Why the serious drop in priestly vocations in Europe’s largest diocese?

The Archbishop of Milan, Mario Delpini, made international news with his announcement of a major re-structuring of the archdiocesan priestly formation program. But will it help?

Duomo Cathedral Square in Milan, Italy. (Image: imen/Unsplash.com)

On the Solemnity of the Annunciation, the Archbishop of Milan, Mario Delpini, made international news with his own “annunciation” that the priestly formation program in the Archdiocese was to undergo a major re-structuring.

Before getting into the specifics of that “reform,” let’s set the stage. Milan is the largest diocese in Europe (roughly 5 million Catholics)1 and has more priests than any other diocese in the world (more than 2,000 in total, half of whom are diocesan clergy). The Milan Archdiocese also has it own liturgical rite–the “Ambrosian,” named for its most famous bishop, the fourth-century Father and Doctor of the Church, St. Ambrose. The Duomo (or Cathedral) of Milan is a Gothic marvel, seating 40,000, and deemed the most beautiful church in the world by none other than St. John Henry Cardinal Newman.

The Church in Italy is sadly moribund, so much so that Italians visiting the States express amazement at the vitality of the Church in this country. The one major exception to the sickly state of Italian Catholicism has been Milan. Many attribute the liveliness of Milanese Catholicism to the presence of the Communion and Liberation Movement (CL), founded in that city by Monsignor Luigi Giussani, highly regarded by both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI; Ratzinger was the personal delegate of John Paul to preside over the funeral of Giussani. The Cielini (the nickname for members of CL) are young Catholics committed to the work of evangelizing the culture, even as they go about the task of personal sanctification.

The current Archbishop, a protégé of his immediate predecessor, Angelo Cardinal Scola (a truly eminent scholar, a once-papabile, and staunch supporter of CL), reaches the “peripheries” through his three-minute, after-dinner ferverini, especially during Advent and Lent; his homilies give evidence of serious thought and orthodoxy (interestingly, the faithful are given copies of the homily before Mass begins!).

So, with all that going for Milan, what’s the crisis? A serious drop in priestly vocations.

Last spring, the Archdiocese welcomed 22 new priests, however, the well is drying up.2 From 2017 to 2022, new priesthood candidates have fallen from 24 to six. In 2013, there were 150 seminarians, dwindling to 78 in the current year. The “why” for this dramatic development will be considered shortly but, for the moment, let’s take a look at the “re-configuration” plan for Milan.

According to the seven-page document outlining the changes, there were 150 seminarians in the year 2013-14, 139 in 2017-18, and 78 in 2022-23. Further to the point: There were 24 new admissions in 2017, 19 in 2018, 18 in 2019, 16 in 2020, 11 in 2021, and 6 in 2022.

Delpini announced the “reconfiguration” of seminary training at the Chrism Mass on April 6 and told the clergy: “I would like to inform this particular assembly that I have approved, on a trial basis for a three-year period, a reconfiguration of the seminary path, according to what has been prepared by the seminary formators and discussed with the Milanese episcopal council.” He indicated that seminarians will spend their third year living in small groups in parishes, while attending daily classes at the seminary, connected with families, which will offer them support. He stressed that “the main motivation guiding any choice referring to the seminary is and will remain to foster, accompany, and instruct some young people in the archdiocese in discernment and docility to the Spirit.”

Formation at the archdiocesan seminary consists of a two-year period focused on spirituality and a four-year period dedicated to theology. Under the new plan, which will be introduced in September 2023, seminarians will study at a single location, rather than at separate sites for the two-year and four-year periods. Seminarians have previously worn clerical dress from the start of their theological studies, which will now be deferred to their diaconal year; the justification for this change, according to the document, is that this will bring the archdiocese into line with other Italian dioceses.

What is one to make of all this?

First, making major changes in a time of crisis is usually not a good idea. Panic causes lapses in judgment. The Forbes Coaches Council cites eleven elements of an organization that should rarely change under crisis conditions; the first three are: strategy and culture; organizational structure; core values.3 I would submit that many of the changes to be enacted for the priestly formation program of Milan fly in the advice of the Forbes advice.

Now, having seminarians live in parishes for a year is, in my opinion, a step in the right direction. In fact, way back in 1973, as a seminarian, I wrote an article for Priest magazine in which I called for all seminarians to live in parishes throughout their formation years; a month later, I was dismissed from the seminary (you can’t tackle sacred cows and survive!). The seminary experience prepares young men for an unreal priestly life: praying, living and recreating with a hundred or more peers for six to eight years is a beautiful experience, which the new priest will never have again as he lands in a rectory with one or two other priests, with whom he will probably never pray or even dine because most rectories today are, unfortunately, little more than glorified hotels with a cross on top. That disconnect is a major cause of morale problems.

But dropping clerical attire is a very foolish move. For the Archdiocese of Milan to be “in sync” with other Italian dioceses should not be seen as desirable in any way, for the reasons I rehearsed above. However, let’s consider the matter of attire for a bit.

When a young man enters the military, he is immediately “vested” in the uniform, which begins to provide him with his new identity and aids in establishing esprit de corps. Very early on, Pope John Paul addressed this issue for the Diocese of Rome. Coming from his Polish experience, he was shocked and saddened to discover that most seminarians (and priests!) studying in Rome from all over the world were indistinguishable from lay students.

Thus, in 1982, he directed the Vicar for Rome, Cardinal Ugo Polletti,4 to issue a document calling for a return to proper attire for all priests and seminarians resident in the Eternal City. Taking on the claim that men who would not be clerics until diaconal ordination, John Paul referred to the garb as “ecclesiastical,” rather than “clerical.” As a matter of fact, though, for centuries, seminarians not yet clerics did indeed wear “clerical” garb. Not only has this practice assisted in the formation of priesthood candidates, it has offered an image of Rome as young, faithful and alive. I should note that the vast majority of seminaries in the United States have required ecclesiastical attire for their students for decades now, at least by the beginning of their theological studies, reversing the failed experiment of lay clothes from the silly 1960s and 1970s.

All that aside, we must observe that everyone is ignoring the huge elephant in the middle of the ecclesiastical living room. Notice that the decline in Milan’s seminary population began in 2013. That cut-off year is not unique to Milan as even the Vatican office for statistics has acknowledged that “the number of seminarians has been declining each year since 2013.”5

What happened in 2013? A certain Jorge Mario Bergoglio became Pope. As Cardinal-Archbishop of Buenos Aires, he inherited a nearly full seminary; by the time of his move to Rome, the seminary was nearly empty. What can account for his reverse “Midas touch” with vocations? It seems evident that he doesn’t like priests and seminarians (or women Religious, for that matter, either). He has referred to seminarians as “little monsters.” In conversation with some priesthood candidates, he asked how their diocese was doing for vocations and was told their seminary was pretty full. “Your bishop must be lacking in discernment,” came the cheeky reply.

Or how can anyone forget that most disturbing episode when the Pope taunted an altar boy from the Vatican’s high school seminary by asking him if his hands were glued together and then tried to pry them open?6 And, how many times have we heard him suggest that young priests and seminarians of an orthodox stripe are probably in need of psychological assistance!

Ask any bishop or vocation director, off record, about the situation in their dioceses, you will get the same answer across the board: The “Francis effect”! I can personally attest to the terrible demoralization experienced by my younger brethren as I spend an immense amount of time trying to convince them to wait out the storm, rather than abandon ship.

And that would be my advice to Archbishop Delpini: Don’t embark on an experiment from which there may not be a safe return. Wait out the storm.


1For comparison sake: Los Angeles, the largest diocese in the United States, has a bit more than 3 million Catholics.

2Sad to say, the Diocese of Rome had no ordinations last year, like the Archdiocese of New York (for the first time in its history) and countless other dioceses in America and elsewhere.

4Given the clerical penchant for humor, Cardinal Polletti got the nickname Cardinal “Colletti” (“collars”) for his role as “enforcer” of the papal policy!

5See: “Vatican Statistics Show Decline in Clergy, Religious Women,” Catholic News Service, March 7, 2023.

6Many observers have noted two things about that incident: First, if that boy ever had a priestly vocation, it was lost that day. Secondly, if any parish priest had humiliated a server like that, he would have been sent off for counseling the next day.

If you value the news and views Catholic World Report provides, please consider donating to support our efforts. Your contribution will help us continue to make CWR available to all readers worldwide for free, without a subscription. Thank you for your generosity!

Click here for more information on donating to CWR. Click here to sign up for our newsletter.

About Peter M.J. Stravinskas 270 Articles
Reverend Peter M.J. Stravinskas founded The Catholic Answer in 1987 and The Catholic Response in 2004, as well as the Priestly Society of Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman, a clerical association of the faithful, committed to Catholic education, liturgical renewal and the new evangelization. Father Stravinskas is also the President of the Catholic Education Foundation, an organization, which serves as a resource for heightening the Catholic identity of Catholic schools.


  1. My guess is that the Francine papacy, with its obsession with temporal affairs is utterly uninspiring to young men who-to quote a writer I cannot remewmber are regarded as “defective girls”.

    Pray for the Pope. Especially the next one, because Francis certainly has acted on his injunction to make a mess of things.

    Just last week, our pastor offered a homily about the drop off in vocations. I suspect this is a global phenomenon.

    • Our priest talks about it constantly. Because of the vax mandates and homosexuality among the clergy, among other things, I cannot recommend a man, certainly not a young one, go into the priesthood.

    • Yes the NEXT Pope! May God bless us with a man of deep faith and integrity. We need a balance of justice and mercy.

      • I’m not optimistic about the next Pope likely demeanor: The current one has appointed a significant number of cardinals who think as he does.

    • Pope Benedict should never have resigned
      The church had gone steadily downhill ever since. I still believe it was a forced resignation but pope jp2 and Benedict are totally opposite of Francis.

  2. If I were a bishop ordinary of a diocese and there were no ordinations for even one year, I’d resign my office immediately. I would take personal responsibility for my failure of leadership.

    I’ve said this before and it’s worth repeating: the best marketing for the priesthood is one where a young man is invited to consider this vocation because there is a distinct possibility if he plays his cards right that he will be asked to sacrifice his very life for what he believes. The adage here is that you can only live for something that you’d be willing to die for.

    • If wearing the clerical clothing were the game changer, the seminary of Milan would not be experiencing a decline.
      Comparing the seminary to a military boot camp might not be a good one, since the military is also experiencing a lack of recruits, at least here in the US, anyway.
      It is human nature to want an incentive to go forward, and perhaps if one of those incentives is eventually being allowed to wear the habit when they become deacons, it just might be better to keep the “under classmen” in a type of uniform that is simple but not quite priestly.

  3. Post hoc ergo propter hoc

    I do share your frustration, believe me, but you simply need much more data to justify your conclusion, and probably a first year course in statistics. You’ve committed some very basic errors here rooted in some basic cognitive biases.

      • What “holy father”? The one who worships demons? The one who welcomes adulterers, fornicators, sodomites, and abortionists (advocates of abortion) to Holy Communion? The one who is actively exterminating contemplative religious life? The one who is exterminating the Roman Rite?

    • I have had four graduate courses in statistics: two for my master’s degree in school administration, and two for the doctorate!
      Thank you for your suggestion, anyway!

      • Pope Francis is far better than bishop Carlo Vigano or defrocked Frank Pavone. – The “Radical Trads” are demoralizing potential vocations by always denigrating the Novus Ordo Mass. – I saw the video of the altar boy you mentioned. The Pope only made a silly joke which did no harm. – Any true vocation is a response to a call from our LORD Himself. Your “Francis effect” diagnosis is superficial. The only True remark you made was that the Church is America is vibrant compared to anemic Europe. – And Africans love pope Francis. Get ready for an ENGLISH POPE : Arthur Roche, that will upset the modern Pharisees… RSVP

      • Sorry, agreeing with Thomas James.
        Rev Stravinskas, you may have taken 4 courses in statistical analysis, but your conclusions, you must admit, are based on biases, not data driven.

  4. The Pontiff seems to have a thing about misplaced hands; recalling the lady he swatted at who grabbed his arm about 3 years ago. (he did apologize)

    • My Brethren knowall. Dont worry about the Pope. When a President discusses vulgarity about grabbing “PUXXY”. I’d be much more concerned about that
      Only conservatives ignore adultry, murder, etc. Some of you are calling for death of gays
      As you dance on the graves of dead children shot in the head.
      Clearly, you must learn to repent

        • Guess what? Remember over the years the public had been falsely assuming and spreading the rumor that the pope was the ANTI-CHRIST. Well, last night it was revealed that the real Anti-Christ who met all the description without miss was found and he just sat on his new throne few days ago. This person is very powerful. He had been known by every president and leaders of all the countries. He will start with climate change to control us to set a one world government

    • Gilberta, waiting is not an option. With the historical quandary of decline in male vocations, a different approach must be used. I have become a progressive Catholic.

      Once more the Church scrambles only to lapse into confusion. A candidate for the priesthood must be vetted… much like a spiritual lie detector test. The “call” to Holy Orders is a marriage to Christ and the Church. Silly that saintly women sit on the sideline when a crisis rears it’s ugly head. It continues to bewilder me that hierarchy insists on, for silly reasons, that women are unworthy of Holy Orders! Women clergy may not solve the entire issue, but they would put a large dent in lack of vocations.

      • “It continues to bewilder me that hierarchy insists on, for silly reasons, that women are unworthy of Holy Orders!”

        And we continue to be bewildered by your bewilderment. Silly us, thinking with the mind of the Church and trying to live according to the teachings of Christ.

        No one is worthy to be a priest. Which is why, in both the Western and Eastern Liturgies, the priest notes in various prayers his unworthiness.

      • There is no such thing as a “progressive Catholic.” The Church is not a political party. One is Catholic or one is not Catholic. Your opinion reveals what camp you are in.

        • I am a Republican. The very contest of this interchange reeks with politics. Praise the Republicans, castigate the Democrats.

          Much like the false purported “neutrality” position of the Supreme Court, my “camp” reveals that our Church is quite politically driven. Remember RIGHT vs LEFT?

          PEW RESEARCH CENTER: “Half of Catholic Republicans now say Pope Francis is too liberal.” Wikipedia: “The Catholic Church and politics concerns the interplay of Catholicism with religious, and later secular, politics. The Catholic Church’s views and teachings have evolved over its history and have at times been significant political influences within nations.

          Watch this space.

      • “I have become a progressive Catholic.”

        There’s no such thing. That’s like saying you have become a unicorn. You can be either Progressive or Catholic, but not both.

      • No such thing as a “progressive” Catholic. You either profess and believe all that the Catholic Church teaches or you do not. The Church requires that declaration from all who enter the Church.

      • Morgan, have you considered the shrinking membership rates of denominations that have ordained women? It’s practically a death wish.

          • True. The more orthodox Presbyterians, Anglicans, and Methodists are breaking away while the mainline bases shrink.

        • The denominations allowing for women ministers are simply replacing the dearth of males who no longer are entering their profession. They have a larger problem with recruitment than we do with vocations. They simply cover it up with women ministers.
          Protestantism is essentially extinct. They have no theology. Its all ideology now, much the trajectory the Jesuits would have us dive off of.

          • That’s not really the case for conservative Protestants though. Conservative Presbyterians are increasing whilst their mainline, progressive branch had the oldest average age of members for any Christian denomination last time I checked. I imagine mainline Methodists are aging out at similar rates.

            The Amish have the highest growth rate of any denomination in North America. They’re constantly founding new communities. They’re not going extinct anytime soon. US Pentecostals aren’t doing too badly either, especially since so many new members are coming across our border. They do tend to have women in leadership roles or husband/wife pastoral teams, but they adhere otherwise to traditional views on family & marriage.

      • Morgan, women can’t be ordained priests, the Church does NOT have the authority to do so. Also, since the Catholic Church is indefectible anyway, there will never be a single “ordained woman priest” that the Catholic Church would recognize as being in communion with Rome.
        The key to more vocations is that more people need to have Catholic marriages, larger families, and instruct their children themselves in the True Faith and the Real Presence instead of putting their children through watered-down faith formation classes.
        Pope Francis isn’t to blame for all this, it’s just that the world has gotten very materialistic and lackadaisical in everything except trying to destroy human life, your God-given gender, and His One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Faith.

      • Oh my, if women part of the beautiful and wise plan, perfect, of the Beloved, then Mary would have been the first, but as it is the NewAdam cannot be the NewEve and the NewEve cannot be the NewAdam. This not a matter of practicality or gifts but theological essence, existence, nature, purpose, sacramentality of Christ the Priest in the Beloved’s Infinitely Perfect Wisdom, Love, Beauty, Truth and Good so that we ‘Worship in Spirit and Truth’…Easter Mercy blessings

      • As long as you think the reason priests are men is that women are deemed “unworthy,” you will not begin to understand what a priest is. Or what the Eucharist is.

  5. Besides counsel from the Forbes Coaches Council (exemplary business executives), how else might we interpret the weathervane policy of cross-dressing seminarians as lay people?

    Two perspectives:

    FIRST, the obscure shaman, Don H. Scott, author of “The 10 Biggest Mistakes Executives Make” (1968), from which: “#1 Building the Organization around People [think papal appointments]; #2 Letting the Grapevine take over [think exaggerated synodality]; #9 Hiring or Keeping the Wrong People [think McElroy, Hollerich & Co.]; and #10 Failure to Make Long-Range Plans, so…

    SECOND, as for “long-range plans,” beyond deliberately “making a mess of things” and then pinning the outcome on “experts” and even the Holy Spirit…how else to develop leavening pastors than to lead from behind (!) as by cross-dressing the shepherds as sheep? (See too, Ezekial 34:1-8.) All “walking together” toward synodally “aggregated, compiled and synthesized” plans for action?

    Luther replaced the tabernacle with the ambo; today do we replace the ambo with the flip chart? Well and good, the real listening, but without the compass or keel or rudder—without Eucharistic fidelity, moral clarity, and the apostolic “hierarchical communion” (Lumen Gentium)—what’s left in a redefined pastoral/synodal barque of Peter? The half-truth of diluted “communion, participation, and mission”? Quo vadis?

    “Parties [i.e., heretics] there must be among you, so that those who are of true metal [!] may be distinguished [at least in dress!] from the rest” (1 Cor. xi. 19). In our dispirited, post- and anti-Christian, and flat-earth cosmos, the Church and its seminarians should be preparing for nothing less than a radically new Apostolic Age.

  6. For statistical gurus (Thomas James, above), the number of priests in the U.S. in 1965 was 58,632, in 2020 a reduced 35,513. A long trend in declining number of seminarians, but also a lesser role for resignations and laicizations. Closed seminaries all over the place! Meanwhile, the number of Catholics in 1965 was 48 million, in 2011 78 million (supposedly).

    But, not to worry, reportedly even in the past ten years the number of Catholics attending Mass regularly has dropped from 25% to 17%. Between 1965 and 2017 a somewhat different and more optimistic trendline is still a drop from 75% to 39%. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Priest_shortage_in_the_Catholic_Church

    Whatever! Cheerily, the number of priests per active Catholics has kept pace with the overall meltdown and, so, all is well! Except for parish closures and consolidations in many dioceses. Yes, we can say that there are multiple causes for the undeniable meltdown, and that the Francis Factor certainly (statistically, probably, possibly, whatever!) has not turned things around at all.

    • I don’t disagree with your summary. It is difficult when you don’t have a community priest, and they are just able to visit to say Mass, let alone have an assistant pastor, for instance.

      Many will disagree, but if it’s not against Canon law to have a married priest that might be where we have to go next.

      The unabated covid lockdowns have hurt attendance numbers even now

        • No, unfortunately. Wishful thinking isn’t going to work here. The Church has to obey God, Who is the objective Good, not the changing vagaries of what we think is good. You need to study why the ordained priesthood is for males. By the way, are you aware that we (men, women, and children) who are baptized are part of the ordinary priesthood of all believers? What prayers and sacrifices are you offering to God in that aspect of your office?

          If you are not fulfilling that office, then you need to do so. That is our universal call to holiness.

  7. This is not merely a diocesan problem. It is a problem with the current pontificate. What pious man would wish to be a part of this debacle? And given its reality, will even an orthodox pontificate in the future provide a living remedy?
    We have dashed Roman Catholic credence with this pontificate. Can trust trashed ever be restored?

  8. This article just confirms the observations of Francis Maier’s in-depth surveys of a good number of American bishops who told him there were JPII priests and BXVI priests but no PF priests. “Francis effect” indeed.

  9. A sea change is required to reverse a sea change. Particulars at this stage of apostasy will scarcely produce surface ripples. Thoughtful niceties, prudent reserve, lavish theological musings by the contemporary greats, that would inspire in a different age don’t inspire heroic effort now.
    Peter Beaulieu says to priest aspirants, prepare for a radically new Apostolic Age. Something radical is indeed in store. Hopefully for the better. That said, a return to Apostolic basics would be that reverse sea change. How then? Milan Archbishop Delpini’s “instruct some young people in the archdiocese in discernment and docility to the Spirit” is same old manure with added homage to Francis’ discernment. Seminarians like any red blooded young man need challenge, appeal to the fire of the Apostles and the many martyrs.
    It’s basic, like basic training for Marines, or Special Forces. Return to the unadulterated words of Christ, the writings of the Church Fathers. And, dare let it be said here, however self righteous it may sound, heroic virtue and availability to a desperate Church rather than comfortable retirement to FL, evening cocktails with the retirement gang, for many still quite capable priests will save us from the wrath to come.

  10. Well, when Pope Francis came only the truly motivated young men entered the seminaries. Pre-weeded out were those with other ulterior motives like having the inordinate preference for extravagant liturgical pomp and pageantry (priest or bishop looking more like King Charles in today’s coronation), priest looking and living more unlike Christ not smelling more of his sheep, not close to where the people are and preferring the magical abracadabra for prayers, or making the confessional a torture chamber.

    • Well I have to say that I cannot disagree with you on that score. That might very well be the case. I think your perspective (Pope Francis the Greater) has more plausibility than we might want to believe. I think it is a statistically better argument than Father Peter’s, even though it might require a lot more data to resolve.

    • One is tempted to read yours as irony.
      It has been a long time since any man in the United States or Western Europe entered the seminary for economic advancement.
      The cataclysm of the mid-century council appeared to have plugged the ears of men and women, rendering them deaf to the call of Jesus Christ. The assertive Christology of John Paul and Benedict gave us some uptick. Francis has simply broken the hearts and the eardrums of the faithful. Christ never stops calling, but who can hear Him for the static of ambiguity of our temporal ecclesial leadership? The deliberate ambiguity of the Jesuit pontificate is unbearable. Is what we presently shoulder Catholicism? I’m beginning to understand Mother Angelica’s devotion to the shoulder of Christ in His passion. It was prophetic.
      It would take quite the man or woman to invest their lives in an ecclesial enterprise which is on suicide watch at the hands of who knows what.

  11. Interesting look by Rev.Fr. Chris Alar of the Marians , on the signs of the times – how we are very likely in a time of chastisements for purification , how same might involve much pain, unless there is repentance and return to The Lord among the people .https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uictt8nFO8Q

    Would it not be that The Lord in His mercy has given us a Holy Father who has the gift to reach out to those who might see themselves as ‘outsiders ‘ , to the little and the poor , as a special need in these times – a role and image that he carries so well, thus also be intimidating to many aspirants to the priesthood since same cannot be ‘learned ‘ from books . His words as from a father to his beloved sons, yet words that seem to chide – not unlike the similar sounding words from The Lord , in the Surrender Novena .
    Holy Father too likely having learned well how to surrender -‘ Lord , I surrender myself to You , take care of everything ‘ – that surrender to include the fallen traits of oneself and of all around -and of a world that is engaged in the ‘last and greatest battle against family and marriage’ – to replace fear with tenderness and compassion in relationships , its peace as the ground for The Spirit to operate …

    He too having lived a life of struggles and trials , often continuing to be misuderstood about his intentions – including the desire to see a priesthood purified of the evils that had crept into same , esp. from the culture related media smoke of our times …
    Unsure too if many have not ‘surrendered ‘ the pain / fear about the resignation of the Pope Emer. ( RIP ) – in trusting that He is taking care of The Church – in having given us a well prepared Son and Servant of His , who knows well the ache in the Heart of The Lord as witnessed in the Eucharistice Miracle of Argentina ..
    ‘ Daniel , greatly beloved ..’ – our times too may be like what Daniel was going through – of perplexities and alarming events ..Daniel who was gifted to interpret dreams and visions , shown terrifying visions , left not to know how to interpret same yet left with the precious gift , ? the only needed one for him at the time – the gift of trust , that he is greatly loved ..

    life bearing words indeed – from The One – to bring New Life of trust and hope ..

    May the well intended efforts at various levels , Holy Father on down help to usher in the Era of Peace – to include holy priests and laity all around – Hungary , the place of the recent visit of the Holy Father also being the place of origin of the Flame of Love devotion given for our times , with its Unity prayer to blind Satan – a well liked devotion by Exorcist Priest Rev.Fr.Jim Blount, who too is a beloved of The Mother as is our Holy Father .

    Blessed to have the grace to trust that one is greatly loved by The One – may same be the catalyst to flood our times and seminaries in desire to share and show The Way and its truth and love with others . Blessings !

    • Papolatry is no substitute for the faith.
      When the enduring understanding of Sacred Scripture, the Apostolic Tradition and the perennial Magisterium are undermined in word and practice there is sacrilege. We do not stick our heads in the sand and provide credence to not only error. Admonition is a spiritual work of mercy. Pretending what is happening is not in motion is an offense against the Truth.
      We support and adhere to the sacred office of the Chair of Saint Peter, we are not engaged in the promotion of a personality cult. When the occupant of the Chair abandons the perennial teaching of his predecessors he requires correction from the faithful. Matthew 16:23 and Galatians 2:11 come to mind.

  12. If I were forty years younger and considering a priestly vocation today, I’d probably conclude that as difficult as raising a family is, that would be preferable, assuming that a willing lady existed somewhere. I could always have a big family and encourage vocations among my sons. I’d be thinking about the Scriptural passage where King David is told that his son Solomon would build the temple. Right now, we need to be laying the foundation for priestly vocations before we start trying to build on sand. No matter how hard we pray for vocations, if we do everything to discourage, smother, and extinguish them, God won’t grant them. While God can ordain miracles, He usually works through ordinary means– ordinary folks like you and me.

    Father Stravinskas is, sadly, on target here. One would have to be on fire with a call from the Holy Spirit and find a reasonably orthodox diocese or religious order to want to become a priest today. But bishops and superiors come and go, these days most likely to replaced by the heterodox or the cowardly. While Pope Francis is a major cause, don’t forget the abominable Dallas Charter in 2002 and its aftermath that essentially pinned a bullseye on every priest’s back. The way priests are treated today is hardly a way to attract new ones.

  13. Ironically, (compared to the Pope’s stance) the ole brain musta downloaded a memory last night, from way back in the 70’s a parishioner stopped after Mass and thanked me for holding my hands together in the upright prayer mode while I was serving.

  14. Our small rural parish in the Arlington Diocese has had more members ordained every year than many dioceses have had. Perhaps ordinaries of other dioceses might send a few inquisitive visitors to find out why.

    In fact, we’re so successful at vocations that Biden’s FBI is investigating us now!

    btw, those informal visitors should talk to our parish priests, not to the chancery. Our vocations have flourished under great bishops as well as under… well, not so great.

  15. According to CARA (https://cara.georgetown.edu/faqs) in the USA, there were 805 ordinations in 1970; 593 in 1980; 595 in 1990; 442 in 2000; 459 in 2010 and 495 in 2020. The drop in ordinations began long before 2013 when Pope Francis was elected. There was a slight bump upwards 2010-2020. Can Pope Francis be given any credit for that increase in ordinations?
    Interestingly, there were 805 permanent deacons in 1970. Today there are 18,043 in the USA. A married Presbyterian minister or married Anglican priest can be validly ordained a Roman Catholic priest. But a married Catholic deacon cannot be ordained a priest. One wonders why we cannot invite many married Catholic deacons to receive ordination as priests.

    • Some years ago I read a commentary from a married former Episcopalian minister who became a Catholic priest. He loved being Catholic and being a priest but he warned that his first years had been very difficult in regards to managing his vocation to the priesthood and his vocation to his family.

      Regarding the deacon’s life, his family comes first. That is his vocation which his pledged when he married. His ordination to the diaconate is not to the priesthood but to ministerial service. His life should not be divided between serving one or the other. A deacon should work with his pastor to help make his life at home and that at service be in harmony.
      Perhaps we will see an increase in vocations to the priesthood when candidates come to see that the growing number of deacons is there to support them and the laity.

  16. If the clerical clothing made the difference, the seminary in Milan and other seminaries, would not have dwindling entrants.
    Comparing the uniform of the military recruit might not be a good one since the military is also experiencing a low level of recruiting.
    Since most humans need an incentive, even a simple one, like wearing a uniform that is not quite priestly but suitable to their year of study, would work better.

  17. As for clerical attire…. If you go to the Philippines, you will find a very vibrant Church. And yet, most priests do NOT wear clerical attire. Even the bishops are rarely seen in clerical attire. And yet, the priests there are very good priests, and everyone in their parishes known them as priests. This is an interesting phenomenon.

  18. The Denver Model – in an archdiocese of about 500,000 Catholics, Denver has ordained an average of seven men per year for 30 years and it hasn’t slowed. Nowhere in America comes close. The elements of success are deeply spiritual but there are significant practical elements:
    1. World Yourh Day 1993
    2. 1992 closure of terrible seminary
    3. Reopening seminary in 94 with all new orthodox faculty and staff
    4. Archbishop Chaput talked to young people at almost every Mass and after Mass about serving
    5. Every college was given a bold young orthodox pastor and a team of FOCUS missionaries
    6. The Neocatechumenal Way was persuaded to setup one of its international seminaries in Denver alongside St. John Vianney
    7. Chaput instituted the spiritual year which turns the first year into a sort of novitiate year heavy on prayer and lighter on studies.
    8. The new movements were invited by the Bishop to make Denvet a home
    9. The Archbishop lives with his seminarians
    10. The Catholic high schools all have dynamic young chaplains
    11. Young faithful priests were maDe Pastors early and were encouraged by the Archbishop to be bold. Peer pressure gradually developed due to explicit expressions of support for orthodoxy from the bishop where younger
    Priests demand more orthodoxy from old priests
    12. The Archbishop meets with all priests together each year for a retreat and conversations where they are encouraged to speak clearly about things that need fixing.
    13. Most parishes offer daily confessions and most Masses tend to be more reverently conducted. The seminary seems to prepare well the priests to preach boldly.

    • Good comments by Romy L and Saucci.

      @Romy – a few years back there was some chatter about allowing some permanent married deacons to become priests provided they were empty nesters and lived in rural areas. With few exceptions the majority of married Catholic priests that I know are empty nesters and were ordained in their 50s or 60s.

      I remember when Francis was elected. The drive by media had a field day thinking “change” and baptized Catholics who occasionally attend Mass would begin to attend weekly Mass again. We all know the drive by media was in la la land.

      Anyway I spent a few years in discernment (c.2006 to 2008) which was worthwhile. I was in my later thirties and most of the reason I discerned out was I had been in the secular world for a while and had trouble adjusting. I was glad I did have a nine to five job and had paid bills, handled conflicts, attended meetings, had a boss, etc. As someone who has been involved in parish ministries I do think pastors and parochial vicars are oftentimes having to handle conflicts between different organizations within a parish along with finances and batches of paperwork. As someone who has a secular job things like this are often “normal”. However I don’t think some seminarians are “trained” for mundane and unpleasant tasks associated with administrative.

      While I also realized in my late thirties I had not entirely given up on marriage, obedience was another reason I discerned out. Talking about weathering the storm, one thing in the working world is thinking before speaking. I would have a harder time if I was a parochial vicar with a “liberal” pastor or having a local ordinary who was ordering parishes to support certain ministries. I have to admit certain special collections I would probably play dumb and say “oh Bishop X I am so sorry. I had such a busy week I forgot to make announcements, put out flyers, etc.”

      While I do think the “Francis Effect ” is real (and I was an altar boy in the late 1970s to the mid 1980s where unfortunately I think our Church is returning to the “Spirit of Vatican II mentality”), obedience was a factor to me discerning out.

    • That’s not what he said. He actually said: “The truth is that the church is represented on earth by the vicar of Christ, that is by the pope. And whoever is against the pope is, ipso facto, outside the church…”

      The criticize the Pope, reasonably and with proper respect, is quite different from being against the pope.

  19. Pope Francis is far better than bishop Carlo Vigano or the defrocked Frank Pavone. – The “Radical Trads” are demoralizing potential vocations by denigrating the Novus Ordo Mass. – I saw the video of the altar boy you mentioned. The Pope only made a silly joke which did no harm. – Any true vocation is a response to a call from our LORD Himself. Your “Francis effect” diagnosis is superficial. The only True remark you made Fr Peter, was that the Church is America is vibrant compared to anemic Europe. – And Africans love pope Francis. Get ready for an ENGLISH Pope : Arthur Roche, that will upset the modern day Pharisees… And Congratulations to the Denver diocese,, here in Dallas we are also ordaining more men every year. How about that, LIGHT at the end of tunnel + + +

2 Trackbacks / Pingbacks

  1. New, grand SSPX church, Bishops, and Proof of Concept | Fr. Z's Blog

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

All comments posted at Catholic World Report are moderated. While vigorous debate is welcome and encouraged, please note that in the interest of maintaining a civilized and helpful level of discussion, comments containing obscene language or personal attacks—or those that are deemed by the editors to be needlessly combative or inflammatory—will not be published. Thank you.