Friday, September 09, 2005

Familiar story

From Inside the Vatican:
How Bishops Discourage Vocations (and the Key to Attracting Them)

by John Mallon

In the mid 1990s, I attended a clergy meeting in the diocese where I was employed as the newspaper editor. The meeting was to discuss ideas to increase vocations to the priesthood, because the diocese was facing a crisis. Predictably, the discussion was going nowhere until the retired archbishop raised his hand, stood up and said,
"“Why don't we study those dioceses which are attracting vocations, like Lincoln, Nebraska, and Arlington, Virginia, and see what they are doing and what we can learn from that." I smiled to myself, eager to see the response to his suggestion, because I knew that the reason those dioceses were attracting so many vocations would be utterly unacceptable to this group of priests. Predictably, the priests just looked at each other and said nothing. No one responded to the archbishop's suggestion.

The answer was obvious. I may have even taken the retired archbishop aside and told him, but I suspect he already knew. The plain simple answer was that the bishops of those dioceses, Bishops Fabian Bruskewitz of Lincoln and the late John Keating of Arlington, were both explicitly, vocally and publicly committed to orthodoxy in Catholic teaching and practice. Meanwhile, the dominant priests of this diocese were known for being firmly committed to dissent.

Leaving aside the question of whether the Lord is going to bless dissent with abundant vocations is the other more practical question of what young man, firmly committed to and in love with the Lord and His Church, is going to seek ordination in a diocese where the clergy has a reputation for chewing up orthodox people, both clerical and lay, and spitting them out? Martyrdom is sometimes inevitable, but what sane person seeks it? ...

I hrecommendcomend the entire piece. While liberal bishops dnecessarilysarily experience failure in attracting vocations (there are liberal prelates on both coasts who have well-stocked seminaries) the vocations that are attracted are generally highly orthodox. The article goes on to note that this sort of resurgence in orthodoxy is holding true for women religious, as well. I certainly can't think of too many young, heterodox Catholic girls thinking about taking the veil. Of course, I'm sure there are exceptions.

The only thing I would take issue with is the artcle's assertion that a main aspect of discernment is whether a particular diocese is "good" or not. A religious vocation is, obviously, a long-term commitment, and there is no guarantee that a "good" bishop will be replaced by another "good" bishop (see the sad case of Arlington, VA). On the other hand, there is certainly not much of an incentive to go into a diocese that is currently a mess. I am not, for instance, motivated to specially seek out any communities in the Diocese of Rochester.

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