A priest shortage
is the situation of a reduced number of priest
A priest is a person authorized to perform the sacred rites of a religion, especially as a mediatory agent between humans and deities. They also have the authority or power to administer religious rites; in particular, rites of sacrifice to, and propitiation of, a deity or deities...
s in religions, especially the Roman Catholic Church
The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the world's largest Christian church, with over a billion members. Led by the Pope, it defines its mission as spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ, administering the sacraments and exercising charity...
In 2008, 49,631 parishes in the world had no resident priest pastor. While the number of Catholics in the world nearly doubled between 1970 and 2008, growing from 653 Million to 1.166 Billion, the total number of priests declined from 419,728 to 409,166. This means that the ratio of laity to priests has nearly doubled in the last 40 years.
The situation in the USA is that the “Catholic Church is unique [among eleven of the largest Christian religions] in several areas: the dwindling supply of priests, the increasing number of lay people per priest, the declining number of priests per parish, [and] the increasing number of priestless parishes...In the Catholic Church, the total number of priests has declined from 58,534 in 1981 to 52,227 in 1991 and 45,713 in 2001 (a 22 percent loss between 1981 and 2001). In every other group, including denominations in which membership has declined (e.g., the Episcopal and Evangelical Lutheran churches), the total number of clergy has increased....The Catholic Church also is unique regarding the ratio of church members to total clergy. With the Catholic population increasing steadily and the number of priests declining, the number of laypeople per priest has climbed from 875:1 in 1981 to 1,113:1 in 1991 and 1,429:1 in 2001 (a 63 percent increase). No other religious group even comes close to that increase....The Catholic Church also is unique in that the declining number of priests in parish ministry is producing a marked increase in the number of 'priestless' parishes. In 1960, only about 3 percent of Catholic parishes had no resident pastor. By 2000 that figure was up to 13 percent, and by the summer of 2003 it had risen to 16 percent"
Between 1965 and 2010, the number of USA parishes without a priest climbed from 549 to 3,342. Research by Davidson found "a growing shortage of Catholic priests but an increasing supply—some analysts say an oversupply—of clergy in most Protestant denominations" Similarly, research by Richard Schoenherr found that “the current clergy shortage is a distinct Catholic crisis”
Around the world, the priest shortage is leading to a sacramental and pastoral deficiency for the faithful. This is because the faithful currently depend primarily on priests to confer the seven sacraments in Catholicism. The distances that faithful must travel for a Mass, baptism, etc. have become ever longer since the priest shortage has led to the closing of many local churches. On the other hand, priests must travel greater distances as they are spread to cover more parishes. Priests have less time for the individual churchgoer since they must care for a greater number of them.
In some western countries the shortages have meant many parishes have had to share a priest and staff with one or more other parishes or have had to close. In many parishes, some of the duties performed by priests are instead performed by other personnel, such as deacon
Deacon is a ministry in the Christian Church that is generally associated with service of some kind, but which varies among theological and denominational traditions...
s and members of the laity.
- Dean R. Hoge
Dean R. Hoge was an American sociologist, who spent decades studying American Catholics, especially empirical surveys on the priesthood....
, The First Five Years of the Priesthood: A Study of Newly Ordained Catholic Priests. Liturgical Press, Collegeville, Minnesota 2002. Page 3.
- A.W. Richard Sipe
A. W. Richard Sipe is a former Benedictine monk-priest of 18 years, a sociologist and author of 6 books about Catholicism American Certified Clinical Mental Health Counselor trained specifically to deal with the mental health problems of Roman Catholic Priests...
, Celibacy in Crisis: A Secret World Revisited. Brunner-Routledge, New York and Hove 2003. Page 136.