Allow married Catholic priests to halt decline in Ireland, says clergyman

Source: The Guardian

Religion correspondent

The Catholic church should accept married men for ordination in an effort to prevent the extinction of priests in Ireland, a prominent clergyman has urged, amid warnings about rising rates of depression, isolation and suicide among the ageing priesthood.

Father Brendan Hoban, a co-founder of the Association of Catholic Priests (ACP), said urgent action was needed to counter the “vocations crisis”. As well as ordaining married men, those who had left the priesthood – sometimes to get married – should be invited back, and women should be ordained as deacons, he told the Guardian.

Married priests would be a “massive change”, he conceded. But he added: “At the end of the day, without the priests there is no mass, and without the mass there is no church. So we see in Ireland a huge eucharistic famine in a few years’ time.”

The number of parish priests in Ireland fell by almost 17% in the 10 years to 2014, from 3,141 to 2,627, according to the church’s most recent statistics. About a quarter of the 2014 figure were thought to be retired already, and “the vast majority of those remaining in the priesthood are in their 60s and 70s – or even 80s,” said Hoban.

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