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Importing priests (updated)

Today's New York Times has an article by Laurie Goodstein about the phenomenon of foreign priests being recruited to work in U.S. dioceses. It's a colorful look at the ups and downs of this increasingly common arrangement, as observed in the diocese of Owensberg, Kentucky.

[Diocesan Vicar for Clergy] Father Venters has seen lows. Some foreign priests had to be sent home. One became romantically entangled with a female co-worker. One isolated himself in the rectory. Still another would not learn to drive. A priest from the Philippines left after two weeks because he could not stand the cold. A Peruvian priest was hostile toward Hispanics who were not from Peru.From a strictly personnel perspective, Father Venters said one day over a lunch of potato soup with American cheese and a glass of sweet tea, the international priests are easier to work with than the local priests. If they mess up, you just say, See you. You withdraw your permission for them to stay.

As Goodstein points out, missionary priests serving U.S. Catholics is not a new phenomenon. But in the old days you used to find them serving their own ethnic groups and immigrant communities. Now an "international priest" is likely to have very little in common with the community he serves. That can lead to humorous mixups and more serious clashes. But it can also be broadening -- for me, praying the Mass with Catholics whose culture is different from my own is a profound, humbling encounter with the universal nature of the Church. It's not always comfortable, but it is usually rewarding.

Of course, reflections on cultural diversity are all well and good, but they don't always help you get past an accent you can barely understand or a preaching style you find off-putting. (My old parish has an African priest in residence who, when he first arrived, was in the habit of delivering 40-minute homilies, as was apparently customary in his homeland. I understand he was gently persuaded to adapt his preaching to American expectations.) And we expect more from our priests than just the celebration of Mass. It's one thing for these men to fill in on the altar, another thing for them to step into everything else a diocesan priest does. I imagine that's why, as Fr. Venters says in the article, The longer [the international priests are] in a place, the better it gets. It takes time to adjust to changes. It takes time to get used to an unfamiliar accent. And it takes time to form relationships -- something isolated parishes are particularly starved for.This article raises a lot of very interesting points -- there are details about how the system works, and probing questions from a Glenmary Missioner about whether this practice is a way of avoiding the problem (as well as another example of America taking more than its share of the world's resources). And it made me wonder about other ways understaffed parishes may be adjusting to the loss of the traditional "pastor" figure. I'm sure that's a story too complicated to be wrapped up in a newspaper article, but it's one I'd love to know more about. In the meantime, I encourage you to read this story (it looks like there will be follow-up articles too). Does it capture your experience with "international priests"? Does it challenge the way you think about the ones who may be serving in your area? Is it an effective stopgap solution, mutually beneficial, or is it just another way to avoid facing the real problems of the Church in the U.S.?Update (12/29): Here's today's follow-up article about a Kenyan priest now serving in Kentucky. He had the same adjustment problem as the African priest I mentioned above -- long homilies!(12/30): And here's the third article in the series, about the Church in India and the growing reluctance to send away home-grown priests. I must say, this whole series has been fascinating, and quite well done. Kudos to Laurie Goodstein.

About the Author

Mollie Wilson O'Reilly is an editor at large and columnist at Commonweal.



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Goodstein did a good job and I look forward to subsequent articles. There is probably something to be said for recruiting priests from outside a diocese to minister to Catholics who have little or no English. But in general the recruiting of priests from places where their services are needed seems a very questionable practice. Fr. Venters may be pragmatic but sometimes a band aid, such as he provides, only allows things to get worse. IMHO he would do better to tell his bishop that this recruiting job is against his conscience. If the bishop cannot find someone else to do the job, he might do it himself. If he finds that it is also against his conscience, after he has given the matter soimne thought, he might pass the word to Pope Benedict. That would be at least to focus the problem in the right place.

Translation: "soimne" = "some".

Preaching seems to be the main victim. I am sure that many African priests are learned and literate, but sound systems exaggerate an accent, and I often have only a vague idea of what the non-English speaking priest has said.More importantly, as Philip Jenkins observed, is it good stewardship to transfer priests from priest-poor areas to (relatively) priest-rich areas? The situation in the church parallels the drain of doctors from developing countries to the first world. Yes, we need doctors and priests, but just because we can pay more doesnt mean that we have the right to take them from other, less-fortunate countries.

The article indicated that many of the priest-transferees come from Africa where there are more than can be supported by their diocese. The bishops in Africa were far more willing than those in Latin America to allow their priests to leave because some African dioceses were ordaining so many they could not afford to keep them on the payroll.That being said, this was quite telling: We experience the priest shortage, and rather than ask the question, Why do we have a priest shortage? we just import some and act like we dont have a priest shortage, Father Holly (of Glenmary) said. Until we face the issue of mandatory celibacy and the ordination of women, we cant deal with the lack of response to the invitation to priesthood.

Maybe Fr Venters is telling us why Bishops like 'em. 'If they mess up, you just say "see you' and withdraw your permission for them to stay'/Hey, we're back to the old days. And now they will even have INS guns for back-up.. Cheap too! Maybe even pre-pay for round trip tickets and wave them around at meetings. That's the ticket for discipline and they will have no need for the likes of McBrien as in above posts.

If you are a Catholic and are not Screaming for optional celibacy for Latin rite diocesan priests you're not fullfilling your duty.

I don't know, Ed -- I'm not convinced that making celibacy optional for priests would do that much to boost numbers... And it would bring a whole new set of practical complications (much more than ordaining women would). It may still be a good idea, but I think the Glenmary priest's comments are a little broad in suggesting that it's the obvious solution. The quote about what happens "if they mess up" does seem pretty loaded. Especially if "messing up" could potentially include sexual abuse or misconduct.

Where is the justice and morality in enticing priests from poor countries where they are more desparately needed, to come to the US where clergy are more affluent? When will a critical mass of bishops find the courage to confront the Vatican with a demand for the end of mandated celibacy for diocesan priests? Only when the laity refuse to accept a forced fast from Eucharist and perhaps wh

when large numbers of lay women and men celebrate Eucharist in the absence of an ordained male.

You have it right, Robert. But very few have your correct theology. Priests are overrated and not as necessary as is held. If you just use the long held principle of "ecclesia supplet" (the church supplies, you will acknowledge that the laity can celebrate the death resurection, and life of Jesus in the Eucharist. The Roman obsession with apostolic succession has always been a power move replete with presumptions and historical lacunae. Jesus would never refuse to be with his people simply because of power faculties.

Thanks for the interesting post. This is actually a crucial issue for the US and for many dioceses currently and appreciate some of the comments (exception - skip the sarcasm Mr. Chambers).Dean Hoge died a few weeks ago but prior to his death he had spent time investigating the reality of "international priests in america" and actually published a book/study with that title in 2006 at the request of the National Federation of Priests' Councils. As with many current church issues, Hoge and his department analyzed the challenges and opportunities starting after 1985 - prior to this time, most international priests came to the US to serve their own ethnic groups (e.g. European immigrant priests) - with the Irish also coming to the US because of an historical anomaly - too many priests, small population, vibrant missionary education aimed at the US, Irish dioceses seeking financial support by sending priests.He addresses two questions: a) should this experience continue? b) given the current reality, how does the church make this experience better for future priestly ministry and advances the church's mission? Rome has published two instructions on this practice - a) priest rich countries need to support priestless and poor countries; b) foreign candidates need to be identified carefully and trained/oriented to their new culture.Ms. O'Reilly - would suggest that one's ecclesiology, understanding of ministry, and views on priesthood are essential issues that impact any comment on this article. For example, in the US we average roughly 1 priest for every 4700 catholics; in south america, it is 1 priest for every 47,000 catholics. The stats may not be that wide between US and Africa but it is a valid question to ask why the US needs foreign priests when Africa, East Asia, Mexico, South America are in such need. If you quickly scan the last 10 years of stats around sexual abuse, you will find a high percentage of foreign priests. In addition, this article, if anything, highlights the lack of preparation, assumes a foreign priest can just start working, seems to value a "priest - any priest" more than the value of a community, the parish, the parish history, its own leaders, etc. Realize this is a huge topic but this article only briefly touches on many issues that create problems - language, lack of education, lack of cultural knowledge, clash of cultures (foreign priests are not always comfortable around women who may be parish leaders), etc.When done well, there does seem to be some sharing of global awareness, cross cultural learning, and even development of ties to the foreign diocese in terms of support, adopting parishes, mission trips. But, in the end, will foreign priests address parish ministry needs or only delay the inevitable or enable the US to ignore or deny reality?

Mollie,You're not sure if ending mandatory celibacy would increase candidates? What percentage of hetrosexual men who leave the seminary eventually get married? How many of the 25K USA priests who left priesthood got married? 90% of men marry. Marriage is a sacrament not an alternative. In Brazil married evangelical pastors outnumber priests 18 to one. This is not rocket science. Fr Don Cuzzens a former rector has the numbers.

I think it comes through in the Times article that there needs to be much more thought in the U.S. church about whether it is moral to bring in so many priests from countries that need priests even more than we do. It's a matter of justice.I considered this in an article I wrote for Commonweal in September about a trip I took to Ghana to see a priest from my parish installed as the bishop of a new diocese there. In this case, the priest had come from Ghana to the United States to pursue graduate study that was unavailable in Ghana. I think that's legitimate, and I think it's legitimate for international priests to work in the United States for limited periods of time if it helps in their growth. I don't think this is always part of the equation, though.The Times article raised some serious concerns - for example, it mentioned that some international priests working in the U.S. are paid less than other priests. Perhaps the Times series will lead the bishops to review the moral issues involved in attracting so many priests from the Third World.For subscribers, the Commonweal article is at:

Notwithstanding the good that priests from other countries do here, it is a no brainer that they are sent here because the American bishops pay off their bishops. Simple as that. Follow the money.

Ed G -- No, allowing married men to be ordained as priests would obviously increase vocations to the priesthood. I'm just not sure it would be enough of an increase to fix the problem, especially given the structural changes it would require. But it seems clear we won't get out of this mess without making some structural changes somewhere!

Interesting conversation. Some of the comments seem to have gone far afield among a collection of Catholics, e.g. woman's ordination (already deemed impossible). M. O'Reilly is correct in my opinion. A married clergy are not the answer because V2 endorsed the celibate tradition of the Latin Church. To oppose celibacy is to oppose the call of the council and the teaching of the post conciliar Church:"(Celibacy is to be embraced and esteemed as a gift.) Perfect and perpetual continence for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven, commended by Christ the Lord and through the course of time as well as in our own days freely accepted and observe in a praiseworthy manner by many of the faithful, is held by the Church to be of great value in a special manner for the priestly life..." Presbyterorum Ordinis 16"Students (seminarians) who follow the venerable tradition of celibacy according to the holy and fixed laws of their own rite are to be educated to this state with great care. For renouncing thereby the companionship of marriage for the sake of the kingdom of heaven (cf. Matt. 19:12)" Optatam Totius 10 However, if the Latin Church adopted the Eastern practice with many married parish priests and celibate religious and monks (with bishops coming from the ranks of the celibate only) have you considered just which married lay men would probably be ordained? It would not be the progressive among us but would more probably be your local ultramontanist. Earlier, on another thread, I pointed out that in the period following the council the clergy tended to be more liberal than the laity, we still see this among some bishops and clerics to this day. If the pious lay men were ordained priests the clergy would no doubt be far more conservative in their inclinations. The voices of the few progressive clerics left would be drowned out by the many new but conservative priests who've swelled their ranks.

Lester -- I think it's possible to esteem the gift of celibacy and still be open to the idea of married priests.

Imported priests may help Americans to avoid the development of further provincialism in our Church. They also assist us in our appreciation for diversity and make the universality of the Church visible.Think about the difficulties faced by "international" priests in dealing with the OCP monopoly in parish music!

Lester;Maybe you are right that the married priests [many coming from 16k married deacons] will be conservative;However, having been married 53 years , I'm betting on the wives and children modifying any 'ultramontane' influences. Family responsiblities and stance are the most forceful thrusts for change found in human nature. bigger than bishops/theologians/popes for sure. and maybe the real reason/fear for the intransigence on celibacy issues. Pope Bxvi spoke well on human nature this Christmas ...who knows what a 'scholastic' will do next..

Thinking economically: I've thought for some time that if priests were paid commensurate to their level of educational attainment and responsibility (which can be considerable), and according to the demand for their services (which of course is very high), then over time the labor market would work its magic and the priest shortage would subside. If it's true that American dioceses pay African dioceses to compensate them for priests coming here, then it seems that we see this labor-market mechanism already at work.Charles Morris, in American Catholic, quotes figures that indicate that, at the beginning of the 20th century, big-city pastors were quite well-paid relative to average wages at the time.Let's chuck the half-baked idealism of poverty that we've imposed on our priests. Diocesan priests take no vow of poverty. We can admire Franciscans without insisting that all religious employees live like them. An educated and experienced priest serves in a professional capacity comparable to doctors, attorneys, and engineers. They deserve to be paid accordingly.

I dont think the number of priests per 1000 Catholics is as relevant as the geographics behind where the laity are located. In an urban environment, one priest can handle many more congregants than one priest can in a rural environment. Non-mandatory celibacy can be revered, but mandatory celibacy, where it works to the disadvantage of the beneficiaries of the priests presence is not something that does the church any good. We are first and foremost a Eucharistic community not a community having to be led by eunuchs for Christ. A variety of solutions can be found to deal with local, particularized situations: married priests, part-time non-stipendary priests (worker priests), women priests (I dont care what JPII said this subject will not go away and should remain a cause for lay pressure on the hierarchy), team ministries, lay-led parishes in which the Eucharist can be executed by specifically called and commissioned (by the local ordinary) lay leaders in and for that group of Catholics, etc. Yes, each of these alternatives to the current allegedly celibate priesthood will deliver their own set of problems, not the least of which will be the necessity of prying additional money from skinflint Catholics to support the families of those priests. Yes, divorce, infidelity and the ever-notorious PK situation will arise. All can be dealt with. Lay people, who are used to dealing with variety, change, challenge and difficulties in their business, professional and familial lives dont become blithering idiots as soon as they enter a sanctuary! They might even see good reason again to advance the vocation to the priesthood and religious lives among their children, female and male, if they see that the Church has finally entered the 20th century. Yes, I meant 20th, not 21st that would be too much to ask.The laity are now familiar enough with sexual abuse of minors and adults, autocratic handling of parish employees, and financial irregularities on part of the clergy to be able to keep a sharp eye out, discover these problems early and insist that the local ordinary correct the problem(s) that need his involvement, including replacing the miscreant.Full-time ordained priests with multiple parish responsibilities should be relieved of any responsibility for the physical plants and temporal affairs of those parishes. A lay board (call them trustees if you will) with fiscal accountability and fiduciary responsibility for their particular parish could deal with these matters, as they do in so many other denomination. Oh, I know that the clergy lives in mortal fear of lay people actually having a say in their parishes but clergy can grow up and learn to trust the rest of us. Thats what a partnership is all about. Aberrant situations would be handled as an exception as opposed to an expectation on the part of the non-ordained many by the ordained few.

A US Catholic article on the topic du jour:

Jimmy,Your solutions will not work because we are, as you've noted above, a Eucharistic Church, and two of your solutions would involve only simulated sacraments.I don't understand the point in putting forward a suggestion that, in effect, only promotes schism. Female clergy are simply impossible and any bishop who tried it would sever his unity with the rest of the Church.In cases of emergency we could see bishops ordain their perm. deacons to the priesthood whether married, widowed, or unmarried. We've already seen a few married priests ordained in the case of converts without losing the venerable tradition of the Latin Church. If the emergency were real, instead of proposing impossible solutions that would lead to simulated sacraments, we also could see priests who do not do parish work, (i.e. Fr. McBrien), called back to their dioceses. After all, while a women cannot be a priest a woman could certainly be a tenured professor of theology at Notre Dame.

They would not be "simulated sacraments" if the magisterium decided to do an about-face and change the rules on who can and cannot be allowed to validly speak the words of consecration. No, female clergy are NOT simply impossible! This church has said the what used to be down is now up more than once in its long and sometimes illustrious history.

"Weve already seen a few married priests ordained in the case of converts without losing the venerable tradition of the Latin Church."Of course, you meant the Latin Rite of the the Roman Catholic Church. Priests in the other rites of the Roman Catholic Church can, of course, be married.

Hi Jimmy,I think you are getting to the core of our seeming (and friendly) disagreement. Some people, and you may be one of them, would grant to the Magisterium positivistic and arbitrary power over doctrine that they do not really have. The popes are bound by revelation, tradition, and the deposit of faith. Pope Benedict XVI has spoken of these limitations on papal power - about the way pope's confirm what already belongs to the Church:In fact, the First Vatican Council had in no way defined the pope as an absolute monarch. On the contrary, it presented him as the guarantor of obedience to the revealed Word. The pope's authority is bound to the Tradition of faith ... It is not "manufactured" by the authorities. Even the pope can only be a humble servant of its lawful development and abiding integrity and identity. . . . The authority of the pope is not unlimited; it is at the service of Sacred Tradition. . . . . (Spirit of the Liturgy).Our Church does not have a body similar to the General Synod of the Anglican Communion which has the power to determine doctrine and discipline by majority vote. Ironically, for Anglicans, this majority vote has the characteristic of infallibility.Yes Joe, priests of the other ritual Churches can be ordained after marriage (not the other way around) but their bishops are taken from the ranks of their celibate priests. When I said "Latin Church" I meant the Latin rite. I would not want to see the Latin Church discard her venerable traditions any more than I would want to see the Byzantines or Maronites discard theirs.

Lester,It is amazing how you can so blandly ignore history and the facts. Popes have changed doctrines despite the twisting and turnings the apologists may conjure up. A few FYI.1. Infallibility is unheard of before the 12th century.2. No auricular confession before the seventh century.3. The rites controversies which gave up two continents.4. Change in extra ecclesian nulla salus.5. Junia became Junus.6. Peter was not a celibate. 7. The first seven councils were called by Emperors.8. ETC.Lester, you gotta be kidding.

Hello Bill,I don't think you've shown in your list any demonstration that pope's have changed "doctrine". Approaches may change with varying specific contingencies and certainly disciplines change but doctrine-no. I agree with the late Cardinal Dulles that Noonan's book was unsuccessful in making that case. I wonder if you could engage the problem associated with an infallible General Synod? Personally I am more at ease with a papal Magisterium bound by the deposit of faith & tradition than I am with a General Synod bound by nothing but plebiscite. It strikes me as unusual that you might be happy to substitute the former with the latter.

I'll leave aside the continuing discussion here on magisterium or maximal magisterialism. Noone here will convince someone else of their position - which, of course, is part of the problem.For, as the conclusion of today's Times article on priestsf rom India note, the importation is a stopgap - not a solution.The problem is that we can talk about it here, but there is no real conversation about it or even allowed about it at the highest levels.Note to Mollie: I agree the answer is more complex than merely ending mandatory celibacy:("every complex problem has a simple solution -and it's the wrong one,") but, I'd posit it'e one part of a solution that we need to keep working at and not avoiding or procrastinating about.

Yes, Bob. What makes me hesitate is not the notion of admitting married men to holy orders as part of the solution (or as a good in and of itself), but rather the temptation to make a direct link from "not enough priests" to "let them marry." I just think there's more to it than that.

"Think about the difficulties faced by international priests in dealing with the OCP monopoly in parish music!"While I appreciate that this was offered in jest, I feel compelled on behalf of my friends at OCP to mention that (a) it's not a monopoly and from all indications doesn't desire to be; (b) it has a long and illustrious history of faithfully serving the church (; (c) its employees are unfailingly helpful, frequently to the detriment of its bottom line; and (d) OCP does a wonderful job. Our music would be much impoverished without its contribution.The foreign-born priests with whom I've worked have shown little or no interest in interfering with music ministry, which usually is a blessing for all concerned.

Yesterday's doctrine is today's discipline and can be tomorrow's changed practice.

Ok, in the spirit of interpreting silence as approbation, I'll plough ahead with the economic thoughts.What does a parish priest earn each year? Using the numbers reported in part 1 of the Goodstein series, and using reasonable-to-generous estimates for the number of weddings and baptisms a priest in the Owensboro diocese would do each year (50 and 100 respectively), a priest who was ordained in his mid '20's (generally the earliest one would be ordained) with twenty years of experience would earn an annual income of $23,960. This would be during the years generally considered to be an adult male's peak earning years.Suppose that this figure were doubled. $48K annually would not attract much attention from the graduating MBAs at Univ of Chicago or Wharton, but my guess is that in a rural diocese like Owensboro, $48K is a respectable income. Almost certainly it's above average in the diocese, but probably not lavishly so. What would happen to vocation applications? Or, suppose you are a single young Catholic male who works in a poultry processing plant in the Owensboro diocese. If you could become a priest and earn $24K a year, how enticing would that be? The immediate analysis would probably be, 'hmm, better money, but celibacy?' Now, make an identical offer to the young man, but this time the priest's salary is $48K. Would the young man's analysis change?Finally, suppose you are a college student from a town in the Owensboro diocese. You are not exceptionally money-motivated, in fact you are attracted to a life of service, and want to stay in the area in which you grew up. You are considering becoming a high school teacher. Your Newman Center pastor asks you, 'Have you ever considered the priesthood?'. I don't know what teachers earn in school districts in that diocese, and I suppose they are not unionized, but even so, a public high school teacher with twenty years of experience surely earns more than $24K/year. Plus there is an extended summer vacation- and of course teachers can date and marry. Compare that to the current salary a priest earns, and throw in the fact that he would be pastoring three or more parishes and most likely living alone, and one can see that the vocation director has a difficult sale. If the salary were doubled, would the young man reconsider?

I was stationed in Owensboro with the USCG (shore duty, no less :) for exactly two years to the day, i.e., half my enlistment, from 1972 to 1974 so I am somewhat familiar with the diocese. My permanent home then --- as now --- was/is Louisville although my govt career took me in the interim to Indiana, St. Louis, California, and Lexington, KY.Anyway, I recall a news report from some years back that Owensboro was highly successfully in recruiting LOCAL men to the priesthood. I can't recall date or provide a link, but my impression is that the diocese had no parish staffing problem, none at all!What accounts for this apparent reversal that sees Owensboro now recruiting foreign clergy??? I don't know. What I do know is that JPII was pope during the time the article appeared.I do think we need to look back to the ancient church for ideas on how to address this "priesthood" shortage. No ordained priests back then. A presider chaired the weekly worship service. Missionaries spread the message but, from what I've read, continued their journeys, leaving local converts to manage their own ecclesial affairs. Subsidiarity in action!As for women priests, the Vatican has yet to offer reasoning against the idea. We get excuses, but no reasons.Owensboro's solution --- indeed, the probable solution for any local church --- can and should be found within the confines of ----- the local church!!! No need to get foreign priests (other than for short assignments such as education and the like) to meet local needs, certainly not in developed countries.

As solutions to the priest shortage, the notion of ordaining married men and ordaining women has been suggested several times. In the spirit of further "thinking outside the box", why not also consider these alternatives:* Recruit young men (or not-so-young men) to the priesthood with the understanding that it wouldn't be a lifelong commitment. I guess this would be the quasi-military approach. Sign up out of college for a "ten-year hitch", after which there would be an orderly and honorable discharge process. Re-up for another ten years if so desired.* Recruit confirmed bachelors to be priests "out in the world". Let them continue to work (and be responsible for their own financial support) in offices, factories, classrooms and farms, and live in houses and apartments among regular people. Set a reasonable expectation for sacramental and pastoral service each week. This approach works well already for "permanent" deacons.

Jim--Good ideas. But as long as the hierarchy's attachment to celibacy takes precedence over the faithful's need for the sacraments, nothing will be done.Happy New Year, all.

A familiar presumption is to imagine that it is the "hierarchy" alone who find these proposals problematic or impossible. Better than imitate the practices of ecclesial communities that lack valid sacraments and whose clergymen may be temporary or lay would be to imitate dioceses or clerical religious institutes that continue to be blessed with plenty of young seminarians.

Does anyone know of a study that examines the "success rate" of priests who are ordained via a later vocation track as opposed to those who enter the seminary without any prior work experience in secular life? I guess I view retention and satisfaction as integral parts of a success rate.

"...blessed with plenty of young seminarians."Dean Hoge showed how JPII seminarians, inspired by an autocratic pope, have moved after ordination in one direction while the vast majority of laity, young and old, have continued to move in a different direction. I'd surmise that most Catholics --- those that experienced the pre-Vatican II church and younger folks who have acquainted themselves with the period --- have no desire to see the reincarnation of Ghetto Catholicism. If places like Lincoln just love their biretta-wearing clergy and their bishop, more power to them. Just don't let 'em migrate to other dioceses. Thanks but no thanks! A "pedestal culture" has allowed pervert priests to sacrifice their victims and the bishops to get away with impunity.As for any possible studies, it would be interesting to see if different groups of priests (JPII vs Vatican II) have different experiences vis-a-vis questions posed by Jimmy Mac.

Trying to find the links to Dean Hoge's studies but he actually investigated the very questions that you have posed. Here is another expert - she and David Nygren have done in depth studies of seminaries in the US: are only a few dioceses that, like Lincoln or Omaha, have seen an increase in vocations - Mr. Jaglowicz summarizes their impact. The experience of Lincoln, Omaha, or Steubenville does not translate well into many other dioceses.....Lincoln's newly ordained could not minister well in the Southwest; they are rarely bilingual; their culture is latin?, and similar vocations in places such as St. Louis, Denver, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh have created tension and divisions among clergy, diocese, deacons vs. these newly ordained, full time ministers vs. these newly ordained.The studies on "older" vocations is mixed at best. Depending upon the actual ordination age, Hoge's results simplistically show that those ordained after the age of 60 may help for a period of time but then age, illness, their own physical limitations ultimately diminish their ministry - in some cases, it costs the dioceses more than the service they get in return. Seminaries such as Hale's Corner and Cromwell, Conn. focus on older candidates but studies indicate that educating and integrating these new priests into dioceses is challenging. There are questions around motivation, failed secular careers, failed relationships, escape from life's realities, one time spiritual events that have led to the "vocation", etc. Like the other blogs about "international" priests, older candidates bring challenges and are more a stop gap solution.

One final thought on this topic. I suspect that God does still call young American men to the priesthood, but that call is responded to much less than was the case a generation or two ago. If that is true, why is it true that so many fewer young men respond?

If anyone is still reading this post, here is a comment from a cousin whose family is in a very far west Texas diocese and parish:"This is exactly what has happened in my parents small rural parish. Starting about ten years ago, they had a Philippine priest, then a Nigerian priest, and now another Nigerian priest. Their priest serves 2 other rural parishes in addition to my parents' church in St. Lawrence. It always looks kind of comical to me because the demographic make-up of the parish is white German Catholic farmers and their Hispanic farm-workers led by a very dark black Nigerian priest with a heavy accent! I have to say, though, that the parish loved the Philippine priest, as well as the current Nigerian who officiated a beautiful funeral service for my cousin this past summer (The first Nigerian was a dud -- pretty much here for the money.) It was interesting to me that my parents got in hot water with the Nigerian priest last summer when they put a notice in the church bulletin (not thinking to first consult the priest) asking for money for the Philippine hometown of their former priest (with whom they stay in touch.) They had been doing this each year during the tenure of the Philippine priest. Anyway, the new Nigerian priest was upset because his hometown was also in desperate need of money and he felt like the Philippine priest was poaching on his parish! Ruffled feathers were smoothed, but it sure clarified that when these good, kind priests come from such drastically different circumstances and cultures, money still plays a role. Also, I have noticed that even though the foreign priests (with the one exception) have been very kind men, they don't seem to have very advanced educations so they perform their functions as priests alright, but they can't offer much in the way of education to these rural parishes that really don't have much access to any other progressive religious education."It gets back to the point that this needs to involve careful screening, good preparation, etc. It also starkly shows the difference between the older immigrant and ethnic priests and this new wave. The immigrant priest addressed the complete ethnic parish - they all struggled to assimilate into a new world. They were the complete minister not just there for sacramental purposes only. This new wave (with some exceptions) may only know enough english to work within the confines of the church, the liturgies and sacraments but are unable to address wider needs - the complete ministry/pastoral approach. What you have is a band-aid that reinforces cultic priests - this is both bad formation, bad ministry, and bad ecclesiology.

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