Church crisis so critical that baptisms and marriages may “disappear”

Shauna Burdis

Church crisis continues with decline in priests unable to fill vocations.

The Association of Catholic Priests, which represents more than 1,000 Catholic priests in Ireland, warned that the vocation crisis is so critical that even baptisms and marriages are likely to “disappear” from some parishes in the near future.

The news comes after the Bishop of Ossory Dermot Farrell announced Sunday services in the Ossory diocese will be decreased by 140 to 92 from December 1.

Bishop Farrell said that the cut in services was because the Ossory diocese has more churches than needed which is causing a shortage in resources across some parishes.

According to clerics, the inability of the church to attract younger people to mass is an ominous sign for the future, as they warn frequent weekly Sunday mass could be a thing of the past.

In 2019 just five men began training for the Catholic priesthood at St Patrick’s College, Maynooth. This is believed to be the lowest number since its foundation in 1795.

In 2017, six men began training there for the Catholic priesthood.  In 2016 the number was higher, at 16 men beginning their studies. In 2015 the figure was 17, 14 in 2014 and 20 in 2013.

Fr Roy Donovan, of the Association of Catholic Priests (ACP), said that “There is a massive amount of churches, but some communities have no priests, which is going to happen more and more, and that’s going to lead to churches closing.”

He said younger generations are not attending masses because they cannot relate to “grey and white” priests.

Fr Donovan also said that by only allowing an “elite group” of celibate men to become priests is sending out the “wrong message” to young people.

According to Dr Peter Admirand, Professor of Theology and Philosophy at DCU, “We live in an increasingly religiously pluralist environment, with a growing rise in those who feel they are not part of any institutional faith, practise a blended faith, or profess to be some various shade of atheist, humanist, or agnostic. On the whole, this should be embraced.

“There is, though, no sugar coating the deep, cataclysmic moral failure of the Catholic Church as seen through the child abuse scandal and cover-up, and similar travesties. Are these key reasons for the decline of traditional Church practices like mass going? They are certainly signs if not symptoms of a disconnection between the Church and the People of God.”

Shauna Burdis

Image Credit: Ruairi Carberry