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Wednesday, December 22, 2021

BY THEIR FRUITS: The Decline of the Sacred Priesthood in the U.S. Catholic Church since 1970

Written by  Brian Mershon
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BY THEIR FRUITS: The Decline of the Sacred Priesthood in the U.S. Catholic Church since 1970

You will know a tree by its fruits: Part 1

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly as ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorns or figs from thistles? So, every sound tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears evil fruit. A sound tree cannot bear evil fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will know them by their fruits,” (Mt. 7:15-20).

 

Following this morning’s Rorate Caeli Mass at my diocesan parish, I sat down to meditate on the readings. One could use the Rorate Mass readings or the Ember Saturday Mass readings since it is Ember Saturday within Advent. Ember Saturdays were customarily the time for ordinations to the Sacred Priesthood and minor orders in the Church up to 1970.

How fitting then, that on my return home, I see that the Vatican head of the Congregation of Divine Worship & the Sacraments has just issued a further tyrannical document to tamp down one of the few growing groups in the U.S. Catholic Church today—those of us treated as “second-class citizens”— as Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos (former head of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei) called those of us who appreciate and prefer the Mass and Sacraments from the books used in 1962 and prior.

In 2020, the number of Priests in the U.S. was 35,513—24,653 diocesan and 10,308 in religious orders—a decline of 40 percent total priests since 1970 and a whopping 53 percent drop in religious and with only 65 percent (about 23,000) in active ministry.

How fitting that a day that was customarily (one of four such days in the calendar year) the cause of joy to God and the Church with ordinations to the priesthood—with many, many ordinations prior to 1970—as the day that the current Pontificate and Vatican hierarchy issues a statement that demoralizes those Priests and seminarians who are spiritually edified by the Church’s liturgy and Sacraments that have been in use with unquestionable resulting spiritual fruits for more than 1,500 years. Oh, and by the way, nary an ordination in the U.S. Church this day.

You will know a tree by its fruits.

Michael Matt on the Pope's new crackdown: 
THE INTOLERANT POPE: Francis Cancels Faithful Catholics

 

In 1920, there were 21,019 diocesan and religious priests in the U.S. Fifty years later in 1970, there were 59,192 priests in the U.S. Church (90 percent of them active) with 37,277 diocesan priests and 21,920 from religious congregations.

The U.S. Church and Holy Ghost saw an increase of more than 38,000 additional priests in a mere 50 years. A burgeoning Catholic Church that shaped U.S. culture, and for years in the 1940s and ‘50s with Bishop Fulton Sheen on primetime television every single week. Parishes and Catholic schools flourishing, large groups of boys singing Mass and other liturgies and Catholics of all ethnicities making their mark building God’s kingdom “on earth as it is in heaven.”

A Church, through the promptings of the Holy Ghost and using the Church’s traditional Sacraments and devotions produced a 180 percent increase in the number of Priests serving a growing flock that shaped the U.S. culture instead of being shaped by the culture.

You will know a tree by its fruits.

Yet by every measurable indication, their strategies have actually allowed Satan into their midst (as Pope Paul VI suggested) and destroyed their company, their brand, their customers and employees.

Fast forward to the present. The Church in the U.S. and Western Europe is imploding rapidly. While anti-Catholicism is rampant in the major institutions, the mainstream media and the governments throughout the West, many of its enemies are its own baptized Catholic laymen, priests, bishops, cardinals and even the Pope himself. Willingly or knowingly or not, the fruits produced in the U.S. Church when measured by quantitative statistics show a Church in severe decline—not shaping the culture of death, but instead being shaped by it.

In 2020, the number of Priests in the U.S. was 35,513—24,653 diocesan and 10,308 in religious orders—a decline of 40 percent total priests since 1970 and a whopping 53 percent drop in religious and with only 65 percent (about 23,000) in active ministry. The number of parishes without a parish priest in 1970 was 571, or only 3.1 percent. In 2020, there were 1,521 fewer parishes being served by 40 percent fewer priests. In 1970, U.S. parishes averaged 1.8 priests per parish. In 2020, 1.0.

You will know a tree by its fruits. What occurred in 1965 of importance to the Catholic Church? What about the year 1970?

Our parish in the heart of the Bible Belt has more than 400 Catholics attending the Traditional Latin Mass each Sunday. It began with just a few families in the late 1990s. We followed all of the little tittle rules and hoops laid out for us for more than 20 years. The Holy Ghost blows where it wills.

You will know a tree by its fruits.

In 1965, there were nearly 180,000 religious sisters in the U.S. In 2020, there were 41,357 sisters, a drop of 74 percent.

And while I realize that using business world analogies often falls short when trying to compare financial business success to the Mystical Body of Christ, the Church Militant, there is still something instructive to consider, similar to the New Coke that was launched in 1985, failed miserably, rebranded in 1990, then finally discontinued in 2002, finally dying a well-deserved death.

What would happen to senior executives at publicly-traded companies and their board of directors if their strategies that they implemented made dramatic changes that decimated revenue and profits for 10, 20, 30, 40, 50 years? Would they still be around 52 years later following their implementation of new strategies they believed the world would need and embrace? Yet by every measurable indication, their strategies have actually allowed Satan into their midst (as Pope Paul VI suggested) and destroyed their company, their brand, their customers and employees.

And what if those same executives, 50-plus years later of failed and plummeting sales and profits, saw some shoots of life rising up from the ashes and destruction, and instead of empowering and duplicating these unexpected shoots of life, decided instead, to double down and suffocate them and foment division and discord in one of its only bright spots in its midst?

One of the popularly held definitions of insanity is to execute a strategy and associated tasks over a period of time hoping for some positive result that never materializes, and then instead of making adjustments or overhauling one’s strategy, double down and continue to execute the same failed strategy while expecting different results. Does that ring a bell to Catholics who have engaged with their duly-appointed shepherds and clerics for the past 10, 20 or 50 years?

Christmas Special

In 1965, there were nearly 180,000 religious sisters in the U.S. In 2020, there were 41,357 sisters, a drop of 74 percent.

You will know a tree by its fruits.

NOTE: Statistics taken from the following sources:

Index of Leading Catholic Indicators: The Church Since Vatican II, published in 2003 by Kenneth C. Jones.

Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, Georgetown University. https://cara.georgetown.edu/frequently-requested-church-statistics/

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Last modified on Wednesday, December 22, 2021