A few days ago the WSJ printed a piece called, "Traditional Catholicism is winning," by Anne Hendershott and Christopher White regarding rising vocations in the Catholic priesthood.
Tom Roberts of the National Catholic Reporter, quoted Mary Gautier, senior research associate at the Center for Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University in his own response to the WSJ in his own article entitled "Qualifying the WSJ's conclusions about vocations". Roberts questioned Anne Hendershott and Christopher White's numbers in vocations and asked what they really mean in real world application. Here is the quote from Mary Gautier:
While there were 5,000 more priests worldwide in 2009 than in 1999, what isn't mention is the fact that "the number of Catholics worldwide is up by 150,000,000 [Yes, million!] during the same period." Another way of measuring that, she said, is to realize there were 2,551 Catholics per priest in 1999 and there were 2,876 Catholics per priest in 2009. "Catholics are still increasing at a faster rate worldwide than are priests, and the ratio is even starker in the United States."
"The good news is that the number of men in theology in the U.S. this year is higher than it has been since 1988-89," she said. "The bad news is that the numbers being ordained still do not close the gap for the numbers that are retiring, dying, and leaving the priesthood. We should celebrate the fact that there are still substantial numbers of men responding to a vocational call, but we should not be triumphalistic in proclaiming that the shortage is over."
Yes, Tom Roberts is right when he says we should not be proclaiming the shortage is over, but when he quotes Mary Gautier and writes: While there were 5,000 more priests worldwide in 2009 than in 1999, what isn't mention is the fact that "the number of Catholics worldwide is up by 150,000,000 [Yes, million!] during the same period.", there is something else that Roberts should be focusing on also: The 150,000,000 new Catholics as well as the increase of vocations.
Despite calls for the Church to reform and modern up and allow women's ordination, artificial contraceptives, accept homosexual "marriages", divorces and abortions, the Church has not ceased in defending her faith in these matters.
Despite the rising number in the killings of Christians worldwide and the rising number of hostile persecutions by western cultures on Catholicism, the constant portrayal of the Catholic Church as repressive of women, its "out of touch" worldview of celibacy demanded of her priests, a sex abuse scandal that has rocked the Church to its core, and the refusal of the Church to relinquish any of her "patriarchal power of the hierarchy" and allow a greater role to be played by the laity, especially women, another question should be asked and it is this: How does one reconcile the fact that so many enter the Church despite the above? Yet, the numbers are there, one hundred and fifty million new Catholics in a ten year span.
Of course, one could argue that many have also left the Church during this same period. Many have left the Church citing the Catholic's Church refusal to progress beyond its 1st century mentality and her unreal expectations of living a life in the 21st century as a Catholic as their reasons for abandoning the faith.
What of the new 150,000,000 converts to the Church? Do they not see the same thing as those that have left the very same Church, yet have chosen to enter her anyway? Despite the outcries from small 'c' catholics about the Church's backwardness and insensitivity towards humanity, I submit that it is precisely because the Church has NOT changed her teaching in the last 2000 years of her existence on Earth, that many choose to enter the Catholic Church.
If we recall after 9/11, churches were filled to capacity by people trying to make sense of what happened in NYC that day, trying to understand the purpose of their lives here on earth amidst the suffering and death around them, and how to live in this knowledge. 9/11 shattered the little bubble that many people were living in, thinking they could not be touched by the outside world. They found out different.
That day, 9/11 represented what has been happening in our world at large. Chaos reigns, evil and goodness are turned on their heads, traditions are scorned, morality is questioned and hope of a better world is all but lost. It is in her 2000 years of unchanged teaching of Faith, Hope and Love that the Church has become an anchor in this world, immovable, constant and clear in what is right and wrong. She is not swayed by polls, sentiment or society, but by Truth. She represents the highest form of divine order in this world of chaos that people are clamoring for: Christ the Truth, unchanged
New denominations of faith continue to be created, always promising something better, new or different to the believer than the last denomination they belonged to, only to fail. Many are looking to go back to the roots of the early Christian church and find that the Catholic Church has been that church all along and unchanged. The Catholic Church is being viewed in a new light by those who are seeking and the truth proclaimed in John 6:44 becomes visible:
"No one can come to me unless the Father, which hath sent me draw him."
Indeed, the Father continues to draw all to the Church, The Body of Christ. Despite all the objections listed above and lies perpetrated against the Church, her Truth stands as a beacon of light that cannot be hidden by the evil in this world. The harvest is growing and yes, the workers may be few, but I have no doubt that within that harvest, God will call out more workers. In fact, that call has gone out and the response is promising.