Tough love about the priest shortage

You know that I am not a fan of The Bitter Pill (aka The Tablet).  That said, there is a something striking, striking as in “nail on the head”, from a seasoned priest which you should read. This is from Fr. Mark Minihane OSA, a priest in Hoxton in the Archdiocese of Westminster

Why priests are under pressure on Christmas Eve

This week The Tablet reports that Midnight Mass is becoming a thing of the past, partly due to anti-social behaviour and partly because fewer priests are having to say more than one Mass on Christmas Eve – with the first starting as early as 5pm. [Amen about the anti-social behavior!]
The priest shortage is beginning to bite. The Dominicans are to leave four of their churches in Ireland. Similar things are happening in England, Scotland and Wales. Parishes are having to merge and I know of elderly priests with three and even four parishes, and one priest with five churches. Two priests in combined parishes are saying 10 Masses between them on the weekend, one saying four on Sunday.
I use the word “saying” rather than “praying” or “celebrating” because there is no way a priest can pray several Masses on one day. I speak from personal experience. This is likely to get worse as we old priests die off. In my ministry I have been to about 100 churches in the past 10 years and see at first hand what is happening. Some people have stopped going to Mass and will not go to a neighbouring church or will not accept a change in Mass times. How weak and fickle faith can be. [Do I hear an “Amen!”?]
Others are up in arms and demand that there be no reduction in Masses, and some are taking it out on bishops, Religious superiors and priests, verbally and in the written word. They are disappointed and hurting, [PAY ATTENTION!] but many of these parishes haven’t produced a vocation in 50, 100 and more years. What right have they to complain? [RIGHT!  NO?  Is this not exactly the point? Another “Amen!”?] A bishop in the US has told his people that a parish that has not produced a priest in the last 10 years cannot expect to get a priest. He simply has not got them.
Why is it that parishes do no produce priests? When I have raised this question and suggested a way forward, I have met with silence and even resentment. A few mothers have said there is no way they want their sons to be priests – but they would still want me there at 4am for a sick husband or child. I call that double standards. [What is going on here?  Father is telling lay people to GROW UP!]
I know of priests being abused by some parishioners because of changes in a parish. One priest in his fifties, who was ill and is now deceased, was given a second parish before Christmas one year. Both parishes demanded that they have Midnight Mass – but there was only one priest. Eventually he tossed a coin and got abuse from the one that lost out. He died not long afterwards. Another priest received hostile, and what I would describe as vindictive, hurtful and demeaning abuse. I am not aware of any vocation from that parish in the last 50 years.
Put yourself in the bishop’s shoes, or those of the Religious superior or of the priest, who is usually old and who has to take on two or more parishes. I am one of the old priests, 76 and with medical problems. But it hurts me to hear of my fellow priests, who have given their all for God and his people. And it hurts me twice as much when “Gospel followers” behave in that manner, because it offends Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. His call was and is to love one another – and I add, in all circumstances.

And no whining or complaining about married priests or women priests or all that rubbish.  This is simply straight, hard, tough love.

Fr. Z kudos.

Has your parish produced vocations?

If not, why not?

I’ll bet 90% of the problem is liturgical.

“But Father! But Father!”, some are blustering, “Vatican II has been… Vatican… we have so many ‘fruits’ from the Council!  But, you see… Vatican II… no… it’s complicated.  We have to be open to the spirit of… for vocations we need a new direction and… and… You hate Vatican II!”

At my home parish there were 30 1st Masses in during the 33 year pastorate of Msgr. Richard Schuler.  Several other parishes in the archdiocese with solid priests and sound liturgical worship also regularly produced priests.  Others?  Zip.  Why?  Guess.

People, this isn’t rocket science.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Andrew says:

    But if the solution is known why is it not implemented? The magisterium (clergy) is in charge.

  2. iteadthomam says:

    Priests have dedicated their lives to the Church, and should be honored, not abused.
    That said, at least in my experience, the one being abused is usually the layman, who often have to endure from their priests spiritual neglect, heretical homilies, liturgical abuses, attacks on the Catholic faith, questionable administrations of the sacraments, etc. Not to downplay the faithful priests in the Church, or the sufferings they have to endure, but from my perspective it is the laity who have been given the short end of the stick in most cases, but that may just be my experience.

  3. Fern says:

    This parish has had 5 Priest in the last 50 years. None in the last 24 years of that 50. The atmosphere is Protestant. Enough said.

  4. HyacinthClare says:

    May I brag? Our little FSSP, EF parish (founded 10 years ago) has two men in seminary and one in a monastery, one professed nun and two ladies in formation. It’s not rocket science, as Father says.

  5. Jackie L says:

    Is this not part of the biological solution? There are fewer priests, yet fewer practicing Catholics, on Christmas and Easter, and for weddings and funerals this gets thrown out of balance. Many who remain feel entitled for staying while so many others left.

    “A bishop in the US has told his people that a parish that has not produced a priest in the last 10 years cannot expect to get a priest. He simply has not got them.” – Sadly in my Diocese this is not the deal, we have multiple ordinations in the last couple of years and currently five seminarians, yet are in danger of being closed, another cross town church with even better numbers has been told they will be closing. However with EF still in force and with these priests and lay people scattering throughout the diocese, hopefully we can, like the Protestants learn to multiply by dividing.

  6. AnnTherese says:

    I do think parishioners are getting increasingly demanding of their priest’s time. For instance, more and more funerals are being requested to be held for Saturdays so that family can travel from out of state. This is nice for the family, but priests, who already have multiple Masses and perhaps weddings on weekends, now must add this to their list– because it’s more convenient for the bereaved. Well, I’m all for trying to be an accomodating and hospitable minister– but people need to understand limits. And– actually, Death is not convenient. Stop what you’re doing and get to the funeral! All this said, I also have taken an alternate view at the shortage in priest/religious vocations: it can be an invitation to increased lay ministry. I have served our Church in that way for years, as a way to support and fill in the gaps. I wish, when we pray for vocations to priesthood and religious life, we would also include a prayer (and talk about to our young people) for lay ministry vocations. They are also vital to our Church. We all work together…

  7. Panterina says:

    Our parish started to celebrate the EF right after Summorum Pontificum. This went on for several years. During this time, we had 2 vocations, one to the religious life and one to the priesthood. Deo gratias!

  8. YoungLatinMassGuy says:

    I think that the entire system of what we’ve known as “The Church” for the last 40-50 (or even up to the last 400 years or so, since Trent) is collapsing around us, and no one seems to notice, or care.

    The entire system is going to have to change.

  9. JackG says:

    I’ll bet 90% of the problem is liturgical . . . and the other “90%” is contraception.

  10. JesusFreak84 says:

    Last time someone from my (Eastern) parish thought he had a vocation, his mother pitched a fit and he went to public college instead…

  11. AnnTherese says:

    YoungLatinMassGuy: Can you say more? What change do you envision?

    I think you’re right that many Catholics don’t pay much attention to Church history. Or they’re simply accepting of the unfolding of things. Or– we’re all muddling along as best we can… perfectly imperfect! For those who follow this and/or other Catholic media, we notice and care deeply!

  12. Gerard Plourde says:

    I think that there are actually two slightly different but equally important needs associated with the priest shortage. The first relates to the availability of priests to preside at Mass and to apply the sacraments in a parish setting. The second is the need for priests dedicated to ministry in a missionary setting. Perhaps the answer lies in following the example of our the Eastern Rite Uniate Churches and our Orthodox brothers by changing the discipline of celibacy, which was instituted at a time that the Church required a more missionary priesthood. Allowing for the ordination of married men to the diocesan priesthood (but not ending the requirement that bishops come from the celibate ranks most likely from the orders and the institutes of consecrated life) would do a lot to alleviate the domestic priest shortage in parishes and free up celibate priests for the remote and demanding missionary fields. The allowance for the ordination of married former Anglican clergy to serve in the Anglican Ordinariate has already brought the practice into the Latin Rite and provides evidence that a love of orthodoxy, tradition and good liturgy can be found in those ranks.

  13. jfk03 says:

    I agree that bad liturgy adds to the overall spiritual malaise that produces a deficit in priests. Moreover, many of us have been guilty of being tough on our priests; criticizing them behind their backs; being divisive in the parish; not praying for them; not praying for vocations; subtly deterring our own kids from vocations to the priestly or religious life; and generally being jerks. I am certainly guilty of this. I have never confessed this before; it will do so this evening.

    I know one young man in my Eastern Catholic parish who is interested. I will pray for him. I will send a donation to the bishop to help support seminarians.

  14. Mike says:

    My Novus Ordo parish hasn’t produced a vocation that I can recall since I arrived in the neighborhood 15 years ago. It may once have been fruitful in producing altar girls, EMHCs, lectors, and “Gather” singers, but lately has lagged even there. That doubtless influenced the diocese’s decision a few years ago to turn the parish’s administration over to a (faithful) religious order. However, the priests of the order are fighting what seems to be an increasingly difficult battle against the “Spirit of Vatican II” laity who ran the show before they got there and, after a brief setback, are again on the ascent.

    Please pray for us — especially for those who, like me, are inclined to devote our energies in what appear to be more fruitful directions, such as the support of Oratorian and other efforts devoted to revivifying the Church by affirming Her Tradition. May we always be mindful of the need not to turn our backs upon our impoverished (in any sense) brethren, especially now that Arianism, Gnosticism, and Modernism in general are again surging in the “mainstream” church in these USA.

  15. L. says:

    My Diocese uses as its operating manual the book “Goodbye, Good Men.” This does not promote vocations to the Priesthood, and we have very few. At the same time, these diocesan practices drive Priests out. I can readily think of three good ones who left by various means because they could not stand it any more.

  16. Jacob says:

    Interestingly enough, my parish’s monthly newsletter touched on vocations this month.

    After reflecting upon the low number of parishioners to enter the priesthood or other religious vocations, the parish began offering the Holy Hour for an increase in vocations, both locally and worldwide. Since dedicating the Holy Hour to vocations in 2004, the parish has had 12 known parishioners enter religious vocations.

    Further down, one lady is quoted:

    “I can’t quite smiling when I think of the fruits that have sprung forth from the Holy Hour.” […] “We had one vocation [one ordination] in the previous 30 years, and then we have 12 that are connected to the Holy Hour. I stand in amazement — It is all due to the Holy Spirit.”

    Like Father says, it’s not rocket science. I wonder though if anyone has connected the dots between why there were no vocations for thirty years and then twelve in the next ten.

  17. Johnno says:

    – Catholics don’t know the value of the Eucharist nor the sacraments. Therefore they don’t care to make certain these shall always be available to them.

    – Young men are being discouraged from the priesthood for multiple reasons. Women are doing most of the work anyway, and interfering in the affairs of the parish. Altar Girls are good enough. The job resembles some kind of girly-man thing anyway. Crusaders, Inquisitors, Manly Saints are bad bad bad, and men should feel bad for trying to do anything manly. So instead of being men in real life, young men seek shelter wherever they can find refuge to express themselves in manly things – video games. And the feminists are trying to destroy that for them too.

    – Catholics contracept and abort their children. So the pool of potential priests is already smaller.

    – Good orthodox Catholics are being turned away for not being ‘nice.’ And the seminaries that are welcoming, the FFI, the SSPX, aren’t on good terms with Rome.

    – There really is something wrong with the Novus Ordo, and lately it’s been creeping me out the more I learn, even though that’s the only mass I’ve attended for my entire life.

    – Catholics Schools are poison, especially those government funded ones in Canada.

    But I’ll air my reasons for not ultimately joining the priesthood (And with an admissions that there are undoubtedly my own personal selfish reasons):

    I personally don’t want to be some kind of counsellor to make people happy and feel better. I don’t want to hold anyone’s hand. I want to teach the faith and be uncompromising. The priest’s duty is primarily to initiate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, hear confession and perform the last rites, alongside pure unadulterated instruction of the faith to all.

    If someone needs a marriage counsellor, a fine lay Catholic Marriage Counselor should have that job of helping the couple with their personal problems. The priest’s job ought to begin and end with only what the Church teaches about Marriage and why. If the couple doesn’t like that, then tough luck. If they want someone to determine who was right in their last argument about some stupid trivial nonsense, they should get help elsewhere.

    If I want to blast the sins of homosexuality, contraceptives and abortion from the pulpit, and talk bout the hell that awaits us due to our sins and criticize false religions like Islam, then I expect my bishop to back me up. Not cast me to the wind. Not send me on a trip to nowheresville so that I can learn to be more ecumenical.

    I do not want to be forced to obey some contradictory command to remain silent about certain ‘cultural issues’ out of obedience to the bishop who cavorts with the very groups we should be fighting against that are destroying the faith. I would go mad wondering about whether I should speak the truth or observe my vow of obedience. I do not mind going into harms way and being beaten and stained with urine packages from the feminists and homo-gestapo. But to betray the faith out of obedience to the Bishop and facing that dilemma for the rest of my life???

    Priests have a HUGE responsibility. So much so that God punishes a priest more severely than he would anyone else when they go wrong. This is not an easy job. THe Virgin Mary wasn’t kidding around when she begged, THE QUEEN OF HEAVEN BEGGED US!!!, to pray very much for her sons, our priests…

    Ultimately, I’m not a priest, because I no longer trust the hierarchy, our bishops, to do right by them. And frankly I don’t like the image of the priest they are trying to sell me on, which is nothing but a don’t-rock-the-boat-or-make-trouble emasculated doll. Heck I probably wouldn’t make it past the seminary in this climate anyway.

    The situation won’t get better until those in positions of power die off. When the rot is this vast, the solution will be that of the Israelites wandering about in the desert. The old generation must die off, before we come to the promised land again. And God Himself must be getting impatient with the natural solution, given the current geopolitical climate. The centenary of Fatima is coming up. The Kings of France are on notice.

  18. Supertradmum says:

    Well, Father, I do not think the Liturgy or priests are to blame for the horrendous priest shortage. I have said that the churches which have not produced a vocation in 40 years should the first to be shut down.

    The problem is with the laity. Here are the three main serious issues.

    One, parents do not want their boys to be priests as this is hard on parents. Yes, it is a great sacrifice. One must give the boy completely to God and let God use him. One cannot expect anything like the type of attention married children can and should give parents. So, it comes down to suffering. And, contraception has caused parents to be very clinging to their one or two kids. In the good old days, with big families, most parents expected at least one of their boys to be a priest. After all, St. John Bosco said that one in four boys are called by God. I believe this.

    Two, one must foster a vocation in the home. This means that religion must be the priority, with family rosary, Mass during the week, Adoration with the kids and frequent Confession. Therefore, if the parents have weak or mediocre faith lives, it would be rare for a boy to seriously consider a vocation.

    Three, I know lots of single men who have never made a decision or commitment to anything or anyone in their lives. They prefer to be “aesthetic” Catholics, loving the Latin Mass, but not pursuing marriage or a vocation. It takes maturity and guts to make a decision in this day and age to be committed to the sacrament of Holy Orders or Matrimony.

    No offense, but the laity is getting what it deserves. If parents were nurturing vocations, we would not have a shortage,and if single men would actually decide to do something rather than to live for themselves for the rest of their lives, there would be more vocations.

    I have a good friend, who like me, has only one son. Both of us were single moms. She and I had to sacrifice that comfort of having a son in our lives, but God called these men and they belong to God, not us.

    In 2013, 50% of the priests who were ordained, in an involved and interesting interview, stated that they had NO family support for their vocation. That is what it might take these days.

    To be a priest in 2014, takes courage and guts. It takes real men to answer the call.

  19. Deacon Augustine says:

    I don’t believe there is a priest shortage – there is a Catholic shortage. There is a shortage of births because Catholics are contracepting themselves out of existence. This leads to a shortage in baptisms followed by a steady attrition rate which leads to even fewer First Holy Communions and Confirmations. In the UK there is a lapsation rate of 92% for Catholic school leavers (i.e. by age 16 92% no longer go to Mass). So if we can’t even keep them at Mass, how can expect them to become priests?

    I think God sends exactly the right number of priests that we need for the number of real Catholics that we have. Unfortunately these priests are very overworked right now because they are providing welfare services to too many people who just “had some water splashed on their head” when they were a baby. It all starts with the contraception thing though. Once people set their face against God in the heart of the domestic church, its very hard to get anything else happening right because after that everything else in their lives is all about me, me me.

  20. Supertradmum says:

    Gerard Plourde

    And who is going to pay for a married priest with children when many of the dioceses are going broke? I remember when my parish in Hampshire had to accept a married priest with two children and the lay council had to meet several times before it agreed to pay for the family needs.

    Be realistic. Some diocese in Europe expect the family of the priests to buy the cars, help with food and clothing as people are not tithing.

    Married priesthood is not the answer to this problem at all, as a vocation to the priesthood is separate from a married vocation and very few are called to both. Plus, the Byzantines in America and Canada, with married priests, are a shrinking rite, not growing at all.

  21. Supertradmum says:

    Domestic Augustine, amen and one of my points above…same as in Malta, where it is obvious that people have been contracepting for at least forty years. Natural families are not one girl and one boy, period, for an entire population.

  22. djc says:

    As someone who prefers the NO-done reverently of course-I think Fr. Z hit this one out of the park.

    Now that I’m in late middle age and have only the vaguest of memories of a flourishing, confident church I have to acknowledge that I probably won’t be around to see the problems in the church corrected; and thats OK. All I can do is to pray, set an example by trying to live a Catholic life in public and help our priests in whatever way I can. But I have total, absolute confidence that the church will emerge victorious over its enemies in the future. Of this I have no doubt.


  23. Bea says:

    You said:
    “The entire system is going to have to change.”
    I’m an “OldLatinMassGal”
    and I say: “The entire system HAS changed and THAT is the problem.” (especially the liturgy and other past devotions that were discouraged by many liberal pastors)

    As to vocations:
    We are a Novus Ordo Parish but our priests have been either very traditional or nominally traditional.
    In the last (approximately) 20 years we have had the following ordinations:
    2 Diocesan priests (Our neighboring parish was credited with one, but his youth was in our parish)
    1 Dominican Priest
    3 FSSP priests (our bishop and long-time-past pastor were not happy to lose them from the
    2 seminarians studying to serve in the Diocese. (One is being ordained Transitional Deacon today)
    0 Nuns (our past nun-run school became feminized after going to a certain college for “updates” on
    their “education”

    During these formative years our parish has had:
    1 On all Fridays: Daytime Adoration with Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament.
    2 On First Fridays All day and All night adoration with Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament.
    3 On All Thursdays One Hour of prayers (including the rosary) for priests, seminarians and an
    increase in vocations. (Thursday was picked because of Holy Thursday being the establishment of
    the Priesthood and Our Lords Last Supper)
    4. During the month of May we have rosary and offering of flowers to Our Lady after the 5:15 Mass.
    5. This all started because one elderly lady used to lead the Rosary after the 5:15 Mass many, many
    years ago and younger women picked up on her example to include the above mentioned devotions.
    6. All of these vocations came from solid, traditional marriages, something the Synod on marriage
    did not even touch on. (or if they did, it was very down-played).

  24. Gerard Plourde says:


    I’d like to know more about the situation you encountered with the married priest and his family. I’m unfamiliar with the lay council to which you refer. The Code of Canon Law provides for two solely advisory lay councils – a finance council, whose function is self-explanatory and a pastoral council to assist the pastor meeting in the spiritual needs and non-financial temporal needs of the parish. Neither of those groups possess any decision making power and lack any authority to spend or earmark funds. In the U.S. parishes under the governance of a lay Parochial Administrator, that person is answerable to the the bishop, not the parish, since the diocese holds title to all Church property. Also, the diocese pays the priest’s salary, not the parish. Is the situation in the UK different?

  25. Supertradmum says:

    Gerard Plourde, parishes have been asked to pay for priests and their families in England. Also in other EU countries. To think that people are tithing at all, or giving enough money to support a priest’s family is totally unrealistic.

    Many Ordinariate families are truly suffering for lack of funds. Some wives who are older had to go back to work to support their families. If you think Americans would support married clergy, think again. I know that many American Catholics would not want to do this. In fact, in some American dioceses, it is absolutely necessary for the wives of priests to work full-time to help support the family as they could not live on the priest’s salary. This should not be the default, as it is hard on the priest to have his wife working full-time and not being with the children as needed.

    Can a family of five live on the low salaries paid by dioceses? I am not going to give specifics to protect my excellent sources, but I know that families help priests in the EU directly with their own funds, and I was in that parish where the parish council had to vote to support the priest, his wife and his family.

    I also know of at least on Byzantine Catholic priest whose family has suffered from low income. Those wealthy and middle-class families have no right to plunge their married priests into poverty, but this can happen.

  26. Hidden One says:

    Here’s another, very well hidden problem, at least in my great country of Canada.

    How many Canadian dioceses have full-time vocations directors?
    Next to none.

    How many Canadian dioceses have enough seminarians?
    At last count… one, I think. And it’s small.

  27. capchoirgirl says:

    We have NO Mass, in a parish run by Dominicans, and we have vocations to the priesthood and other consecrated life in spades. It’s sort of a joke around the parish that all the young men are either already married or discerning a vocation. We celebrate the NO reverently, we have a communion rail we use, and confessions every day.

  28. lmgilbert says:

    Shorty story: the local EF parish here ( St. Birgitta’s in Portland) had several vocations to the priesthood and religious life, so I wrote a letter to the Catholic Sentinel here suggesting that perhaps the EF produces vocations. It was published and I proudly sent a copy to my Carmelite daughter. She wrote back saying that the nuns in the novitiate (about fifteen nuns) disagreed with me- and one of them was from St. Birgitta’s. The common denominator for them was parents who read bible stories and the lives of the saints to their children-as we did. Those are the kind of people who attend EF Masses.

    Read the Cure of Ars by Trochu, the bio of the patron of priests, St. John Vianney. Essentially it starts out by saying that when Johnny was a little boy, his mother used to read to him from the gospels and the lives of the saints.

    Perhaps we are mis-naming this crisis in calling it a “vocations” crisis. It is in many ways a parenting crisis, and-viewed from another angle- an imagination crisis. You cannot with mass media fill the mind of a child with sitcoms, comedians, murder and mayhem, with sex and violence, and expect them to be chaste and holy enough to be the least sensitive to or interested in the inspirations of the Holy Spirit. Neither is this rocket science.

    Viewed from another angle it is the culture of vocation vs. the culture of distraction. If we fill our minds and lives with enough distractions perhaps we will not hear the Lord calling us to repentance-or to the priesthood, monastery or convent.

    And in arguing this point for many years, my discovery has been that the real problem is Catholic fathers who while they see my point are unwilling to get the television out of their homes, since they are completely unwilling and -afraid, too, I think- to part company with televised sports.

    This applies also to priestly fathers who are in no position to call the men of their congregations to repentance on this score, and so the de-evangelization proceeds apace. When the new bishop comes to town, at the new conference he will be sure to put on the cap of the local team to show that underneath it all he is one of the guys. He will frame the gospel in sports analogies and rise in the ranks. When the time comes, he will be mentioned among the American papabili. So yes, there is a kind of vocations crisis, a crisis of leadership among those called to it.

  29. Supertradmum says:

    Gerard Plourde, in some American dioceses, like my own, the parishes own their own property and are financially independent of the diocese. This was the case in my diocese since about 1910. In fact, when the horrible situation of the diocese going broke because of sexual sin lawsuits occurred, the bishop had to ask each parish for money, as the assets did not and do not belong to the diocese.

    There is not one rule for all dioceses on assets.

    As to canon law regarding parish councils, I know personally many, many financial councils which can and do decide on allocation of funds, not the priest. In fact, I have had personal experience of this concerning some priest friends of mine who requested funds or use of assets and were refused by their councils.

    Law is one thing, practice or interpretation of law is another. The days of the total authority as being in the hands of the priests regarding funds and assets have long been gone.

  30. Gerard Plourde says:


    I didn’t realize you were in the US. Seeing Hampshire, I assumed the UK.

    Regarding parish ownership, you’ve peaked my curiosity. The situation you describe and the time of its adoption, indicate to me that the issue issue of authority predates the Second Vatican Council and that aspects of the Americanist heresy combatted by Bl. Pius IX, Pope Leo XIII and St, Pius X were at work.

  31. Amateur Scholastic says:

    It should not be forgotten that many liberals want to see the Church protestant-ised. If there are no priests, this happens by default. So don’t assume everybody’s upset about the priest shortage.

    In line with YoungLatinMassGuy’s comment, one crazy thing that needs to change is the system in which the Church will marry people who have ignored the Faith all their lives (probably the majority), and show no sign of wanting to change this after their marriage. A commitment to the priest not to contracept would be a good start.

    Faithful Catholics need to realise that we’re a tiny, tiny minority (much less than 1% of the population). The Church in the English-speaking world up until now has been acting on the assumption that we’re a large minority (between 10 and 30% of the population). This must change.

  32. Heorot says:

    I’ve been mulling the Diocesan Priesthood for more than a year. Always having struggled with a shy & retiring nature, I’ve had to go through much rubbish to get to the position of readiness that I am in now. The only thing that stops me from taking the leap is the lives of diocesan clergy. Many things do inspire me to ignore them and go forward; however, editorial pieces like this don’t help my confidence much.

    What disturbs me is the lack of community among the few priests left. The laity devour their priests alive (as is a Priest’s Vocation) … but without fellow priests in the rectory with whom to share their struggles, mental health begins to decline rapidly. It isn’t just a deficit of priestly numbers we’re facing.

    Our Archdiocesan Curia regularly tries to pawn priests off to parishes as “Sacramental Ministers” – so that their title may not be “Pastor” – and thus they have no control over a parish. Our one diocesan seminarian is a former husband, aged 55+. Two men in their 60s were ordained last year. Two years ago a man in his late-20s was ordained. Nothing before that for several years. Probably nothing soon, either.

    Unsurprisingly, our archbishop in the late ’60s was a vigorous wreckovator. The laity were utterly astonished to see the extremely venerable high altar of the Cathedral smashed and the remnants mostly thrown into the port-harbour. The altar-rail adorns a local pub. Our Faithful mostly gave up the ghost, I think, under the harsh dictatorship of liturgical-liberals in the last 40 years. We have no licit TLM anywhere.

    I’ve decided not to become a diocesan priest. The Curia is cold-hearted, run by pant-suit-wearing liberals, and utterly devoid of any trace of Catholicism. The only way I could survive as a priest would be to join a local diocesan society of friars. Without a conservative, family-like atmosphere provided by dedicated Franciscans or such-like orders, our diocesan priests will begin to lose their minds.

  33. Deacon Augustine says:

    Supertradmum, what you say about the affordability of married priests is very true. Every so often we have a full parish meeting to discuss future plans and inevitably some bright sparks will come up with the question: “Why can’t Deacon Augustine be our next priest?” My answer is always the same: “Sorry, but even if the Church did change her discipline on this, I am on the finance committee – I know what comes in each week – you couldn’t afford me.” Its funny how quickly they drop that one when I tell them they would need to quadruple the current level of giving and sustain it long term. And quite frankly, much though I love them, who would want to put their family’s financial security in the hands of people who think that regular Mass attendance means once every 6 weeks?

  34. Matt Robare says:

    I’m not sure I agree that it’s a purely liturgical thing.

    The Newman Center at the public university I attended was NO exclusive, featured some pretty bad music and a lot of junk left over from the 70s, but was a priest factory by American standards, producing several vocations a decade.

    That being said, there’s still a lot of evidence, especially in Europe, that associates the EF with an increase in vocations.

    Celibacy isn’t the issue, and neither is contraception: there are 78 million Catholics in the United States. The problem, I think, is that the Church has surrendered to the world too much. It sometimes feels like Catholic things have retreated into the church buildings and won’t cross the property line. Earlier this year I took part in the Eucharistic Procession in Cambridge, Mass in response to the Satanic ritual scheduled to take place at Harvard and it was a glorious thing!

    But it remains the only time I’ve seen the faith brought out of the church and lived in the streets. We don’t stop being Catholic as soon as we’re done shaking hands with the priest on Sunday. And there are loads of way to bring the faith out of your parish: decorate your cubicle with sacred art, listen to sacred music while you work or in your car; a High Church Episcopalian friend prays the Office during his commute.

    My point, I guess, is that, while the priesthood is not an occupation, by analogy it doesn’t hurt to put up a “help wanted” sign.

    Supertradmum, the traditionalist men I know, and I’m one of them, who love the Latin Mass but don’t have a vocation, are not afraid of committment. On the contrary, we a) have encountered very few traditionalist women and b) are unsure of how to date, having grown up in a culture that teaches young people how to have a one-night stand, not how to find someone to love, honor and obey. This is related to my point about bringing the faith out of the church.

  35. Pray for Priests
    O Jesus, Eternal Priest, look down with love upon Thy priests. Fill them with burning zeal for the conversion of sinners. Keep them within the shelter of Thy Sacred Heart. Keep unstained their anointed hands. which daily touch Thy Sacred Body. Keep unsullied their lips purpled with Thy precious Blood. Keep pure and unearthly their hearts sealed with the sublime marks of Thy glorious Priesthood. Let Thy holy love protect them from the world’s contagion. Bless their labors with abundant fruit, and may the souls to whom they minister on earth be one day their joy and consolation in heaven their beautiful and everlasting crown. Amen.

    O Mary, Queen of the clergy, pray for us; obtain for us a number of holy priests. Amen.
    Note the words of the prayer in italics.That i believe is the crux of everything wrong that the Catholic Church faces,including vocations.No matter which Mass is celebrated.We first started losing priests/vocations back when we were still saying the Latin Mass (Traditional).
    Young people are not getting married these days either.We have 2 vocations taking a terrible hit. I am convinced BOTH are in need of repair and their downfall is the world’s contagion.

  36. Volanges says:

    Gerard Plourde ,
    In the US the diocese pays the priests?? It’s not that way in Canada. Each parish is responsible for their pastor’s salary or stipend if it’s a religious priest. The diocese sets the salary and notifies the parishes of what they have to pay. AFAIK, a religious priest’s stipend is negotiated between the diocese and the Order/Congregation. At least that’s the way it was when we had religious priests serving our part of the diocese.

    While Canon Law is clear that parish financial and pastoral councils have a consultative role only, that’s not the impression that these councils were given when they were originally formed and to this day they think they make the rules. I was on PCs for years before I found out that the priest didn’t answer to us. I’ve known PCs to be upset that the priest had started to celebrate the Mass according to the rubrics “without consulting the parish council”, you know, how dare he stop the congregation from saying the Doxology of the Eucharistic Prayer and receiving Communion under both species by self-intinction.

  37. Gerard Plourde says:


    I think you’re right that the practice in the U.S. mirrors that in Canada. The rate of compensation is set by the diocese. This does raise the question of how parishes in poverty-stricken areas would meet the compensation requirement, which is what led me to believe that the diocese made the distributions. This may explain the practice in dioceses where financially-poor parishes receive supplements from the diocese.

  38. anilwang says:

    JackG, it’s more 100% contraception.

    100 years ago, there were at least 4 children per couple and everyone not in the priesthood married, so it was easy for a parent to “give up” a child or two to the priesthood.

    Now, couples have fewer than 2 children per couple and fewer people get married, so “giving up” a child to the priesthood is much harder for a parent…especially since the priesthood has been so devalued as being “patriachal” and a source of “clericalism”.

  39. jacobi says:

    When will all the liberals or liberal/Modernist or whatever just wake up?

    The Crisis is just about to start. The Catholic Church in Europe and the US of A will collapse in the next 20 year to a fraction of its former self, in both clergy and Mass attendance. Just look at the statistics.

    Why? It is quite simple, for anyone who has eyes to see.

    Liturgy expresses what we believe. Banal confused liturgy means we don’t believe, or don’t know what to believe. That is the fruit of the Second Vatican Council. As a result , the Church is being overwhelmed by Secularism.

    Yes, we will have to accept a smaller Church for a while as Benedict predicted. For a long while.

    The renewal will come from the Traditional Orders, but that will take some time.

    In the meantime forget about the parish structure. Catholics will be lucky to find a Mass anywhere in the near future. It’s a matter of simple statistics.

    Contraception, 1.6 children, in itself will ensure a decline, but the collapse of Faith as a result of the collapse of the liturgy will ensure a much more rapid decline to that core from which the Church will grow again.

  40. MrsMacD says:

    If the priest is a saint, his people will be holy.
    If the priest is holy, his people will be good.
    If the priest is good, his people will be fair.
    If the priest is fair, his people will be mediocre.
    If the priest is mediocre, his people will be bad.

    God save us from bad priests, heretical priests, priests who don’t value the sacraments or believe in the real presence.

    I have more than a few sons and God can have them all, if He wants them. It’s a sign that a lad doesn’t have a vocation if his parents won’t be taken care of in their old age, so so far it looks like they aren’t called, even though more than a couple are desirous.

    We need saints. Saint priests will make saint parents will make saint priests will make saint parents. We need each other!

    “Train up thy child in the way he should go and he will not depart from it.” Be different, fight the world that tries to steal it’s way into your families! Bit by bit, inch by inch. Keep far from you all that leads to a life of selfishness! Wed yourself to holy poverty! St. Frances says that poverty is the safeguard of chastity and humility, the two most forgotten virtues of our age. St. Bernadette was most fearful for her married relatives that they not become rich.

    If you are a priest remember that to be a priest after Jesus meant almost certain martyrdom. It’s not for the fainthearted,. We follow a crucified Christ. You are a victim. “Remember if they hate you they first hated Me!”

    A priest is a saviour, a Jesus, he’s there to make the people holy, not the other way around. If a bishop can’t produce a priest from his diocese, he probably needs to shape up his own spiritual life.

    Asking for married priests is a disaster waiting to happen. A priest is a Father to his parishioners. That’s a big family. He would have to choose who to neglect. The parish or his own flesh and blood. And watch his own sons go to hell because he’s taking care of someone’s soul or vice versa.

  41. Athelstan says:


    Perhaps we are mis-naming this crisis in calling it a “vocations” crisis.

    We are, because what it really is is a faith crisis. If a parish does not have an abundance of what I would call intentional Catholic families, it is not going to have any other spiritual fruits either – no priests, no religious vocations, fewer sacramental marriages, baptisms, or confirmations. All of these things track together.

    How has this happened? Certainly there has been a group of prelates keen to reduce vocations out of a motive to force revolution in the Church and therefore a radical re-conception of vocations themselves (esp. for women priests, but in other ways, too) – I think we all can name a few such bishops. Many more, however, simply stick with a failing model out of bureaucratic inertia and fear – they’ll continue putting out optimistic language no matter how bad the numbers get, because they do not know what else to do.

    Eventually, however, time runs out, and so do the priests. That’s happening now already in France and the Low Countries, where the falloff in priestly numbers is reaching catastrophic levels, and there are priests carrying a dozen or more parishes.

  42. robtbrown says:

    Gerard Plourde,

    The authority over Church property varies from nation to nation. In the US the diocese owns all the Churches and Schools (unless owned by a religious order).

    Generally, parish mass stipends are sent to the Chancery. Each parish must pay a diocesan tax. In turn the diocese pays the salaries, car and clothing allowance, and health insurance of priests who man parishes. The base salaries are uniform, depending on whether a priest is a pastor or not. The salary of a pastor or assistant does not depend on the relative wealth of the parish.

    Perhaps the above reference to a parish needing to come up with the extra money for a married priest is simply that the diocese won’t go beyond its usual salary.

    I do not think that ordaining married men is in any way a solution to the priest shortage.


    My understanding is that every diocese in the US is a corporation sole in civil law, all the diocesan assets belonging to the bishop.

  43. RJHighland says:

    You will reep what you sow and you will know them by their fruits. Vocations are the fruit of a stong faith culture. Parishes are rotting on the vine because they have no faith and no vocations. These are the true fruits of Vatican II, rotten fruit. That bishop is correct, if your parish hasn’t produced vocations why should you get a priest when there is such a shortage. I truly believe this was the goal of Vatican II, the Novus Ordo, and predator priests, destroy the mass and destroy the priesthood, marinalize the the True Church in the eyes of the world. It has worked quite well. The TLM parishes that you see are not nostalgic communities they are the resurrection of the true Church. The neo-pagan Novus Ordo Parishes are the museum pieces of the future. One day when these mega Catholic cultural centers that pose as Catholic parishes are bulldozed no one will bat an eye. These mega Churches were not built because of a growth in the faith community but because of the collapse in the priesthood. More parishoners per priest requires bigger buildings than numerous neighborhood parishes. One priest shouldn’t and can’t adequately shephard more than 100 families. It makes you wonder how many priest never arrived because they were contracepted out of existance, because so many priests never taught Humanae Vitae, never preached against contraception, never actually taught the faith. Ahhhh the true fruits of Vatican II and the modern Church. It is pretty simple really get married be open to life, have as many kids as God grants you raise them in the true faith and you don’t have a lack of shepherds. You postpone marrage, contracept, have 1.6 kids on average, don’t practice the true faith in the home or have it taught in your local parish or parochial schools and bingo, collapse of the priesthood then the Church. Simple. As a father of only 6 children I can tell you the more kids you have the more time you spend in prayer and in Church. As a former Protestant who’s plan was to only have two children and actively use contraception to assure that goal if necessary, I have come a long way and it Our Lord working through my Catholic wife (who wasn’t supposed to be able to have children) and our six children that have helped me find my way to the narrow steep path I am trying to stay on. If I never have to endure another modernist Novus Ordo mass let by a testosterone deficient priest I will consider myself a blessed man.

  44. Sword40 says:

    Our FSSP parish in Seattle has been in existance since 2008 and now has two seminarians in Denton, NE.

    The satellite parish (FSSP) in Tacoma, WA has a retired priest (a Jesuit) who is at least 83 years old. He has knee problems and can hardly genuflect but tries anyway. He has never missed a Mass.
    When Fr. Baker goes on retreat, one of the FSSP priests come down from Seattle to celebrate Mass for us. We are slowly growing and have lots of young families.

  45. benedetta says:

    Where I am situated, our very small Extraordinary Form community (which is not a parish) has produced multiple vocations as well as discerners to the religious life, young men and women. Whereas in the last ten years in this diocese, young ordinands to the priesthood are typically the lone vocation in their home parishes for the last three to four decades, and kind of a flash in the pan for the parish in that they have “no idea” or have not consciously connected the event to any thing they are responsible for our can encourage from their vantage.

    The fact of solid and worthy friendships in Christ in abundance even within a small and close knit TLM community, I believe, goes a long way toward supporting young people in their quest to live the universal call to holiness, so they tend to find their way to the EF for that as well as for the obvious which most of us here visiting Fr. Z’s blog discover there (“lex credendi…/save the liturgy…”).

    When most parishes and their pastors do not realize that there is a crisis in vocations and in worship to begin with and we’re all ok just as we are, I am ok, and you are, as is, and people all seem to like it and come anyway, then, if a vocation does manage to blossom from there it’s like a bud springing up out of the cracks in the concrete…it may happen once in a blue moon but not because anyone was actually praying for it, openly, in the church…

  46. Cincinnati Priest says:


    Things are very challenging, to be sure, for diocesan priests in an age of local priest shortage, but the picture is not as bleak as you paint it. At least in dioceses where priests are still pastors, the priests still have a great deal of latitude about what they will do for parishioners, so can press back against unreasonable demands. Also, I am blessed in my diocese at least to have a lot of good priest friends that I spend a significant amount of time with. (I don’t share a rectory and have to do some very ‘fancy footwork’ in scheduling these get-togethers and willing to drive a bit, but it is possible.)

    I am not writing this to change your mind. It sounds like you have decided already. Rather, if there are other young men considering the diocesan priesthood, but are discouraged by “horror stories,” I am asking you not to give in to fear and keep praying to answer that call.

    Even with all the huge challenges, I have never regretted choosing to serve as a parish priest, where you can encounter the people of God where they actually live.

  47. rdb says:

    This article is “spot on.” We had an ordination last month at the Cathedral and I noticed that there were four Masses offered in English and one in Spanish. I remarked that I was surprised they needed so many English Masses in an area that was primarily Spanish speaking. Another local pastor said that they should have 4 Masses in Spanish and only 1 in English, but the regulars complained that if he canceled one of their Masses, they would go elsewhere. The priest needs to remember that “we pay the bills.” The rector therefore celebrates 4 Masses in an almost empty church while he offers another one in Spanish with people spilling out the door.
    The local pastor also said that 5 parishes, all within 10 minutes drive from the cathedral, offer a Saturday evening Mass, none of which have more than 30 people at each Mass. But all are afraid that if they reduce their Mass schedule, the parishioners (but mainly their money) will go elsewhere. They aren’t afraid their parishioners will leave the Church, they are afraid of losing the money they need to keep the churches open as they become emptier and emptier. As a result, we priests are “praying” one Mass and saying four or five more out of an unhealthy competition with other pastors.
    I am not judging harshly because I made the same decision. We have 5 Masses and could easily have 4 but a small, vocal minority declared they would go to another parish if I dropped their favorite Mass time. I would not use the word “abuse” but their complaints were very strong and they all centered on the threat of sending their money to another church. When I looked at their giving, I realized that I could not keep our parish going without their support, so we have 4 Masses that are full with 100s of people and 1 that averages 30 to 50. Honestly, it is not for their spiritual benefit that I allow this to happen, for I know they would not leave the Church. It is simply for their financial support.

  48. ChesterFrank says:

    Thirty or so years ago the great push was for women priests, then married priests, then married women priests. There was a push for altar servers instead of altar boys, and a push for an ecclesiastical ministry to take a more active part in the church ministry. From the liberal side of the church there was an organized effort to change the church from within its hierarchy, and they advanced even more the new varied ministry of the church in place of the priest. Along with that they paid particular attention to promoting an anti-Catholic social agenda. Why now is everyone surprised there are no longer any priests? There are also no more or altar boys either. Today’s altar boy was in his seventies, and the other altar servers were not much younger. Why is there no more priests? I think because no on really wanted Catholic priests, they wanted something else.

  49. rafferju says:

    in the town 15 miles from me in Ireland, there is a Dominican church. there is 3 elderly priests, one of them taught in the seminary and they give great sermons day in day out. The office is prayed morning and evening, daily rosary and adoration. what a blessing these 3 priests are to the town. I hope this is not one of the churches mentioned above to close.

  50. sweetnay says:

    The only Charismatic Parish in our Diocese practically runs the vocation program, cranking out more Orthodox Priests and Nuns than any of the other Parishes combined; including my younger brother Ordained two years ago.

  51. robtbrown says:

    Allow me one last kick against the long dead steed.

    I do not consider the priest shortage to have been caused by the laity.

    It was from first to last caused by clerics. It was the hierarchy who turned the liturgy into a bad Protestant joke. It has been the hierarchy who let their seminaries turn into pigsties. It has been the hierarchy who time after time has shown they are interested in pursuing after the lost sheep at the expense of the flock. It has been the hierarchy who coddled the doctrinal dissenters while spitting on those requested Latin liturgy. It was Cardinal O’Malley was present at the canonization mass of Ted Kennedy, a longtime enthusiastic promoter of abortion. Did we hear of a public renouncement of his error? I surely didn’t.

  52. little women says:

    I have been in my current parish for 15 years and know of only one vocation to the priesthood in all that time, and he is in another diocese. The parish implemented Summorum Pontificum when it was promulgated and after a few years the vocations began to trickle. Two men have entered the seminary and three women have entered cloistered convents. All of them were from the Latin Mass community that averages 50-70 people (including babies!) per week. Hmmm….

  53. I am sorry to say I’ve experienced some of what the article describes. I was in a situation (I’m going to be vague on purpose) where the Mass schedule depended heavily on one extremely elderly priest and another who had a terminal illness. Yet reducing the Mass schedule was fought bitterly, and it wasn’t, ultimately, reduced — despite most Masses, the church was mostly empty.

    In that same parish, attempts to “re-enchant” the liturgy in a more traditional direction were very well received by a significant number, who gravitated toward the more “high” Mass (other Masses were kept less so), but a very noisy group, not as big but better connected, fought bitterly for the liturgy to stay where it had been while Mass attendance declined over 25 years. The pastor who made the changes was replaced; the liturgy went back to where it had been. Attendance — and collections — both dropped in the wake of that. Causation? I can’t say, but one wonders.

  54. A couple of folks in this thread said they were thinking about the priesthood, but holding back for reasons connected, if I understood rightly, to these problems…

    All I can say is that while I’ve had my share of trials in my almost 12 years, I don’t regret for a moment becoming a priest. Not for a second. I often consider that I’m unworthy, but that’s true!

    Is it hard to be a priest? It can be. So what? No one has, so far, gnawed off my fingers to prevent me from offering Holy Mass, as happened to one of the North American martyrs. That’s a tough day!

    Lots of people have it hard. Parents have a tough time, caring for their kids, trying to be faithful to the Church, but with a hectic life it’s hard keeping a schedule for everything; and with everyone else around them seemingly following different values, it must be maddening to deal with “why do we have to…” questions every day, all day.

    Farmers have it tough. They work really hard, and they can do everything right, but God doesn’t send enough rain; then he sends too much. If they have a really good year, the reward can be a collapse in commodity prices.

    My father had it hard. He worked till he was 70; he wore out his knees at his job. He was his own boss, which meant he couldn’t call in sick. And there are lots of people just like him.

  55. Athelstan says:

    Hello rdb,

    The rector therefore celebrates 4 Masses in an almost empty church while he offers another one in Spanish with people spilling out the door.

    This is not a reflection you or your fellow priests, but merely on the general state of affairs that continues to prevail in the Church: I confess that in reading your anecdote, the thought comes unbidden that it will all balance out in the end, as it’s all too likely that the Church will be just as effective in turning Hispanics into ex-Catholics as it has been the descendants of English, German, Irish, Italian, French, and Slavic immigrants.

    Indeed, judging by the explosion of storefront Pentecostal churches for Hispanic and Brazilian immigrants in my area of late, I’d say it’s already underway, alas.

  56. Heorot says:

    Cincinnati Priest,

    Thank you for your words of encouragement, Father. I appreciate that the situation may not be as bleak in many dioceses as it appears to be in mine. My mind certainly isn’t made up; after all, contingencies do as contingencies are. In my local experience, however, a particularly frozen Archdiocesan hierarchy seems to have shut down the joy of our secular priests.

    I will try my best not to discourage others or to be discouraged myself. As this article cited by Fr. Z. has shown, it’s very easy to depress people by pointing out the deficits in the Catholic Church. What we need is some inspiration…

  57. Athelstan says:

    Hello Fr. Fox,

    In that same parish, attempts to “re-enchant” the liturgy in a more traditional direction were very well received by a significant number, who gravitated toward the more “high” Mass (other Masses were kept less so), but a very noisy group, not as big but better connected, fought bitterly for the liturgy to stay where it had been while Mass attendance declined over 25 years.

    It is an all-too familiar story, isn’t it?

    The obvious counter, attempted by some pastors, has been to confine the traditionalist push to particular Masses, perhaps even just one Mass, often not even a “prime time” one, to reduce opposition, and give people a choice of which kind of Mass they want.

    Yet I know – as I am sure you do, too – that even carefully targeted plans like these can generate the same opposition; the old parish lions see any such development as a mortal threat, seemingly. And all too often, it’s usually easier for the more tradition-friendly parishioners to just move on, either to a more conservative diocesan parish in the area, or to an Eastern Rite or TLM community, as applicable.

  58. Moro says:

    Supertradmum and others have brought up the topic of married priests. While I am open to it, and have known several married priests (both Eastern Rite and former Episcopalians), it’s not a magic bullet. Nothing is. We have married deacons and there is no flood of vocations to the diaconate and I don’t expect the same for married priests. And paying for them is no fun task either, but at least in the US typical chancery, suburban parish, or Catholic school in the US. They are full of married Catholic employees, many of whom have children. I’ve heard of more that a few in one chancery (and likely others) that are making, in my opinion, outrageous salaries for Church employees. You extract them and give their jobs to the married clergy. Not easy, not a magic bullet but a way to do it.

    Some laity have morphed into this weird sort of pseudo-clergy. Some call them lay ecclesial ministers or pastoral associates. The very existence of such roles should be as an absolute last resort, not a substitute for priests. I think a married clergy would be the better way to go than to keep these roles around. Grandfather the existing ones, but don’t create any more.

  59. dominic1955 says:

    Its a matter of letting those with eyes see and ears hear. I personally do not think that any of the chanceries around the country as so ignorant as to not see where vocations come from. Its just that they are the “wrong” vocations formed in the wrong sort of parish by the wrong sort of priests. Were I an outsider, I would probably think the Catholic Church was intentionally trying to kill itself off.

    That is one thing that was so frustrating about the diocesan world-there is so much holding you back as a priest. If you have a mindset that is completely orthodox and very much in tune with the liturgical traditions of the Church, its like pulling teeth to get anything done or even just simply to be. There are plenty of people amongst the laity, in the clergy and in the chancery who seem to just want everything to just clip along as it has been for the last 20 years or so. Kissy face to people who haven’t done anything of value to build up the church, don’t want to rock the boat of non-challenging homiletics and liturgy, keeping the schools (that are hardly even Catholic in any meaningful way) around and throwing dinner parties. If you do anything to rock this boat at all, the hammer comes down. Preach or teach heresy but don’t rock the boat? Everything is hunky doory.

    Again, you’d be hardpressed to convince outsiders that we weren’t trying to snuff our own church out.

  60. andia says:

    I would disagree with the idea that the vocations crisis is 90% liturgical. I’ve been to almost 80 parishes this year alone ( mine closed and I will.not.join the “new” parish where I am shoo-ed away from benches like a fly, or have had parents tell their kids not to pass the peace with me because I am alone -apparently this makes me dangerous in their eyes- ect.) A lot of the problem is that vocations are rarely talked about. Not in Mass, not in Parish Missons and not in private conversations with either youth or adults- why would anyone think to enter a vocation if NO ONE they respect in those vocations, issues an invitation?
    As a person who is seriously considering a vocation to religious lifeit is so hard to consider entering an order when you hear nothing about the different orders. Forget asking anyone in the parishes, there isn’t anyone to ask. Even the priests and sisters don’t want to answer questions about who in the diocese one should talk to. I ‘ve found more information on Twitter, than from anyone in real life. Also many orders don’t bother answering emails or phone calls inquiring about qualifications for entering or about their spirituality.
    If it is this hard for a lowly sister candidate – what is it like for priestly candidates?
    Discerning a vocation is hard, does it have to be made harder by lack of people in those vocations to talk to?

  61. gramma10 says:

    I believe we need to listen again to Archbishop Fulton Sheen. He told priests to spend one hour a day in Eucharistic Adoration. I say EVERYONE should, laity also.
    In adoration we are literally taught by the Holy Spirit. We gain wisdom and knowledge in there face to face with the ALIVE LORD. In my humble opinion, each parish ought to have an adoration chapel and the pastor/priests need to be in there also.
    Fr. Hardon wrote awesomely on the REAL PRESENCE.
    Yep He, Jesus is ALIVE and really there.
    Seek and we shall find. Everyone is too intellectual about Jesus. He is real and must be talked with minute by minute! He is Emmanuel. God With Us!
    I don’t think even many priests “get it”. I personally cannot live without Him and our growing relationship/love affair.
    People seem to have forgotten that CHRISTIANITY is supernatural. Invisible things are happening right before our very “eyes”!

  62. Ben Kenobi says:

    Couple points here.

    One, all you older folks (boomers especially), need to understand that even though you are much older than us, there are still more of you than us. There’s simply not enough of us to go around. Consolidation is inevitable thanks to you boomers choosing contraception and abortion over family formation.

    Two, Where are the young men? I am not that young anymore and I’m regularly one of the few younger men that I see in any Catholic parish. The bulk is the boomers and up in any parish. Younger folks are sparse and slim. Not only are there fewer young folks, the formation isn’t great. I’m a convert, meaning I had to learn about the Catholic church from other people – but I regularly see Catholic formation as terrible. Boomers did not teach their children the faith and are surprised when there are no younger priests?

    Three, even among those who are young who are Catholic and who do attend – what encouragement do they get from the community? It is difficult for those of us who don’t have a family – to find a parish family that even understands our concerns. They are mostly non-existent.

    I finally got an opportunity to attend an EF mass at the invitation of a rather new friend of mine. I had a wonderful time. I was able to follow along reasonably well (as I had someone to help me!) and the song at the end was sung in a way that was familiar and easy to follow along. No cantor at the front. No singing for the benefit of the choir and not the congregation. I wish I had gone long before, but this was the first time I had this opportunity. We even had a communion rail, which is a fond memory of mine from growing up in the Church of England. It was the first time in 25 years that I’ve had that opportunity. We even had coffee and a chance to meet and talk afterwards. Like a real community.

    Thank you so much, Fr. Z for your hard work.

  63. Ben Kenobi says:

    @ SuperTradMom

    “Three, I know lots of single men who have never made a decision or commitment to anything or anyone in their lives. They prefer to be ‘aesthetic’ Catholics, loving the Latin Mass, but not pursuing marriage or a vocation. It takes maturity and guts to make a decision in this day and age to be committed to the sacrament of Holy Orders or Matrimony.”

    “Both of us were single moms”

    I’m going to be charitable and suggest you reread this sentence and the second one together.

  64. Peregrinator says:

    Perhaps the answer lies in following the example of our the Eastern Rite Uniate Churches and our Orthodox brothers by changing the discipline of celibacy, which was instituted at a time that the Church required a more missionary priesthood.

    I think we should take a different cue from our Eastern brethren (by the way, the term “Uniate” is considered to be derogatory in this day and age), namely to reject anything that is not of our rite, in particular to reject such byzantinizations as a married priesthood, just as they rightly reject the latinization of their rites.

  65. Peregrinator says:

    This should not be the default, as it is hard on the priest to have his wife working full-time and not being with the children as needed.

    It is hard on any family, but I can see how it would be particularly hard on the family of a priest who is expected to be devoted to his parish full-time. It’s a disgrace that a wife and mother should be forced to work outside the home — and this is not merely my opinion, but a teaching of the Church reaffirmed as recently as the pontificate of Pope St. John Paul II.

  66. IStartedTheFire says:

    “I’ll bet 90% of the problem is liturgical” …if not more, proof being that the Diocese of Spokane has ONLY two Seminarians. I suppose the previous Bishop was promoted to Chicago for other reasons….

  67. AnnTherese says:

    Amateur Scholastic: I’m curious about your statement: “Faithful Catholics need to realise that we’re a tiny, tiny minority (much less than 1% of the population).” Your opinion? If not, what is the source? How is “faithful” defined?

  68. Imrahil says:

    I’d be hesitant about speaking of “producing vocations”.

    That said, dear Gerard Plourde…
    without going into the tradition of priestly celibacy (or what Dr Peters would call “continence” – and it’s the Greeks that broke away from ancient practice, not us, here) – a very immediate practical consequence of introducing married priesthood would be that all the hope put in what is somewhat harshly called “biological solution” goes amiss. We’d then have, in just about a second, a clergy more liberal than the practicing laity, and that does not seem natural to me.

    Dear Supertradmum,
    I might say that (and I could quote a good Catholic teacher on that) it is not a sin not to pursue a vocation. Nor is it a sin not to find a spouse. Nor, coming to think of it, is it even a sin to even pursue neither vocation nor marriage (assuming, of course, one keeps the 6th commandment).

    One can, with prudence, scold people into doing what is obligatory, but one cannot scold them into doing what is supererogatory.


    an immediate partial solution, to me, is artificially, by episcopal order, reducing the number of Masses celebrated.


    Because priests have become priests for a reason – to celebrate Mass, and to serve their flock. Hence they will not generally on their own say “no” if said flock wants a mass celebrated. Hence, they must be protected from themselves from overdoing themselves – which will result in less commitment or psychological issues, anyway, and which besides sends a bad image to possible vocations. Priesthood is hard in any case, but we need not present it as constantly wearing down oneself.

    There are, or used to be, canonical rules on on bination, trination, quadrination and so on (just as there is a canon on a priest’s duties to do spiritual exercises, and to take a vacation). A parish priest should, I’d say, have one main parish where he celebrates at least every Sunday and holiday of obligation (and always on the same schedule). If, regrettably, he has to take other parishes in addition, he should celebrate there every now and then, to keep parish life up and the churches in use, but why should there be a guarantee for them to have regular Masses? They can take cars and buses, after all. It’s not the ideal, but spending our priests is no ideal either.

  69. Vox Laudis says:

    @Ben, in charity I would suggest that you consider that there are at least two ways in which a devout, practicing Catholic woman can have become a ‘single mother’; that neither of the two ways which I can think of require said woman to have sinned against the virtue of chastity, either single or marital, or against marital fidelity; and that it is distinctly uncharitable to assume that a woman who describes herself in that manner deserves to have it implied that she is a hypocrite, as it certainly appears that you have done with STM.

  70. latempe says:

    There is no priesthood crisis. What the Holy Mother Church actually has is a marriage crisis.

    The Church already has tons of things geared to creating new priests, hundreds of formations programs, vocations fairs, meet and greets, social media, numerous books and a petition for it at every mass. It has gone to far that many youth groups, and Newman centers forbid dating amongst their members lest they steal faith Catholic men away into marriage. Yet the shortage still exists and is getting worse. Why? Because these are not where priests are made. Priests first and foremost come from strong Catholic families, something
    the Church is failing to create.

    The marriage crisis is the real cause of the shortage of priests. For the first time in history adult singles now out number married adults. Don’t think the Church is immune to this, in fact I believe the secular marriage crisis is a reflection of the what is happening in the Church, NOT the other way around. Back in the 90s 1/4 of adult Catholics were unmarried, if the Bishops would have done something then, the world wouldn’t be suffering with us now. God cannot give us more priests if He doesn’t have enough families to send them too.

    Meanwhile the Church is pouring nearly all it’s resources in the priesthood it has forgotten all about the single Catholics whom God intended to raise the next generation of priests. Marriage is just thought as something that will just happen on it’s own. It’s always been assumed that the youth would court, get engaged, get married and raise a family. But the Church fails to see that singles are drowning in a culture toxic to marriage. They don’t have any outlets to meet other faithful Catholic singles and aren’t allowed to date people they meet from things like FOCUS or theology on tap. They don’t have their parents advice or wisdom because many of their parents are still “playing the dating game” too!

    If we put half as much effort into forming marriages from single Catholics, as we did the priesthood we wouldn’t even have a priest shortage.

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