The shortage of priests didn’t just happen by itself, it was engineered.

At The Media Group there is a piece about the epidemic of false accusations against priests.  They have the numbers.   This is economic persecution based on greed, pure and simple.

On another note concerning priesthood, LifeSite re-posted a great piece by Anthony Esolen from 2016.  I gave that offering my characteristic black and red treatment and posted a couple of polls with it.  HERE  Esolen is author of the thought provoking Nostalgia (US HERE – UK HERE) and he has translated – very well – Dante’s Divine Comedy.  If you have never read the Divine Comedy, you must.  Sstart with Esolen (Part 1, Inferno US HERE – UK HERE) or perhaps with Dorothy Sayer’s fine version (Part 1, Inferno, US HERE – UK HERE).

The priesthood shortage didn’t just happen by itself.  It was engineered.

___ Originally posted 7 March 2016

mass sacrificeMy old pastor, the late Msgr. Schuler used to make mordent remarks about the suicidal vocations efforts of the Archdiocese. “They’re like people during a famine who wring their hands and discuss how they are all going to starve to death, instead of planting crops.”

From a great Anthony Esolen at LifeSite:

The Catholic Church’s priest shortage crisis: a self-inflicted wound

Suppose you take a double-barrel shotgun and aim it at your foot. You press the trigger, and half of your toes are bloody fragments. Then you pray, “Cure me, O Lord, for I am lame!” You hobble around for a while, complaining that there are hills in the world, and looking forward to that time when the Lord will level them all and fill in the valleys, so that you won’t have to lean on your crutch so hard. But you still carry that shotgun around, and every year you repeat the same mysterious experiment in new and improved ambulation. You have now rendered one foot nothing but an ankle ending in a splinter, and the other foot a mangled mess. But you keep praying, “Heal me, Lord, help me to walk upright again!”

When, after many years of limping as a cripple, you are persuaded that the Lord is not going to make your feet grow back, you begin to say that it is a good thing to be hobbled; it allows us to experience the wonders of chair-lifts, special parking places, threats of gangrene, and early death. But that doesn’t mean that you change everything you believe. You are still a stalwart with that shotgun. Ready, aim, fire.

The Catholic Church is in dire need of priests.  She had plenty of priests before the onset of liturgical abuses not sanctioned by the Second Vatican Council’s Sacrosanctum Concilium. Mathematician and computer programmer David Sonnier has plotted out the precipitous decline in vocations after the Council, illustrating it by an asymptotic curve he calls, with mordant irony, the Springtime Decay Function, whereby he concludes that we are missing more than 300,000 priests who otherwise might have been ministering to the people of God today. He shows his students the data, telling them that it marks enrollment at a college, and he asks them to guess what happened. They reply in one way or another that the college in question must have made a dreadfully bad decision in 1965. [The other day during a sermon I remarked that God is not calling fewer men to the priesthood.  The reason for the shortage was elsewhere.]

Did they get rid of football?” asked one of the students.

The answer to that is yes, they did “get rid of football.” Nowhere in Sacrosanctum Concilium or in other documents of Vatican II, as Professor Sonnier observes, are the following liturgical innovations mandated or recommended or even suggested:

* orientation ad populum
* Communion in both species
* Communion received in the hand
* Communion received while standing, as at a delicatessen
* removal of altar rails
* prohibition of Masses said according to the 1962 missal
* exclusive use of the vernacular
* girls serving at the altar

Instead, Sacrosanctum Concilium forbids innovations in the liturgy, “unless the good of the Church genuinely and certainly requires them; and care must be taken that any new forms adopted should in some way grow organically from forms already existing” (SC, 23). Not one of those innovations above can pass that severe test, [strict, yes, and rightly so] and, as Sonnier notes, several of them had already been condemned.

Sonnier understands that correlation and causation are not the same; though it defies all reason to suppose that a decline so sudden and so calamitous was strictly coincidental. One way to show that it was not coincidental – that the foot’s agony had something to do with the shotgun and the trigger – would be to go to those dioceses and communities that did not pull the trigger, and to see whether they are walking about hale and hearty and on two feet. And so they are: Lincoln, Nebraska; Arlington, Virginia; Ciudad del Este, Paraguay; the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate; the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter. [MADISON.  In the 33 years that Schuler was pastor of St. Agnes, 30 men had 1st Masses at the parish.  Bp. Morlino shows up in Madison, WI, and the number of seminarians rises from 6 to 36.  Coincidence?]

But when I said that “they got rid of football,” I meant it. Apart from the dubious orthodoxy or the dubious theology behind those innovations in liturgy and then in preaching, there were all the reasons in the world to suppose, from what we know about human beings in general and boys and men in particular, that the changes would be calamitous.  [YES YES YES!]

Think. Open your eyes. Remember a little history. Men fight. Many of them really enjoy fighting with their fists, but many more enjoy the spirit of intellectual or spiritual combat for something to which they will devote their goods, their lives, and their sacred honor.  [In my native place, there is a parish where the parish priest (not a blushing flower) allowed some laymen to start the Argument of the Month Club.  Only men and their sons can come.  They have unhealthy food, they have beer, they smoke cigars, and they have a speaker or two who have an argument and whom they hassle a bit with hard questions.  Lots of razzing and cheering.  Last time I was there there were hundreds of men and boys there.  It was amazing.]

So what have we done?

We have eliminated from most hymnals every single song that had anything to do with fighting the good fight. A boy may attend Mass for ten years and never hear one hymn that calls him to the soldiership of Christ.

Men are gamblers, for good and bad. Many of them court risk. They are the inventors of backgammon, cribbage, poker, “fantasy sports,” billiards, and chess. They are the ones who will risk ruining themselves for an idea or an invention. So what have we done?

We have lowered the stakes. If everyone is saved – though our Lord clearly warns us against that sluggish sureness – then why sweat? Where’s the adventure? No real boy says, “I want to grow up to be a fat bishop sitting in the chancery while the real world goes on its merry way,” or, “I want to grow up to be a man without a wife and children, who spends his days being nice.” Is that it?   [Priests are not ordained to be nice.  Priests are ordained to offer sacrifice and to forgive sins, to keep you out of hell.]

Men thrive in brotherhoods. Not peoplehoods, but specifically brotherhoods. See Tom Sawyer, Gilgamesh, the Germanic comitatus, the Japanese samurai, the monks of Saint Benedict, the fishermen of Newfoundland, the Plains Indians, the cristeros of Mexico, and, in a human sense, the apostles of our Lord Himself. So what have we done?

We have obliterated the brotherhoods. We got rid of most of our high schools for boys. We got rid of every one of our colleges for young men. We dissolved the brotherhood of acolytes – the altar boys. We did this at the worst imaginable time, just when everybody else was doing the same thing, so that now in most places CYO Basketball is but a memory, Boys’ Clubs are Boys’ and Girls’ Clubs, which means Safe Small Children’s Clubs, and the Boy Scouts have been sued clear to the precincts of Sodom.

Men understand authority and flourish in it. If you doubt this, you have never come near the locker room of a football team, nor have you troubled to consider whether that team could run a single play, let alone win a game, without strict adherence to a chain of command established for the common good. “I am a man under authority,” said the centurion to Jesus. He did not say, “I insist upon equality.” Men are the ones who invented orders. Lord Baden-Powell, the founder of the Scouts, understood the principle.

What have we done?

We have obliterated distinctions between the clergy and the laity. We have turned a suspicious eye against the fundamental virtue of obedience, instead teaching that every man may do what appears right to him in his own mind.

Men are inspired by discipline. They are the ones who invented Boot Camp – and are disappointed now to find that it isn’t any longer any great deal, not if you’ve been a wrestler or a football player in high school. Find out what the boy in the American prairies underwent to prove himself a man.

What have we done?

We have eliminated almost every strenuous practice of self-denial from the common life of the Church. All we say is that if you are chewing gum during Mass, please to move it to the left side of your jaws so as to clear a space on the right to receive the Lord at Communion.

No ascetic life, no hierarchy, no brotherhood, no risk, no battle – no priests. And then there are the supernatural concerns, about which I will have more to say next time.

I, for one, look forward to what else he has to say.

In the meantime, Fr. Z kudos.

I will now add to his point about serving Mass in corps of altar boys what I usually add when things liturgical come up: No initiative we undertake in the Church will succeed without a revitalization of our sacred worship.

We have to get all women and girls out of our sanctuaries and return to our Roman Church worship in our Roman, Latin Church parishes and chapels.

The above-mentioned Msgr. Schuler ran a parish famous for liturgical excellence and for sacred music.  I mentioned the number of vocations.  The door to the sacristy was open for young men to come in and don the cassock and serve.  Boys, both from the K-12 school and from elsewhere, moved up year by year in the ranks, enrolling in the Archconfraternity of St. Stephen (the first chapter outside of England). Their tasks changed.  The color of the medal cord changed.  They taught the younger ones.  The schola cantorum was open.  The choir benches in the sanctuary were open to men when we sang Vespers on Sundays.  The door of the rectory was open when seminarians and young men met.  The priests acted like priests.  The men saw the life.   They were near the altar.  They formed a corps and the corps formed them.  Those who didn’t go into seminary wound up, usually, married and with great families.

How is this hard?

It takes a little time, but it isn’t rocket science.

Truly the lack of vocations to the priesthood is a self-inflicted wound.

Remember these POLLS?

Does an all-male sanctuary foster vocations to the priesthood? (Revisited)

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

Does female service at the altar harm or suppress vocations to the priesthood?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in Priests and Priesthood, Seminarians and Seminaries and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Aquinas Gal says:

    I agree that undoubtedly what happened with the liturgy and the loss of brotherhood, etc., had a big effect. But it would be too simplistic to say it’s only that. Another huge factor: family size. The effects of contraception and the whole sexual revolution. Catholics used to have big families. A few still do, but not enough to produce the number of priests needed.And too many men have been damaged by the sexual revolution and fallen into habits of porn and other sexual sins so that they are poor candidates for a life of celibacy. Vocations come from holy Catholic families. As the family goes, so goes the Church.

  2. Ave Maria says:

    Loved the news of the Argument of the Month men’s club where they eat unhealthy food and enjoy other pleasures and conversation and camaraderie! We need more of it! And those few dioceses that stayed most faithful are the most thriving. The FFI are somewhat decimated due to the persecution of their holy charism but are doing their best to hang on and live that charism although many powers that be want to change it–get rid of Marian vow and the “too many” hours of prayer, etc.

  3. None of the below at our parish. We are truly blessed!

    * orientation ad populum
    * Communion in both species
    * Communion received in the hand
    * Communion received while standing, as at a delicatessen
    * removal of altar rails
    * prohibition of Masses said according to the 1962 missal
    * exclusive use of the vernacular
    * girls serving at the altar

  4. Sandy says:

    This is one of the best articles I’ve ever read about the calamities after V II. I love the list of innovations that were NEVER called for in the documents. If only that could be posted in all churches, bulletins, everywhere there are Catholics. Maybe it would get some attention. Maybe…..

    I also have enjoyed your Gitmo commentaries since I’m a lover of nostalgia! Hearing all the Navy lingo has been fun. As the daughter and the wife of Navy men, I’ve never really been a civilian and will never feel like one!

    Glad you’re home safely, Father, but you don’t seem to stay put for very long :)

  5. Gaetano says:

    As Fr. Z well knows, another factor is the backbiting naysayers who gravitate toward formation communities. Never have I seen an organization with more people fundamentally opposed to an organization’s precepts while simultaneously serving as its gatekeepers, formators, and decision makers.

    People would scarcely believe the headwinds that determined, generous, and high-minded men face the moment they enter a vocation discernment program. These forces only intensify once they are in seminary or religious formation, nor do they cease after ordination.

    Add to this ideological assault the sexual misconduct (and even predation) committed by those clergy with a deformed conscience, and it’s a wonder any man gets through it, even with God’s abundant grace.

  6. Daddio says:

    You mentioned Lord Baden-Powell. I beg your promotion of the premier Catholic option, the Troops of St. George.

    We have endorsements from Cardinal Raymond Burke, and Bishop Olson of Fort Worth, TX, among others.

    We sweat. We freeze. We pray in the mud. We make fires. We cook red meat and carve spears and throw axes and shoot guns and hike for miles. We love our wives and our daughers and our sisters, but we know that it’s the boys and the dads who are most in need of formation to survive in this pagan culture.

    We are not a “kids’ activity” – we are a father/son apostolate. It is demanding and time consuming, and it is worth it.

    The momentum is gaining. 50+ Troops nationwide, and international growth in the works. We are trying to form real Catholic young men. We pray for priests from our ranks. And those who marry when they are grown will really know their faith, and their responsibilities as husbands and fathers, and form their families well.

    Please ask your priest friends in parishes to call on their men to form new troops.

  7. bibi1003 says:

    The sexual revolution and Vatican II have damaged the vocation to marriage as well. I just listened to Fr. Chad Ripperger’s talk about signs of effeminacy in men. It was a sad eye-opener.

  8. TKS says:

    I can speak from experience. I am the only daughter with three brothers. My Dad was in the KC; my Mom in YLI. I had four sons before I had a daughter. All the boys played sports and do manly things even now. What I call ‘horsing around’ that boys do cannot happen with girls around. Let the boys be boys and they will turn out true to God and their nature.

    Keep females out of the sanctuary. Our nature is to care so we ‘care’ for the objects in the sanctuary. I take my turn cleaning the linens and am happy to do so.

    And I am a proud Army veteran so enjoyed the Gitmo article :)

    Fr. Z's Gold Star Award

  9. John21 says:

    I largely agree with what’s written in the article, but it strange how it doesn’t add up given the situation in the Diocese of Orange (CA), where I’m from. We have 33 seminarians, but traditional liturgical practice isn’t widespread in the diocese at all. Only a handful of places offer the TLM. Girl altar servers, Holy Communion in the hand, etc. is common, as usual in most dioceses. You would think that we would have a priest shortage given what’s written in the article, but most (if not all) parishes have multiple priests and we have loads of seminarians. Very interesting.

    [You didn’t make your case.]

  10. Jerome Charles says:

    The USCCB and GIRM allow for the practices listed in the article; some of them are ancient practices. Are we to ignore our bishops? Or just follow the ones whose opinions we agree with, in spite of the teachings presented to us?

    In addition to the factors named here, the other factor at play during the pre-VII era when there were more priests and sisters, is that families felt obligated to “offer” a son and/or daughter to the priesthood/religious life. There was pressure to do so to show they were faithful Catholics. Children, who were more obedient then, perhaps followed the wishes of their parents–whether or not they were authentically called to this vocation, or to celibacy.

    The priest shortage gave rise to the involvement and education of the laity for ministry–adults, teens, and children, both male and female. My opinion and experience is that our Church has been enriched by that. The US bishops support lay participation and ministry. Why should my daughter be a sacristan if she has a gift (and training/education) for proclaiming the Word of God, or leading a choir, or offering pastoral care to the sick/home bound (for instance)?

  11. LeeGilbert says:

    “Mathematician and computer programmer David Sonnier has plotted out the precipitous decline in vocations after the Council.”

    Right, but this precipitous decline also follows the penetration of the Catholic home by television in the mid-fifties. In the typical home TV was on at least three hours a day, preaching the world, the flesh and the devil. The Rosary went out and was replaced by “Gunsmoke.”

    The first generation raised on TV came of age in the late sixties and the sexual revolution was upon us. Given that the more one gives his body, the more it wants, nothing else could have happened, for we were mesmerized and sitting blotto in front of the TV scarfing down chips and pizza and pop for all of our formative years. Prayer went out. Chastity went out. The vocations crisis was sure to follow.

    A priest friend of mine from Andrha Pradesh speaks of walking through his village as a young priest and hearing in the evening his parishioners praying the family rosary. Then television came to his village. Now all he hears is the TV in home after home.

    To underscore this line of causality, ask any of the many Nigerian, Sri Lankan, Indian or Vietnamese priests now so prevalent among us what role TV played in their upbringing. I will tell you the answer for I have asked them. it played no role, for they did not have a TV in their home.

  12. JustaSinner says:

    Like a Tac Officer said at demolition school: If you plant land mines and then cross it later, don’t be surprised at the results!

  13. carndt says:

    Thanks for the article. It confirmed my raising of my two sons. There was always “horsing around. But, they were taught the respect towards myself and my daughter.

    They were both into sports( grade school through college)and respected the coaches as role models. My youngest was president of his fraternity and had to make tough decisions to expel a few brothers.

    They both serve in the military (USMC Officer and the other a Specialist in National Guard and Police Officer. My sons are manly god fearing men.

    We women want to assist where appropriate in the parishes. Not be men.

    This article is right on. I have refused to be a lecturer, EMHC, or assist at Mass in the sanctuary. I drive 2 hours to go to an Oratory of ICKSP in Rockford, IL to attend a TLM due to the fact our bishop refuses it in parishes. Our deanery vicar flatly refuses to go to bat for us. Pray for us.

    We need men with back bone to be soldiers for Christ.
    Thank you for your blog. It helps spiritually in more ways than you know!

    Prays for your health and commitment to the priesthood.

  14. Semper Gumby says:

    The nostalgia Anthony Esolen writes about in “Nostalgia” is not a sentimental, melancholic longing for the Good Old Days. Esolen instead uses the original sense of the word, from the Greek: noston (homecoming) and algea (ache).

    “Nostalgia” opens with a scene from Homer’s “Odyssey,” as Odysseus tries to return home to Ithaca and his wife Penelope and son Telemachus after the Trojan War. Odysseus is on an island with Calypso. Calypso is more beautiful than Penelope, the island more beautiful and plentiful than Ithaca, and as long as he stays with Calypso, Odysseus will never grow old.

    But, as he looks at the sea Odysseus has a bittersweet feeling: nostalgia. He longs to be where he should be, he longs to return home- even though he is well aware that all is not perfect in Ithaca or with Penelope.

    In a Fallen World there is no way to return to Eden. Pilgrims seeking the House of the Father travel forward fortified with Tradition, avoiding the old siren songs of abortion, feminism, socialism, monarchy, and hedonism.

  15. Bonaventurian says:

    It comes as no surprise that we have a shortage of seminarians when such innovations have fundamentally destroyed perception of the Real Presence in the Mass. When you change the Mass from a sacrifice to a banquet and then introduce a series of innovations which further degrade the reverence due to Christ in the Blessed Sacrament, and then have a generation of Catholics raised in this environment with poor catechesis, then of course it follows that few will seek to become priests.

  16. Pingback: The shortage of priests didn’t just happen by itself, it was engineered. — Fr. Z’s Blog – A Lapsed Catholic Returns

  17. Hidden One says:

    The Catholic family could only collapse because our celebration of the liturgy collapsed.

  18. ChesterFrank says:

    Do you think the Uncle Teddy McCarrick’s might have had something to do with it? Do you think maybe they might have manipulated a few parish councils?

  19. iamlucky13 says:

    “He shows his students the data, telling them that it marks enrollment at a college, and he asks them to guess what happened. They reply in one way or another that the college in question must have made a dreadfully bad decision in 1965.”

    I’m the sort of person, who when somebody makes a claim they say is backed by data, I want to see the data, partially out of curiosity, and partially out of the habit of verifying sources. The greater the gravity or difficulty believing the claim, the stronger my interest in the data. Not to mention, I usually want to see how clear any trends in the data are.

    Fortunately, it seems several articles by Mr. Sonnier are available. I did not attempt to track his work back to the true root source of the data or methodology because, let’s be honest, I’m writing a discussion post, not a peer review, but I’m much more confident knowing he is working from a source that has been formally published.

    I think many of the regulars here will find his original Springtime Decay article from 2004 interesting reading, so here is a link. Spoiler: the discontinuity in the data is really, really obvious.
    Springtime Decay by David L. Sonnier

  20. Charivari Rob says:

    iamlucky13, thank you for the Sonnier link. It’s an interesting read.

    John21, I think I get what you’re saying, and tend to agree.

  21. JonathanTX says:

    This past weekend I saw the Metropolitan Opera production of Poulenc’s Dialogue des Carmélites. A couple of lines struck me particularly forcefully:

    How can it be that priests are hounded in this
    fashion – and in a land of Christians? Have the
    French now become such awful cowards?

    Sister Mathilde
    They’re afraid. Everyone’s afraid. They infect one
    another with their panic, just as they might give
    each other cholera or smallpox.

    Perhaps you are right about fear, it’s really an

    But are there no men left here in France to come
    to the defence of our priests?

    When there are no priests there’ll be martyrs
    in plenty, thus the balance of grace is very soon

    Fr. Z's Gold Star Award

  22. Thorfinn says:

    Re the Diocese of Orange (CA)

    5,544 Catholics per priest up from 1,891 Catholics per priest in 1976
    193 Diocesan priests, 33 seminarians (~4/5 per year), roughly replacement level

    It seems that we, generally speaking, have become accustomed to the “new normal”. Most places have enough priests to take care of those Catholics who avail themselves of the sacraments: the 20% who show up to Mass on Sunday, the few who go to confession. But where is our evangelical spirit? Shouldn’t we be working toward a Church that is winning converts by the boatload, where we eschew mortal sin (including missing Mass) and frequent confession especially when we fail?

  23. beelady says:

    LeeGilbert, thank you for your comments.
    Your point about television being a major factor in the decline of vocations seems right on to me!
    It’s nice to read a comment that doesn’t blame the decline in vocations on women and girls in sanctuaries.
    I don’t believe that vocations would skyrocket if women and girls were removed from sanctuaries. I would be willing to bet that removing televisions from catholic homes would have a dramatic effect on vocations.

  24. pbnelson says:

    Here’s a link to the mathematical analysis upon which Anthony Esolen based his essay:

    And here’s a link to the published book* upon which Prof. Sonnier based his mathematical analysis:

    Note that the original study was published in 2003 – does anyone think the situation has improved in the past 15+ years since?

    * Index of Leading Catholic Indicators: The Church since Vatican II Paperback by Kenneth C. Jones (Author), Paperback: 116 pages, Publisher: Oriens Publishing (January 2003) Language: English, ISBN-10: 0972868801, ISBN-13: 978-0972868808

  25. Semper Gumby says:

    Daddio: Thanks for the Troops of St. George videos.

Comments are closed.