Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Quality vs. Quantity

More and more I'm hearing journalists "concerned" about diminishing numbers of priests in Catholic churches throughout the First World.

  • MSNBC, Apr/05: "Still, despite [Pope John Paul II's] widespread appeal, he could not ease one of the church's most urgent problems: the shortage of priests."
  • USA Today, Nov/04: "Today there are fewer parishes and fewer priests than in 1990 and fewer of the nation's 65 million Catholics in those pews. And there's no sign of return."
  • NCR, Oct/03: "..by 2010 the number of active diocesan clergy (just over 15,000) will be less than [America's] 19,000 parishes."
  • CNN.com, Jun/00: "In 1999, more U.S. priests died than were ordained."
And then there are comments such as this, from an email (originating from a bishop) regarding the then-impending ban on accepting homosexuals into seminary [obtained by blogger Diogenes at Catholic World News - but I have no idea how...]:

"MY intention would be simply to ask the question what he intends doing with those priests, bishops (possibly 'like me') and cardinals (and I might as well put in popes) who are gay."

I've quoted one of the more polite snippets from the bishop's comments. He is responding here to an email from a priest, who had commented on the coming document:

...surprise, surprise, it bans homosexuals from entry into religious life or the taking of Orders - what other horrors they contemplate against about 75% of the clergy I shudder to contemplate."

It breaks my heart to think that there are any priests, bishops, or cardinals who openly flaunt the teachings of the Church in this manner. It also breaks my heart to know that there are priests and upwards who think that three-quarters of their clerical brethren are just as depraved as they are.

I know my priest is a good one - he's Polish, and was confirmed, taught, and ordained by Cardinal Karol Wojtyla of Krakow - perhaps you've heard of him?

And I've met plenty of incredible priests; particularly those associated with the Companions of the Cross in Ottawa, where I fully embraced Catholicism.

Companions of the Cross Logo

It's the emergence of communities like this one that reassure me that God hasn't given up on his Church. Each year, the Companions have to turn away applicants to the seminary due to lack of space.

What a problem to have, eh?

It's gonna take a while to replace our clergy who have been ensnared in their liberation, and I can wait. The good news with our "priest shortage" is that we also seem to have a "faithful shortage" - since most people who associate themselves with the Catholic Church are completely ignorant of all the theology that distinguishes us from Honest Joe's Used Evangelical Church down the street.

In all humility, I'll now quote a thought that came into my head during Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament one night many years ago:

This body, this blood, it is the heart of this church. When the wind and waves whip away all that does not matter, you will see this sacred heart clung to with fervor and peace by a faithful few.

And I'm also comforted by the words of our beloved Benedict, taken from the homily of the Mass which opened the 11th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, on the theme of the Eucharist: "God waits for us. He wants us to love Him: Should not such a call touch our hearts? Precisely in this hour, in which we celebrate the Eucharist, in which we open the Synod on the Eucharist, He comes to meet us, He comes to meet me. Will he find a response?"

I pray that he does.

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