Sunday, February 21, 2010

Numbers of Priests

America's Blog cites worldwide numbers of Catholics. They report, citing the current Annuario Pontificio, that the number of priests is up 1% (America).

Rather than citing that the number of priests are up 1%, the more important statistic is the priest per 1000 catholics ratio. The decline in numbers of priests is real and the lay led church is becoming more and more a reality.

In 2009, there were 40,666 priests for 65.2 million Catholics in the USA. In 1995, there were 49,054 priests for 57.4 million Catholics (CARA)

"Think about a priest in 1950 and think about one today. In 1950 there were 652 Catholics per priest, most of whom were in active ministry. By 2000, there were 1,257 Catholics per priest, and nearly a third of all priests are retired or over the age of 70. ... From 1970 to the present, the total number of priests fell by 20,000, or one-third of the total number of priests in 1970. Yet priests' dedication to their people has dramatically cushioned this remarkable reduction in numbers. As a result, almost all Catholics say they are aware that there are fewer priests, but only one in four report that this has affected them" (CARA Catholic Poll 2000).

"In 1966 the American Catholic Church had about 59,000 priests serving some 46 million Catholics, or an average of about one priest per every 780 parishioners. Since that time, there has been a significant decrease in the number of priests, and a corresponding increase in the number of U.S. Catholics. In 1990 there were approximately 53,000 priests to service 57 million U.S. Catholics, or an average of one priest for every 1,100 parishioners" (Zech, The Catholic Church and the priest shortage, Review of Social Economy, vol. 50, 1992)

To paraphrase a political adage, Numbers are stubborn things. - Rick Malloy, S.J.

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