Bishop defends celibacy against criticism over lack of vocations

Bishop Vicente Jimenez of Santander, Spain recently said he is confident that abolishing celibacy is not the answer to overcoming the lack of vocations to the priesthood.

A report published Sept. 6 by highlighted Bishop Jimenez’s defense of priestly celibacy.  “This is the pastor of a diocese with few priests (315 responsible for 615 parishes, with 103 priests over the retirement age of 75) and a priestly ordination calendar that is not very full: only 10 candidates at the major seminary and three at the minor.”

In an interview with the newspaper Montanes, Bishop Jimenez acknowledged that the lack of vocations in his diocese is “troubling” but said he does not believe the solution is to make things easier for priests. “A vocation should be demanding and undiluted,” he said.  “There are some voices that say that if we do away with celibacy and allow priests to marry there would be more. I don’t believe it.” 

He noted that in protestant communities “celibacy does not exist and they have less vocations than Catholics.”

Bishop Jimenez said the explanation lies elsewhere. “The issue is not celibacy.  The issue is whether a young person wants to commit his life because he has heard a call from the Lord.  The conditions need to be created to make it easier, such as receiving support from his family,” the bishop said.

“If these were the comments of a bishop in whose diocese there was not a lack of vocations to address the pastoral needs ... perhaps his statements defending priestly celibacy would not be so remarkable,” said.

“We must support vocations, because it is a sacrificial but very beautiful life.  There is no greater joy than to give of yourself and do good for others,” the Spanish bishop said.

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