Demographics Is Destiny?

I recently came across this article in The Baltimore Sun entitled “Catholics look to younger students to stem priest, nun declines.” What struck me was that the profiled fifth-graders “were so unfamiliar with a nun’s habit and veil” that they referred to a nun as “the lady in the blue dress.”

Unfortunately, the author eventually trots out the usual “mainstream” explanations for the shortage of priests and religious, such as the sex scandals, the male-only priesthood, and mandatory celibacy, without going deeper.

This shortcoming was adroitly exposed by Terry Mattingly on his blog:

“One of the major problems these days is that millions of Catholic parents are no longer sure if they want their sons and daughters to surrender their lives to the church.

“This is the factor that the Sun continues to miss in its coverage of stories linked to Catholic statistics–such as struggling parishes, closing schools and, yes, the declining number of priests. A key fact: Birth rates for most white American Catholics now resemble those found in liberal Protestant churches.

“I dug into this a few years ago in a pair of Scripps Howard columns that shipped with this title: ‘Fathers, mothers and Catholic sons.’ The key interview was with the progressive Catholic academic Father Donald B. Cozzens, a former seminary vicar in Ohio and author of the influential 2000 book, The Changing Face of the Priesthood.

“The bottom line: How many Catholic young people will even considering entering religious life if this step is actively opposed by their fathers and mothers?

“In the past, when large families were the norm, it was a matter of pride to have a son enter religious life. But what if most Catholic families contain only one son?

“’When it has become normal to have two children or less, you are not going to find many parents who are encouraging a son–especially an only son–to become a priest,’ said Cozzens. ‘They want him to get married, to have grandchildren and carry on the family name.

“’So there are fewer sons and there are more mothers who are asking hard questions.’

“Grandchildren or no grandchildren? . . .

“Once again, demographics is destiny. I would also note that, especially in Catholic pews, demographics are often shaped by doctrine.”

Read the entire article here.

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