Friday, August 14, 2009

Vocations "R" Us

Recently, I gave a talk at a meeting of Catholic theologians, on the 'non-ordination' of women, which I lament. I closed by inviting those present to talk up the Roman Catholic priesthood, by looking around them for holy and thoughtful young men, and inviting them to become priests.

WHAT? Why would anyone do that? Come on, you're thinking, we all know...

1. It’s the “Year For Priests,” and they’re persecuting nuns.

2. The priesthood is a sexist institution filled with social misfits who can’t make eye contact.

3. The “lavender mafia” has a stranglehold on the episcopate.

4. The young ones are all neo-cons.

5. The old ones were all abusers.

6. The good ones have all left.

Read that list again. Read it loudly in the shower, so I can hear you out here, you'll notice there’s kind of a nice rhythm to it. All of the above have that solid ring of Stephen Colbert "truthiness." I can attest, personally, to a handful of anecdotes to support each – eh, let’s say most – of these statements. So read it again, a little more energy this time, please.

Now get over it. We have to go on.

If we want priests to be drawn from the broad ranks of the faithful, the faithful better get their broad ranks going and start inviting. Yes, I know, we have lay people who do amazing work as ministers. They need to be paid more and supported more and given more opportunities for genuine ministerial leadership. Amen.

But it's a sacramental church with an ordained clergy -- some want to change this, some think it is changing. I don't agree with "some," but my argument here is pure realpolitik. The bottom line is that the young men who answer this call today will profoundly shape the church of our very near tomorrow.

What are you going to do about it?

UPDATE, 8/15: Tom Roberts at NCR, "Young Catholics Accept the Church as it Is."

[While we're on the topic, via GetReligion, there's this: "A Test of Faith in Mexico's Drug War."]