Thoughts on the slow-moving Church

Back in the 90s, my response to people saying that we needed to have married priests and women priests in the Catholic Church to respond to the priest shortage was to say that I didn’t think that was what the Holy Spirit was calling the Church to do (which is not to say that these might not be good ideas, but that they were missing the point. And the fact that other denominations that did have married and/or women clergy also had fewer clergy than they needed was a bit of support for that). Recently, I encountered the following quote from Pope Francis’s Querida Amazonia:

Priests are necessary, but this does not mean that permanent deacons, religious women and lay persons can not regularly assume important responsibilities for the growth of communities … Consequently, it is not simply a question of facilitating a greater presence of ordained ministers who can celebrate the Eucharist. That would be a very narrow aim, were we not also to strive to awaken new life in communities. We need to promote an encounter with God’s word and growth in holiness.

which perfectly mirrors what I was saying thirty years ago. We have fewer clergy than we need not because we need to have more kinds of clergy, but because the Holy Spirit is calling on the laity of the Church to step up their game.

That’s one of the things about being Catholic. As an institution, the Church moves really slowly. I think it might be another thirty years (or more) before the Church fully responds to Francis’s exhortation, but it will get there eventually, just as I firmly believe that the Church will eventually get to the right place on the rights, dignity and holiness of LGBTQIA+ people. It’s not going to be as fast as I would like, but it will happen, and it’s because what God wants is not to dictate this to the Church but for the Church to embrace it fully itself.






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