We all know about the lack of vocations in the United States today. There just are not enough priests being ordained, except in Third World countries, where the candidates abound to such extent that there is not buildings big enough for all of them. The end result is the closure of churches across the United States and Europe.
Is the solution to allow a married clergy? The Protestants allow married ministers, but their vocations are also on the decline. As far as the sexual scandal in the church, pedophilia preceded the vocation crisis. It is a bad thing but a small percentage of the problem. One needs to look at the problems during the time of St. Peter Damien in the 11th century and his efforts to reform the sexual abuse practices of the clergy.
Throughout the ages, there seem to have been plenty of vocations. Monasteries were built in the early history of the church with many religious. Families existed with a loving faith in God, and those that had many children made possible the vocations to the priesthood and religious life. Today, in Europe and even in the United States, families have been hurt, just as religious vocations have fallen. The population of Europe is decreasing, with barely one child born per family. The government is even offering monetary incentives to couples to have more children, fearing the increasing influx of Moslems.
Is there a connection in the crisis between religious vocations and vocations of marriage? Pope Benedict XVI declared that in order to have a dedicated and growing priesthood, there has to be a faithful family life with dedicated marriages, instead of divorce. Some think that the crisis is due to theologians stressing that marriage is equal in status to the vocation of religious life. Jesus always said that the celibate had a special place “for the sake of the kingdom”. Yet, both vocations require holiness.
Without the dedication of married life, there can not be a serious attempt to look at a growth in religious vocations. A holy family life inculcates a devout priesthood and vice versa. The reasons for the crisis in both vocations is they are connected. Instead of partners married in faith in the Church, they live together in a trial arrangement. If it does not work out, they feel they can escape. It is proven that this situation is disastrous to what the marriage covenant is all about. Many couples also go into marriage and if it does not work out, then perhaps they feel they can divorce.
Why is this so prevalent in the western world? There are plenty of material things that exist on a scale that no other time in history has had. Not only materialism, but relativism is evident more than any other period of time. The last and present popes are trying to urge the people to realize that egotism or self-centeredness will not work in marriage.
Non-commitment, materialism, relativism or “picking and choosing” will not give us vocations either. The pope says that when the vocation of religious life falls, the vocation of married life is in danger too. It takes good self-sacrificing families to produce good priests. The story of most of the saints is that of a Christian mother and father abiding by the teachings of the church and showing their good example to children that is effective most of the time by study, prayer, teaching religion, abiding by the Gospel, and so forth.
On the other hand, the wealth of the Third World nations is not there. Vocations in these countries are blooming. There definitely must be a relationship between excess wealth and lack of it that depends upon vocations to thrive. A family can not be raised if there is a longing for too many material things in the world and a lack of trust in God that there will be enough to go around. This has nothing to do with having a job. Many believe that God will not supply their basic needs if they have large families. And to accomplish this, many will not abide by living in chastity, disregarding the teachings of the church on birth control and contraceptives. Contraception, abortion, and the disregard for the sanctity of life are all factors that make one unhappy.
Sadly, the schools and universities have those who teach contrary to the magisterium of the Church. All teachings are meant to bring one happiness pertaining to birth control, contraception, sanctity of life, the belief in the Immaculate Conception, the belief in papal infallibility, and the belief in a male priesthood. Cooperation between parents and teachers in schools has to exist in the light of what the church teaches to be true. Good example in the home, as well as the school, has to go hand in hand.
The blame has been placed on the Council of Vatican II in the early 1960s. Who started this council? It was Blessed John XXIII, and it was continued by Pope Paul VI, who many people regarded as being mistaken when he came out with Humane Vitae (On Human Life) , talking about the sanctity of life in all stages and the holiness of marriage without the use of contraceptives, and the further evil of abortion. The Church has not changed with the popes after him. John Paul II was gifted in his phenomenological explanation of The Theology of the Body to better explain man’s sexuality, by his series of talks over several years. He tells us that the body is made in “the image and likeness” of God and that we are to mirror in our thoughts, words, and actions what God in his creation of man and the world intended.
This means that anything contrary to the Bible, the Gospel, Tradition, teachings of the Church, and the Ten Commandments is missing the mark and brings about division. If one party feels they will not give in to the other and always wants his or her own way, then the marital relationship will be in jeopardy. If one feels that he or she can disobey the laws of God and the Church, then the vocation of the priesthood is in jeopardy.
This is not to minimize other important reasons why two people are not meant to be together or that a person should not have been permitted to be a priest in the first place. Many theologians spoke against Humane Vitae. Many priests and nuns left the church. Confusion set in. Untrue things were said about the Church, that was absolutely not part of what the pope said in his teachings. People, without spending time and studying the truth, listened to much of this erroneous slander. And the result was a misunderstanding on the part of some that was intentional and by others that was not purposely done. People are so often led astray by false intelligence.
One need not go any further than the lives of the Fathers of the Church and the saints whose lives prove that the Church was right. They show us that harmony exists where obedience is present. With obedience comes understanding. With understanding comes love. With love comes faith. Otherwise, what is happening today without commitment, sacrifice, and regulations of the appetite, will continue to bring the fruits of ruin to the culture of Europe and our own here in America.
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