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‘Pink Elephant in the Room’

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A three-day symposium on the priesthood is underway in Vatican City. Today marks the second day of the event, which is themed “For a Fundamental Theology of the Priesthood.” Church Militant’s William Mahoney looks at some of the symposium’s key players and key themes.

Topics on the itinerary for the symposium include the “Significance of the Second Vatican Council for Today’s Priestly Renewal,” a “Roundtable [discussion on] Women and Ministries — the State of the Question” and “The Wagers of Priestly Formation Today.”

Fr. Paul John Kalchik: “Nobody’s addressing the pink elephant in the room with respect to the priesthood of the Roman Catholic Church — which is homosexuals are the majority among priests these days. … It’s not going to change until we address the problem.”

Hosting the event is the Research Center of Anthropology for Vocations, an organization independent of the Holy See, established in 2020 by Canadian cardinal Marc Ouellet, who heads the Congregation for Bishops.

In 2018, Abp. Carlo Maria Viganò appealed to Ouellet: “You have at your complete disposal key documents incriminating McCarrick and many in the curia for their cover-ups. Your Eminence, I urge you to bear witness to the truth.”

In 2019, Ouellet made headlines again for downplaying the Pachamama scandal, claiming it an “exaggeration” to call what happened “idol worship.”

The president of SNAP, the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, offered an assessment similar to Fr. Kalchik’s.

Shaun Dougherty, president, SNAP: “They keep introducing reform symposium after reform symposium, but they never really seem to address the elephant in the room. So, until they remove the elephant from the room, this is just more theater.”

The symposium opened with an address from Pope Francis, who offered reflections on the priesthood in what he called the four pillars of “closeness.”

The first pillar, Francis called “closeness to God.”

Pope Francis: “Closeness with Jesus, contact with His word, allows us to match our life with His and learn not to be scandalized by anything that happens to us — to defend ourselves from scandals.”

The pontiff moved on to his second pillar, “closeness to the bishop.”

Pope Francis: “The bishop is not a schoolmaster; he is not a watchman. He is a father — and he should give this closeness. The bishop must try to behave in this way because, otherwise, he drives the priests away or he only approaches the ambitious ones.”

By claiming the “bishop is not a watcher,” the pope, ironically, contradicts the precise meaning of the word itself. “Bishop” in English comes through Latin from the Greek “επίσκοπος,” which means “watcher” or “overseer.”

The pontiff continued with his reflection on the two remaining pillars, “closeness among priests” and “closeness to the people.”

One Catholic described the symposium as “chicken soup for the priesthood,” while another, referencing an old Saturday Night Live shtick, captioned the opening address “deep thoughts by Pope Francis.”

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