(Source: José María Castillo, Spanish theologian; translation: Novena)
The pandemic we are suffering is not only a misfortune but also a great teacher which is teaching us important things we could not have imagined.
For example, one of the things that the pandemic is showing us is how little religion speaks to and connects with the most serious problems that affect and concern humanity.
What is religion contributing to the terrible disaster that is unfolding in a country like the United States? For what has religion served in that world power? So that the president can have his picture taken holding up a Bible in one hand? And what to say about Spain?
When the churches were closed and the processions were banned, “Church people” did not know what to do.
According to the Gospels, Jesus never ordered a temple to be built. Nor did he organise processions.
And yet the image of Jesus Christ is probably the best-known and most commonly depicted image in the world. What does all that tell us?
I will limit myself to Christianity. What I can say, from my old age, is that the most important event the Church has lived from the Second World War up until now has been the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965). However, has this very important event been the most influential?
Paradoxically, what continues to be more influential for the future of the Church has not been the Council but the crisis of the clergy. A crisis we are feeling and living every day and ever more intensely, precisely because of the pandemic that continues to plague us, especially we elderly.
Why do I say that the crisis of the clergy will be more decisive for the future of the Church than the decisions taken by the Council? The Council said many things about the theology of the Church and its presence in the world.
But in reality, it modified very few important things in terms of the change the Church needed – and still needs – so to have an influential presence in this world and in the society in which we live.
We can feel it: the pandemic has not only marginalised religion and the Church, but it is also making it clear that a situation as serious as this needs neither religion nor the Church – in the way that religion and the Church have been functioning for centuries.
Can it be said – as a way out – that neither religion nor the Church are in this world to solve (or help solve) situations and crises like the one we are suffering? Then, why are religion and the Church in this world at all? So that we can be “good” and “go to heaven”? That much of course. But is that all?
To go back to what I said before: one of the most obvious facts we are witnessing and which is becoming more acute with the current world crisis is that, in addition to the health crisis and the economic crisis, we are experiencing and feeling that the future of the Church, in the way in which it is presently organised and acts, will soon be unsustainable. Why?
Because the clergy, as that body is currently organised in the Catholic Church, is aging and decreasing in number in such a way that, in a few years, there will not be enough celibate, duly prepared men to make it possible for all the Christian faithful to participate in the Eucharist in the way foreseen in the Church’s current laws.
This state of affairs arises, naturally, from two points that the supreme government of the Church can modify without the need to modify at all the dogmatic theology of the Catholic Church.
Priestly celibacy is not a dogma of faith. Neither is it that priests necessarily have to be male, such that no woman can be a priest under any circumstances.
On the other hand, the proper preparation of married men and women for the exercise of the priestly ministry cannot be improvised. It is formation that needs its time.
But it cannot be deferred any longer. The Christian faithful have the right to be duly attended to by the competent authority of the Church. And the time has come for this decision to be taken as soon as possible.