Robert Mickens is exactly wrong about priestly vocations. Here’s why.

spirit_Vatican_IIOne of the worst of the hyper-liberal catholic publications, Commonweal, publishes a regular column by long-time Rome correspondent Robert Mickens.

Many readers here will recall that Mickens loathes Benedict XVI.  He lost his job with The Tablet, the UK’s worst catholic weekly, when in 2014 he posted disgusting comments about Benedict.

This week Mickens addresses the issue of vocations to the priesthood.  He goes after St. John Paul II  and Benedict XVI.  Since it’s the Easter Octave, I won’t trouble you with much of his text.  His bottom line is that 1) narrow, clericalist, backward-looking Popes of the past blocked the work of the Holy Spirit (which Mickens seems to know better than they) Who clearly wanted an end to clerical celibacy and the ordination of women, and 2) the stifling of the “spirit of Vatican II” has caused a huge drop in vocations, which has prompted bishops to reach our for priests from Third World countries to take up the slack and some of those bishops and priests are not in sync with Pope Francis, and 3) there are at long last bright rays of sunshine in the obscurity caused by men, near messianic figures, who coincidentally are associated with the political left and the liberal, progressivist arm of Pope Francis’ pontificate.

Ergo, these bad bad males must be replaced.  His line-up includes (titles removed for the sake of speed): Kasper, Schönborn, Farrell, Tobin, and McElroy.

Along the way, Mickens alternates between the green ink and the purple patch.  You’d think that the Battle of Narnia was about to begin.

Boiled down, Mickens thinks that these bad bad males, these Tridentine, clericalist scaredy-cats have repressed priestly vocations.

Mickens is exactly wrong.

There is no lack of priestly vocations where bishops are capable of projecting solid clerical identity and where they teach perennial Catholic truth in charity and in clarity.

Hows_Liturgy_CandleI come from a parish where in 30 years there were 30 First Masses.  I live in a diocese where in a decade the bishop turned around vocations from 6 to 30.

The proportion of priests to people is more or less constant.  Why?  Lay people get the priests that they produce and that they deserve.   Lower Mass attendance results in falling numbers of priests, not the other way around.

Liberal clerics inevitably fall into the sin of the clericalism which they hurl as tar and feathers at conservative, faithful priests and bishops.  For example, when the former drag lay people up into the sanctuary and let them do something that is really their own role, they clericalize the laity in the most condescending way.  Similarly, libs think that bishops produce vocations like Zeus produced Athena.  In truth, families produce vocations.

In the places (countries, dioceses, parishes, families) where the “spirit of the Council” was pushed à la Mickens, there has been devastation of Catholic identity.

Following Mickens’ logic, the whole Church should look rather like Belgium.

Belgium, which followed the “spirit of the Council” down the storm-drain and out to sea, (the Bishop of Antwerp, Johan Bonny, has called for rituals for “gay” marriage in the Church) now has 5% Mass attendance.   The reforms of the Church that Mickens desires have been so “successful” in Belgium that hardly anyone goes to Mass any more.  Subsequently, there are no vocations to the priesthood, either.

See?  What a success!

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. THREEHEARTS says:

    when the priests in any part of the world are worn out by administering the sacraments and give proper attention to the Sacrifice, when God realizes priests are overworked then and then only will He send more, Rest assured this is a truth.

    [?!? No.]

  2. thomistking says:

    Every time I see Schoenborn’s name mentioned in these contexts it give me terrible heartburn. He is such a brilliant theologian, how could he go in for this nonsense?

  3. Prayerful says:

    The Conciliar Ultra evidence autists like Mickens won’t be convinced no matter how much evidence is piled before them. We can only pray for their conversion. If that doesn’t happen, time and demographics will take of the situation. Faithful Catholics have larger families, far larger.

  4. mburn16 says:

    Probably sufficient truth to the idea that clerical celibacy reduces vocations, but otherwise there is a fairly obvious connection between orthodoxy and the desirable outcomes of increased attendance and ordination. Faith has turned out to be one of those areas where you simply can’t sell people on something you’re only lukewarm on yourself

  5. Prayerful says:

    I should add that the Belgian Church had vocations in Brussels only for +De Kesel to eject the diocesan priestly society ‘Fraternity of the Holy Apostles’ founded by his predecessor. The focus on the Mass of Ages evidently triggered his Lordship. I strongly believe that a good many like Abp De Kesel want a secular society where Catholicism is a pleasant, harmless blesser of whatever the powers that be decide, like the Lutheran Church of Sweden (which tragically had Apostolic Succession until the 60s-70s when the govt forced them to ordain women).

    [Precisely the sort of Church that Mickens and Co. want everywhere.]

  6. jazzclass says:

    I mean, look at Charlotte, NC. A record high of 24 seminarians since the diocese started in ’73, and a new college seminary. You don’t see anything but parishes closing in the once vibrant North East US. Talk about a novus ordo.

  7. Unwilling says:

    I can’t quite believe that an effort that “call[s] for rituals for ‘gay’ marriage” or beer and pizza as elements or any of so many other such things is benighted well wishing. These are not feckless attempts to serve, but calculated attacks to harm souls “(countries, dioceses, parishes, families)”.

  8. William Tighe says:

    “… the Lutheran Church of Sweden (which tragically had Apostolic Succession until the 60s-70s when the govt forced them to ordain women).”

    A most dubious assertion; the case against “Swedish Orders” is far more open-and-shut than the case against Anglican Orders. See L. M Dewailly, OP, “L’Eglise Suedoise D’Etat: A-T-Elle Garde La Succession Apostolique,” *Revue des Sciences Philosophiques et Theologiques,* XXVIII (July 1938), pp. 386-426.

  9. JARay says:

    Yes, Belgium is indeed a basket case with euthanasia high on the agenda for the elderly.

  10. Moro says:

    jazzclass – the trend in NC is partly due to population growth there. But yes, the Church in the Northeast US is definitely on the decline. The scandals accelerated a slow descent. If you took out anyone over 60 and anyone who is not an immigrant or child of an immigrant from Haiti, Latin America, or the Philippines, you could probably have 5 or 6 masses filled to capacity in the Cathedral of any major diocese and call it a day.

    I do believe the church in the south in bouyed in part by a more Christian ethos among the general population.

  11. hwriggles4 says:

    Another seminary that is bursting at the seams is Mount St. Mary’s of the West in Cincinnati. Thank Archbishop Dennis Schnurr. The Fathers of Mercy send seminarians there now as well.

    Like Madison and Charlotte (Raleigh had a large increase in seminarians under Burbidge – from 8 to 20), both Dallas and Fort Worth have been doing a decent job in increasing vocations. Within a short time under Bishop Vann, vocations in Fort Worth went from about 8 to 25. Austin has been steady with seminarians – it helps that Texas A&M and Baylor (which have good Catholic Student Centers) are in the Austin Diocese.

  12. jflare says:

    I read through the first third of Mickens’ diatribe, then skimmed the rest. He seems to have a passionate loathing for (St) Pope John Paul II, Pope Benedict, and especially, priestly celibacy.

    Odd: From those who would not need to practice married lives as priests or spouses of same, I hear that we should be ordaining married men and allowing priests to marry. From the priests, themselves, and from those very few exceptions to priestly celibacy that I’ve heard about, I hear that we’d be foolish to surrender celibacy as part of priestly life. Then I also hear that while some Eastern priests may marry, they may never enter service as bishops.

    Methinks the folks who wish to cast aside celibacy…probably are not the best authorities to consult.

  13. mburn16 says:

    “From those who would not need to practice married lives as priests or spouses of same, I hear that we should be ordaining married men and allowing priests to marry. From the priests, themselves…I hear that we’d be foolish to surrender celibacy”

    I’m not convinced this is a good argument in favor of celibacy. When you have a shortage of Priests, your question should be “why aren’t more men becoming Priests?”, and for that, non-Priests are an excellent potential source of information.

    It is entirely logical that you could have both widespread Priestley satisfaction with celibacy….and celibacy as an impediment to attracting more vocations.

  14. Ben Kenobi says:

    “why aren’t more men becoming Priests?”

    That can be a very far reaching question. My family, back when they were in Germany were Catholic. When they left there to come to North America they left their Catholicism and faith behind. They raised my Grandparents, neither of whom were churchgoers. Then you have my grandparents who had my father who didn’t grow up in the faith. Now you have me. Why am I in the Catholic church? Solid Catholics. However, I’m the only one in my family who is Catholic.

    In order to get more vocations, other than me, I would need to marry and have children, raise them in the faith and have them grow up and at least one would need to be a boy and be a priest.

    So – if you’re looking long-term, how do we get more boys of the right ages to become priests? It starts with helping Catholics – solid Catholics meet each other and get married to each other. But you don’t get there by following the modern way of life. They would have to believe that contraception was wrong and have bigger families.

    Ask yourself, “what is my parish doing to encourage these young men?” Most of us are very *discouraged* by what we see. The reason for the Kasparite ‘reforms’ working the opposite way is basic math. You get more vocations when you get more young people with families in the parish. It’s like the quote of harvesting a tree where the fruit was planted years ago. No fruit if the hard work isn’t done years in advance. It may take 50 years for a tree to start bearing fruit, but if you don’t get started now you won’t get there later.

  15. Ben Kenobi says:

    “It is entirely logical that you could have both widespread Priestley satisfaction with celibacy….and celibacy as an impediment to attracting more vocations.”

    Ok. Look at your pool of massgoers who are under 40 men in your parish. What do you see about all of them?

  16. cradlecatholic says:

    I always empathise with the comments on this page. I live in New Zealand but was born into a Catholic family in 1940 and received a good Catholic education, largely at the hands of the Sisters of Mercy. This sort of start in life is, sadly, practically non existent today. I suppose faithful catholics here (NZ) face the same distressing results of the march of the conciliar Church. Frequent exhortation to stewardship, Extraordinary Ministers of Communion, Lay leaders most of who are women. Four parishes reformed into one etc. etc. I just get the idea that it is all part of some insidious plan for a “do it yourself church”, a heretical self justifying quoisy protestant neo reformation.
    Bretheren ( you don’t hear that very often) Pray for Holy Mother Church

  17. Robster says:

    I am in the Archdiocese of Newark (NJ). What’s with Tobin? I know little about him. Impression is that he speaks publicly about safe subjects (e.g., being kind to immigrants), and wants to ensure ‘all are welcome’ [‘scuse, I am indisposed momentarily; that song makes me hurl], and no one is excluded. A common, safe theme of our mediocre hierarchy. While properly understood, these are worthy themes, so too are those on personal morality [i.e., sex, etc.] As Scripture has it, “These you should have done without neglecting the others. “

  18. Stephen Matthew says:

    I have seen many things impact vocations, and often it is very hard to put a finger on what causes an upswing or downswing in vocations. I think it is easier to derail vocations than it is to build up a culture of vocations. Bad elements that can suppress vocations (but can’t guarantee the success of vocations): parents/families, pastors/parishes, vocation directors, bishops, seminary formators. Obviously the men themselves have a thousand different ways they can go astray by their own faults and failing, too. I have seen good people implement good programs to no (visible) result, but perhaps seeds are planted that bear fruit in a later season. Often with vocations it may well be that one does the work of planting, another of tending, and some other gets the credit for harvesting (but a critical failure at any stage can choke the life of the garden).

    I have been very impressed by the quality of the candidates coming from other countries, but I worry that some mistake is being made by promoting that model. I wonder if they would not be better off ministering in their native lands, that often are actually more desperately short of priests than the USA is. I know one bishop that refused to consider candidates other than those living in his own diocese. His view was that God was calling men, as he always has and always will. He felt recruiting foreign seminarians was just a way of letting the people of his diocese off the hook for always thinking someone else’s son could be the priest, or that some other parish could produce vocations, or someone else could pray and fast for priests, or someone else could be zealous for the faith… The view of that bishop was let the places that raise up vocations enjoy the fruits of them, and let those that do not suffer the consequences, even if that ended with (and it did) the closing of parishes.

    I am not sure which is more tragic, the places where no men step forward for formation; or the cases where men step forward and are not given the guidance they need; or the cases where men step forward but are so ill prepared by the formation of their earlier life that they will likely not succeed. I have met seminarians who were models of holiness but knew nothing. I have met others who knew all that could be learned from books but had no life of prayer. I have met others who desperately wanted to serve God, went through all the motions, but whose hearts were hardened and closed by some mishap in life. Without doubt men are still being called, but often we make it hard for them to hear the call, harder still to answer, and hardest of all to persevere.

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