How to Kill Vocations in Your Diocese

With the vocation crisis (to the Catholic priesthood) in the West having suffered a steady hemorrhaging of numbers since the 70’s, it is nothing new to Western Catholics, naturally concerned about these dwindling numbers of priests, to take an honest look at the situation for both the root causes of the problem, and also its possible solutions. It is not rocket science to come to realise that the many flagrant abuses that have taken place in the last 40-50 years both within the practices (and the celebration) of the Sacred Liturgy, of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass are one of the prime causes of this problem. These then lead on to all the other causes that young men of integrity, who might harbour a possible vocation to the priesthood, to become turned off from the idea.  So what are we doing about it? And if the answer is ‘nothing’, or ‘practically nothing’, one must then logically ask ‘WHY is that so?’ Anthony Esolen writes a brilliant analysis on this salient issue for Catholics today.

By ANTHONY ESOLEN in Crisis Magazine


Cardinal Raymond Burke has recently laid some of the blame for the precipitous decline in priestly vocations upon the feminization of the liturgy. His assertion prompts two questions. What would qualify as “feminization”? Have we in fact done that to the liturgy? The question that the assertion should not prompt is, “Would a feminized liturgy actually cause young men to turn away from the idea of the priesthood, in indifference, perplexity, or bemused contempt?” For example, would a sight of two priests twirling a-tippytoe like big-bellied ballerinas at an Easter Vigil service, along with a troop of girls waving scarves and sashes, for six minutes and more, to Aaron Copland’s arrangement of The Lord of the Dance, have any natural appeal whatsoever to the overwhelming majority of boys and young men who know to what sex they belong?

Rather, that sight would pretty much guarantee that those fellows would be stifling laughter, or staring at their knees while waiting for it all to stop, or glancing toward the doors. And just imagine if one of the boys had made the dreadful mistake of inviting a non-Catholic friend to the service, or someone wondering why anybody should take religious faith seriously.

I sometimes wonder whether we Catholics actually want vocations to the priesthood. It’s reasonable to judge people’s intentions by their habitual actions. If I do something experimental in one of my college classes, and a host of good students flee the course, I might, if I were stubborn, try it again in modified form. But if it still happens that the good students flee, and I persist in what is an experiment no longer, a reasonable observer may conclude that I don’t care if they leave. It won’t matter if I express my supposed intentions all the time, crying out, “This course needs far more students in it, and far more of the best!” Why, I might pray for those students to enroll and to stay enrolled, just as reasonably as I might pray that I could keep banging my head against the wall and not have headaches. In fact, if my actions not only continue to fail me, but begin to hurt many others also, and I still persist, that reasonable observer may attribute to me more than incompetence or indifference. He may conclude that I really want the bad result; I am glad of it.

Our summer diocese, serving more than one hundred thousand Catholics, has no seminarians. I mean that literally: not one. They have ordained two men in the last ten years, one of whom has left the priesthood to get married. Churches are closing everywhere. The stalwart priest who is our pastor has had to say Mass for five churches scattered over twenty miles. The farther-flung diocese of Lincoln, Nebraska, serving not quite one hundred thousand Catholics, has forty eight seminarians, at least two priests in every parish, no churches being shut down, and plenty of schools. The obvious question is, “Why doesn’t everyone try at least a few of the things they do in Lincoln?” Or, more properly put, “Why doesn’t everyone stop doing nine or ten of the things they never have done in Lincoln?”

Continue reading…


This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to How to Kill Vocations in Your Diocese

  1. GC says:

    Liturgical prancing, my favourite.

    kathleen, you almost get the giggles from reading Anthony Esolen sometimes and this is one of those times. And I mean that in the best possible sense!

    I should think that at the root of the lack of priestly vocations in the West is what Michael Kenny said in his recent article that was reproduced here on CP&S:

    The reasons that people today cannot bring themselves to have faith in any god (let alone the God pre-eminently revealed in Jesus Christ) are many – we live in a highly sceptical age that is soaked in materialism and positivism, and thus unable to accept that we can know anything beyond what is discernible through our senses (and often even – in theory at least – only that which is provable under laboratory conditions); we also live in an age that is geared towards the satisfaction of short-term, material goals, to getting as much stuff or doing as many things that will make us feel good as quickly as possible – such an attitude, which is reinforced by every means possible in our culture, does not lead to an atmosphere conducive to the honest self-scrutiny that is necessary for breaking out of the narrow confines of the self and encountering God.

    On top of this we are the heirs of a political culture that has and continues to do everything it can to undermine the Christian heritage of the West and mitigate against any embracing of the values rooted in that heritage or the Faith that formed it, preferring instead to advance a wholly secular project that combines a particularly subtle but no less intrusive or controlling brand of socialism with a radically libertarian view of ethics, particularly sexual ethics. This has in turn had a devastating effect on the family, which is of course an intended consequence, given that the family has always been the cultivator and protector of traditional morality and religious devotion. It is unsurprising that the only kinds of spirituality which tend to thrive in such a world are deeply individualistic and lack any resources to challenge the one who practices them.

    I sometimes wonder whether we Catholics actually want vocations to the priesthood. I personally have no doubt that that is exactly what some bishops have wanted or, rather, not wanted. But perhaps that is unfair. Sorry, Bishop Bill. Married women (active LGBT?) priests, anyone?

  2. GC says:

    kathleen, a very pertinent read from a few months back:

    We have to turn our minds back 30 to 40 years to recall that by the 1980s, due to the relentless drift of a secular spirit in Australian public life and to some misunderstandings of the spirit and teaching of the Vatican II, there was ambiguity and confusion among some seminary staff and students as to the vital focus of the priestly vocation, and a tendency to treat Church authority as easily ignored or discarded.

    Was the priestly vocation first and foremost a spiritual ministry, or primarily social work, with a commitment to social change in the here-and-now with a soft-left secular focus? This was the 1980s picture.

    Bishop Brennan believed and the Encyclical Pastores Dabo Vobis confirmed that the priest is essentially a man of God concerned for people, with their spiritual call and their eternal salvation at the forefront. Correct seminary formation needed to reflect this fundamental reality.

    The seminarian should be consumed by the rich sacramental and liturgical life of the Church, formed in regular habits of personal prayer and comfortable with time-honoured and traditional devotions. The Church’s official teachings would guide the courses of philosophy and theology.

  3. kathleen says:

    Fantastic comments (and links) GC… that did indeed have me rolling around in giggles, together with Anthony Esolen’s very insightful and amusing article.😆

    But really that’s because it’s better to laugh than to cry… and some of the situations in the Church today with these liberal left-overs of the Council’s “spirit”, make one want to scream with frustration. They just seem to be hell-bent on destroying our Holy Catholic Church at all costs.
    Thank God for all the wonderful orthodox cardinals, bishops and priests who fight (and suffer) to maintain the Truth intact. They certainly need our prayers, support and loyalty.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s