As celibate male Catholic priests age, die and disappear, what is happening in the parishes? You may be surprised by the answer. I was.
Today’s reality is that, save for Mass and the other sacraments, most people’s experience of pastoral ministry in the Catholic church is increasingly with a layperson rather than a priest. At the present time there are 31,000 lay ecclesial ministers working in Catholic parishes in the United States (I expect the figures are proportionate for Canada) compared to 29,000 diocesan priests. And this is the kicker. Roughly 80 per cent of lay ecclesial ministers are women.
In some quarters this rapid shift in parochial leadership toward women will exacerbate alarm about the “feminization” of the church. There is also the worry that this state of affairs is a stalking horse for the ordination of women.
Are you alarmed or excited by the increased role of women in the Catholic Church?
Will Catholic men begin to feel they are being discriminated against?
Should the bishops begin to practise a form of “affirmative action” and hire more men?
Is there a good deal less here than meets the eye? After all, these female ecclesial ministers have only the power parish priest gives them.