In this post, Mark Lambert from De Omnibus Dubitandum Est considers the decline in the numbers of priests and practising Catholics in England and Wales and looks at the opportunities our church leaders are missing in their quest to improve the situation:
As we start 2018 and Dioceses all over the UK (and beyond) are developing plans for the future (such as my own here) we are being asked to discuss and consider a way forward as communities of believers as vocations dwindle and practising Catholics disappear even more rapidly. This has been discussed in numerous places with great clarity, perhaps most familiarly by Sherry Weddell in her book Forming Intentional Disciples, and most recently by Professor Stephen Bullivant in the Catholic Herald.
Bullivant’s article is concise and packed with valuable detail for anyone discerning the future direction of the Church. Key points are:
- There are more priestly retirements (or deaths) each year than ordinations.
- A number of our seminaries have closed, the ones we still have are practically empty.
- Priest numbers fell between 1970 and 2014 by 48 per cent.
- Sunday worshippers fell by 55 per cent over the same period.
In short, priest-to-worshipper numbers were better in 2014 than at any time between 1950 and the 1990s, but this is simply because we’ve lost practising Catholics even faster than we have priests.
So how are our bishops thinking and addressing this reality?