Allowing women to become priests would not be a “quick fix solution” to the Church’s recruitment crisis, Bishop Cullinan of Waterford and Lismore has said.
Not so long ago, the priesthood was a highly prestigious vocation and Ireland was a net exporter of clergymen to the world.
In 2023, things are very different and Bishop Cullinan conceded there the numbers studying for the priesthood are “very much less” than previously.
The number of new recruits is dwarfed by the number of retirees and Bishop Cullinan believes it is a problem not unique to the Church.
“We are certainly faced with a problem,” he told The Pat Kenny Show.
“We all know that but vocations to marriages, vocations to any lifelong commitment in modern society is something that is decreasing - there’s no doubt about that.”
Bishop Cullinan said women are “essential” to the Church but that the priesthood should stay off limits to them.
“In the Church of England, the ordination of women hasn’t been a quick fix solution to the number of vocations,” he said.
“In actual fact, they’re going down.
“So, we can learn from that; it is something that God has - out of God’s wisdom - chosen for the Church, men for this particular role and there are all sorts of roles…. for women.
“But the specific issue of the priesthood is something that following Jesus in this particular way - and taking the risk for Christ - that he is calling and whom I am to stand and say, ‘Lord, I think you’re wrong.’”
Some believe allowing married men to become priests would boost recruitment but Bishop Cullinan was sceptical about whether a married man could do justice to the role.
“Does he give his heart to the parishioners or to his wife and family?” he said.
“And it’s always a dichotomy there and I think, for me and the happy priests that I know, they are free to give themselves fully for their ministry in their parishes, in their chaplaincy, wherever it is.
“I worked for five years as a hospital chaplain and I do not see how I could have done that job if I were married because in the hospital it was full on - especially the night calls.”
If any unmarried man does feel a calling, more information is available on Vocations.ie.
Main image: Priests in St Peter's Square. Picture by: Alamy.com