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Analysis of church plight wide of mark.

AS a lifelong Catholic, I confess to reading with increasing irritation the article about Fr Paul Zielinski's apocalyptic scenario concerning the future of the church in our region (The Journal, January 30).

As presented, his argument appears to be that the decline in the fortunes of the church is entirely down to apathy on the part of the laity.

Nowhere does he mention that the real reason for merging parishes, shutting church buildings and renting out presbyteries is the shortage of vocations to the all-male, celibate priesthood.

Church attendance has been in steep decline for decades, but from my own perspective all that has happened is that people who only used to come because it was the "respectable" thing to do no longer feel any such compulsion. Those who do still attend are the core of committed church members who've always been there and always will.

I agree the laity will have to play a bigger role in day-to-day running of parishes and in many places this is already happening. However, the laity still have no significant voice in decision-making in the church.

Having largely ignored lay opinion and experience for hundreds of years, are the hierarchy realistic in expecting lay people to jump to the fore in a moment of perceived crisis? In my view, the old clerically-dominated model of church leadership is no longer appropriate (if it ever was) in an era in which the laity are finally being asked to play a bigger role in their church.

Important questions remain, such as: why can you only be a married Catholic priest if you were previously an Anglican? Why does priestly ministry have to be lived-out on the present model (where priests are expected to be social workers and administrators as well as sacramental ministers), when sacramental ministry could be combined with other ways of earning a living? Most of all, though, the thing that really bothers me about this analysis is the lack of any suggestion that the real solution to the church's travails is not to be found in our own will, but in our relationship with Jesus of Nazareth, who famously had "no place to lay his head".

Prof PAUL L YOUNGER FREng, DL, Birtley, County Durham
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Title Annotation:Letters
Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Jan 17, 2011
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