Directory for the Ministery and the Life of Priests - New Edition

The phenomenon of “secularisation” – the tendency to live life in a horizontal projection, setting aside or neutralising the dimension of transcendence while nonetheless accepting religious discourse – has for several decades been involving all baptized persons without exception to such a degree as to engage those, whose task it is by divine mandate to guide the Church, to take resolute positions. One of the most relevant effects of this is the departure from religious practice, with a refusal – at times conscious, and at other times induced by habitual forms of conduct insidiously imposed by a culture determined to dechristianise civil society – of the depositum fidei as authentically taught by the Catholic Magisterium, as well as the authority and role of the sacred ministers called by Christ to Himself (Mk 3:13-19) to cooperate in his plan of salvation and to lead men to the obedience of the faith (Sir 48:10; Heb 4:1-11; Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 144 ff.).
Hence the special commitment deployed by Benedict XVI from the outset of his pontificate, at times with a revaluation of Catholic doctrine as the organic ordering of the wisdom authentically revealed by God, and which in Christ has its fulfilment, doctrine whose true value is within the grasp of the intelligence of all men (CCC, n. 27 ff.).
If it is true that the Church exists, lives and is perpetuated in time through the mission of evangelisation (cf. Vatican Council II, Decree Ad Gentes), it is nonetheless clear that the most deleterious effect on it caused by rampant secularisation is the crisis of the priestly ministry. On one hand this becomes evident in the appreciable decline in vocations and, on the other hand, in the spread of a true and concrete loss of the supernatural sense of the priestly mission; these forms of non authenticity, which in their most extreme degenerate expressions have often brought to the surface situations of grave suffering. For this reason the reflection on the future of the priesthood coincides with the future of evangelisation, and hence that of the Church itself.