Tuesday, 18 April 2017

A famine of priests will alter parish life forever

Not a single ordinand in his large diocese deeply worries Bishop Francis Duffy, writes Larissa Nolan

THE numbers of working Catholic priests in Ireland will halve in the next 10 years, a bishop has warned. Bishop Francis Duffy has issued a letter on the severity of the vocations crisis to all 41 churches in his diocese of Ardagh and Clonmacnois. He has told how a priest in each parish will be a thing of the past.
Bishop Duffy says a big factor in the decline is how a changing faith in Ireland is down to people becoming more private about their religion.
He told the Sunday Independent that the lack of those choosing to enter the priesthood did not mean that people were turning their backs on their religion.
“Faith is changing,” he said as he prepared for Easter in this diocese.
“There is still a lot of faith in people, and they tend to use the word ‘spiritual’. It is more private than public, and it is not always reflected in practice. It is a very personal issue, and I think that is important, and I say that when I am preaching. The more private dimension of faith is a strong thing.
“But I think the community is important, because it is where we live and work and interact and support each other. Community worship is vital.”
The bishop’s pastoral letter detailed how the numbers of priests will drop from 52 to 25 by the year 2030.
Bishop Duffy said there are currently no seminarians getting ready to be ordained in the diocese, which covers most of Longford, much of Leitrim and parts of Westmeath, Offaly and Cavan.
He said it means that by the time children born now are making their confirmation “the diocese will be a very different place”.
He wrote: “Many of you will fondly remember when there were two or three priests working in your parish, where now there is only one.
“Three of our parishes do not have a resident priest. The trend of a declining number of clergy is set to continue. By 2030, over the next 13 years, 28 of our diocesan priests will reach the retirement age of 75. At the moment, we have 52 very dedicated diocesan priests in our parishes, but sadly no seminarians preparing for ordination.”
Bishop Duffy said the decline is such that we needed to prepare for a future without parish priests.
Instead, the church will rely heavily on parishioners to help, he said in the letter entitled Sustaining Our Faith Community.
“From both a pastoral and a duty of care perspective, it is important that responsibilities our clergy now carry are shared with parishioners even more so than at present. This is not about closing churches but about reimagining how we worship and pass on our Christian faith,” he said.
Vatican statistics show that the numbers of priests in Ireland dropped from 5,362 in 2002 to 4,688 in 2012.
With less and less seminarians, the maths show a major crisis on the cards.
This year, there were just three seminarians in Ardagh and Clonmacnois, and all three left, which he described as “unfortunate and disappointing”.
There are many reasons for the decline, he said.
“There is a hesitancy to answer a calling. Some feel it is too demanding, some feel the celibacy is too big a demand and it will be a lonely life. Others aren’t ready to take the risk.
“The horrendous and heinous crime of the abuse of children by clergy and how it was so badly managed, was also a big issue and had a huge impact on the view of the clergy and the church. A general mistrust of all institutions has left a lot of people questioning them.” He believes parishioners can be instrumental in encouraging those who have a calling to take the jump.
“Some of my parishes took the initiative of parishioners talking at Mass about vocations and this helps. It is a different voice, a different angle.’’
He said that both the issue of celibacy and of women priests are talked about a lot. But he does not believe Pope Francis has any plans to change either of those rules.
The Association of Catholic Priests has previously requested of the bishops to welcome women into the priesthood and to scrap the celibacy ban. Fr Brendan Hoban, of the ACP, said: “Doing nothing is not just irresponsible but a counsel of despair. We know who to blame if they do not bite the bullet on this one.”
Bishop Duffy said parishioners already play a key role in church activities, and he is enormously grateful for their assistance, which he believes will save the faith.
He said: “We have an extensive list of men and women involved in all sorts of ways, directly in the parish, and that is a good thing. There is a strong sense of identity and belonging in parishes in rural Ireland. That is a strength that will help us re-imagine the future.”
In the last census, some 3.7 million people identified as Catholic (78pc), 132,220 fewer than in 2011 when the percentage stood at 84pc.
One in 10 Irish people say they have no religion (468,421 people), a 73.6pc increase since 2011.
This makes ‘no religion’ the second largest group in this category behind Roman Catholics.
In his Good Friday prayer, Pope Francis deplored the suffering of migrants. “Shame for all the images of devastation, destruction and shipwrecks which have become ordinary in our lives,” he said in an apparent reference to Mediterranean migrant disasters.
‘One in 10 Irish people say they have no religion’


Bishop Duffy sent 3 seminarians to Maynooth and they all left !!!


Were they upset at being quizzed about their sexual fantasies, nocturnal emmissions, erections etc?

Or were they targetted by others to get into bed?

Or were they tortured for being heterosexuals?

And Bishop Duffy wonders why they left?

And were he to get more seminarians where would he send them? That's right. Maynooth!


Duffy is a Maynooth supporter.

Any bishop who sends young men to Maynooth does not deserve vocations.




  1. Ms Nolan, the Sunday Independent journalist writes "With less and less seminarians.."
    She should of course have written "With fewer and fewer seminarians.."
    (There is a rule governing the correct usage of "less" and "fewer")

    1. How does your comment assist the debate?

      Is it a way of avoiding the topic?

      Is less / fewer use going to solve the "Famine of Priests"?

    2. Pat. One should know that word and mind games are the treasured domain of many who prefer to talk about reality rather than deal with it head on. I am not having a go at the poster of 00.46. 👍 In the right context it is a point well made.

  2. Bishop Duffy is right. Ireland tends to follow US and UK eventually in most things. In UK permanent Deacons are becoming more common.In 1988 I helped one of the first married Deacons in Birmingham complete his application forms. Church of England has been struggling with lack of clergy for years. They encourage lay ministry Authorised Lay Ministry Readers and Ordained Local Ministers who keep the day job and minister in their parishes as well. There is also a call for every parish to have a mission action plan which is updated currently every 3 years. People are called to be active and not just sit in the seat Christians. Some resist the change but what the heck....

  3. MourneManMichael18 April 2017 at 11:10

    There's none so blind as cannot see.
    The writing's on the wall.
    That monolith bound us in chains.
    'twas surely bound to fall.
    Its lofty spires that held our gaze,
    were built on shaking sands.
    Blind builders holding us in sway,
    now seen, ....as charlatans.

    1. MourneManMichael18 April 2017 at 11:57

      Just out of my own head this morning!
      It seemed an appropriate comment for the context.

    2. Well done. A Mourne Heaney :-)

    3. MournemanMichael18 April 2017 at 12:44

      Can't aspire to such a height.
      But sure isn't a bit of Mourne doggerel better than mournful dogma?

    4. Good, witty free verse, MMM.

      Any more in the pipeline?

  4. Ah don't worry, sure Buckley will help destroy us even further.

    1. You are destroying yourselves!

    2. So are you with us, you claim to be in and out, part of but not part of!!!! What are you?

  5. Did you see, Pat, where Donal McKeown has also raised concerns about Gaynooth? Eamonn Mallie interview last night on BBC and Irish News report on Holy Thursday.

    1. Sure Donal has stated that it's up to God to provide labourers.

  6. What did you mean,Pat that you saw? -Was it the Jonathan Swift quote or the Eamonn Mallie interview?

  7. Maybe Ireland will follow the United States model and place Parish Directors in Parishes that do not have a priest and bring in a priest for weekend Eucharist. I dont like the way Parishes have Communion services. It demeans the understanding of Eucharist and gives people the notion that Eucharist and a communion service are the same thing. Just my opinion.

    1. Your opinion is very valid, H. Harry and I fully agree.
      Sadly,that's what happens.. In the absence of good and
      conscientious clergy leadership the sheep scatter and eventually invent their own rules.
      Once broken from the central stem, anything goes and we get an a la carte situation and more and more splitting.
      It's happened before hundreds of years ago as history shows and it is happening again.
      Deja vous.. Nothing new under the sun.

    2. @16.01.

      Very thought-provoking. You see things the way they really are. I don't think you're easily swept away on the tide of popular opinion. Grounded...

    3. 16:01, the clergy cannot provide leadership since there is only one who can lead: Christ himself.

      Your fear that 'the sheep scatter' in the absence of 'good and conscientious clergy leadership' is absurd, since it presumes that God does not communicate his will through his people as a whole, but through only an infinitesimal portion of them: the clergy.

      This presumption is at the heart of the spiritual malaise in the Catholic Church and is, also, at the root of clericalism. It encourages the clergy to think of themselves as ontologically better than everyone else and, therefore, with nothing to learn from the wider Church.

      As for inventing rules, this is precisely what the institutional Church (the clergy) has been doing for centuries, since it has, for most of its history, not taught unqualified love of neighbour, in direct and grave contravention of Jesus' explicit teaching. This is 'a large carte' doctrine at its most insidious.

    4. Your daft(What's new!!) reply accuses that poster of all sorts of presumptions that are completely unjustified. Wise up!

    5. 21:17, can you refute what I've said instead of offering ad hominem?

      Go on. Amuse me.

    6. Where are you, 21:17? Oh! There you are: running away from me with your tail between your legs. (I promised 'Pip' I shouldn't laugh, so I shan't.)

  8. As Corporal Jones was wont to say: 'Don't panic!'

    We don't need the presence of clergy to have the presence of Christ. Clergy aren't essential.

    We need a new ecclesiology : one that reduces the role of clergy, but points up the role of the People of God as a whole.

    1. That sounds amazing. When did you start?

    2. Points up the role? Such poor english.

    3. 13:56, 'english' should have an initial capital.

    4. Poor magna, the inferiority complex you exhibit never ceases to amaze.

    5. Evidence, 23:27? Or more evasive ad hominem?

    6. When you are corrected by many commentators on this blog you resort to insults. Your knowledge of theology, history and scripture in general is laughable at best. Evidence you say, you are with the big boys now, do your own homework.

    7. 'Corrected'? Most of you can't spell, know little grammar, and even less about punctuation. 'Corrected'? LOVL

  9. All the laity by the right of baptism have the potential to become another Christ. Every Tuam baby, Maddy and child in the homes was another Christ crucified. Christ is bigger than the clergy or the institution of the Church.

  10. Right???? The Rite of the Sacrament of Baptism one has no Right to but for the sacrifice of many in the Priesthood.

  11. Yes, we all do have a 'right' to baptism by dint of Christ's passion, death and resurrection.

    Er, 'sacrifice of many in the Priesthood (sic)'?

  12. Just wondering, does anyone know how much it costs to house a priest for a year?

  13. OK. I take the point. But just for basics - renting a house, heating, electricity, etc. What would a ball-park figure look like?

  14. The reality is there; everyone talks about it but no one has a clue how to deal with it. Ireland will have a few priests under 70 in about 10 years time.....we all know that but where to from here?
    Sadly, clerical sexual abuse and celibacy have done the most harm to the Irish Church and we aren't going to recover any time soon.
    Time perhaps to let the present model of Church die its own death and then begin again with what's left.

    1. As Ireland has always supplied priests for the Uk, it affects us as well. We don't have many home growen ones either. I have been heavily involved in my parish for 26 years and all I have witnessed for all the hard work is a very rapidy decline. Most lay workers are getting older and older and sicker and sicker. We are hit by scandal after scandal (and sometimes you think they could have side stepped all this). There will be a big drive for lay people to get involved. They will just be used as slave labour, kept in the dark and fed on rubbish. I don't know who angers me most...the institution...or the laity who just meekly take it. Add on to all that, the new translation of the mass and the only emotion I have for the church at the moment is anger. Our parish is lovely and the priest is lovely. They desrve better than this!!

    2. Jesus is cleansing the Temple again. Getting rid of the unfaithful Sadducean priesthood and the money-changers.

  15. I was so dissapointed with the Tridium this year. The most important 3 days of the Churchs year. The priest just goingbthrough the motions. No.passion . No effort to lift people . It eas like 3 days of Good Friday rather than encouragaent to be a Resurrection people. We are an Easter people and Allieuia is our song. Yep did not experience it . Cheap Liturgy.

    1. 17.16.Thats said. It happens in other denominations also

  16. The debate off women clergy there's a few points I'd like to make on the subject, before commenting on the guys male dominated church world.

    (1) I am all for it right up to the position of Pope.

    (2) The girls have to get their own act together first after all they can't even support the young CAMOGUES who go to Croake Park for the all Ireland final. Just a handful of mothers land drivers who take them there every year. Its the same for ladies hockey, football, boxing. Until the girls learn to support each other then they are on a hiding to nothing.

    (3) The various Religious Orders of sisters in Ireland are on their knees numbers wise as much as the Monasteries and general priesthood.

    (4) In a male dominated club female priesthood and talking about it could nearly be a Mortal sin.

    (5) If the girls were allowed to play then surely those who joined the Catholic ranks by special dispensation would want to walk away again.

    Now the poor lads that answered the call in +Duffys land well highly likely their vocation was destroyed by the formation team for a start. A priest said to me recently that Down and Conor has a policy to take as many on just to whittle them down to conformists. As for the married men in the permanent diaconate the same applies. Whilst there may be some like permanent deacon Andy in Armagh who is a wannabe priest forever wearing the dog collar.

    Don't get me wrong I am sure there are good honest men who will be deacons and servants but for some its a look at me. Most of whom will be yes men to the clerical state expected to tow the line.

    As for vocations to the priesthood I believe thay are there but again destroyed by the corrupt system. You should go on a recuitment drive +Pat you never know how many young men and women that might answer the call. It could only do the world good if they are pastors to 1 or
    a 1001 the world needs them.

  17. I can confirm it.........Michael Byrne is well deserving of the name "Gorgeous". Met him today and he's hot as hell! And he's not the only cutie in the Irish College.......several other very sexy guys.

    1. So what? Since when did having a vocation become a beauty contest? Time for at least some semblance of maturity and less of the tiresome teenage angst.

  18. Any news in Galway?