The Catholic Church is turning to Foreign-Born Priests to Meet Demand

| 2/13/2009 1:51:56 PM

It’s not news that the Catholic Church faces a priest shortage. Advocates for married priests have been met with indifference. Advocates for women priests have been met with hostility—even excommunication. Some desperate American bishops are now turning to foreign-born priests, effectively making the United States "mission territory."

The U.S. Catholic reports on the trend and all of its complications:

"International priests seem to be most common in the West, the South, and the New York City area, according to Dean Hoge, sociologist at American Catholic University in Washington and a noted expert on the priesthood.

"Father Richard McBrien, a professor of theology at the University of Notre Dame ... sees it as part of a pragmatic strategy of 'certain conservative bishops who are desperate for more priests but who cannot even consider the possibility of married priests, much less women priests. It’s a Band-Aid approach to the priest shortage because it fails to address the systemic causes of the vocations crisis.'

"Sister Christine Schenk, C.S.J., whose Cleveland-based reform group, FutureChurch, advocates optional celibacy for priests and ordination of women, says it’s unjust that so many priests come from developing countries, where they are needed far more. Priest-to-parishioner ratios in Europe and North America are about 1-to-1,400 but can be as high as 1 to 4,800 in Africa."

Realistically though, some have a hard time speaking English, and others are finding it difficult to assimilate to American culture, who are sometimes only here for three years before heading back to their native country. One frustrated parishioner in the Dallas-area who struggled to decipher the weekly sermon, set up a fund in his wife’s name entitled the Mary O’Malley Memorial Accent Reduction Program.

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