VATICAN CITY (ChurchMilitant.com) - Amid reports that the Amazon Synod's final document calls for married priests, a Venezuelan cardinal is speaking out against the abandonment of clerical celibacy.
Earlier this week, key synod architect Bp. Erwin Kräutler confirmed to LifeSiteNews that the gathering's final document has been completed. He reiterated this claim to Vaticanista Edward Pentin, who on Wednesday reported that Kräutler told him that the document is complete, but "no one knows" who wrote it.
Kräutler's comments support an InfoVaticana report, published on Monday, that the synod's final document has been compiled and, though rejecting the creation of a female diaconate, it endorses the ordination of married men for the Amazonian region.
Against this backdrop, on Tuesday, Venezuelan Cdl. Jorge Urosa Savino, archbishop emeritus of Caracas, penned a commentary reaffirming Church teaching on priestly celibacy and characterizing the synod's push for married priests an "imperfect and problematic" solution to the priest shortage in the Amazon.
"We, in imitation of Christ, celibate and spouse of the Church, the priests of Latin Rite, as well as many of the Oriental Churches, freely choose to consecrate our lives to God and to the Church," Urosa wrote.
"For this we renounce marriage, and we make a religious commitment to God to live in perfect chastity. This is a strong way to configuring ourselves to Christ, the High and Eternal Priest and Good Shepherd," he continued.
The cardinal conceded that the Amazon region does suffer from a paucity of priests, adding: "Of course there is a legitimate concern for improving pastoral attention to these indigenous populations. And a solution to the shortage of priests must be found."
But he cast doubt on claims that ordaining viri probati, or "married men of proven virtue," is the key to ending the shortage.
"Sure, they could be ordained. But what kind of priests would they be?" Urosa asked. "This needs to be discerned."
"Would they be second-class priests, like the famous 'bread and butter priests' of the past?" he queried, recalling clerics who conduct their priesthood as a career, not a calling.
The cardinal pressed on: "What formation would they have, that is to say, what studies would they require? The permanent deacons require serious studies, usually of at least four years. And what would be their ministry … simply celebrating the sacraments?"
"From whom would they depend … who would be their immediate superior? Would there not be friction between these 'older priests only for sacraments' and the parish priests and parochial vicars?" he asked. "How would the economic and administrative routine work … that is to say, who would support them in these extremely poor dioceses and missionary vicariates?"
Echoing the concerns of myriad faithful Catholics, Urosa indicated that a married Amazonian priesthood could eventually go global:
This disciplinary opening up … would it be limited to Amazonia? Would it not weaken the celibate priesthood in the rest of the world? Can a regional synod approve a norm that affects the entire universal Church? One important synodal father has already indicated that the priesthood would have to be studied in its entirety, not only the topic of celibacy, and that it would have to be done in a general synod, not a regional one.
Cardinal Urosa stressed that the true solution to the dearth of priests in the Amazon is a recommitment to holiness and evangelization. This, he noted, has sparked decades of increasing vocations in multiple Venezuelan dioceses.
"I believe that the solution to attending to communities properly lies in having more evangelizing and sanctifying activity to strengthen the life of faith in the Christian communities that lack priests," he declared. "Evangelization and promoting youth and vocational ministries give good results in the medium and long term."
"We have seen this in Venezuela. Dioceses such as Coro, Maracay, Maturin, Barcelona, Valencia, San Felipe and others have shown a significant increase in priestly vocations in the last 40 years," he observed. "There is no doubt that the work of our beloved missionaries has been, and is, magnificent, sacrificial and worthy of all respect, gratitude and praise."
"Therefore, we must study with sincerity and realism why it is that the evangelic preaching and missionary work so far has not produced more fruit in the indigenous communities, nor any indigenous vocations to the priesthood or religious life," said Urosa.
The cardinal closed his commentary with a prayer: "Let us pray for a greater impetus in the missionary work and evangelization in that immense territory and for her population, indigenous, Latin and mestizo, and that our loving Mother, Mary Most Holy, Our Lady of Guadalupe, Queen of America, intercede for our Amazonian and universal Church. Amen."