Decline of Priests and Religious Vocations

Topics: Priest, Catholic Church, Holy Orders Pages: 12 (4080 words) Published: February 22, 2011
I suddenly remembered one of the discussions in my ecclesiology class regarding the need of the Catholic Church for more bishops, priests and pastoral leaders. My professor, Fr. Vic de Jesus, SJ, mentioned that in the case of the Society of Jesus, as it celebrates its 150 years in the country, the infirmaries are being occupied more by the aging members of the society. He stated that there is a great need to replace them by looking for new priestly vocations. He also used as an example the case of several parishes in Mindanao where the priest is being assisted by the “Kaabag” or church lay leaders in looking after the spiritual and material welfare of the parishioners to augment for the shortage of priests. It is a fact that the Universal Church is in need of priests. It is an alarming situation that should be a concern not solely by the leaders but by the faithful as well. A question then popped out of my head: Will the Catholic Church ever survive without its leaders? I could immediately say no because the Catholic Church like any other society needs leaders to serve as unifying factors for its survival. I am doing this paper for the following reasons:

1. It is the final requirement for my class.
2. As a member of the Roman Catholic Church, it is my obligation as a member to know what my church is going through and share in her responsibilities. 3. As a former person in formation to the diocesan priesthood, I would like to reflect once again if my reasons and influences for leaving the formation and pursue a different vocation are similar or in connection with the reasons given for the decline of priests and religious vocations. I will present the factors related to the decline of priests and religious vocations proposed by the various studies of social scientists. I will also try to suggest options on dealing with the factors of the decline based on the findings of the same studies.

Vatican II and the other Factors for the Decline of Priests and Religious Vocations
There is a steady decline in religious vocations, priesthood particularly in the United States, according to the study of Lawrence A. Young. He claims that “…by the year 2015, the priest population will have declined by roughly 45 percent from its 1966 levels.”[1] If there is a decline, then what are the factors, direct or indirect, for the decline?

As I move on with my study, some of the studies show that the major culprit for the decline of priests and religious vocations is the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965). As Stark and Finke maintains, “Some propose that the decline in Catholic vocations was caused by the radical revisions in religious roles adopted by the Vatican Council II. They argue that, as many of the most central sacred aspects of the religious roles were dismissed or discontinued, the sacred gratifications of religious vocations were thereby greatly reduced as were features of the religious life that sustained and even generated these gratifications”[2] Stark and Finke continues, “…the Council withdrew the doctrine that the religious life is morally superior and equated the holiness of the religious and the laity….the religious became unrecognizable and thus no longer the object of special treatment and respect in public.”[3] Schoenherr and Young makes the same argument, “Prior to the Second Vatican Council, the Catholic Church in the United States experienced a long period of sustained growth in its priesthood population….In our larger study of the population dynamics of the U.S. diocesan priests, we discovered that the priesthood began declining in size after 1968, and we projected continued losses through the turn of the century (Schoenherr and Young 1990a).[4] Religious vocation obviously lost its grandeur and appeal to recruits and prospective recruits, thus leading to its decline.

To further the discussion on the effects of the Second Vatican Council on the decline of religious...
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