Cardinal Ouellet addresses CUA event examining theology of the priesthood

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Cardinal Ouellet addresses CUA
Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet speaks to reporters at the Vatican Feb. 20, 2023. The cardinal, retired prefect of the Vatican's Dicastery of Bishops, delivered the keynote address at a May 16 symposium on the theology of the priesthood at The Catholic University of America in Washington. (CNS photo/Justin McLellan)

WASHINGTON (OSV News) — An event at The Catholic University of America in Washington headlined by Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet examined the theology of the priesthood, drawing clergy and religious from across the country.

The university’s Institute for Human Ecology hosted the May 16 event along with the Center for Research and Anthropology of Vocations in France, the Thomistic Institute and Theological College.

The event was organized by Cardinal Ouellet, who retired in April as prefect of the Vatican’s Dicastery of Bishops. Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States, and Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio of the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, also were in attendance.

During his keynote address, Cardinal Ouellet argued the Church should find ways to move beyond infighting and drama from the synod on synodality, calling for a reduction in the “conflicts and power struggles that occupy so much space.”

“In short, despite the dramas and priestly failures of our times, for which we do not evade responsibility,” he said, the Holy Spirit can still guide the way to “a suitable Church.”

Cardinal Ouellet launched an international movement to revitalize the collaboration between ordained priests and the priesthood of the faithful in February 2022 with a symposium in Rome.

In recent months, the cardinal has been accused by two women of sexual misconduct when he was archbishop of Quebec from 2003 to 2010; he was named in a class-action lawsuit against the archdiocese. Cardinal Ouellet has denied the accusations and sued one of his accusers in December for defamation.

Throughout the event at Catholic University, speakers and participants returned to results of a survey conducted by The Catholic Project, discussing the tensions it found between priests and bishops. That 2022 survey found a deep crisis in priests’ confidence in the leadership of the U.S. bishops. Just 24% of priests across America expressed confidence in the “leadership and decision-making” of the bishops, according to that survey, which was based on 3,516 responses from 10,000 diocesan and religious priests.

Archbishop Broglio told OSV News “the ability to speak with charity and love” is a key part of mending that relationship.

“I think we should do that to each other, both bishops to priests, but also priests to their bishops,” he said. “And perhaps to try and escape some of this concern about how you know how the truth might be interpreted, but to to be somewhat open.”

The archbishop added “the ability of religious to speak frankly to their superiors” might be “something that we can and should learn.”

Kate Scanlon

Kate Scanlon is a national reporter for OSV News covering Washington.