Losing the Siege of Vienna

If only we had a project of Re-Evangelization. Or something.

Granted: A lot of European dioceses have lots of little parishes.

From the best Catholic weekly in the UK, The Catholic Herald.

Vienna archdiocese to cut parishes by 75 per cent

The Archdiocese of Vienna has said it will press ahead with a major reorganisation that will include closing most of its parishes over 10 years, despite objections from some local Catholics.

The archdiocese’s 660 parishes will be merged over the next decade into around 150 larger parishes, each served by three to five priests and offering regular Masses.

Michael Prüller, archdiocesan spokesman, said: “Our emphasis isn’t just on reorganising the Church, but on reinvigorating the missionary impulses of the entire Christian community.

“Although we can debate how best to achieve it, the plan’s main aim isn’t open to discussion.”

Mr Prüller told the American Catholic News Service that falling numbers of clergy and laity had made the changes necessary. He said smaller affiliated communities within the parishes will be run by lay volunteers authorised to conduct the Liturgy of the Word.

Prüller said archdiocesan bishops would draft the new parish boundaries and steps for implementing the reorganisation by January 1.


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  1. Joseph says:

    They have been “reinvigorating the missionary impulses” for the last 50 years, (I love that language) Kara Mustafa was just not patient enough.

  2. NDPhys says:

    Now, what sense does it make to take smaller parishes and merge them together into bigger parishes served by 3-5 priests? Why not just retain 3-5 separate parishes each with its own pastor?

  3. MarkJ says:

    Enough already with the fruits of the “New Mass”. Banish it.

  4. anilwang says:

    Given the state of the Church of Austria, I think its a good idea. If there are too few priests for each Church and the priests want to “solve” the problem through women’s “ordination” and similar Protestant ideas and the priests are too spread out to be head accountable to the Catholic Faith, this solution solves many problems. This assumes that the truly Catholic Churches are preserved (and not the modernist warehouse churches), the faithful bishops are kept and the unfaithful ones are reassigned (and not the other way around), and the modernist priests are handled (unfortunately, even priests sometimes have poor catechesis).

  5. Don’t like the “run by lay volunteers” bit. Isn’t there confusion enough about the differences between clergy and laity?

  6. asperges says:

    I can think of few things more demoralising to a parish than to have it abolished and merged with half a dozen others and served remotely. Grouping of parishes seems inevitable with the shortage of clergy.

    The solution is to concentrate on vocations and the religious life, not to give up; but the priesthood has been effectively so downgraded in people’s minds in the last 40 years (I am not referring to scandals, but their role and how it is now viewed), that it is not seen as something essential or to be aspired to. Until it is again, the crisis will continue.

  7. Gretchen says:

    You all ought to come visit the Diocese of Rochester, which has been clustering parishes for decades. Sorry to report that centralizing does not work. You lose lots of people through closing certain churches (and don’t think it isn’t political which ones stay open and which are closed/sold off/destroyed.)

    Inevitably, lay leaders arise and a whole new form of clericalism emerges. Our clustered parish has been suffering that since the 1990s, and outlying parishes are full of our former parishioners.

    Catholic schools close down when you take the local church/parish away, and of course, vocations suffer. Subsidiarity is a Catholic thing, and it works. Centralize and you lose the cohesion that helps communities to stick together and survive the hard times.

    Giving up territory, either physically or spiritually, does not work. Unfortunately, it is the path that is being taken in many dioceses around the world. It will be very difficult to recover the lost ground, much more difficult than if Catholics had held together through the thin times. The excuse of a priest shortage does not make sense when you think it through. It is much better to maintain parish communities and have visiting priests, than to close down a House of God to move congregations around. Does anyone think the priest shortage is permanent? Really?

    If you act as if you are going out of business, you probably will. The temporary relief of clustering is more than offset by the long term pain of destroying churches, schools (and therefore vocations), parish communities, and ultimately, perhaps even souls.

  8. acardnal says:

    Well, when a bishop has anywhere from 300-400 priests (or about 10 percent of all Austrian priests) in open revolt against Catholic teaching, he has to do something.



  9. Phil_NL says:

    Frankly, with 1.3 million Catholics, 660 parishes is a very big number, and given the state of the Church in Austria, I’m very surpised they even have 500 odd priests.

    On the other hand, that merger-wave is an administrative nightmare. It’s very much a fun affair for diocesan officials, but it accomplishes nothing but a lot of turmoil, and richer parishes supporting poorer (and often poorly run) ones. In fact, a lot of those parishes will be faring poorly for particular reasons that have nothing to do with general secularization, and everything with the silly season being in apparent full swing in Austria.

    It would be a lot better to leave the parish structure well alone, name priests as PP’s to two parishes (and you’d have spares) and keep everything separate. Then decide on a parish-by-parish basis which churches and parishes need to close/merge. That will weed out a lot of the silly ones.

  10. pberginjr says:

    @ asperges – but in order for the vocations “crisis” to be addressed the marriage crisis needs to be addressed first. Strong, holy marriages make strong, holy families. Vocations aren’t really a problem now (enrollment is up in the US). Some good bishops have talked about the, I’m paraphrasing, ‘listening crisis’ that is to say God is still calling people but they are not listening. We need strong families that encourage and support vocations. Unfortunately such families are belittled and discouraged by contemporary American society.

  11. pberginjr says:

    All that being said, what we all must do is pray for the bishop and pray for our brethren in Europe.

  12. CarpeNoctem says:

    A few thoughts, NDPhys, mostly drawn form my perspective in the US, but I suppose with some applicability to the Archdiocese of Vienna.

    First, I think many fewer priests that any of us can imagine are acutally suited to be pastors… to have the spiritual, administrative, leadership, and evangelization skills, along with good health and proper motivation is really hard to find nowadays. The bench is surprisingly thin in most dioceses. My personal guess is that the number of guys who are actually suited to ministry as a pastor in a contemporary parish may be as small as 1/2 or 1/3… and I don’t think that’s necessarily an indictment against the priests or their training… not everone is suited for marriage or to go to college or to be a French chef or an archbishop. We are in the compromising position of having to stick square pegs into some round holes due to, perhaps, an unreasonable perception of what diocesan priesthood has become. Many of the pathologies in liturgy and parish management nowadays, I think, are due to the fact that we have guys as pastors in parishes who shouldn’t be there in that role. In some cases it is absolute power (in a parish), corrupting absolutely. In some cases it’s the Peter Principle. In some cases, the bishop simply needs a warm body in a parish. Being a pastor is a priviledged office, which is taken too lightly, I think, because our perceived institutional needs are greater than the talent we have to actually fill those needs.

    Second, if the archdiocese is anything like those here in the States, it is probably severely overbuilt institutionally. There may simply be too many churches. This is not only a priest shortage problem, but it is a Catholic shortage problem. No matter where you are, there is a trend towards an idolatry of institutions and places and local traditions. There’s something good about that: people are attached to their parishes. Good. Now, if those parishes help us to think outside the walls and take care of each other when resources (personnel or financial or ??), that would be even better. The day of a church on every street corner is long passed, until every street is full of Catholics again.

    Third, it is not good for priests to go it alone. In the day, parishes would have pastors and vicars and residents and maybe a retired guy. The grind of dealing with people today is toxic, and to be the only soul between the sheep and the fires of hell is a very, very tough responsibilty. I do it because it is my vocation, it is my job, my own soul is on the line, and it is what I am being called and graced to do. It regularly throws me down to my knees, though, because I know I don’t have the talents or resources in myself or even in the larger parish to do the job I know needs to be done.

    Beyond the social dimension of having, multiple guys in the house tends to even out what people experience in their priests… maybe the pastor is a lousy preacher–the whole parish is releaved when the vicar steps up on Sunday morning. Maybe the vicar is a lousy confessor, the pastor is there to mentor him and to take a greater share of the time in the box. Maybe the retired guy is a recovering alcoholic (who sometimes falls off the wagon?)… you don’t call him to the hosptial after cordials, but you do have the resident seminary prof on speed dial. On the other hand, the prof might have poor people skills… you get my drift. Maybe there’s room in the house for a blog-master or prison chaplain? Nowadays, without any backup or other personalities to balance things out, often a single priest needs to be all things to all people at all times– and often has to prioritize away from the special skills and tallents (youth ministry? scholarly writing? promotion of the arts? chaplaincy with the Legion of Mary?) that would really help the Church, just to keep the lights on and the doors open and all those Masses said. There is safety in numbers, and having multiple priests serving multiple parishes, I think, does even things out and gives guys the comfort of a safety net… in my experience it is easier for a lone pastor in a parish to go out with walking pneumonia on a weekend rather than play the futile game of trying to find someone to fill in on short notice.

    In a perfect world, each little parish would have its own pastor and overflowing collections providing resources for evangelization, outstanding liturgy, a Catholic school, funds for the poor and missions, salaries for three priests, all the funds that the diocese needs for its assessments, and a little left over to put back for savings… and this might be possible if everyone went to Mass and weren’t so concerned with the rat race in the secular world. Yes, our priests need to do better and we need to do a better job at developing vocations to the priestly ministry, but the reality is that we live in a sad world of compromise… ‘brick by brick’ as Fr. Blogmaster puts it, trying to fix things one step at a time– personally within the priest, institutionally within the parish, spiritually before God.

    I hate to hear of parishes closing, clustering, or pulling back, but this is the archbishop’s call. He sees what is going on. Very, very rarely, if ever, does an archbishop cluster a parish where it is standing-room-only every weekend. I have seen a few of those little parishes in Europe, and while it would be nice to preserve them, that is not practical or healthy, either. In his judgment, he needs to prune the bush to, hopefully, allow for greater growth. It is not timid spirit we profess, but it is not wreckless, either. I pray that all pastors, whether parish priest or archbishop, be blessed with the grace of being good stewards of the flocks entrusted to their care…

  13. The Masked Chicken says:

    “I have seen a few of those little parishes in Europe, and while it would be nice to preserve them, that is not practical or healthy, either.”

    When I was in Luxemberg for an academic conference in 1993, I wanted to go to daily Mass. There was a Church a short bus trip from the conference site and I was the ONLY person in the entire Church during Mass. There was a painter retouching a painting (who wasn’t Catholic, if I recall) who was off to the side, but that was it – the priest and I. He invited me up to the lector’s spot and shared the book of readngs with me (they were in French).

    Very sad.

    The Chicken

  14. amfortas says:

    Reading today’s Gospel in the OF (luke 10: 1-9) I am struck by one positive aspect to these changes. Our Lord sent his disciples out in pairs. I assume there was a strong pastoral diemnsion to this and I think we should bear this in mind today given that many (most?) of our parishes have only one priest who lives alone. By having two or three priests in each of the new parishes the priests will be able to strengthen each other. [Or, after being alpha wolves, drive each other nuts!]

  15. Imrahil says:

    Dear @Phil_NL,

    good idea. But then PPs of more than one parish should be forbidden to celebrate more than twice on a Sunday without getting explicit singular permission from the General Vicar, not necessarily written, possibly by phonecall or email. (Necessities, such as do not reappear any week, of course excepted, and maybe also exceptional jubilees, and ph Easter and Christmas.)

    That may sound strange. But it does have a basis in canon law (the bination/trination etc. concepts); and it is the only way I see to prevent the priest from becoming a Sacraments Distributor who is torn up between his activities, step by step reduces the time for his own spiritual exercises, and is constantly object of his parishioners’ pity who all want that finally someone tears down the celibate to end that state of affairs.

    Dear @Gretchen,
    Does anyone think the priest shortage is permanent?


    Or, more precisely, we do not have a priest shortage if only considered in the right relations, viz. to all-Sunday churchgoers, or even such as regulary go to Confession. This is wondrous in itself and beyond what we deserve, because for reasons that I cannot dwell on here the priesthood is an especially hard task today, and appears as such to the said sort of Catholics also, and it is voluntary…

    But when official Church membership, even, has gone down – and about the degree of practiced Faith [i.e., without the little reservations where concrete dogma is concerned] let be silent the minstrel’s courtesy -, then it is rather a strange try to uphold a structure that was set up when Emperor Joseph wondered what to do with the money he had the Religious Orders expropriated from, and set up as many parishes as he could finance with it.

    Against visiting priests speaks in loud voice the fact that a parish is meant to be effectively led by a priest, in canon law. The result would be that parishes finally go over to women lay theologians, and the priests just jump in as they are told.

    Of course there might be the possibility of a sudden miracle where all Austria suddenly converts to the Faith and floods its seminaries with vocations.

    Dear @NDPhys: spot on.

  16. Fr AJ says:

    Fr. Z is correct in his comment to amfortas post, it would be difficult for most priests to go from being a pastor to an assistant under this proposed arrangement.

  17. anilwang says:

    Fr Z wrote [Or, after being alpha wolves, drive each other nuts!]

    True, but is that a bad thing? After so much dissent within the Austrian Church, a little humility might be due.

    “Iron sharpens iron” (Proverbs 27:17)

  18. Gretchen says:

    Carpe Noctem makes many points. I will address one or two.

    The idea that many of today’s priests are unsuited to pastor parishes begs the question: How is the current parish structure helping or hindering the pastoring of a parish? Our pastoral administrator (a permanent deacon) has two parish priests under him and hasn’t managed any better than an ‘unsuitable’ priest pastor. The pastoral administrator before him (a nun) had numerous problems and according to some reports, left after nearly having an emotional breakdown. She presided over closing one of our clustered parish’s churches–and promptly lost nearly 300 families from the parish. Permanently.

    We also have a pastoral associate and numerous other lay employees (16 paid in a parish of 2,500 families). The burden of salaries and benefits takes any extra cash on hand that would be used to maintain churches and properties. A typical parish of our size has no more than 9 or so paid employees.

    I am convinced that the action of elevating lay leaders is an attempt to Protestantize the local Church. The priest is relegated to an inferior role and it wreaks havoc on a parish. No one can go to the priest for guidance on parish matters. It is the administrator and associates who rule the roost, and it sometimes amounts to a tyrannical reign. Mini popes abound in some local parishes. Sometimes, it is better not to mess with a structure that has been basically sound for centuries.

    Then it was said, ” No matter where you are, there is a trend towards an idolatry of institutions and places and local traditions.”

    Oooohhh! That is a progressive attack on tradition if ever I heard one! A Catholic House of God is different than a Protestant one. The Lord dwells bodily in a Catholic Church. The sacraments occur there, the most important aspects of our Catholic Faith. The altar holds a holy relic. Most of us are aware of the blood, sweat and tears it took for our fathers and mothers to build that Church. It has been consecrated by the bishop. It is Holy Ground. The traditions that organically evolve are uniquely suited to that parish and meet the needs of the parishioners. There is nothing remotely idolatrous about that. One can idolize anything. Has it happened? Probably in a few instances, but is that really a reason to cluster and close parishes and destroy churches?

  19. Clinton R. says:

    But Vatican II is supposed to be the new Pentecost! Sadly, this is what happens when bad catechesis and years of failing to cultivate priestly vocations are allowed to take place. No priests, no Mass. No priests, no confessions. Instead the years of Vatican II have focused on the involvement of the laity at the cost of priestly vocations. Of course that is the aim of the modernists who seek to water down the priesthood to the point where they hope it will be eliminated ala the Protestants and the empowered laity will be able to run the show. May Our Lord bless the Church Militant with faithful men who will heed His Call to the priesthood. +JMJ+

  20. CarpeNoctem says:

    Gretchen… points well taken. Even worse than having an inept priest-pastor is divorcing the governance of the Church from the charism of Holy Orders. Holy Orders alone is not the magic formula to make someone who can’t balance a budget or who is incompetent at managing a staff from doing any better, but it is an important component to a properly-oriented parish in the constellation of the Church. Being a pastor is ultimately not a job, but a vocation. The grief in this job today is nothing less than the Cross of Christ laid on the shoulders of his sons in our day– as we pray for vocations, we not only need warm bodies or folks who are smart in worldly ways, but folks who are willing and able to carry to load of that cross through his grace. I would agree with other commenters who are nervous about the idea of lay leaders in the Vienna case.

    I also thought that was an interesting insight about ‘alpha wolves’… beyond the idea of two or more guys living in a house together and the annoying stuff coming from that, but of even greater concern, the ‘peer pressure’ to conform to what has been the norm (for the last generation) of our tie-dyed, Kumbaya-singing, touchey-feeley overlords. That’s not good either… but it goes both ways. It always went both ways. It wasn’t until Fr. O’Malley’s dissing of Fr. Fitzgibbons became ‘cool’ that things went off the tracks. The Fr. O’Malley’s are now shuffling off to their eternal reward, and it will take another generation to get things right, but I and my peers are already doing everything in our power to be a good influence to the seminarians (and hopefully someday, assistants) entrusted to my mentoring.

    Good points also on ‘idolatry’. Of course a Catholic Church is something special, and I am not suggesting that the holiness of the sacramentals and properties of the Church are insignificant to the faith, but I also know that they have a great tendency to be grossly misused… even abused… for less-than-holy purposes when parish lines and cultures and funds are concerned. Nobody would suggest that one closes or ‘clusters’ a full church, and nobody would suggest that this is a good thing in and of itself, even when it is necessary. But, if the focus of a church becomes the survival of a community that cannot take care of itself (i.e., it lacks fruitfulness)– by offering its children for religious vocations, keeping the bills paid, celebrating beautiful liturgies, having an ad extra orientation rather than simply maintaining a parochial sub-culture– with all other things being equal in a typical diocesan context, it is not only a bad business decision, but I would argue a bad pastoral decision (in the best sense of being a ‘pastor’) which invites a defective ecclesiology. Obviously a case-by-case judgment of the bishop, whose job it is to make the tough decisions with an eye toward salvation of souls above all else.

  21. Jim says:

    Nice article to play “Identify the old heresy”. Here is what I could find so far.

    1. ordained priests were not needed in every small town and village (Protestantism – there is no priesthood)
    2. As society changes, the Church has to change its old-fashioned practices and structures,, too, (Protestantism and Modernism)
    3. This is about a new cooperation between priests and laity from their common Christian vocation, (Protestantism, Freemasonry ? Let us corrupt the priests and they will corrupt the laity.)
    4. We have to free ourselves of the traditional image that the Church is present only where there’s a priest and stress the common priesthood of all baptised, (Protestantism, Freemasonry ? Let us corrupt the priests and they will corrupt the laity.)

    See that is what happens when there is no Inquisitor General for all of Christendom like St. Michele Ghislieri .

  22. Salvatore_Giuseppe says:

    It is indeed a shame to close parishes, but I can’t imagine Vienna is big enough in size to warrant 660 of them. And certainly one parish with multiple priests is better than several with one each. It allows priests a chance to breath by sharing responsibilities, even if the number increases due to increased parishioners.

    Its almost worse in the US, there’s an over abundance of formally ethnic parishes, and without those divisions (for the most part) any more, there just isn’t any sense to the number of churches in major cities.

    But, as I said, its a shame to have to lose the buildings…

  23. Gretchen says:


    Thanks for your kind reply. It made my day. Let me also say that I do believe what you said that being a priest in a parish today can be very toxic when dealing with people. It is certainly not for the faint of heart. The Catholic culture has been so thoroughly degraded nowadays that it must be unbelievably tough to pastor a parish. We have two permanent deacons in our parish (besides the deacon administrator). I imagine deacons would be of much service to a priest pastor if so directed by the local bishop. I believe about 43% of all permanent deacons are located in the USA. They would seem to be a viable help in administrating parishes where the priest pastor was stretched. However, in our diocese, they seem to be at the vanguard of the lay ministry movement. The spirit of Vatican II being much in evidence, of course.

    That said, I see in my own parish experience the prophetic nature of this quote from St. Jose-Marie Escriva, “It is public knowledge that some ecclesiastics today seem to want to create a new Church. By doing so they betray Christ, for they change spiritual aims—the salvation of souls, one by one—into temporal aims. If they do not resist this temptation, they will leave their sacred ministry unfulfilled, lose the confidence and respect of the people, and create havoc in the Church.” (Christ is Passing By, no. 79)

    I cannot begin to tell you of the heartache that has been caused by changing the parish structure from a priest/pastor to a priest/assister role.

  24. Imrahil says:

    Dear @Carpe Noctem made the good point that the governance of the Church is entrusted to the Holy Orders.

    Which, sorry ladies, rules out any more than ad-hoc and really passing-by leading function of women lay theologians.

    But it poses another question: well, what actually about deacons?

    Canon law wants a priest for pastor, and that definitely with reason; nor would I wish to see that rule changed; but nevertheless it is interesting whether leading a parish could possibly, Papal assent assumed, be given to a deacon more than temporarily.

  25. Jason Keener says:

    I hope there will be some way to preserve many of the parish church buildings. It would be a shame to see all of those beautiful old churches sold off or demolished.

  26. CarpeNoctem says:

    Gretchen… thanks for your kind reply as well. I know I tend to gush when something hits me on this blog, and I appreciate Fr. Z’s kindness of letting me do so in this forum. Your conversation has also made my day… so… thanks.

    I like your line, “I cannot begin to tell you of the heartache that has been caused by changing the parish structure from a priest/pastor to a priest/assister role.” That is so correct. So many betray this misunderstanding of priestly ministry in the language they use. I will always correct someone who suggests that I am the “presider” at Mass. Yes, I do technically preside, but I do that from my particular priestly role as the “celebrant”. (Now, if I were a bishop, God forbid, I could technically preside at Mass without celebrating, which causes those who are insistent on misusing these titles/functions to go into a bit of a stupor for a few moments until they say ‘well, you know what I mean’.) My relationship to the church is ‘flattened’ or ‘lowered’ or ‘made more accessible’ by conforming to the ideal of Christ, not by my feeble attempts at (false?) humility by becoming something I am not– like the shepherd trying to become a sheep.

    I would like to go back to the idea of Fr. Fitzgibbons and Fr. O’Malley from Going My Way. I am probably picking this critique from somewhere I have read before… it seems too original to have been something I came up with myself, so if someone can point me to this discussion on a blog or in the literature, kindly please let me know.

    Anyway, I am thinking that dynamics of the relationship between these two priests are exactly what lead us into the derailment of clerical culture and through that, the pathologies of parish life and order after the Council. Notice, the council did not cause the tension and unhealthy disrespect between these priests… it was already in place when the council hit. It was given full flower when Fr. O’Malley, the priest idealized by the Hollywood types, became the archetype for the 1960’s rebel-priest… the ends justifying the means… doing or saying anything to win over the doubful or hurt, even if they did not pass their final exams… the smug justification in being a man of God by being a man of the people first. Now sure, things may have been tight in the old regime, and senior pastors of the day tended to be not particularly good to their charges, but the wave of revolt found at the time of the council, I would say, was anticipated and idealized in the decades immediately prior, and came to full flower by the emptying of our parishes at a time coincident with not only the council, but more importantly, of these men ‘coming of age’.

    In reading other comments, I am a little wary about laying final blame of the larger story here (closing and clustering of churches) at the feet of the council. IMHO, the dysfunction and the seeds of our current malaise were planted long before the age of “Vatican II”.

  27. Phil_NL says:

    Regarding priests as ‘sacrament distributors’: I fail to see the problem, up to a point. If there is a shortage of priests, let them first and foremost focus on those tasks for which a priest is indispensable, and that includes (many of) the sacraments. Fundraising, visiting the sick, religious education – to name a few – can be outsourced. Admirable jobs, but unlike Mass and confessions not in need of a priest. Also, in many cases parochial administration is a lot more work than it needs to be (don’t expect a 2000 soul parish to support a school, for example, that’s just too inefficient, and any meeting on this or that activity should last no more then 5 minutes with someone saying: ‘this is how we’re doing it, period’. Parish business is not meant to give a daytime occupation to those volunteers who otherwise lack them).

    So while I would object to a priest seeing himself solely as a ‘sacrament distributor’, (as he could and should do other things when time allows) it is a task that’s especially entrusted to him, so I’d say his priorities should lie there. Now it is, with a tad of organisation, quite possible to have a priest say 3 or 4 weekly Masses and schedule an hour or two a day for confessions. (in parishes of 2000, counting nominal catholics, baptisms, marriages and funerals will not be big time-hogs, and frankly, not even if one has tow or three such parishes)

    By all means, if the priests are able to, let them distribute the sacraments! For the sake of the souls of the flock, and also because one shouldn’t expect any vocations without them.

  28. Imrahil says:

    Dear @Phil_NL,

    that problem is probably not so easy to state, since, yes, a priest is by definition he who is ordained to offer Holy Mass, first and foremost, and the other sacraments of course, and all else comes attached to it. Jurisdiction itself has not so much to do with the priesthood; it has much to do with the episcopate, and the priests are then made pastors by virtue of the bishop’s appointment.

    However, I (for one) am impressed by the amount of regret that is attached to, and especially is attached to by most conservative priests, this reduction of function I, perhaps inaccurately, summed up under the word “sacrament distributors”. You yourself, when you say you fail to see the problem, say “up to a point”. That does probably have some foundation.

    And I figure it’s, perhaps amongst other things, this. In reducing priests to the role of distributing the Sacraments, we, in fact, go back to a rather ritualistic conception of the priesthood (“ritualistic” happens to be the precisest word; please do not attach to this word that negative sound it has in the mouth of progressists; as yet I’m only describing). We’d basically have a class of men who, for some reason we do not know, are under three restrictions, are the only ones to perform certain functions we hold in faith to be the most important, but which leave little room for personal decisions of the performers, and little leisure time for their performers to do anything else. Of the three restrictions we do not know why they exist; we regret the first two; we cannot put aside the first; we dare not put aside the second; we never even recognize the third. The first is, of course, that they are men. The second is that they are celibate. The third is that they have a master’s degree in theology.
    And, in the language of the men of the world, the “important” stuff would be done by someone else.

    And while an arrangement thus described would not hamper with real issues such as validity of Sacraments and even of the jurisdiction so exercised, it does not seem to be what the Church was meant to be structured.

    And it was meant that he who consecrates the True Body is also to consecrate the Mystical Body. That, in fact, is why the bishop must essentially be a priest; it is also why he whom the bishop appoints as a pastor at least should be, and be canonical law also must, be a priest.

    Thus I have no problem if a priest that serves as professor of theology, as diocesan bureaucrat (neutral word!), as consistorial judge, as praeses of a very important association, etc. etc., or happens to have made a name as a professional author or artist (or in another profession canonically not inopportune to the clergy) able to live by it and has also been consecrated, etc. may just do a great amount of distributing sacraments. That is not the point. Such parishes can have an administrator from a neighboring parish, and perhaps their own deacon or, yes, woman lay theologian, plus volunteers.
    But the point is that the image of priest who but drives from parish to parish, says Masses, hears Confession, and at least practically has to do what the deacon or woman lay theologian tells him to do.

    That his priorities should lie in distribution the sacraments is clear. But he should have another office too; and normally that would be the office of a, really responsible and not in name only, pastor. I fear the thinking that “let’s just give the pastoral care to others so that the priest who hitherto has cared as pastor for 6000 is free to distribute the Sacraments to 15000.” The priests, as I know them, especially the young priests, would obey. They have, bless them, imbibed the “priest life, victim life” maxim.
    But I do wonder whether such an image can possibly foster vocations. Also they’d not be content, and very few people can conceal their discontent all the time.

    And you mention “visiting the sick”. For visiting the sick a priest is indispensable, in fact. Because even if we are lax about EMHCs, it can and should be often accompanied by the Anointing of the Sick.

  29. Imrahil says:

    Again about visiting the sick or visiting at all: Blessings themselves are reserved to priests! Now what would the effect be if the Church sends an employee or a volunteer to a house who cannot even bless it?

  30. Imrahil says:

    that the image of the priest […] and does nothing else is a problematic one.

  31. BLB Oregon says:

    I can see a clear advantage in having 2-3 priests per parish instead of isolating all the pastors from each other on a day-to-day basis (as is often necessary in a geographically spread-out diocese such as are common here in the US), but I’m surprised they didn’t split the difference and consolidate far fewer parishes. I suspect that the expense of property upkeep is the biggest part of the math here, but I fear that the emotional attachment that the most devout have to their parishes is being _grossly_ underestimated. Unless they have hundreds of buildings that urgently need upkeep that the archdiocese quite simply does not have the money to pay for, such that they have backed themselves into a situation where the other possibilities are impractical, I think the reorganization is going to be taken as a very draconian solution.

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