VATICAN CITY, OCT. 3, 2005 (Zenit.org).- To the question of whether the problem of shortages of priests can be solved by ordaining married men, a key cardinal answered “no.”
Cardinal Angelo Scola gave that response today at the first session of the Synod of Bishops, although he said the topic calls for further study.
In setting forth the topics that will be discussed this week, the general relator of the synodal assembly said that this proposal has been made in some environments, according to the principle “the salvation of souls is the supreme law.”
“The request is often accompanied by the positive recognition of the validity of the age-old discipline of priestly celibacy,” said the patriarch of Venice in his “report before the discussion.”
These same persons, he observed, affirm that this law should not “impede that the Church be equipped with an adequate number of ordained ministers, when the scarcity of candidates to celibate priesthood is assuming extremely grave proportions.”
The cardinal considered it superfluous to reiterate “the profound theological motives which have led the Latin Church to unite the conferring of ministerial priesthood to the charism of celibacy.”
Instead, he posed this question: “Is this choice and this praxis pastorally valid, even in extreme cases such as those mentioned above?” In some countries, remote Christian communities only have Sunday Mass. In parts of the Philippines, some priests celebrate up to nine Masses on a Sunday.
“Being intimately tied to the Eucharist, ordained priesthood participates in its nature of a gift and cannot be the object of a right. If it is a gift, ordained priesthood asks to be constantly requested for,” responded Cardinal Scola, 63.
In fact, the cardinal continued, it “has become very difficult to ascertain the ideal number of priests in the Church, from the moment in which this is not a ‘business’ which should be equipped with a determined quota of team managers.”
At the practical level, he added, “the urgency, which cannot be postponed, of the ‘salus animarum’ [salvation of souls] urges us to reiterate strongly, especially in this see, the responsibility each particular Church has with regard to the universal Church, and for that reason also to the other particular Churches.”
“Therefore, the proposals made in the synodal assembly to identify the criteria for an adequate distribution of clergy in the world, will be very useful,” the relator acknowledged. “In this area, the path to be walked seems as yet very long.”