Ireland's sons turn their backs on the priesthood
By JEROME TAYLOR - THE INDEPENDENT
Updated: Fri, 27 Aug 2010 10:48:37 UTC
The number of priestly ordinations in Ireland has dipped below England and Wales for the first time in living memory, new figures reveal.
The recruitment crisis is a clear indication of how low the church has sunk in a country that once used to export Catholic missionaries to all corners of the globe and often provided Britain with a significant proportion of its priests.
According to new figures released by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Ireland, just 16 men are due to start training for the priesthood this autumn, less than half the 39 that signed up for the priesthood last year. In the 1980s Ireland would regularly draw more than 150 new recruits to the priesthood every year.
The latest figures for England and Wales have yet to be released but church officials are confident they will see an increase on the 43 men who put themselves forward for the priesthood in 2009.
The difficulty in attracting young recruits is a problem that is afflicting vast swathes of the Catholic Church, particularly in secular, developed nations. But Ireland’s recruitment problems will cause concern in Rome because it had always been regarded by the Vatican as a bastion of Catholic mission in the heart of secular Europe.
The Irish church’s reputation has been battered in the past five years by numerous sexual abuse scandals and repeated revelations that senior church officials deliberately covered up the crimes of paedophiles priests.
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