Congregation for the Clergy

The Decline in Vocations: Celibacy Isn’t the Issue

In a recent interview, the Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, Cardinal Mauro Piacenza, said that celibacy is not the cause of the lack of priestly vocations.

The Cardinal cites some statistics to support his assertion:

  • More than 40% of marriages fail, while only 2% of priests fail in celibacy.  The crisis in the sacrament of marriage as one and indissoluble is obviously greater magnitude than is the decline in the number of vocations to the priesthood.
  • The decline in the number of births in recent decades inevitably has led to fewer young men and, thus, of priestly vocations.
  • Protestant denominations which do not require their clergy to be celibate are in a state of deep crisis regarding vocations to the ministry.

In Cardinal Piacenza’s estimation, the issue from which these problems stem is much larger in scope:

[The issue is] the contemporary inability to make definitive choices, in the dramatic reduction of human freedom that has become so fragile as not to pursue the good, not even when it is recognized and intuited as a possibility for one’s own existence.

Discourse concerning mandatory celibacy, the Cardinal believes, must not begin with the assumption that freedom is the absence of ties and permanent commitments.  Instead, this discourse must begin with the assumption that freedom consists in the definitive gift of self to the other and to God.  Every human being, in freedom, must understand and welcome one’s vocation and must work every day more and more to become what God created that person to be.

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