This is the headline of a front page article in the Southern Cross of March 18-24, 2015.“The police, prisons and military are traumatised from violence and are desperate for chaplains and support from the Church” according to an Archbishop.

A few excerpts from the article follow:
“Absent fathers, dysfunctional families, gang cultures and broken schools are fueling crime and placing the police under enormous pressure”, he says.

“Despite the need for spiritual help in jails, the Church has only one permanent, full time Catholic correctional services chaplain in all of South Africa”.

“It would be a good idea if Catholic priests volunteered to become reserve chaplains in the military….[to travel out of South Africa with our soldiers]… and to.. [provide counselling for army veterans who suffer post-traumatic stress]…”

The article repeatedly calls for priests to respond to the spiritual needs of all the police, prisons and military in South Africa, a huge work force

How realistic is this ‘call’ in a time of dwindling vocations to the priesthood?

Why can’t the various needs highlighted in the article be met by the laity, perhaps even more appropriately in some cases? In fact, there are Catholic NGO’s working in our prisons already, yet the archbishop does not once suggest that the laity may be able to make a contribution to the need for more “support from the Church”. Does the Church only consist of clerics?