WSJ: “Traditional Catholicism is winning…renewal is coming”

The authors of a book called “Beyond the Catholic Culture Wars” offer their assessment of the Church today:

In his Holy Thursday homily at St. Peter’s Basilica on April 5, Pope Benedict XVI denounced calls from some Catholics for optional celibacy among priests and for women’s ordination. The pope said that “true renewal” comes only through the “joy of faith” and “radicalism of obedience.”

And renewal is coming. After the 2002 scandal about sexual abuse by clergy, progressive Catholics were predicting the end of the celibate male priesthood in books like “Full Pews and Empty Altars” and “The Death of Priesthood.” Yet today the number of priestly ordinations is steadily increasing.

A new seminary is to be built near Charlotte, N.C., and the archdiocese of Washington, D.C., has expanded its facilities to accommodate the surge in priestly candidates. Boston’s Cardinal Sean Patrick O’Malley recently told the National Catholic Register that when he arrived in 2003 to lead that archdiocese he was advised to close the seminary. Now there are 70 men in Boston studying to be priests, and the seminary has had to turn away candidates for lack of space.

According to the Vatican’s Central Office of Church Statistics, there were more than 5,000 more Catholic priests world-wide in 2009 than there were in 1999. This is welcome news for a growing Catholic population that has suffered through a real shortage of priests.

The situation in the U.S. is still tenuous. The number of American Catholics has grown to 77.7 million, up from 50 million in 1980. But the priest-to-parishioner ratio has changed for the worse. In 1965, there was one priest for every 780 American parishioners. By 1985, there was one priest for every 900 Catholics, and by 2011 there was one for every 2,000. In dioceses where there are few ordinations, such as New York’s Rochester and Albany, people know this shortage well.

Still, the future is encouraging. There were 467 new priestly ordinations in the U.S. last year, according to a survey by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University, up from 442 a decade ago.

While some of the highest numbers of new priests are in the Catholic-majority cities of Newark, N.J., and Philadelphia, ordinations in Washington, D.C. (18 last year) and Chicago (26) also are booming. The biggest gains are not only in traditional Catholic strongholds. In Lincoln, Neb., Catholics constitute only 16% of the population yet have some of the strongest numbers of ordinations. In 2011, there were 10 men ordained as priests in Lincoln.

What explains the trend? Nearly 20 years ago, Archbishop Elden Curtiss, then leader of the Omaha, Neb., diocese, suggested that when dioceses are unambiguous and allow a minimum of dissent about the male, celibate priesthood, more candidates answer the call to the priesthood. Our preliminary research on the correlates of priestly ordinations reveals that the dioceses with the largest numbers of new priests are led by courageous bishops with faithful and inspirational vocations offices.

Read more.


  1. In some ways, this is not news to those who follow these trends but only to those who do not. Why? When we look at women religious, which orders are the ones having an increase in numbers — those which closely follow the teachings of the church and which have an outward sign of their vocation (habit). The others are either dying out or barely keeping a level number of new members. Criticize me if you will (and some will) but this is a trend I have seen for for the last few years.

  2. Peregrinus says:

    I’ve been aware of this trend as well, but I think this study gives hard evidence. I’m unsure what to make of this. I considered becoming a priest, and went on a discernment retreat in my diocese. My impression of the other folks on the retreat is that they were pretty much the bottom of the barrel, intellectually and in terms of basic social and communication skills.

    I think that, in addition to traditional teaching, economic pressures are making the priesthood more attractive (permanent employment guaranteed), although that would not be correlated to the beliefs of the bishop.

    If the bishops who are most successful at attracting new vocations are those who are most able to recreate the conditions of the Church before the scandal, I would imagine a similar crisis could be played out again in 30 years.

    People turn to religion for structure in their lives. Messing with the structure, as Vatican II did, is a bit scary for folks.

  3. Some of the guys on P’s retreat doubtless formed an impression of P, too. He thinks we’re Bottom of the barrel guys? At a loss for jobs? Good grief. Let’s just say, most guys have a LOT more discerning to do before even showing up at the sem.

  4. Ah, what I meant to say was, thx for this post, for though it comes as no surprise to many of us, it comes as a welcome surprise to many many others. And who can’t use a little good news (often just perspective) these days? What I see in all of this is not a little more evidence of the retreat of antinomianism in the Church. But that’s a long story better made elsewhere.

  5. What uplifting news! I know the Lincoln diocese is very traditional. I’ve also heard from TLM parishioners that the number of priestly vocations through FSSP are increasing. Thanks be to God that future priests are hearing God’s call.

  6. ron chandonia says:

    If Elden Curtiss and Fabian Bruskewitz are the models for leadership in the American Catholic Church of the future, we are in serious trouble. Vatican II called for servant leaders, bishops and priests who would welcome dialogue with people of different opinions. For example, Presbyterorum Ordinis, the decree on priests, specifically reminded the clergy of their duty “to reconcile differences of mentality in such a way that no one need feel himself a stranger in the community of the faithful.” This is simply incompatible with the 19th century triumphalism the Council rightly repudiated.

    No doubt it is possible to sell the priesthood or celibate religious life to people who believe they can thereby gain status and privilege in this life as well as the next. In the post-conciliar period, the Legionaries of Christ seem to have prospered precisely because their leaders made that sort of appeal, while Catholics more inclined to the leadership style promoted by the Council found a home in the many lay ministries and intentional communities that flourished at the same time. The challenge today is not to draw more recruits of questionable caliber into a re-creation of the pedestal priesthood of the past; it is to bring the enthusiasm of our many selfless lay minister/leaders into ordained service to the Church. We already see that happening with the permanent diaconate. It can happen with the rest of the hierarchy as well.

  7. What explains the trend?
    The $64,000 question. Do we really have a trend or are we just cherry picking? It is awfully convenient to pick the top performing dioceses, attribute the qualities we desire on them, and voila we are validated. Are we really to believe that conservative or traditionalist (though both groups have a tendency to disown each other) bishops are on the order of 1% of dioceses in the US? If we take away the top and bottom 1 or 5 or 10%, do we still see a trend or do we see mush? Don’t get me wrong, I like dichotomies as much as the next guy, but dichotomies typically split closer to 50/50, not 90/10 or 95/5.

  8. I think this post is good news. The supernatural power of the grace of God at work. I just love being a new Catholic.

  9. “Cardinal Francis George, the longtime leader of the Chicago archdiocese, once gave a homily that startled the faithful by pronouncing liberal Catholicism “an exhausted project . . . parasitical on a substance that no longer exists.” ”

    Right on. My snarky side can’t help replaying in my head that scene from the Big Lebowski. “Your revolution is over, Mr. Lebowski. Condolences. The bums lost… The bums will always lose. Do you hear me, Lebowski? The bums will always lose!”

  10. Some bishops will admit to seminary anyone with a pulse and male parts. I know several smart, energetic, and impressive seminarians and transitional deacons. I also have met a few of their gauche and plodding colleagues. The selectivity of the bishop is key. Overall, I do believe we’re in the midst of a major upswing in numbers and quality, with a strong representation of those fond of traditional ways. They will be far superior to their older brothers ordained 15-40 years ago.

  11. I have some personal experience to speak to the Newark example. Before he was in Newark, Bishop Myers was my bishop, and my parish had an experienced senior pastor who acted as mentor to newly ordained priests. So we saw a half dozen assistants rotated through here in as many years. Quite frankly, the pickings were pretty thin. “Traditionalism” in practice turned out to be creepy Asperger’s boys where you can’t tell what their position is on anything because nobody would actually try to have a serious conversation with one of them. Classic moment was when our young assistant informed us in a homily that priests do sin like everyone else. This was not some gently self-deprecating irony — he quite obviously seriously believed that this was going to come as a surprise to us. Even my 7-yr old rolled his eyes at that one!

    Our current bishop seems to attract more or less the same numbers (we are not a big diocese, so the variation is high) but a very different personality of men to the priesthood. Much more mature, much higher levels of emotional intelligence. While they are all different, with different interests and styles, pretty much all within the normal variation. For example, in this latest generation I haven’t met anyone obviously in the “good thing he’s got a vow of celibacy so he doesn’t have to face up to the reality that there isn’t a woman on the planet crazy enough to marry him and even his parents and brothers and sisters don’t particularly like him” category.

  12. Joe Cleary says:

    The facts in the US suggest a stabilization of entry more then an increase as of yet

    2000 – 442 ordinations
    2011 – 467 ordinations

    more troubling is that over that time the number of priests in the US net declined 6,233 priests or over 13.6% We had just over 39,000 priests in the US last year.

    If 462 priests a year enter a year and lets say on average they stay in ministry 35 years.
    That would represent a 16 to 17,000 total priests in the US.
    ( some will serve longer but actuarially some will also become disabled, die early or leave the priesthood)

    I am happy the decline in ordination is stabilizing but the authors appear to overstate the “winning” to me to present an opinion.

  13. The WSJ article is nothing but triumphalist spin. I hope that the book has at least a few facts in it. Regarding the Archdiocese of Washington situation. Our priests formerly studied at Mt St Mary’s in Emmitsburg, MD. The decision was made to bring them back to Washington, DC instead. It is simply a move, not in any way related to the enrollment bursting at the seams as the article suggests. It had as much to do with the attempt to keep young men studying in the priesthood, and not dropping out because they were stuck in the middle of farm country in Emmitsburg. As a matter of fact, as previously noted, The Washington Theological Union is CLOSING DOWN due to lack of male students for ordination. However, in fact, the enrollment is mainly women. The school could continue operating if women were allowed ordination, but the male religious orders subsidizing it can not pay to produce an enrollment of almost all non-priest candidates. Then there is the lack of analysis of the real numbers of priests, and who they are. Native born American candidates are slim. The seminaries in the US, especially around Catholic University, are filled with foreign recruits from Africa, Asia, Mexico, Poland, etc. who take these studies as their ticket out of their own countries. I attended Mass last Sunday at a parish in New Jersey, and the parishioners are straining to be patient with their new African priest who is hopefully learning about American culture . Of course, many probably have genuine vocations, but so many are in fact foreigners. There is a small bump in priest numbers from the poaching that Pope Benedict has been doing in stealing the Anglican and Episcopalian priests, who in many cases come with wives and children. These are not a huge number, but considering that the priest “increase” is in fact rather small, they do have an impact on the numbers. It is rather a surprise to see Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz as a model for anything but sexist authoritarianism. He has been the poster boy waging the war against altar girls, and is the last hold out. Also, do I remember correctly that his diocese is one of several that has not complied with the “voluntary guidelines” that the US Bishops Conference has on the sexual abuse of children? Last time I read about this in the newspapers, there was a list of several in this category, and I think his may have been one. I always find it amazing that those who claim that only a celibate priesthood may be had, and that even to discuss otherwise is wrong. Well, what about Jesus himself recruiting married men as among his twelve apostles, including Peter, traditionally recognized as our first Pope? Sorry, but the article and probably the book look like very little scholarship and even less reality. PR spinsters.

  14. Many of the greatest saints of the Church, Peregrinus, were dismissed during their lifetimes as “the bottom of the barrel, intellectually and in terms of basic social and communication skills.”

  15. Unfortunately, your solution simply does not work. Men simply don’t want to give their entire lives to something that any lay person could do. Watering down the image and the uniqueness of the priesthood into something which is less than the dignity that the office deserves will not help to increase vocations, it will stifle them. Are priests called to be servant-leaders? Absolutely, without a doubt. Does that mean that therefore the priesthood is just one ministry among many. Absolutely not. To say so is not only vocation-stifling, it is Protestant. I might suggest you read the entirety of the Second Vatican Documents. Many of the “lay ministries” that are often exercised in certain parishes was never intended, envisioned, or spoken of in the documents themselves.

  16. The positive trends have been out there. This is more of a summation but certainly a welcomed one. Now all those people who want to radically change the church can hush up. Radically changing the protestant churches has led them to their decline. Radically changing the Catholic Church is a losing proposition.

  17. Peregrinus says:

    I think the insight that “Men simply don’t want to give their entire lives to something that any lay person could” is key. People aren’t going to give up sex and family and a “normal” life to do something they could do anyways. So perhaps a certain amount of clerical elitism is necessary in order to draw men in. I see this as an unfortunate expression of vanity… but that it exists I don’t dispute.

    As I see it, ordained ministries are simply focused in a special way on ministries that we all have through the priesthood of all believers. So we are all called to serve the poor, but Deacons exercise this in a special way. We are all called to break open the word of God, but Priests do this in a special way. We are called to maintain unity in the Church, but Bishops do this in a particular way.

    So while I would agree that ordained ministry is different from lay ministry, I would argue it’s primarily a different of degree, not kind.

  18. Peregrinus says:

    That’s because they were.

    God uses the lowly of the world to humble the mighty.

    However, I would say that such “holy fools” are the exception rather than rule when it comes to overall well-being of the Church. As a general rule I think the Church is generally better off with ordained ministers who are intellectually curious and insightful, emotionally developed, socially capable, and generally courteous.

    St. Ambrose of Milan dismissed one candidate for priesthood simply because he didn’t like the way the man walked, believing his gait unsuitable to the dignity of sacred processions.

    I guess I tend to admire saints like Augustine, Ambrose, Aquinas, More, Dominic, and those who were similarly gifted.

  19. Barbara P says:

    Please rethink your demeaning reference to Asperger’s as “creepy” It is a disorder and people who have it should be treated with respect. They are not creepy.

  20. ron chandonia says:

    Steve, I don’t know that I was proposing a “solution” to the clergy shortage problem; however, I was suggesting that the Church would be better off if we were more faithful to the vision of pastoral leadership articulated at the 2nd Vatican Council. What seems to me to drive motivated young Catholics to embrace lay ministry rather than to seek ordination or to enter consecrated religious life is not so much the celibacy issue in itself as the off-putting culture of clericalism in the institutional Church, a culture embodied by the traditionalist bishops this article hails as models for Church leadership. (And, yes, I have read all the documents of Vatican II; in fact, I teach courses on them.)

  21. ron chandonia says:


  22. Ron, I agree with you that the “…Church would be better off if we were more faithful to the vision of pastoral leadership articulated at the 2nd Vatican Council.”
    However as a Nebraskan who has lived in all three dioceses in the state, I just want to say a couple of things. Not going to comment on Bp. Bruskewitz. However the quote in the article attributed to (now emeritus) Abp. Elden Curtiss is from 20 years ago and a bit out of context. Abp. Curtiss ordained my husband to the diaconate. He expected people to be on the same page about issues such as celibacy; however he was very supportive of the diaconate program and of the deacons personally. We found him approachable and also supportive of lay ministries. I would have called him definitely a Vatican II style leader.

  23. By the way, did you know that some of the new priests have been nicknamed “Stepford Priests”? I’ve met and dealt with a few of them and some are throwbacks to the worst of the one’s I remembers from the 1950′s.

  24. I wonder how long it will take clueless Catholics to look at the facts and statistics and eventually admit that the rejection of orthodoxy since Vatican two has decimated the catholic church. It is truly amazing to see people still after the facts are all in…advocating for the same things that have decimated it….I can only assume the reasons are idiocy…or insanity ( definition of insanity is etc) and or finally…..outright sinister and malevolent purposes and intentions.

  25. The percentage breakdowns of my last three points if I ventured a guess are 25, 25, 50.

  26. Bill Smith says:

    In all charity: holy cow brother, you are way off. I *am* a seminarian, so let me weigh in with some factoids. BTW, I’m at Mount St. Mary’s in Emmitsburg, and your diocese of Washington D.C. currently has a number of men here…about 14, I think. the Archdiocese of D.C. isn’t is strong as it could be, but it’s still strong.

    The seminarians I know here at sem are not only normal, but interesting, intelligent, prayerful, and pastoral. Not to mention athletic: being as we are located on a university campus, we have several men’s intramural sports teams. Last year we won the flag football championship, this year we got 2nd place (and this against a team of college guys who stacked their team with track stars and baseball players who could outrun most of us). Often, the highest goal of the students’ teams is to beat those dang seminarians who keep winning (they’re not supposed to win, right? aren’t they a bunch of academic-nerd-losers who went to sem cause they couldn’t pick up women?). Actually, we recently disbanded an intramural Dodgeball team that went some 50+ games undefeated.

    Anyway, my point is that sems nowadays are not the bottom of the barrel. On the contrary, they are the cream of the crop, men who seek to give the greatest gift to the Lord that they can–themselves. These men are courageous, in love with Jesus, and out to do His Will or bust. It makes sense, too…the priesthood is not about elitism, it’s about heroism. Heroically giving your life for Christ and His Holy Church. If you’re in for a comfy life of ease, deference and accolades, you will not fit in at this seminary, or any other one I’ve heard of. In short, these are the best men I’ve ever known. The future of the Church in America is very bright.

  27. Regarding the aspersions on Vatican II: Catholic doctrine holds that a Council of the Church is its supreme authority, even above the Pope. All those who like to trash the Council should ponder this point, unless you have become “cafeteria Catholics”! (as you call those who disagree with you).
    The WSJ article reminded me so much of Pres George W Bush on that aircraft carrier wearing the bomber jacket with that banner proclaiming “Mission Accomplished !” about three months after starting his fraudulent war (weapons of mass destruction, remember?). Likewise, this article is solely for propaganda purposes, not based at all on facts. I agree totally with the comments of Drake, above. However, I would also add an important thought. Although there have always been instances of American families who have not supported the decision of a son to become a priest, I would say that within the American Church today, most Catholics would consider it a bitter disappointment to see a son become a priest, but they would eventually accept it, but worry. I have heard parents discussing this both in our parochial school meetings, as well as at the boys high school that my family has attended for three generations. Parents made it clear in the high school that they did not want overt recruiting for the priesthood to occur, given the mess that
    the bishops and cardinals who are running the church insist on maintaining. Can anyone imagine today allowing a son to study for the priesthood in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, after what we are reading about the corruption among the hierarchy for decades now? Bevilacqua, Rigali, the auxiliaries implicated, the monsignors, etc etc ? It is a pernicious den of evil in the chancery, yet Catholics are taught “Donate, pray, and obey”. For anyone doubting the situation in Philadelphia, look up the NY Times articles of the last year on the sad case of Monsignor Lynn, and how he has washed his hands like Pontius Pilate of what he allowed. Everyone now says it was the responsibility of the Archbishop or Cardinal, but, aren’t we talking about men who are educated and adults, and know how to dial “911″ when they have personal first hand knowledge of criminal activity, especially when directed against youth? There are a multitude a ways to serve God and the church without the extreme measure of becoming a priest. The Pope reinforced this problem in his Holy Thursday message of demanding obedience above all else. In other words, authoritarianism, pure and simple, no matter how misguided.The Holy Spirit inspires many minds in many ways, and our hierarchy instead makes stifling the grace of God in may people a virtue. It is our own loss that the Church is not permitting married persons ordination.

  28. Although I appreciate your enthusiasm, I hope that you also educate yourself beyond the classroom, especially regarding what they will not teach in the seminary. I was previously an historian, and was curious about what was taught about Church history in seminaries. What I found over the years in seminary bookstores is disheartening, expurgated, whitewashed versions have been put into print, sanitized for seminarian minds who are not to think . Sorry if this insults you. My field was communism and sovietology. I see so many parallels between the Church authorities and how the commies used their thought control successfully for a while. It only worked in communism as long as military and police threats were used against the populations. Likewise, it only works in the Church as long as they preach that those who develop divergent ideas are either eternally damned or banished. Does your group at Mt St Mary’s study the Church history of the Archdiocese of Washington, DC? Have you all learned about how Cardinal O’Boyle disciplined about 148 priests, had many thrown out of their rectories, others restricted on hearing confessions (including Fr Horace McKenna, who is now in the early process of his cause being prepared toward canonization), others could not say mass anymore? It has been an open wound in the diocese ever since it occurred in 1967, all over contraception. Then they wonder why people worry about sons being ordained- he could end up with a PhD in how many angels are on the head of a pin, and tossed on the street at age 45 like some were. Sorry, there is a huge problem with what the hierarchy demands as “obedience” and what the Church also claims to hold as a doctrine of conscience and dissent. Obedience always trumps conscience. As someone said earlier, married men were good enough for Jesus in choosing his 12, why not go back to this example?

  29. I think if Vatican II had never happened the Church would have been in a worse place. The Holy Spirit used Vatican II to save the Church.

  30. Bill Smith says:


    Thank you for your response. There is much here in your response to be addressed, but let me be (somewhat) brief, as I have what seems to be an infinite amount of reading to do this morning.

    In my assessment, your argument seems to boil down to 2 main conclusions:
    1) Conscience should be able to “trump,” or overrule, obedience to Magisterial authority; 2) The Church should ordain married men.

    Is that a fair assessment of your position?

    Regarding #1, I think the first question to ask is this: Do we really believe that Jesus entrusted the Church with His own authority on Earth in His apostles, (especially in Peter), as is stated in Scripture? Do we *actually* believe this is true? If not, we waste our time arguing about how conscience should trump obedience.

    So, Peter, do you believe this?

    Regarding #2, I suppose we refer back to #1. :-) The issue of married priests, as you likely know, is not doctrine, but discipline. Both Jesus and St. Paul, however, praise celibacy for the sake of the kingdom in the pages of Scripture (see Mt 19:10-12 and 1 Cor 7:1-38). Paul notes that celibacy “secure[s] your undivided devotion to the Lord” (1 Cor 7:35). He even says “it is well for a man not to touch a woman” (1 Cor 7:1)! This applies to religious brothers and consecrated lay virgins as well as to priests. Then he goes on to guide couples on how to live their marriage (presumably from a stance of authority, no?).

    We also have an interesting dichotomy in your argument. You dispute the sovereignty of Church authority over conscience, but you are asking Church authority to allow married priests. Well, which is it?

    God Bless you and Happy Easter. He is Risen!

  31. Mark Greta says:

    Bill, thanks for your postive answer to God’s call and thanks for posting here. I think it is a blessing to have those in seminaries and also priest to look in on Catholic Blogs to both see and begin to frame answers for open dissent to Church teaching. It is something coming their way now and in the future as the left slowly dies away with their open dissent.

    I see the rise of JPII and Benedict XVI priests as God’s blessing for their wonderful service to His Church. Never forget the JPII often used phrase of reminder to be not afraid. Some here seem to think that the documents of Vatican II and traditional values are not in line. From everything I have read and been taught about Vatican II it was not a rebuke of what was before, but an encouragement to take that message out into the world boldly. As the Pope clearly points out in this article:

    The pope said that “true renewal” comes only through the “joy of faith” and “radicalism of obedience.”

    It is that “obedience” which those on the left have such issues with if it in any way disagrees with their desire to do their own thing. Renewel will truly only come from them when they learn this lessen and surrender to the full “radicalism of obedience.”

  32. midwestlady says:

    Actually many Catholic laypeople are quite ignorant of what the lay vocation entails. We are not all just “little priests.” The clergy have a vocation to do certain things and we have a vocation to do certain other things.

    As laypeople, WE are supposed go to Church, then walk out of Church, taking the Church to the world. WE are supposed to run the necessary functions of the world in a Christian fashion, giving witness to the faith. WE are supposed to try to make the world operate as God would want it to operate instead of in the messed up, murderous & mercenary way it operates now.

  33. midwestlady says:

    Wow, you have a snide remark for everybody in that post, Drake.

  34. midwestlady says:

    I agree with Barbara P. These comments about Asperger’s are either:
    a) completely inappropriate amateur diagnoses OR
    b) comments about a difficult disorder that are completely out of place in this conversation and unnecessary.
    They may be both. And at any rate, they don’t belong in this thread.

  35. midwestlady says:

    You don’t know that. You’re making an argument contrary to fact because you don’t know what might have happened had the council not taken place. No one does.

    The fact of the matter is that it did take place. Moreover, significant distortions of the contents of the council took place.

    The council must be seen in continuity with the rest of the history of the Church and until that happens, we won’t know what it really means and what will come out of it. I think we are only starting to see the beginning of that now. Historically there is always a period of turmoil for 40-50 years after a council and that’s what we’ve gotten used to. It will change in a few years and stabilize again.

  36. midwestlady says:

    That doesn’t warrant wanting deficient men to apply for the priesthood. God works through whoever he wants, but we have an obligation to do our best as a normal practice.

    The good thing about this surge is that we will be able to screen much better. The quality of men entering the seminary should improve.

  37. midwestlady says:

    I”m actually not sure how much of a clergy shortage we have. Americans had gotten very used to the surplus of priests we had in the early to mid 20th century, when the Church was an immigrant church and there was no place for a bright young man to go but the priesthood. Many times in those days people were entering the priesthood and religious life for the wrong reason. Sometimes they also entered it at completely inappropriate ages–ie. seminary high schools etc.

  38. midwestlady says:

    Yes, and as Cardinal George has said progressive Catholicism is an exhausted project. It just makes people yawn. We’ve all heard it, and heard it and heard it. We all had our noses rubbed in it, ad nauseum. It’s bland; it’s cowardly; it’s beige; it can’t carry a tune. Anybody can do “progressive religion” and in fact the Episcopalians do it better than we do and look at where they are. The more progressive Catholicism talks about community, the less community there is. The more it talks about devotion, the less devotion there is. It’s been tried and tried again and it’s been found wanting. The Catholic Church can do better, we have centuries of doing better, and it’s just about to begin doing so again.

  39. You should read all the Cardinal said. Yes, he called liberal Catholicism an exhausted project. Something that in the past had served the Church well but no longer had any purpose. As opposed to conservative Catholicism, which never did and still does not do the Church any good. The address in its entirty was quite insightful.

  40. The Wall Street Journal says Traditional Catholicism is winning. They are on the right track but modesty prevents them from being more exact. The truth is the American Catholic Church is increasingly in leadership and rank-and-file made up of those who mirror the readership of the Wall Street Journal.

    Catholicism among working class/blue collar/non-college educated Americans, particularly white Americans, is in a free-fall. They have gone from the backbone of the Catholic Church in the USA to a small, declining and ignored minority.

    College educated, white collar, corporate executives form the social element that now dominates the church in numbers and influence and which receives the lion’s share of pastoral care and attention.

    A generation ago, Catholic bishops knew more about working class life than any union steward. Now they stumble and get wrong basic facts about blue collar work and give you a blank stare if you use the term “third shift” in conversation with them.

    Yes, the Church has backed off its historic economic justice apostolate, almost always now limiting to vague statements about the dirt poor and the jobless. It is rare to hear them say anything nowdays about economic justice for the lower middle class, factory workers, and other hourly workers. But this is secondary to the problem. Their is a huge unmet pastoral need that is not being addressed and we have a Church in its clerical and lay leadership that is out of touch with working class life.

    Yes, the number of priests and the number of white collar lay Catholic families (from which most priests are drwan from) have stablizes. Among non-college Catholics, they are dropping out of the Church at the highest numbers ever in history.

  41. Actually, Cardinal George said “liberal Catholicism is an exhausted project.” I don’t think the distinction is merely pedantic.

  42. Ben H, Cali says:

    Priestly celibacy should be optional; the Church should offer an olive branch to the laity in the wake of the horrifying sex abuse scandals– most recently revealed by the Ryan Report in Ireland. Saying sorry is not enough.

    If a married man desires to become a priest, it should be required that he have a form of employment so that church funds stay with the parish. This article basically states married men are not capable of loving or serving God?

  43. Compare vocations to the priesthood with vocations to marriage. A lot of people just aren’t getting married anymore. What’s the point? When things get rough, you end up getting divorced and losing half your stuff. Better to just live together and/or having your children out of wedlock.

    There’s a bigger problem in society and in our Faith lives.

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