Monday, April 25, 2005

Will U.S. Catholics Keep Giving?

This MSNBC article explores that. They make the obvious points about the sex abuse scandal and also negative liberal reaction to a conservative pope, hurting giving. But what I found very interesting was that they also raise the issue of declining priests and sisters.

Here's how it works:

The demographic squeeze has been building for decades -- each year, there are fewer and fewer nuns and priests available to provide low-wage labor to run church institutions. In 1965, there were 180,000 Catholic nuns in the United States. Today there are less than 80,000, with an average age of about 69. The number of parishes without priests has increased five-fold in the same period.

Now those workers must be replaced with lay workers, at more expensive lay salaries, putting the squeeze on church finances.

Quite interesting.


Blogger Ambrose said...

Can I go back to being a "liberal?"
The declining orders have little to do with their not wearing habits or God trying to tell us something by slowly wiping social justice nuns from the planet (read Curt Jester if you don't know what I am talking about). Eighty-ninety years ago, when most of these orders were experiencing exponential growth, if a woman felt a particular calling to nursing or teaching, it was often confused as a calling to a religious order as IN GENERAL married women could not pursue these careers in most of the country (my grandmother had a teacher removed from the school house by the constable because she married over the weekend). Women who wanted to be teachers or nurses who didn't want to be spinsters could be nuns. Today, it isn't necessary to enter religious life if you want to pursue these careers. People entering religious life these days desire a radical departure from real life. It is like they are thinking, "I can stay single, and work, and live by myself and have all the shoes I want, or I can enter an order, continue to work, live with a bunch of women, and turn over all my earnings to the community? I already tried the live with a bunch of women and never have sex thing. That would be junior year of college, and it sucked. No thank you."
Okay, maybe I exaggerate on the imagined quote, but I don't think I am that far off.

4:40 PM  
Blogger Ono said...

Something similar can be said for priests. People often speaking about exploding vocation in developing countries, what they don't factor in is that the life of priest is a far more comfortable life than a non-priest. Thus, as a "career" option, it is very attractive. You gain immediate status, you get to travel, you get a nice safety net, etc.

Once the standard of living begins to increase and the benefits of the priesthood pale in comparison to secular careers, then those vocation numbers will decrease.

That's my take on the decline on vocations in the West. It's not materialism, or any other -isms, it's just that people now have so many more career and service options.

5:39 PM  
Blogger Belinda Gwen said...

Ono, may all good thinsg come to you. I really learnt a lot from you about healthcare careers!

10:17 AM  

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