To the editor:
In June the Diocese of Davenport ordained two priests and two temporary deacons and in July seven permanent deacons. What might these numbers tell us?
From 2013 through 2022, 16 men have been ordained as priests for our diocese. Of that number, two are widowed; two were formerly civilly married and granted annulments; and one, with a special indult, is married. More than 30% of the priests ordained in the last 10 years have been married prior to their ordinations. During this same time, the diocese ordained 28 married men as permanent deacons.
Numbers don’t lie and yet may not tell the full story; as Mark Twain once observed, “There are lies, damn lies and then there are statistics.” Yet I am left to ask, when will we as Church read the tea leaves, recognize the signs of the times and honor the priestly vocation calls of the Spirit to both celibate and married men? A Church that does not recognize the signs of the times and the call of the Spirit to priestly ordination for so many may suffer the Master’s chide: “Blind guides!”
Such blindness brings about the understaffing of larger parishes and the loss of parish identity for smaller parishes through their consolidation or closure for no other reason than the availability of assignable priests. Pastoral ministry is diluted as a pastor serves without a parochial vicar and the pastor serves multiple parishes.
A global search for celibate priests for temporary diocesan service becomes the default to ordaining native married men to serve in the capacity for which the Spirit is calling them. How much tea will we brew before we read the tea leaves?
Father John D. Spiegel, retired priest
Diocese of Davenport