The largest association of U.S. Catholic priests is asking the U.S. bishops who begin their annual fall meeting today (Nov. 14) to discuss four issues confronting the Church and society. They are racism, non-violence, ordination of women deacons and the ordination of married men to the priesthood.
The priests’ request was made in the form of a letter, dated October 25, to each of the bishops. It was signed by Father Bob (Bernard R.) Bonnot on behalf of the Leadership Team and the one-thousand-plus members of the Association of U.S. Catholic Priests.
Racism in Church and Society
The AUSCP thanked the bishops for their January 2016 statement that called for confronting the poison of racism, and noted that the priests in their June 2016 assembly had made this effort a goal of the members. “We are committed to find ways to make anti-racism ‘a habit in our Catholic communities,” Bonnot said.
Non-Violence as a Strategy for Church and Society
The priests cited a statement jointly issued by the Vatican Office for Justice and Peace and Pax Christi: “An Appeal to the Catholic Church to Re-Commit to the Centrality of Gospel Non-Violence.” Bonot said, “Our Church remains far from putting [non-violence] forward as our primary response to conflicts.” He said the priests are committed to use their voices to encourage priests, members of the faithful and others “to make non-violence our first response,” and that the priests “urge you to be part of that international effort.”
Ordination of Women as Deacons and Married Men as Priests
The AUSCP began asking the bishops to consider these options in 2013, echoing groups such as FutureChurch and Voice of the Faithful. The AUSCP in 2015 asked the bishops to establish a committee to study the question of ordaining married men to the priesthood, echoing the request of the National Federation of Priests Council in the 1970s. Bonnot noted that Pope Francis has called for fresh consideration of women as deacons.
“AUSCP sees these proposed ordinations as matters of prudence that can help address the pastoral needs of the faithful. By 2019, half of active diocesan priests are able to retire, so the number of priests available to serve full-time will rapidly decline. Many now retired priests are aging out of service. We AUSCP priests, mostly 50 and above, urge you as a bishop, with our bishops collectively, to give us reason to hope that there is relief on the horizon. We are also concerned that this shortage will thrust young priests into crushing responsibilities before they are adequately prepared,” (the letter said).
The letter also asked the bishops to consider taking steps that would enable lay men and women to preach at Mass, noting that “not all priests are gifted in this matter,” and many pastors cannot speak well in the languages of their congregations.
“The national elections will be over when you meet,” Bonnot said, “but the issues confronting our society and Church will remain. Our voices in addressing those issues are important for the faithful and for all citizens.”
For comment or more information
Father Bob Bonnot, AUSCP Leadership Team Chair: firstname.lastname@example.org(link sends e-mail), (330) 397-1257
Sister Jackie Doepker, Executive Secretary: email@example.com(link sends e-mail), (872) 205-5862