Schleupner also said administrative tasks should be re-distributed so priests can spend more time on spiritual issues, adding that monastic training may not be appropriate for a diocesan priest.

"We need to create a sense of spirituality and sense of prayer that is really appropriate for a busy diocesan priest," he said.

"There's lots of things we can do in the mission of the church, there's lots of things that occupy my days, but when you really boil it all down …if I'm not about conveying spirituality, a sense of God and how to live our lives in a godly way,...we ought to just pack it up," Schleupner said. "It could be that some of what we're doing is clouding that."

"Why is it that young adults who are struggling with the church in significant numbers,… they'll say, 'I'm spiritual but I'm not religious,'" he continued. "When I read that, I think, whoa, whoa, whoa. I mean, I have to really think about that, that we need to be conveying a spirituality. I mean, that's got to be the heart of my ministry."


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One man also said it made sense to let priests marry if other "important occupations," such as presidents and doctors, can.

"I see no reason why a priest couldn't, too," he said.

The man added he did not like the media discussion of getting a pope from the developing world.

"It bothers me that [people say] now is the time for an African or South American pope," he said. "It's time for the best pope. I don't think we should be looking at a nationality."

Some people at the forum criticized the media for coverage of church sex abuse. One woman said a recent education study found the Catholic Church had the least amount of abuse of any religion.

"The media has distorted the Catholic church and they may be the cause of people leaving," she said.

Another woman argued with her, saying the men involved should have been brought to justice.

Schleupner, however, said he was not one to bash the media.

"I think we did the deeds; the media had a right to report it," he said. "I do think it is fair to say that in addition to the current issue, we as a society have brushed this under the rug for a long time."

After one person asked Schleupner how parishioners' comments can get filtered up to higher levels of the church, he said he was not sure, outside of his ability to influence change as a monsignor.

"I'm on a board and we can speak very frankly in those venues," he explained. "For me, it starts here, listening, talking with all of you."

Attendees seemed pleased with the discussion.

"I think it was open. I think it was heartfelt. It was what I was expecting and hoping," Ron Basener, of Bel Air, said afterward. "Father Mike did a heck of a good job."