Skip to comments.U.S. Priests and seminarians survey: more vocations in orthodox dioceses
Posted on 09/07/2003 6:40:59 AM PDT by Hermann the Cherusker
Reprinted from AD2000 Vol 11 No 7 (August 1998), p. 12
U.S. Priests and seminarians survey: more vocations in orthodox dioceses
A comparative analysis of different 'styles of US dioceses was recently undertaken by Human Life International (HLI). The survey sought to compare the numbers of priests and seminarians in dioceses broadly typed as "orthodox" and "progressive".
For the purposes of its study HLI defined an "orthodox" diocese as one that had exhibited a "general predisposition of fidelity towards the Magisterium since Vatican II."
The term "progressive" was applied to a diocese exhibiting "a general predisposition towards liberal activism and systematic toleration towards dissent from the magisterium since Vatican II".
In the United States, with its large number of dioceses, the contrasts between those at each end of the theological/liturgical spectrum have tended to be more obvious than in Australia.
One might have predicted at the outset that dioceses where, in general, the sacred character of the ordained priesthood is more emphasised, liturgies are celebrated reverently according to the Churchs rubrics and doctrinal orthodoxy is insisted upon and promoted, would attract more recruits - e.g., Lincoln, Nebraska, or Arlington, Virginia. This, in fact, proved to be the case.
The HLI calculations were based on figures from P.J. Kenedy & Sons Official Catholic Directories, 1956 to 1997 editions, and editions of the Vatican Secretary of State Statistical Yearbook of the Church for the years 1975, 1981, 1987 and 1993.
The study examined two clusters of 15 dioceses over the period 1955 to 1996. One cluster consisted of 15 dioceses that have had a generally orthodox tradition since 1955 (and especially since Vatican II); the other consisted of 15 dioceses that have had a generally progressive tradition over the same period.
HLI found the following 15 dioceses to be in the "orthodox" category: Amarillo, Texas; Arlington, Virginia; Atlanta, Georgia; Baltimore, Maryland; Corpus Christi, Texas; Denver, Colorado; Fargo, North Dakota; Fort Wayne-South Bend, Indiana; Lincoln and Omaha, Nebraska; Peoria, Illinois; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Sioux Falls, South Dakota; Steubenville, Ohio; and Wichita, Kansas.
The following 15 dioceses were considered to be in the "progressive" category: Chicago, Illinois; Detroit and Grand Rapids, Michigan; Los Angeles, California; Madison and Milwaukee, Wisconsin; New Ulm, Minnesota; Phoenix, Arizona; Portland, Maine; Rockville Centre, New York; San Bernadino, San Diego and San Francisco, California; Seattle, Washington; and Tucson, Arizona.
HLI conceded that the terms "orthodox" and "progressive" were "necessarily subjective", but explained that the 15 dioceses "of each persuasion" were selected "after an extensive review of articles carried in four publications over the past 30 years: National Catholic Reporter, National Catholic Register, Commonweal and The Wanderer.
A list of these dioceses was then submitted to a number of individuals "with extensive knowledge of the history of the American Catholic Church for confirmation and correction."
Two patterns were apparent from the statistics:
1. There are currently nearly twice as many diocesan priests per million active (or practising) Catholics in orthodox dioceses as there are in progressive dioceses (2,057 vs. 1,075); and
The proportion of diocesan priests in orthodox dioceses has remained steady, while the number of diocesan priests in progressive dioceses has been continually declining for four decades. In orthodox dioceses, there were 1,830 diocesan priests per million active Catholics in 1956, and 12 percent more (2,057) in 1996.
In progressive dioceses, there were 1,290 diocesan priests per million active Catholics in 1956, and 1,075 in 1996, a 17 percent decrease.
A second statistical analysis looked at the numbers of diocesan priests ordained in the period 1986 to 1996.
Two patterns were evident from this:
1. There are currently nearly five times as many ordinations of diocesan priests per million active Catholics in orthodox dioceses as there are in progressive dioceses (53 vs. 11); and
2. The rate of ordinations of diocesan priests in orthodox dioceses shows a strong upward trend, while the rate in progressive dioceses, relatively low four decades ago, continues to decline. In orthodox dioceses, there were 34 ordinations of diocesan priests per million active Catholics in 1986, and 53 in 1996 - an increase of more than 50 percent. In progressive dioceses, the rate was 16 in 1986, and only 11 in 1996 - a one-third decrease.
With acknowledgement to HLI.
Reprinted from AD2000 Vol 11 No 7 (August 1998), p. 12
Interesting to that the Progressive dioceses have always had fewer Priests. Maybe a pre-existing Priest shortage was a CAUSE of their Progressiveism after Vatican II, rather than a result.
For those of us who live in more "progressive" doiceses, where parishes are being closed and the priest shortage is widely lamented, this report might prove instructive were the bishop to see it.
I dunno, seems a pretty simplistic explaination of Cardinal Law. Remember when he was the ONLY bishop to stand up to Cardinal Bernardin regarding Bernardin's "Common Ground Initiative" (Law's letter to Bernardin can be found on the internet) and best of all was when Law wrote a widely published criticism of The Catholic Theological Institute (one of the worst dissenting organizations - the member list of theologians is a who's who of heretics) and he called the Institute "a theological wasteland" - incurring the wrath of the progressives.
Cardinal Law was personally orthodox but not strong enough to withstand the direct disobedience and scathing contempt of most of the priests and theologians in his archdiocese. So he compromised by doing almost nothing to curb the growing apostacy of the ordained and the laity. And I think that the USCCB, promoting "unity" pretty much hogties all but the most strong and faithfilled and faithful bishops. You saw what happened when Bruskewicz stood up and spoke the truth at that dog and pony July 2002 bishops meeting. It was if he never spoke.
I think Cardinal Law, God help him, also fell prey to the good life that can be had if one is so inclined. The nice dinners and hobnobbing with the "influential" people can be very tempting.
PS. Cardinal Law's Masses and homilies were very orthodox.
Articles like this intrigue me and I have cited them numerous times on FR. A discussion ensued regarding this subject on one of the blogspots last year (Mark Shea or Amy Welborn... I forget which). Anyway, there was much debate (few facts, mostly personal opinions) from the commenters until a priest (generally known as being orthodox) posted his opinion on orthodox vs. progressive ordinations and the number of seminarians in both.
He said that people widely cite Bruskewicz' diocese as one with many seminarians because it is very orthodox BUT it is because seminarians leave their own diocese to escape the progressive seminaries and attend in Lincoln or Omaha --- in other words, those men are not really from Lincoln or Omaha and so vocations are not any higher there than they are in the progressive dioceses.
I hope I explained that correctly.
He also said that the number of seminarians shouldn't be a factor because so many drop out - you should look at the number of men who are actually ordained and then see where they originated from. So... his thesis is basically that men are called from all over the place but tend (at the moment) to go to seminary in the more orthodox dioceses.
Boy, I wish I could write better!
He said that people widely cite Bruskewicz' diocese as one with many seminarians because it is very orthodox BUT it is because seminarians leave their own diocese to escape the progressive seminaries and attend in Lincoln or Omaha --- in other words, those men are not really from Lincoln or Omaha and so vocations are not any higher there than they are in the progressive dioceses.Isn't is also true that these men who attend seminaries in Lincoln or Omaha become diocesian priests within Bruskewicz's diocese? In other words, regardless of where these men came from they are becoming priests and will we assigned to parishes in Nebraska. The question to ask is: would these same men have become priests if they were required to attend a seminary in their more progressive diocese? I suspect the answer is NO and, therefore, the premise that orthodox diocese lead to more vocations is still true.
Good question. I'm thinking of a couple of Boston College grads I know who attended St. John's seminary in Boston back in the early 80s. Both left - said the seminary was like a gay bar and they were in the hetero minority. But then when I think about it, if they really had a vocation, maybe they would have persevered or switched seminaries. Look at Fr. Trigilio and Fr. Brighenti - endured a lot in their seminary back in the 70s/80s and held on until ordination.
You guys sort it out! Too many ifs, ands or buts for my limited abilities!
What I thought was sad in my area was when a guy here discerned a calling in his 30s. He was transformed by the Tridentine Mass at our Indult parish, quit his lucrative job and went into FSSP seminary in Nebraska. He came back to celebrate his first Mass at the indult parish and then went back to Nebraska because - no room at the Inn here! One indult parish (which is also an NO parish) and there is already a priest for that congregation, so they didn't need the new FSSP priest. So he left an archdiocese that has a self defined priest shortage. Makes no sense. If, as we hear all the time, the laity are demanding the Eucharist (which crosses all linguistic barriers) and there are not enough priests to distribute the Eucharist, you'd think the laity would be grateful to God to have a priest say the Mass in any language. And I suspect they would! But the chattering ordained class is deciding for the laity that the laity will only accept priests who say the NO Mass.
The progressive Dioceses are almost all, if not all, located in areas that are socially and politically liberal. The orthodox Diocese are almost all, if not all, located in areas that are socially and politically conservative.
For this study's conclusions to be valid, one would need to include in the study (a) progressive Dioceses located in socially and politically conservative areas and (b) orthodox Dioceses located in socially and politically liberal areas.
If such additional Dioceses cannot be found, the conclusion that might be drawn from this study would be that ordinations are greater in socially and politically conservative areas, which is a "the sky is blue" kind of conclusion. In other words, it's not a meaningful discovery.
The ultimate conclusion that one might want to draw from this study is that if progessive Dioceses were to become orthodox, ordinations in those Dioceses would increase.
However, I don't think that such an ultimate conclusion could be drawn from this study. Given the data sampled, it might well be that even if the currently progressive Dioceses were to become orthodox, ordinations in those Dioceses would not rise to the levels of ordinations in orthodox Dioceses that are located in conservative areas because the social and political climate of an area is the most predominate factor.
Therefore, I don't think this study has much validity when it comes to drawing the kind of conclusion that folks here would like to draw (i.e., bringing orthodoxy to liberal Catholic Dioceses would attract more Priests).
As I implied above, the most valid conclusion that this study might yield is that whether a Diocese is progressive or orthodox depends on whether the area in which the Diocese is located is socially and politically progressive or orthodox. But anyone with a lick of common sense surely knew that.
Oh dang! More twists and turns! My head is spinning.
I reject your conclusion! ;-)
Seriously, shouldn't Catholicism, which is neither politically progressive or conservative as taught by the Magisterium, transcend a particular political climate? If it is taught according to the catechism, tradition and Magisterium, that is.
But you have a good point because priests coming out of seminaries in liberal areas were probably taught by liberal theologians who in turn either were taught in those same seminaries or colleges that their teachers came out of. It's kind of like an endless circle or a dog chasing his tail.
In the more liberal areas, a lot of the teaching centers on the parish/Church being primarily a social justice organization (which Cardinal Ratzinger sees as the greatest danger to the Faith) and I find this over and over again in priests and particularly nuns. The focus is on love and has an almost socialistic flavor.
Which is why orthodoxy works... by adhering to the Magisterium, we are able to overcome the temptation to interject political opinion.
A "fruit" of the USCCB? To discuss this issue publicly or seriously would be pointing fingers at the dioceses that have a dearth of vocations and to give a thumbs up to a diocese that has plenty of vocations. And Bruskewicz's diocese is cited most often as having plenty of vocations... but he is perceived as a bishop who rules with an iron fist, doesn't listen to "other voices" (he's not inclusive not pc!) and who is medievel in the words of my 68 year old parish priest.
The USCCB and "unity" keeps everything at the same level by not tackling the important issues with serious and soul-searching and public discussion. And it seems (to me) that the only "mavericks" who stand out a bit are the progressive ones.
That's not true as a generalization. Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Atlanta are not particularly conservative, and Tuscon, San Diego, Phoenix, New Ulm, Portland, and San Bernardino are not particularly liberal. The sample is good and representative.
And if so, wouldn't the would be seminarian have to explain why he doesn't want to go to the local seminary and is choosing to go elsewhere?
Which might explain the underlying animosity directed at a bishop like Bruskewicz?
Maybe all the more reason to consolidate seminaries (makind them less locally bound) and have them run by bishops with a proven track record.
The USCCB just goes up my keister sideways.
You've added complexity where it's not necessary.
The question is the orientation of the Diocese, not of the political/cultural surroundings.
While your suggestion would tend to make the study's findings 'bulletproof,' it would not necessarily change them.
Otherwise, your suggestion is that areas which are heavily 'liberal' in a cultural and political sense would not produce priests.
If that were so, Boston, Milwaukee, and Detroit would have run out of priests about 30 years ago.
For quite a few years I too believed that Cardinal Law was "conservative," but what finally convinced me to give up on him was when he led the push to get approval for the "inclusive language" lectionary. He led the committe that wrote it. Then when Rome refused to approve it, he led all the US cardinals over to Rome in a group to try to force approval. Rome turned him down flat. The lectionary had to be re-written (Deo gratias).
My later conclusions about Cardinal Law came from seeing the state of the diocese when I lived in Boston for 2 years. I thought the faith was extremely weak, even much weaker than other areas on the East Coast where I have lived. He provided no spiritual leadership. Meanwhile he was closing parishes like crazy. He especially wanted to eliminate ethnic parishes and consolidate them into bland "American" parishes. I have to agree with the poster who said that he was a "deceptive politician."
I found this:
December 13, 1996:
In a move unique in the history of the Catholic Church of the United States, the seven active Cardinals went to Rome to ask Vatican officials to conclude the process for confirming the proposed new English-language lectionary based on the NAB; this action was taken at the request of the NCCB Administrative Committee. Cardinal Law stated that "We were unanimous in our recognition of the need for horizontal inclusive language where it does not do violence to the sacred text or to the faith of the Church." Agreement was reached that a working group, including several bishops from the United States and representatives of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and of the Congregation for Divine Worship and Sacraments, would make a final review early in 1997 and that this "concentrated work" would be concluded as soon as possible. The U.S. Cardinals who participated in the meeting are Bernard F. Law (Boston), John J. O'Connor (New York), James a Hickey (Washington), Roger M. Mahoney (Los Angeles), Anthony J. Bevilacqua (Philadelphia), William H. Keeler (Baltimore), and Adam J. Maida (Detroit).
Which seems to bear out what you say. Look at the names... Bevilacqua and Maida - aren't they considered fairly orthodox as well? Reminds me of something that I heard Fr. Groeschel say about the crisis... it spans all "degrees" of Catholics from the orthodox to the progressives. I guess once you start "caving" on maybe a small thing (what is ever small to us orthodox Catholics ;-) ) it just gets easier and easier to give in to bigger and bigger things. And us orthodox Catholics groan but the progressives give all those nice dinners and perks.
I couldn't figure out Cardinal Law at all... he was sort of inscrutable. But I do remember that after the scandals broke I went to the St. Patrick's Day Mass at the Cathedral so that I could look into his eyes... and what I saw was a sad and sorry man. I think he tried to make everyone happy and succeeded in making no one happy.
The inclusive language is a chick thing. There is a list of demands that were made by feminists to the bishops back in the late 80s. It is quite a long list of "demands." I read them a short time ago (last month) and I was amazed that virtually each demand has been accomodated - and long ago. So steathily that it has been hard to notice, really. Maybe I'll type it up and post it later this week when I have time.
Regarding the parish closings by Cardinal Law. I plead ignorance. Until maybe 3 years ago, I paid little attention to all but the biggest religion stories. And of course as I live here in Boston and attend parishes only on the east coast, I have no idea how things might be different elsewhere. Seems like there are more heretical religious groups around here - that I do notice!