Fear of Vocations

I read an interesting article this morning from Germany in which a retired German priest asks "are German bishops leading the church into a "priestless desert"?"
Indeed he is correct; they are. The number of Catholic priests in the country is rapidly plummeting as older priests die or leave ministry and they aren’t replaced by newly ordained ones. Since 1990, the number of priests in Germany has dropped from 20,000 to 14,000.

On 18 March, Cardinal Reinhard Marx — Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Munich-Freising and President of the German Bishops’ Conference — spoke at a diocesan meeting and revealed a stunning fact. In the year of 2016, only one new seminarian entered the diocesan seminary of Munich. According to the Austrian Catholic website Kath.net.

Although Fr. Fleiner has correctly identified the vocational crisis in Germany, his solutions seems old, tired, liberal and extremely short sighted: Priests should be allowed to marry.

I have a dear friend who is a priest in Austria and he noted that this has become a bit of a literary genre there - after 40 years of taking €45k a year from the diocese .... you retire on a full pension .... and then write a book / letter saying how dreadful the Church is and how they should have let you marry.

The evidence about vocationsfrom all over the world, shows that Fr. Fleiner has got it wrong.

The Eponymous Flower blog has an interesting investigation into vocations in France today:

In 2010, French diocesan seminarians accounted for two-thirds (66%) of all seminarians preparing for the priesthood in France. With the foreign seminarians who studied for French dioceses, their share amounted to 80 per cent. The seminarians of the priestly communities of tradition accounted for 15.3 per cent of the total number. The Communauté St. Martin had a share of 4.7 percent.

In 2017, the picture is clearly different: the French diocesan seminarists now account for only 58 percent of all seminarians who are covered. Together with the foreign seminarians for French dioceses, their share is 69.7 percent. The proportion of the priestly communities of tradition has increased to 18.8 per cent, and that of the Communauté St. Martin even to 11.5 per cent.

The proportion of diocesan seminarians are also distributed quite differently in the diocese. Eleven of the 94 dioceses had only one seminarian in the past year, five had no one. 13 dioceses had only two seminarians, 17 more only three, and another 18 dioceses between four and five seminarians. In other words, two-thirds of the French bishops do not even have a new priest every year.

Overall, a general shift can be observed. It leads away from the post-conciliar spirit and in a graded way towards the tradition.


This is not surprising at all to me, because it seems clear that if you expect young men and women to commit themselves to something, it must be something worthwhile. If being a priest or religious is merely about a form of social work, why do they need to be ordained or take vows? 

Priests can only come from the desire for the other worldliness which is missing from so much of the Church today; from a knowledge of God that transcends the mundane and calls to the deepest part of our being. It requires the most serious commitment to God and you don't get that in a Church that embraces liberalism, relativism and the secular zeitgest.

All this brings me to this rather provocative article in Crisis Magazine entitled“Oh, No! You Want to be a Nun?”

It addresses the sense of loss which all too often accompanies the revelation that a loved one feels a they are being called to the religious life today:
What does it say about our world that families have an easier time dealing with a gay child than a Carmelite child? The answer is pretty clear, I think. We inhabit a culture in which everything must be acceptable, must be tolerated, must even be celebrated. In this world, no choice can be deemed too radical or strange—except the choice to give one’s entire life—beauty, talent, intelligence—to Christ and to Christ alone. That is too weird, too strange, too hard.
The article crystallises the whole dynamic in this paragraph I think:
“Wow. So no sex, no husband, no children. What if she gives all of that up, and she’s wrong? What if this life is all we have, and she gave it up for nothing?” That is certainly an intriguing question. A more important question for the rest of us, however, ought to be, “What if she is right?”
Pause for thought I think.

Read the whole thing here

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