According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, the good news is that things may be looking up for the U.S. Catholic Church.
Despite all of the bad press it has endured in recent decades, the number of vocations to the priesthood—the all male, celibate priesthood—is up. Perhaps the Vatican’s incessant calls for priestly celibacy and its denunciation of women’s ordination have struck a resonant chord among some young U.S. Catholic males.
According to the article, these candidates for the priesthood
…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.
- A new seminary is in the planning stages near Charlotte, NC.
- The Archdiocese of Washington, DC, has expanded its seminary facilities to accommodate the increase in number of candidates.
- In 2003, Cardinal Sean Patrick O’Malley of Boston was advised to close the seminary. But there are now 70 candidates. More surprisingly, the seminary has had to turn away candidates due to a lack of space.
- In 2011, there were 467 new priests ordained in the U.S. last year, up from 442 in 2001. Eighteen priests were ordained for Washington in 2011 and 26 for the Archdiocese of Chicago. Astoundingly, the Diocese of Lincoln (NE)—where Catholics are 16% of the population, ordained 10 priests in 2011.
Of course the critics will say, “There’s nothing like an economic downturn to stimulate vocations.” And, The Motley Monk would note that there is historical precedent to support that assessment. However, the much-touted end of the celibate male priesthood and glorious future of the U.S. Catholic Church featuring the ordination of women seems to be a Siren song that’s falling on deaf ears.
Beneath the radar, the winds of change—perhaps the authentic “signs of the times”—seem to be empowering the long-dormant turbines of seminaries. Popular books like “Full Pews and Empty Altars” and “The Death of Priesthood” may end up being the stuff of pulp fiction.
The Wall Street Journal is researching what may be transpiring beneath the radar. The article notes:
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.
Uh, oh! Success correlates with “intolerant” and “conservative” bishops, like the Most Reverend Fabian Bruskewitz of Lincoln, NE.
Of course, many who populate the Catholic left don’t much like this trend and believe these young Catholic men who are being attracted to the priesthood by these conservative bishops have been characterized, shall The Motley Monk say, as being “somewhat unusual.”
It’s all been said before.
They are “conservative, even traditionalists” who “cling to extrinsics” to reinforce an immature self-image shaped by a domineering father, and are “pastorally insensitive.” Worse yet, these “John Paul II priests” don’t challenge Church teaching but dogmatically preach it. They view the Church as a hierarchy, not as a Quaker Meeting. And, worst of all, they are misogynists if not homophobes or potential pedophiles. In short, they will be the death of the U.S. Catholic Church.
“Just you wait and see, Motley Monk. You’ll be sorry.”
While many “Baby Boomer” priests and theologians continue to preach about the Holy Grail of the “unfulfilled promise” of Vatican II, these aging progressives and their Siren song criticizing the Church’s teachings about so-called “reproductive “rights,” homosexual marriage, and women’s ordination aren’t resonating with some young people in this generation.
The Archbishop of Chicago, Cardinal Francis George, may have inserted his finger directly into the wound when he delivered a homily in which he pronounced liberal Catholicism “an exhausted project…parasitical on a substance that no longer exists.”
The truth is that the Church is countercultural, challenging American Catholics in this generation to turn way from the ideologies of secularism, materialism, and consumerism. Perhaps these so-called “John Paul II” and “Benedict XVI” priests will be well-equipped to evangelize the lapsed Catholic faithful and non-faithful alike. After all, these men grew up hearing nothing but the Siren song and looked beyond American Catholic progressives to the Roman Catholic Church for leadership and guidance.
But, as with all things of this world, The Motley Monk would note, “time will tell.” Ultimately, Divine Providence always will achieve its end, which is always nothing other than the good.
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