06 August 2015
Who is to Blame fror the Shortage of Priests
Fr Michael Brown, Northern Chaplain to the Latin Mass Society, has a post in his blog, Gateshead Revisited, in which he discusses the treatment of Irish seminarians at Maynooth. The website, Irish Catholic, has reported that six of the ten Maynooth seminarians who have recently completed pastoral placements were recommended to take time out from their priestly training to reconsider their vocations. It is suggested that the reason for this recommendation is that "their theological views are at the conservative end of the spectrum". This is probably a euphemism for saying that they prefer to kneel during the consecration when attending Mass. Apparently, three of the six will be returning to Maynooth in the autumn, after intervention by their bishops. My first observation is that, if six out of ten are at the conservative end, there cannot be many at the liberal end - perhaps one or two, but more likely none at all! The obvious conclusion is that the Church in Ireland needs to look to the "conservative end of the spectrum" if it is to have even a modest number of priests to serve the generations to come. My second thought is to enquire: Who is to blame for the disastrous fall in the number of priestly ordinations in Ireland in recent decades? There will be many reasons for the decline, including growth of materialism and changes in social attitudes. However, the failure of the Irish hierarchy to recognise and foster good candidates is undoubtedly a major factor. The authorities of Maynooth have, in this year alone, apparently tried to dissuade six men who had reached an advanced stage of their training from pursuing their priestly vocation , because they represent the conservative end of the spectrum. How many more have received this type of treatment over the years? How many more have never reached the seminary door because they realise that they belong to the conservative end of the spectrum? I would guess that there are thousands in these categories who would have gone on to be good priests, if only they had been given some encouragement. So who is to blame for the shortage of priests?