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Asking the clergy about mandatory retirement

This week's surprise announcement that Pope Benedict XVI will resign raises the question of whether retirement for clergy should be an option or a requirement.

Pastor James D. Ryan, president,

Lighthouse Mission Inc., Bellport:

I was thinking about Pope Benedict XVI's retiring and came to the conclusion that many consider being a clergy a job, but it isn't. It is a calling and a lifelong commitment. Jesus said the poor and suffering will always be with us. If my mission is to assist the poor and suffering, how can I retire from that when they still exist?

We feed 3,200 people a week at Lighthouse Mission. I couldn't retire knowing that people need food and need to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ. I don't think I have a right to retire. Someday, when I physically no longer can load boxes into the truck, I may need to slow down. But, then I'll pray for those who can physically load the boxes.

When I thought of Pope Benedict XVI retiring, I thought of Paul ministering to churches from prison. He was able to write letters and encourage churches around the world. You do whatever you can do until God takes you.

The Rev. Roy Tvrdik, SMM, director,

Shrine of Our Lady of the Island, Manorville:

Interestingly, the Catholic Church requires bishops and cardinals to put in their retirement papers at 75, but the pope doesn't have to accept them. A lot of clergy, Catholics especially, keep going past age 75. They help out at Mass and with other duties. I would imagine that Pope Benedict XVI will be doing his thing for a while.

Normally, being pope is a lifetime job, but Canon Law says a pope can retire if he has a reason to do so. While the tradition is to die in office, this pope assumed that the world is so busy and so active that he couldn't fulfill his duties. I'm pretty sure he isn't going to be looking over the new pope's shoulder. I also think it would be nice for the church to have a younger man as pope.

The good thing about the retirement at 75 provision is that it gives the person permission to evaluate how he's feeling and how things are going. The person can make a decision about whether he needs to let go. It is never good to overstay your welcome.

I do think that the pope's retiring will open more people up to having a discussion about whether they wish to retire. They can ponder how effective they are at this point and whether they should be making decisions about the effectiveness of their ministry.

Rabbi Todd Chizner, Temple Judea of Manhasset:

No, I don't think there should be mandatory retirement based on age. If there is mandatory retirement, it should be based on the clergy's physical and mental health. Being a clergy, which requires being present for people, is a very demanding job.

I can speak most knowledgeably about this question as it relates to a rabbi. For example, I have a salary, a pension, a wife and children, and a mortgage. Financially speaking, a rabbi is not much different from anyone else in any other job.

However, when it comes to expertise, the longer a rabbi serves with one congregation, the more value he or she holds for the congregants. I'm there from birth to death with some of the families in my congregation. I'm in their homes and part of their lives, as they are part of my life. It is that age and experience with these families that make me invaluable to these congregants in their times of need. So, no, age alone shouldn't be the criteria for retirement.

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