A shortage of priests? The answer is obvious…

A shortage of priests? The answer is obvious… Rev. Rose Hudson-Wilkin

I heard yet another sermon last Sunday in which the priest, speaking about the need for evangelisation, lamented the current shortage of priestly vocations. His sermon was well-constructed – this was in the Dublin diocese – and he spoke well, but he was old, and there was a perceptible note of weariness in his voice. He regretted not seeing more younger ordinands coming along to take over the pastoral and sacramental duties.

As everyone knows, there is no dogmatic prohibition on married priests: Christ ordained married men”

Yet to me, the answer is staring the Church in the face. Move forward to ordain married men. It’s already happening in the Amazon, with the blessing of Pope Francis. If it’s happening in the Amazon, why can’t it happen in the parishes of Ireland where the shortage of priests is starting to be so acutely felt?

Mary McAleese, and other campaigners, call for the ordination of women, and maybe that will happen in time (see side panel, re Anglican Bishop of Dover). But if secular politics is ‘the art of the possible’, so, to some degree, must be the strategies of a universal Church, and the time is not yet ripe for women’s ordination.

But it is perfectly practical to make a move towards ordaining married men: it occurs already within the Ordinariate – the Anglican priests who are already married and have moved to the Catholic Church – and I have seen that work well.

As everyone knows, there is no dogmatic prohibition on married priests: Christ ordained married men.

In times gone by, there was concern that a parish might object to supporting a wife and family, financially. But these days, most women have jobs of their own, and it would not be unrealistic to suggest that the spouse should not be a charge of the parish.

There’s a story about a man at sea, praying for rescue during a storm. A helicopter comes to help him, but he rejects it, saying: “No, the Lord will provide.”

A ship signals assistance, but he messages back: “No, the Lord will provide.”

Finally, he perishes at sea, and on arriving in Heaven asks why the Lord didn’t rescue him. He is told: “I sent a helicopter, I sent a ship – I provided! Why didn’t you grasp the opportunity?”

Similarly, we are being shown a blatantly obvious way to alleviate the problem of the shortage of priests.


Are ye right there Mary, are ye right?

Ireland definitely needs more trains! Trying to purchase a railway ticket to Roscommon this week, from Dublin, I was dismayed to find that all trains were booked out, all day, every day. I’ve never come across this situation either in England or in France.

According to the law of supply and demand, either a provider needs to increase the number of trains, or reduce demand for said service. I suggest increasing the supply – the train is the mode of transport of the future, according to the global leader of green politics, young Greta Thunberg. But I suppose there is also a way to reduce passenger demand: withdraw, or amend, the provision of free travel for pensioners.

Free travel

Older people resident in Ireland consider free travel a great boon – “isn’t it wonderful that we can go from Dublin to Galway nothing?” – and, for individual oldies, it is. But if this facility is contributing to obstructing paying passengers from availing of the service, it doesn’t make much economic sense – mean though this sounds.

I was due to speak at the renowned Percy French Festival at Roscommon on the theme of “Why Ireland Was Catholic”, and I daresay I’ll find another means (the Lord will provide!) But if you glimpsed a daft-looking old party thumbing a lift along the Athlone road mid-week, you’ll know who it was…


If Boris Johnson gets to be the next British Prime Minister, into his hands will fall the awesome privilege of appointing bishops in the Church of England. Few people – including Boris himself, I feel sure – would think of him the best candidate for that particular job.

If he’s wise, he will be guided by Queen Elizabeth in these appointments.

It was probably the Queen’s suggestion to appoint the Rev. Rose Hudson-Wilkin as the new Bishop of Dover: she is not only the first woman, but the first black woman in the position. I’ve heard her preach and was impressed by her compassion and good sense.

Like many black clergy, she is more inclined to be conservative than trendy.