Jurkus on clerical celibacy for the long term

Fr. Alan F. Jurkus is among the Milwaukee Archdiocese's 2014 priests to retire from active ministry, reports the Milwaukee Catholic Herald. That also meant that he recently retired as pastor of our parish (St. Alphonsus, Greendale).

Looking back on what he's said over the years, what was his most notable insight? It's in this article, titled Priest Recruiters Happier, from The Milwaukee Journal, October 15, 1977, when he was vocations director for the Milwaukee Archdiocese.

"'A short term solution to the vocations problem would be to do away with mandatory celibacy,' Jurkus said. 'But it would be short term.'"
It's hard to evaluate this against a counterfactual; it's not as if half the dioceses changed the celibacy rule, the other half didn't, and we compare results. But to get some indication of the effect of permitting married Catholic clergy, we can look at permanent deacons.

A Portrait of the Permanent Diaconate:A Study for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops 2012-2013 reported the Age of Active Deacons (p. 11) as follows:
1% 39 or less;
6% 40-49;
43% 60-69;
25% 70 or older.
Even considering that "the minimum age for ordination to the permanent diaconate is 35", it's striking that twice as many deacons were over 59 as under 60. That supports Fr. Jurkus prediction of only a short term effect.

While I don't have statistics for the "Womenpriests", everyone in the reports of "ordinations" I recall reading has been at least as old as I am. The biographical and photographic evidence at the Roman Catholic WomenPriests website is generally consistent with this.

So it looks like Fr. Jurkus was probably right almost 40 years ago that an end to mandatory celibacy would not have made much difference over the long term.

1 comment:

  1. a tip of the cap to Father Jurkus for once then!


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