholic left and right square off. Posted Oct. 7, 11:55 a.m.
  • Preview of the synod on the Eucharist. Posted Sept. 30, 8:05 a.m.
  • In his opening remarks, Scola reported that some bishops proposed that priest-deprived regions be permitted to ordain exemplary married men, which theologians refer to as “proven men,” or “viri probati” in Latin.

    Scola suggested the synod focus instead on finding “criteria for an adequate distribution of clergy in the world.” He also appeared to play down the urgency of the priest shortage, saying that the church could not function as a “business” out to meet a “determined quota.”

    During the free discussion that closed Monday’s session of the synod, Roberto Camilleri Azzopardo of Comayaga, Honduras, reported having one priest for every 16,000 Catholics in his diocese.

    According to the synod working paper, the Instrumentum Laboris, the average Catholic diocese had one priest for every 2,677 Catholics in 2003 -- a significant downturn from 1978 when the ratio was one to 1,797.

    The Instrumentum Laboris also reported a need for bishops to maintain closer watch over how Communion is distributed.

    But many bishops attending the synod, which is officially dedicated to the Eucharist, have complained that the priest shortage has impaired their ability to minister Communion to their faithful.

    Cardinal Johannes Simonis, archbishop of Utrecht and president of Holland’s bishops conference called the priest shortage “endemic,” adding that “we should let lay people distribute communion.”

    Italian news agencies reported that Bishop Gregorio Nicanor Pena Rodriguez of the Dominican Republic said that “lay ministries provide support to the community of faithful and should not be abolished.”

    Priests briefing reporters also said that American Archbishop William Levada urged bishops late Monday to consider whether Catholic politicians who defy church teaching on issues like abortion should receive Communion.

    Levada cited “divisions” among American Catholics over the issue.

    October 4, 2005, National Catholic Reporter

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