Saturday, April 14, 2012

Wall Street Journal is a liar about vocations in seminaries

Those Opus Dei Pied Piper are it again, lying and deceiving Americans so as to get them to pump their dollars into the Vatican Billions.


Qualifying the WSJ's conclusions about vocations


National Catholic Reporter
by Tom Roberts on Apr. 13, 2012 NCR Today

"Traditional Catholicism is winning," blared a headline on a Wall Street Journal opinion piece by Anne Hendershott and Christopher White.

Whether that conclusion is warranted only time, and what one means by "traditional Catholicism," will tell. It is the claims underpinning the conclusion that merit comment. "There were 467 new priestly ordinations in the U.S. last year, and Boston's seminary had to turn away applicants," read the subhead beneath the declaration that traditional Catholicism was racking up the most points on the ecclesial scoreboard.

The article went on to note that a new seminary was being built in North Carolina and that Boston's seminary was so full it had to turn applicants away. And, it reported, there were 5,000 more priests worldwide in 2009 than there were in 1999.

Problem solved, right?

When I read the piece, which is whipping 'round the ether, I contacted Mary Gautier, senior research associate at the Center for Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University.

I have CARA on speed dial. Whenever some new revelation surfaces -- with numbers to prove it! -- that all of the church's problems are behind us, or that the church is done, finished, I call CARA to find out what the data really means.
In this case, it isn't that the data is wrong, it's just that the article is missing a lot of other numbers that place the breathless conclusion that vocations are "surging" and seminaries are bursting at the seams in a broader and more accurate context.

Deep breath.

There is as much, or perhaps more, said by what's not in the article than by what is.

The numbers aren't exactly wrong, responded Gautier, just "misleading."

While there were 5,000 more priests worldwide in 2009 than in 1999, what isn't mention is the fact that "the number of Catholics worldwide is up by 150,000,000 [Yes, million!] during the same period." Another way of measuring that, she said, is to realize there were 2,551 Catholics per priest in 1999 and there were 2,876 Catholics per priest in 2009. "Catholics are still increasing at a faster rate worldwide than are priests, and the ratio is even starker in the United States."

According to the Annuarium Statisticum Ecclesiae (Statistical Yearbook of the Church), published by the Vatican, the U.S. in 1999 had 31,404 diocesan priests for 61,290,000 Catholics (1,952 Catholics per priest). In 2009, the US had 29,722 diocesan priests for 69,609,000 Catholics (2,342 Catholics per priest).

And as we've previously reported here and on the print pages of NCR, the number of diocesan priests available for active ministry is far lower -- just below 18,000 today -- and that number is expected to drop to below 14,000 by 2020.
The claim that seminaries are bursting at the seams also has to be qualified, said Gautier. That impression is actually "more a function of the numbers of college seminaries and religious houses of formation that have been closing and consolidating than it is a true surge in vocations."

"The good news is that the number of men in theology in the U.S. this year is higher than it has been since 1988-89," she said. "The bad news is that the numbers being ordained still do not close the gap for the numbers that are retiring, dying, and leaving the priesthood. We should celebrate the fact that there are still substantial numbers of men responding to a vocational call, but we should not be triumphalistic in proclaiming that the shortage is over."

For more on what the numbers mean, consult the blog -- -- on CARA's site written by research associate Mark Gray. I spoke to him this afternoon and he said he would be posting something later today giving even more context on the numbers in the WSJ piece and what they mean in the long run. One point he made on the phone is that 467 is within the very consistent range of annual ordinations since the '80s. He said he'll also be explaining the difference between full seminaries today and full seminaries back in the day.

Traditional Catholicism Is Winning

Wall Street Journal


In his Holy Thursday homily at St. Peter's Basilica on April 5, Pope Benedict XVI denounced calls from some Catholics for optional celibacy among priests and for women's ordination. The pope said that "true renewal" comes only through the "joy of faith" and "radicalism of obedience."

And renewal is coming. After the 2002 scandal about sexual abuse by clergy, progressive Catholics were predicting the end of the celibate male priesthood in books like "Full Pews and Empty Altars" and "The Death of Priesthood." Yet today the number of priestly ordinations is steadily increasing.

A new seminary is to be built near Charlotte, N.C., and the archdiocese of Washington, D.C., has expanded its facilities to accommodate the surge in priestly candidates. Boston's Cardinal Sean Patrick O'Malley recently told the National Catholic Register that when he arrived in 2003 to lead that archdiocese he was advised to close the seminary. Now there are 70 men in Boston studying to be priests, and the seminary has had to turn away candidates for lack of space.

According to the Vatican's Central Office of Church Statistics, there were more than 5,000 more Catholic priests world-wide in 2009 than there were in 1999. This is welcome news for a growing Catholic population that has suffered through a real shortage of priests.

The situation in the U.S. is still tenuous. The number of American Catholics has grown to 77.7 million, up from 50 million in 1980. But the priest-to-parishioner ratio has changed for the worse. In 1965, there was one priest for every 780 American parishioners. By 1985, there was one priest for every 900 Catholics, and by 2011 there was one for every 2,000. In dioceses where there are few ordinations, such as New York's Rochester and Albany, people know this shortage well.

Still, the future is encouraging. There were 467 new priestly ordinations in the U.S. last year, according to a survey by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University, up from 442 a decade ago.
While some of the highest numbers of new priests are in the Catholic-majority cities of Newark, N.J., and Philadelphia, ordinations in Washington, D.C. (18 last year) and and Chicago (26) also are booming. The biggest gains are not only in traditional Catholic strongholds. In Lincoln, Neb., Catholics constitute only 16% of the population yet have some of the strongest numbers of ordinations. In 2011, there were 10 men ordained as priests in Lincoln.

What explains the trend? Nearly 20 years ago, Archbishop Elden Curtiss, then leader of the Omaha, Neb., diocese, suggested that when dioceses are unambiguous and allow a minimum of dissent about the male, celibate priesthood, more candidates answer the call to the priesthood. Our preliminary research on the correlates of priestly ordinations reveals that the dioceses with the largest numbers of new priests are led by courageous bishops with faithful and inspirational vocations offices.

Leadership and adherence to church doctrine certainly distinguish the bishop of Lincoln, the Most Rev. Fabian Bruskewitz. He made national news in 1996 when he stated that members of dissident Catholic groups including Call to Action and Catholics for Choice had automatically excommunicated themselves from the church.

Cardinal Francis George, the longtime leader of the Chicago archdiocese, once gave a homily that startled the faithful by pronouncing liberal Catholicism "an exhausted project . . . parasitical on a substance that no longer exists." Declaring that Catholics are at a "turning point" in the life of the church in this country, the cardinal concluded that the bishops must stand as a "reality check for the apostolic faith."

Such forthright defense of the faith and doctrine stands in clear contrast to the emphasis of an earlier generation of Catholic theologians and historians. Many boomer priests and scholars were shaped by what they believed was an "unfulfilled promise" of Vatican II to embrace modernity. Claiming that the only salvation for the church would be to ordain women, remove the celibacy requirement and empower the laity, theologians such as Paul Lakeland, a Fairfield University professor and former Jesuit priest, have demanded that much of the teaching authority of the bishops and priests be transferred to the laity.

This aging generation of progressives continues to lobby church leaders to change Catholic teachings on reproductive rights, same-sex marriage and women's ordination. But it is being replaced by younger men and women who are attracted to the church because of the very timelessness of its teachings.

They are attracted to the philosophy, the art, the literature and the theology that make Catholicism countercultural. They are drawn to the beauty of the liturgy and the church's commitment to the dignity of the individual. They want to be contributors to that commitment—alongside faithful and courageous bishops who ask them to make sacrifices. It is time for Catholics to celebrate their arrival.

Ms. Hendershott is distinguished visiting professor at the King's College in New York. Mr. White is the international director of operations with the World Youth Alliance. They are the co-authors of the forthcoming "Beyond the Catholic Culture Wars" (Encounter Books).
A version of this article appeared April 13, 2012, on page A11 in some U.S. editions of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: Traditional Catholicism Is Winning

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