THE COLLAPSE OF CELIBATE EXCLUSIVITY
Show your favor graciously to Zion, rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. Then there will be proper sacrifice to please you.
I contend that we are witnessing the collapse of celibate exclusivity in the Roman Catholic priesthood. Mandatory celibacy has been identified as the major cause of decline in the priesthood population. The falling numbers represent the collapsing walls of the Church's technical core, the Church that biblical poetry calls Zion and the New Jerusalem. Catholic tradition is bound more deeply to sacerdotal sacramentalism than to male celibate exclusivity, and the majority of Catholics would welcome a married (and gender-inclusive) priesthood that would restore their rightful access to the sacraments, especially the eucharistic sacrifice of the Mass. In this chapter I address a central research question guiding this work: Will the Catholic Church bid farewell to celibate exclusivity in the priesthood, and if so, how soon? I argue that married men will be admitted to the priesthood during the lifetime of this generation of churchgoers. In the concluding chapter I explore the implications of this change in the structure of Catholic ministry for the dismantling of patriarchy in the Church leading to the ordination of women.
The demographic imbalance between the supply of priests and the demand for priestly services—enumerated in Full Pews and Empty Altars and summarized in chapter 2—is like a loaded tanker in the open sea. Once momentum is gained, it takes a long time to slow down and turn around. Even if the conservative coalition finds a successful program for improving recruitment and retention of priests, it would take several decades to decelerate and reverse the downward trend. Several decades, however, is a relatively short time for an organization like the Catholic Church, which measures its age in centuries. Many