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Essays in Theology

Restoring clerical authority

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One of the most tangible changes that has occurred in the Catholic church over the past several decades is the decline in the deference that Catholic laity display toward their clergy.

It is not that Catholics no longer like or respect priests. On the contrary, they are similar in mentality to U.S. voters who may have a generally low opinion of Congress, but who keep re-electing their own Representatives every two years.

Pope Benedict on Vatican II

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The controversy generated by Pope Benedict XVI's recent lifting of the excommunications from the four bishops of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Pius X (also known as the Society of St. Pius X) has given some critics, on both left and right, occasion to question the pope's commitment to the Second Vatican Council.

On the left, some voice the suspicion that the pope is really in sympathy with those who question whether the council really changed anything in the Catholic church, even if his views do not exactly match those of the Society of St. Pius X, which openly rejects the council in whole or in substantial part.

The lifting of excommunications

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Late last month Pope Benedict XVI revoked the excommunications of four schismatic bishops, all members of the Society of St. Pius X, a group founded in 1970 by the French archbishop Marcel Lefebvre (d. 1991) in protest against the reforms initiated by the Second Vatican Council (1962-65)–reforms that had the full approval of Popes Paul VI (d. 1978) and John Paul II (d. 2005).

Imported priests - Part Two

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There were three published letters to the editor in reaction to the recent front-page series in The New York Times on priests being recruited from foreign countries to serve in dioceses of the United States (12/28/08-12/30/08).

The first two letters were implicitly supportive of the criticisms given expression here in last week's column, A pastoral solution to the priest-shortage. Paul Lakeland, a professor of theology and director of the Center for Catholic Studies at Fairfield University, referred to the importation of priests as "a classic example of wrongheaded ap-proaches to a real problem" (1/4/09).

A pastorally sensible solution to the priest-shortage

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Just after Christmas, The New York Times ran a series of page-one articles on the importing of priests into the United States. Although the focus was on India and various African countries, the phenomenon is much broader than that.

In the past, missionaries were recruited from countries with a surplus of priests, such as Ireland and the United States, to minister in countries with a dire need of priests, such as the countries of Asia, Africa, and Latin America.

Has something happened to reverse that situation? Is there now a higher priest-to-people ratio in the United States than in the countries from which some American dioceses are now recruiting priests?

The answer is a resounding “No.”

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