Positive data compared to the rest of the western world where seminarists are less and less numerous. On the other hand, their numbers grow in Asia, Africa and Oceania
GIACOMO GALEAZZI VATICAN CITY
After the storm created by the abuses scandal, the resurfacing of the Church in the United States has begun. With the closure of the “horrible decade” 2001-2011 (afflicted by a series of financial and reputation disasters) the US Church shows clear signs of recovery. In the last year there have been 467 sacerdotal ordinations and, poignantly, the Boston seminary (diocese-epicenter of the pedophilia-scandal) has become the symbol of the rebirth. This year, Cardinal Sean Patrick O' Malley, sent by the Pope to Boston to enact “purification” and to reconstruct the local Church from the foundations, had to reject some applications to the seminary because there were too many. The Wall Street Journal also documents this unexpected “boom” with a broad inquiry into the “victorious Catholicism” and attributes it to the traditional character of the Catholicism of the new Episcopal leadership, the so-called Ratzinger-like “creative conservatives”.
The US positive vocations data is in counter-trend when compared to the general vocation crisis in the rest of the western world. In 2011, more than half of the ordinations in the United States have involved young people between 25 and 34 years of age. In the US, the ordinations of young clergymen have increased for the fifth consecutive year. The group of US neo-clergymen includes various refugees from lands where Christians are persecuted, military veterans and ministers who are converted from other religions. The most recent data from the Pontifical Yearbook andfromtheAnnuarium Statisticum Ecclesiae show unequivocally how the universal Church is growing thanks to the Third World. In the last five years, the number of philosophy or theology students in diocesan or religious seminaries has constantly grown thanks to a non-western increase.
On the whole it has grown 4%, from 114,439 units in 2005 to 118,990 in 2010. While decreasing in Europe (- 10.4%), the greatest seminarists increases are in Africa (+14.2%), in Asia (+13.0%) and in Oceania (+12.3%). The Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown University has made an inquiry from which it has emerged that 69% of the total is white (European, Caucasian and American), while 15% is composed of Latin/Hispanics and 10% of Asians and Pacific Islanders. Approximately a third of the people ordained have a relative who is a clergyman. More than half has more than two siblings; a quarter has five or more. The report emphasizes that 21% of the ordained participated in a World Youth Day before starting seminary. 70% of the total is assiduous in the regular prayer of the Rosary, and 65% participated to the Eucaristic Adoration before entering the seminary. On average, the neo-seminarists began feeling their vocation towards their 16th year of life. It was a clergyman who exhorted 66% of the seminarists to consider the priesthood. 71% have been encouraged in their vocation by a friend, clergyman, grandfather, relative or faithful of the parish, while half said they had been discouraged by someone. The more common extra-curricular pastimes or activities among them are listening to music (73%), reading (67%), watching movies (62%), playing soccer (41%), hiking (33%), cooking (33%) and playing an instrument (33%).
The vocations trend in the United States is exactly the opposite of the one recorded in Ireland, another country of the secular West hit by the pedophilia-cyclone. In fact, the decline of the sacerdotal vocations in Ireland has not stopped, as demonstrated by the last annual report of the Council for Research and Development of the Irish Episcopal Conference, according to which the number of clergymen in the Emerald Island has decreased by 2%. And there are more and more eighty-year-old priests or older as opposed to under-thirty-year-old clergy. “This decline is not strange”, comments Eoin O' Mahony, the author of the report, “we have known for a few years that the number of new sacerdotal ordinations is not sufficient to compensate for the number of older priests who retire or pass away.”
The decline of sacerdotal vocations in Ireland has been happening for four decades. It is mostly blamed on the secularization caused by the economic boom of recent years. The sexual abuse cases that have involved the Irish clergy in the 1990s have not helped; the negative peak was in fact reached in that decade. From the year 2000 to today, the number of priests has decreased by 10%.
The situation is not much better in France, where the crisis of sacerdotal vocations keeps getting stronger; it went from 566 new priests in 1966 to the current 90, a figure that foreshadows a future in which many communities might be without a spiritual guide and without sacraments. A vertiginous fall that openly raises the issue of the sacerdotal ordination of married men.
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