Priest Vocation Shortage: A Self-Inflicted Wound


I was perusing some blogs recently when I came across this commentary by Anthony Esolen about the priest shortage. It gave me food for thought. A self-inflicted wound? Maybe so.

The Catholic Church’s Priest Shortage: A Self Inflicted Wound.

(Don’t shoot yourself in the foot!)


Would allowing married priests help to alleviate the shortage?


IMHO, none of what he suggests is to blame.
Not having teens in catechesis is to blame.
We all know the secular world tells children that they don’t need God in their lives. It’s me me me all the time. Who is there telling young people that they DO need God. That a healthy relationship with Christ is to be prized? That the salve for the ills of the world is the Eucharist? No one. Everyone is too busy to keep their children in formation. Kids are over-booked with extracurriculars. That people stopped coming to church at all, happened to happen when people stopped doing all kinds of things that were good for them. It all converged at once. People needing 2 job households. People wanting multiple cars. People thinking the church was “behind the times”.
You can’t encourage vocations if no one knows what that means. If there are no teens in formation, then you won’t have any priests in formation either.
Married priests won’t help. I don’t see many married men just itching to become priests. It doesn’t pay good money, frankly. People with regular jobs can’t make ends meet. How does anyone think a married man can support a family on a priest salary?
No, sex is not the answer to our problem.
Getting our youth back into the churches is our problem.
Think what would happen if every Confirmation class of teenagers produced just one Vocation to priesthood or religious life. But no, we want to go to the restored order, and make it even easier to get parents and kids to “check out” of formation.
You can’t be interested in something you know nothing about.



It’s not about the altar girls.

The same reasons the blogger gives to explain the decline in those wanting to be priests can also be given to support the opposite–as reasons that have encouraged many men to be priests.
So I bet it balances out.

The blogger is missing what is probably the main reason why there are fewer priests over the last sixty years–> the rise of “nones”, agnostics, and atheists in the world.



What he is describing is the Church has lost it’s sense of mission and the ability to convey the mission to it’s members. I think that’s a factor, but not the sole reason.

I would also add the prominence of birth control has had an effect.


All of the people who implemented various kinds of abuses in the decade after Vatican II were trained under the supposed ideal seminaries and dioceses of the 1950s. When Fr. Charles Curran responded to Humanae Vitae, there was already in place a powerful network of dissenters, all of whom trained in the 1950s or before.

The reality is that the whole world was hit by a tidal wave (some good, most bad) in the late 1960s. Vatican II was a partially successful effort to help the Church adapt. Some aspects of the implementation, especially in catechesis, were manipulated (again, by people trained in the 1950s or before) to push agendas that were not in the actual Vatican II. Religious Education became almost an independent church within the Church.

Other aspects of Vatican II were more successful. The Church avoided the extreme problems of mainline Protestantism. The Catechism of the Catholic Church, and limited restoration of the EF, available to many of those who choose it, and many other initiatives, are alongside continuing problems in the priesthood. In general, the priesthood is doing much better than Catholic (or non Catholic) married life.

One can wish for the return of the 1950s, with President Eisenhower, and innocent TV shows and movies. But they are gone. Vatican II did not bring about the doctrinal and numerical decline of the Jesuits, some Franciscans, and other orders. Problems were already present, before 1960. But Vatican II may have helped prepare for new religious orders that have sprung up.


pianistclare - I agree with all you say, but, you cannot dismiss what the blogger said altogether.

He hits on the crisis men are going through very well. In the great quest to dissolve all the differences between men and women, men are losing what makes them men. We are no longer able to join fraternities and brotherhoods that are singularly male, because we are told it isn’t “inclusive”. We are told we must curb our maleness, that there are no differences between the sexes and that it is somehow disordered to do the things that men have done for centuries.

Men do indeed have a need to dedicate their lives to something bigger than them, but that is being denied us in so many areas, from military service to yes, the priesthood, all of which is being watered down to make it easier, more palatable, and more inclusive. Men do not want easy, they want a challenge, they want tradition, they want realness. We are wired that way, from God Himself!

Chivalry and the code of chivalry is the answer to many of our problems, but that is so yesterday, so Neanderthal, it’s unlikely to ever be accepted again. We are so past that, so enlightened these days - isn’t it grand! As women “advance”, men go backwards. I hope that real men will never be needed again, because our society no longer produces many of them. I wonder what todays millennial males will be like when they are senior citizens, and they realize that they were denied the right to their vocation of being a man?

Anyway, there are so many facets to the priest shortage, it’s hard to cover them all.

Rant over…:slight_smile:


Point well taken. Thank you!
I get really tired of laying the blame at the Council that was 50 years ago!!! :eek:
I’m surprised people don’t blame it for uneven tire wear. :rolleyes: :wink:


Change in the orientation of the altar? Not using the right missal? Has the blogger not heard of the worst sexual scandal to ever infect the Church. Men do not wish to be seen as having suspect sexual orientation. Their families do not want them tied to the scandal. Brave men will rise above the tittering of tongues, but many will move on. Pray for vocations. Pray as if the Church is in dire need, for it is and we have only our leaders to blame and our own blind eyes.


Just replaced my rear tires a few months ago due to that. I had wondered what caused it.


From my reading of the article, it does not seem that Professor Esolen is blaming the Council. In fact, he lists some items which were not called for by the Council and yet which have occurred. It seems to me that he is describing the feminization of the Church which makes men seemingly obsolete.


In terms of the specific issues cited in the linked article, I wonder if there is a word for an environment characterized by a male-only environment (no altar girls!), a structure and atmosphere of top-down authoritarianism, special access and special privileges (altar rails separating the laity, laity must kneel for Communion), physical - if not emotional - apart-ness from the laity, use of language largely inaccessible to the laity? “Clericalism” perhaps?

It amazes me how often “altar girls” figure in discussions like this. So a young man who might otherwise be considering the priesthood is turned-off because girls carry the processional cross and bring cruets to the altar? Clearly that role is less liturgically involving for both boys and girls than it once was in the era of Latin responses and the male-only sanctuary.

The writer, as others have pointed out, ignores the tsunami of social changes, the seemingly never-ending sexual abuse scandal, and the fact that mainline Protestand denominations (with married clergy!) are seeing similar declines.

The problem with youth catechesis - and specifically the collapse or near-collapse of the parochial school systems - is a huge issue. Who can doubt that the parochial school environment was a major factor in the fostering of vocations among both men and women? As it is, we have lost most of that (certainly in the Northeast), and have also lost 2 generations to “burlap banner CCD.” This is not to impugn the wonderful volunteers who step up to that thankless role in parish religious education, but it is my experience that many of the teacher volunteers are themselves so poorly grounded in the Faith (through no fault of their own) that the cycle of paper-thin understanding of the Faith just keeps perpetuating itself.

As to married priests, it remains my strong belief that there’s a place in the Church for experienced married deacons to be ordained to the priesthood, men who have a track record of strong service, demonstrated skills, whose children are grown, whose business careers are over, who are financially independent and who make no housing or salary demands on the Church, and who would be able to provide further sacramental help to overburdened pastors. I think that this would also excite some amount of popular imagination and inject some unquestioned masculinity into the equation (an issue specifically raised in the article).


Oh, that old saw.
Listen even in “the good ol days” women vastly outnumbered the male workers in parishes. Behind every successful priest is an army of women doing the heavy lifting as it were.
That just doesn’t fly.
How can men be obsolete when women cannot be ordained?

I think Tarpian Rock has some excellent points.


Men miss those aspects that you point out!

Male attendance was much better when the Mass was “authoritarian” and a male environment. Since it has been watered down, and lost it’s traditions, male attendance has dropped. Men like tradition. They like to do hard things. They like to walk in the footsteps of past generations. Deep down, they desire knighthood and chivalry, but are denied that now. Men have little need for emotion and personality driven Churches.

Altar girls in and of itself is not a problem, but it is one of the small steps that have added to the bigger problem. Remember, the role of the altar boy was the first step in a young mans life to see if he had a calling to the priesthood. I think that role is certainly diminished by the addition of girls in the sanctuary. Like the addition of a female in an infantry squads tent, it changes the dynamic completely.

I guess I am just saying, don’t easily dismiss the fact that changes in the Mass and the Church have had an effect on men and the priesthood.





This decline took 40 years to accomplish, and was initiated by radicals inside and outside the Church who purposely sought to destroy it. The 1960s and 1970s saw the launch of a coordinated attack to sow confusion and scatter the flock.

Married priests are not going to solve this problem.

The Church is gradually growing as well elsewhere.

All of the so-called “Baby Boomer” generation, the largest demographic in the US, have passed their child-bearing years.

Then, out of thin air, “No-Fault Divorce” swept the country. It got too easy. I saw classified ads like this in the 1980s: “No kids? $75 and you’re out. Call 800-DIVORCE.” So, lawyers reduced marriage to ‘sign here,’ ‘pay the money,’ and you’re done. That really hurt a lot of children.

And where is “community” today? Pope Benedict:

And who decided to move the Tabernacle from it’s rightful place to somewhere else?



In another posting, Prof. Esolen says “It is true that the Holy Spirit will call young men to the priesthood, but He expects us also to raise young men fit and ready to be so called.”

It is I think, his view that a great deal of the problem is that society, and the Church, have forgotten that men and women are different.

Excuse me, but I have to ask: we say we want more priests, but do we really?


Forgotten? Certain groups made it their business to confuse men and women and drive a wedge between them. I was there for the “Women’s Liberation Movement” which took off in the 1970s. No coincidence regarding the timing.

We - that’s us guys - were “Male Chauvenist Pigs” who only viewed women as sex objects. We were ready, they said, to kick the wife and kids to the curb as soon as another skirt caught their attention. It was classic Marxist Class Warfare. You had women, the eternal victims class, against men, the eternal enemies class. Who co-founded Ms. magazine in 1971? Gloria Steinem, now a “Feminist Icon.” She also said: "A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle. There was also the National Organization for Women (founded in 1966). Just go to to see what they’re up to.

Nope, this was all marketed at a time when people in the West were more trusting of others. Our trust was abused.

And you have many fake “choices” regarding your gender today.



Who’s denying men anything? There are women out there looking for a good, God-fearing man. We can step up to the plate. The same with vocations.

Women have not “advanced.” They’ve accepted lies.



From your response, I’m not sure you actually read my 2 posts in this thread. :confused:

By-the-way, I have read that book and others like it. This is a subject close to my heart and I live my life, or try to in this day and age, in a chivalric manner. I’m heavily involved in the Knights of Columbus, a rare, counter-cultural group of men trying to live out their lives in the manner God meant for us.

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