Fr. Francis X. Clooney, SJ, professor of Divinity and Comparative Theology at the Harvard Divinity School, offers a novel suggestion on America's blog (6/20/2009): perhaps in this "Year For Priests" the Church could survey its priests and really listen to what they are thinking rather than just asking for unconditional silent obedience. Among the questions Clooney thinks the Church needs to ask its servants here in the United States:
1. Why are there so few vocations?
2. Would it be good to allow married men to be ordained?
3. What is the best way for the Church to extend pastoral care to gay individuals and gay couples?
4. How do priests think about their celibacy in a society where our understanding of sexuality is undergoing so many changes?
5. Are we fully welcoming and making use of the pastoral gifts of women in the Church?
6. How can the Church best speak out on issues of violence, poverty, racism and sexism in today’s society?
7. What was most and least valuable in seminary training?
8. What are the best theological resources that help the priest do his job?
9. If we could change three things in how the Church is organized and run, what would they be?
10. Where is the piety of parishioners most alive and vital today?
11. Which kinds of liturgy work best, how have recent changes in liturgical form and language affected parish worship, and how do we help people to pray better, by the way we pray on Sundays?
12. How, from the parish priest’s perspective, are the bishops doing?
13. Given that John Vianney was a famed confessor, how do priests today think sin is understood in their congregations, and what might be done to rejuvenate the Sacrament of Reconciliation, to revitalize its role in Church life again?
14. What if anything are priests and people angry about these days?
15. What are the best and worst things the Church does for, to, its priests?
16. What might a priest's greatest hope be in 2009?
Of course, we know that, as has been famously stated, the Catholic Church is not a democracy so this is probably just a lovely pipe dream but, as Fr. Clooney concludes: "I am sure that if this could be done, the full graces of this year might become more memorably available for all of us, because we could then be honoring our priests — by listening to them."