The Association of Catholic Priests (ACP), in Ireland, says the church must ordain women and allow priests to marry in order to survive.
Pointing out that there are only two priests under the age of 40 in the Dublin archdiocese, Father Sean McDonagh says the Church is “facing an implosion in terms of vocations to the priesthood.”
The group made a number of recommendations which will be discussed at the Irish Catholics Bishop Conference in Maynooth later this week.
In 2012 a survey of Roman Catholics, on behalf of the ACP, showed that 87 percent believed priests should marry and 77 percent were in favor of women being priests. Another 22 percent believed matured married men should be ordained.
McDonagh told TheJournal.ie that there is nothing “unusual” about appointing female deacons in the Catholic Church. “They were ordained in the past," he said.
“It’s fairly clear historically that women have served in the church, despite every effort to silence their voices since the 4th century.”
He continued, “Women have to be a very major part of the future of ministry in the church. When you look around the church on a Sunday, who are doing most of the roles? Women.”
The association is also calling on men who left the priesthood to marry to be called back to ministry.
In 1984 there were 171 ordinations in Ireland. In 2006 there were 22. In 2013 just 70 were studying to become priests in Ireland.
McDonagh said it is the obligation of the Irish bishops to raise these issues in Rome and added that it is not an issue unique to Ireland. He also noted that Pope Francis has indicated that he is open to such suggestions.
McDonagh said that while praying for the numbers of vocations to increase is “fine” the Catholic Church needs a plan.