Skip to comments.So, is there a priest shortage?
Posted on 10/29/2003 8:59:36 AM PST by american colleen
So, is there a priest shortage?
It is fairly common for the press, Catholic or secular, to report about a shortage of Catholic priests that is usually described as a crisis for the Church. It is true that the number of priests in the US has been declining for over a decade. This has been a fairly small decline however, from 53,000 in 1991 to 46,000 in 2001. There has probably been a similar decline in the percentage of active Catholics during these same years, but this is harder to measure accurately. Keep in mind that there are less than 20,000 Catholic parishes in the US, far less than the number of priests. And just for example, if half of the parishes closed overnight, most Catholics would still have a shorter trip to Sunday mass than to their nearest shopping mall. (Thanks to a local bishop for that fact.) I live in an area where towns of less than two hundred people still have a priest serving their parish.
These statistics need to be interpreted in light of an important fact: The Catholic Church is an international, worldwide institution. Priests can and often do travel between nations to meet local needs. Some people think it a problem that the US has imported a few hundred foreign-born priests because our seminaries can't produce enough. Do these people realize that the US has imported half a million computer programmers because our schools can't produce enough?
You won't see much reporting about this, but worldwide the number of priests and seminarians is growing. Between 1990 and 2000, total priests worldwide increased from 401,000 to 405,000. Granted, this is slower than the percent growth in total Catholics, but remember that several other religions are shrinking in the modern, secularized world. In other words, "They wish they had our problems"! Add to this the number of permanent deacons, which exploded from 17,000 to 27,000 during these years. Permanent deacons are ordained clergy who perform baptisms, weddings and preach. They will play a growing role in the future of the Church, but they get very little publicity. The overall result is that the number of Catholic clergy has increased significantly in the last decade. And during those 10 years the number of worldwide Catholic major seminarians grew from 93,000 to 110,000, a very healthy increase. The lack of growth is mostly in the English-speaking nations. And even there the problem is more local than you might think.
Some US Dioceses are ordaining many more priests than others. By comparing the number of priests active in a diocese during 2001 with the same figure from 1991, we can see how the diocese is trending vocationally. The percentage figure represents the 2001 number divided by the 1991 figure. A higher percentage means the diocese is having more success attracting new priests. Compare these relatively successful dioceses:
Atlanta, GA. . . . 123%
Arlington, VA. . 121
Lincoln, NE. . . . 107
Fargo, ND. . . . 101
Rockford, IL. . . . 97
With these relatively unsuccessful ones:
Rochester, NY. . . 72%
Milwaukee, WI. . . 77
Albany, NY. . . . . . 79
New Ulm, MN. . . 79
Joliet, IL. . . . . . . . 80
I hate to use a cliche, but numbers don't lie. Anyone can see a huge difference here. Ultimately, the bishop of a diocese is responsible for vocations. I will leave it to you, gentle reader, to explore what many other Catholics have said about the men who were leading the Dioceses above during those years. I will say that if we had accountability in the Church like major business corporations do, Bishop Matthew Clark of Rochester would have been forced to resign long ago.
Standard business management practice would suggest that we study the Dioceses that are succeeding, see what factors are helping them, and implement these factors in other places. Bishops that fail to do this should be held accountable in some way. This is an area where some new kind of lay empowerment may be needed. If any readers are curious about the percentage figure for your local diocese, contact me and I will calculate it for you. For now, this may be the best "power rating" available to evaluate the performance of Catholic Bishops.
Some dioceses do keep track of this. On the Philadelphia Archdiocesean website, you can see statistics showing a decline in percentage participation in certain areas of the diocese (especially poorer neighborhoods).
Albany, NY. . . . . . 79Ping.
It's kind of a joke for us (media, lefty Catholic journals, and some dioceses) to measure Catholics by the numbers of baptisms and marriages in the parishes. Almost everyone I know was baptized and later married in a Catholic parish but almost all of them do not attend Mass at all.
Throw out the hetrodox bishops, replace them with orthodox bishops, and the priest "shortage" will evaporate.
I like facts... they are our friends!
Rochester, NY. . . 72% ...... Matthew C. Clark Country - Hubbard's classmate from seminary and dearest friend!
This might explain why Rochester ranks so low ...
DIOCESE OF ROCHESTER NEWS and VIEWS - Cathedral Denied Landmark status. Wreckovation may now begin.
Sanctuary of Sacred Heart Cathedral, Rochester, NY
The floor and all other elements will be demolished. The new 6' square altar will be situated in the nave (middle aisle) of the cathedral.
The gist of this article is that the more orthodox dioceses are not experiencing a priest/seminarian shortage and the liberal/progressive dioceses are experiencing a shortage. Other than that, I am not sure I get your point?
We (in my area of the northeast) average one to two priests per parish (not including lay or religious pastoral associates & lay led ministries). But I can drive for 15 minutes in any direction and pass maybe 8 or 9 parishes. Maybe two of them are close to capacity at Sunday Mass.
The problem in my area is finding an orthodox parish.
Did you read the article? 'Cause it sounds like you didn't read the article.