Mercier noted that the viri probati issue "corresponds to a Church's mindset inherited from the 1950s and the 1960s, when people were Catholic by the majority, and it was a priority to keep the fabric of society."
"This Church does not exist anymore," said Mercier. Mercier also noted that, in the Internet age, the process of affiliation to the Church is not necessarily bound to the territory."
The future Church will be a Church of "small communities in the diaspora, built around Eucharistic poles," and so, Mercier underscored, there will be more need of "mobile priests," like the apostles.
For this reason, "celibacy is more fit to these times." The candidates of the priesthood are nowadays more motivated by missionary action than by the possibility of being a parish priest – official that reigns over one well delimited geographic parish" (State-clerics, Pope Francis would say).
Mercier maintained that "celibacy has not had its last say yet," but it is instead garnering more traction as "a force to re-position the Catholicism as an anti-system resistance" against the "ultraliberal model."
Celibacy makes of the Church a counter-cultural space, able to "inspire a generation again," said Mercier.
He added that "young priests and young Catholic generation do not want a 'petty bourgeois' evolution of the priesthood," while "young parish priests have no wish to gather laypeople that cannot always give to prayer its right place."
In the end, the world of today sees "the return of missionary, itinerant characters, like the Jesuit missionaries in South America."
Mercier noted that "marriage and celibacy are two parallel vocations." Facing the denigration of the conjugal act, St. John Paul II re-sacralized marriage, and now marriage has "a prophetic, chivalric function" in front of the hyper-sexualization of society and the praise for adultery in the media.
Priests, on the other hand, decide for celibacy and renounce to sexuality "not for issues of ascesis or deprivation," but as "the choice for different happiness."
If both the vocations are total, it is tough to live both of the vocations at the same time, especially if "both the sacraments are conceived as two nuptial marches toward sanctity that involve different spiritual and theological scopes."
(Column continues below)
Subscribe to our daily newsletter
At Catholic News Agency, our team is committed to reporting the truth with courage, integrity, and fidelity to our faith. We provide news about the Church and the world, as seen through the teachings of the Catholic Church. When you subscribe to the CNA UPDATE, we'll send you a daily email with links to the news you need and, occasionally, breaking news.
As part of this free service you may receive occasional offers from us at EWTN News and EWTN. We won't rent or sell your information, and you can unsubscribe at any time.
Mercier then faced the issue of the lack of priests. "Priests, he wrote, are at the limit burn out, often submerged by organizational and administrative tasks, not only priestly tasks."
Christians, however, are not aware of the fact that the number of priests will significantly decrease in the next years, and "still wonder that the Church can keep on offering them a sort of public service in the religious area without they are called to commit themselves in the Church."
Mercier's conclusions were definitive: "The Church must convert or disappear. It will be always more difficult to be Christian in a society with the option that distance from the Gospel, and so the Catholics will have to face the truth of their relationship with the person of Christ, with their care of keeping the relationship with prayer and sacraments."
Communities will, in the end, understand that "it is not the priest that must go to them, but that they have to make an effort, for example, to receive the Body of Christ."
This is "hard to accept, as Communion was trivialized during the last forty years," Mercier concedes. But in the end, a renewed commitment. Catholics will become aware that "they must encourage the vocations to priesthood among their sons, in their parishes, in their schools and Catholic Universities. Otherwise, nothing will change."
In the end, Mercier underscored that "committing forever in a state, whether it is celibacy or marriage, is a challenge against fear. The fear of not being able, to make mistakes, to fail."