Priests Speak out against Celibacy
From Correspondents in Chicago

The Age [Milwaukee WI]
August 22, 2003

THE US Conference of Catholic Bishops was remaining tight-lipped overnight about a petition from more than 160 priests to press the US Roman Catholic leadership to ease the rules on celibacy.

Conference spokesman Monsignor Francis Maniscalco had a firm "no comment," on the matter.

More than 160 priests from the US archdiocese of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, wrote to Conference president, Bishop Wilton Gregory, on Tuesday, urging him to consider admitting married men to the priesthood in order to ease the chronic shortage of recruits to the ministry.

"We join our voices to those of so many others at this time ... voices urging that diocesan priesthood now be open to married men as well as to celibate men," they wrote.

The "primary motive" for their action, they wrote, "is our pastoral concern that the Catholic Church needs more candidates for the priesthood, so that the Church's sacramental life might continue to flourish".

The standard letter was signed by 128 parish priests and another 35 in religious orders in the Midwestern archdiocese.

One of the priests who was instrumental in circulating the letter and getting signed copies to the Conference, the body that brings together all US bishops, said he was hopeful that clergy and parishioners across the nation would back the effort.

"A group of priests is taking a stand. We hope other priests will latch on to this and lay Catholics who support this will speak out too.

"For this to go anywhere, it has to make something more than a news splash," said Reverend Steven Dunn, of St. Gregory the Great parish in Milwaukee.

The initiative comes at a turbulent time for the US Roman Catholic church which is still striving to document all the cases of sexual abuse of children by US priests over the past 50-some years, and settle lawsuits stemming from the scandal.

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