Q. 1 Is there a priest shortage?
A. 1 Based on what is heard through the media, it appears that there is a shortage of priests and vocations. At the same time, it is necessary to consider the comments of those in authority who have investigated the alleged crisis within the Catholic Church.
In 1995, commenting in the editorial of the Omaha Diocesan newspaper on the subject of the vocation crisis, Archbishop Elden Curtiss, a former seminary rector and vocations director, made two interesting observations:
"It seems to me that the vocation 'crisis' is precipitated and continued by people who want to change the Church's agenda, by people who do not support orthodox candidates loyal to the magisterial teaching of the pope and bishops, and by people who actually discourage viable candidates from seeking priesthood and vowed religious life as the Church defines these ministries."
"I am personally aware of certain vocations directors, vocations teams and evaluation boards who turn away candidates who do not support the possibility of ordaining women or who defend the Church's teaching about artificial birth control, or who exhibit strong piety toward certain devotions, such as the rosary."
Based on the observations of Archbishop Elden Curtiss, it appears that there is no shortage of vocations to the priesthood and religious life. If a shortage is occurring in some Dioceses as claimed, it must be concluded that those shortages are man-made, resulting from deliberate attitudes and policies that are intended to discourage true vocations.
Q. 2 Can the above be supported by other sources?
A. 2 Father David P. Talley, the vocations director of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta, GA, stated that when he arrived 11 years ago, the Diocese only had 7 men studying for the priesthood. Today, they have 58. Over and above that, they have 80 married men preparing to be ordained as permanent deacons.
Father Tim Hephurn who works with Fr. Talley states, "wherever I have seen the Gospel preached clearly, I have seen vocations."
If we consider the Diocese of Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz in Lincoln, NE, while he only shepherds 80,000 Catholics, he presently has 31 men studying for the priesthood. Why do some Dioceses have vocations while others do not?
Michael Rose, the editor of the St. Catherine Review, a conservative Catholic publication, has done an extensive study of the shortage of priests and vocations. He concluded that where "progressive" theologies prevailed, nobody wanted to become a priest.
Michael is quick to point out that in the Diocese of Detroit which has 1.4 million Catholics, this being one of the largest Dioceses in the United States, because of its "progressive" theologies, it will only ordain 2 men as priests this year.
When considering the Order of the Franciscan Friars of Renewal that was founded only 14 years ago by Father Benedict Groeschel in New York, the world's capital of secularization, it is noted that they already have 70 priests and brothers from all over the world. Why are they flourishing? It is because they adhere strictly to the traditional vows of poverty, chastity and obedience while working in the Bronx with the poorest people.
Q. 3 Are you saying Dioceses that are orthodox in their teachings are the ones that flourish in vocations?
A. 3 Michael Rose interviewed dozens of seminarians, former seminarians and recently ordained priests from 40 Dioceses and 19 seminaries. He quickly discovered that Dioceses that flourish are those where the men are loyal to the teachings of the Church, look to the Pope as their spiritual father and leader, pray the rosary, and embrace the male, celibate priesthood.
He also points out, "It appears that many of those in position of authority at our seminaries are singularly motivated by a desire to redefine Catholic theology, the priesthood, and Church ministry according to their own "progressive" model. That model includes women priests, lay-run parishes, secularized worship, and a "soft" approach to Church doctrine; in other words, an emasculated, politically correct Church."
Providing statistics to support his research, he states that Dioceses such as Wichita, Lincoln, Arlington, Fargo and Peora have consistently been ordaining as many or more men each year than liberal Dioceses 5 to 10 times their size. In the Diocese of Rockford, IL, Bishop Thomas Doran ordained 8 priests last year, the highest number of ordinations in 41 years. In the Diocese of Arlington, Virginia, 55 men were ordained between 1991 and 1998. In the Diocese of Peoria, with a population of only 232,000 Catholics, 72 priests were ordained between 1991 to 1998, that being 9 each year.
In comparison, nearby Milwaukee, with a Catholic population three times greater than Peoria, it ordained 2 priests in 1998. Detroit, with a Catholic population of 1.5 million, ordained an average of 8 men each year from 1991-8, Yet, Detroit is seven times larger than Peoria!
Peoria, 232,000 population, 9 priests annually.
Milwaukee, 696,000+ population, 2 priests in 1998.
Detroit, 1,500,000 population, 8 priests annually.
Archbishop Curtis of the Omaha archdiocese, considered one of the most conservative in Midwest, ordained an average of 7 men from 1991 to 1998 for a population of 215,000. The Diocese of Madison, slightly larger than Omaha, ordained 4 men for the entire period of 1991-8, or 1 every 2 years.
Based on the above statistics that speak for themselves, it is apparent that the blessings of the Lord Jesus favour conservative Dioceses. He provides vocations to the priesthood (and religious life) in the Dioceses that are faithful to the magisterium through their orthodox teachings. While men (or women) can determine who they want to minister in their Dioceses through a self-imposed shortage of priests and vocations, it is those who are called by Jesus who will faithfully persevere in their vocations.
Q. 4 What about all the retired priests? I am sure that some of them can still administer the Sacraments of the Church.
A. 4 Yes, some of them can continue to administer the Sacraments after the age of 65. You have to realize that many of these priests, if they would be allowed to do so, would continue to serve the Lord Jesus until the age of 70 or even 75, health permitting.
If these Diocesan priests were allowed to continue to administer the Sacraments beyond the age of 65 as is required of the priests in most religious Orders, in some Dioceses, the presently claimed shortage of priests would disappear overnight. In other Dioceses, the shortage would be delayed a few years. This would provide those Dioceses with additional time to recruit vocations to the priesthood.
At the same time, by providing the priests who turn 65 with an early retirement, this provides an opportunity within the Diocese to remove those priests who are conservative in their views, therefore making room for those who are more liberal. The first and temporary step of the liberal movement consists of implementing a lay ministry as a substitute to the Holy Orders.
The second step, the "very critical" point, when the lay ministry is taking over most of the priestly duties, is when the faithful become so desperate for a Parish priest that they are ready to accept anything, be it married priests or women priests.
The question then becomes, is the claimed shortage of priests and vocations deliberately created by those who want to change the Church's agenda? Are these persons who have created the shortage of priests and vocations among those who support married priests or women priests, this being their end goal, to become a married priest or a woman priest?