Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Boston raises priest retirement age

Facing a growing shortage of clergy, the Archdiocese of Boston has announced that it is raising the retirement age of priests from 70 to 75.

The archdiocese announced the change, which is effective Aug. 1, in an e-mail to priests sent July 21 by vicar-general Fr Richard M. Erikson, the Boston Globe reports.

Erikson said that healthy priests can continue to seek the status of "senior priest'' at 70, but then will be required to fill in for priests who are sick or on vacation.

"Priests are normally expected (health permitting) to remain in active ministry, as pastor, parochial vicar, or special assignment, until the age of 75," Erikson wrote.

". . . Upon reaching the age of 70, priests may request senior priest status, but must agree to provide temporary emergency response until they reach the age of 75."

The archdiocese's secretary for parish life and leadership, Fr Thomas S. Foley, said in an interview that priests who are unwell will not be required to work.

He also pointed out that in the past many priests have worked past 70 voluntarily and that pastors, like bishops, do not have to offer to retire until age 75, so that the policy will mostly affect healthy priests who might in the past have sought to relocate at age 70.

Fr David L. Toupes, director of the Secretariat for Clergy, Consecrated Life, and Vocations at the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, said in an interview yesterday that clergy retirement ages range from 68 to 75 nationally, but that "the vast majority of dioceses would have 75 as a retirement age."

"Certainly, we need our brothers to keep their hands on the ministry,'' Toupes said. "And when you have a pope that's in his 80s, the rest of us can work, too."
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