Saturday, November 23

From Sunday's NYTimes:

Garry Wills reviews a study of the American priesthood.

Schoenherr's focus is on the priesthood in America, but he refers peripherally to a situation that is regularly misrepresented by conservative Catholics -- the numbers of priests in the developing world. They claim that seminaries are full there, and will even supply a surplus of priests for the declining West. They rely not on absolute numbers but on percentage increases in indigenous seminaries after the withdrawal of missionary priests from colonial countries. To double or triple formerly modest outputs there does nothing to solve the fact that the Southern Hemisphere is where the priest shortage is greatest. In the United States, the number of priests per 10,000 faithful declined from 12.9 in 1965 to 9.8 in 1990. In the same period the priests per 10,000 in Africa declined from 5.4 to 2.3, and in Latin America from 2.3 to 1.4. Any gains made in recent years do not come even remotely close to closing that gap. No wonder Schoenherr can report that bishops in Africa and Latin America have requested Rome's permission to ordain married men in order to fill their imperative need for more priests.


World figures for the priesthood are clear. The Catholic Almanac of 2001 gives the Vatican's own figure of 404,620 priests in 1998. In 1977, the year before John Paul II became pope, the figure was 410,030. Priests have not increased in number, though they have increased dramatically in age, as one would expect where the total was not growing. Meanwhile, 300 million new Catholics came into the world during this pontiff's reign, making the priest-to-faithful disparity ever more serious. The results of this are clear, even in America, which is far better off than Africa or Latin America. Lay Catholic ministers outnumber priests here, and most of these are women, and permanent deacons (male) now number one for every 1.6 parishes. These lay assistants and substitutes are required because of understaffed or nonstaffed parishes. Despite these statistics, some bishops continue to deny that the priest shortage is more than a temporary dip in the demographics. Some dip.

Also, Goldhagen's book is reviewed (not by Wills)

It would be hard to argue with Goldhagen if he had simply recounted this history, or even if he had stopped after claiming that moral restitution by the Catholic Church is still needed. But he goes on, and in the process makes what a lawyer would call a number of bad points....

....Nothing will ever eradicate the horrible stain left on Europe in the middle years of the last century, and Christian churches, together with what passed for Christian tradition, have much to answer for. But an understanding of, or even atoning for, that time is not encouraged by misinterpreting the record, or by invoking it for any polemical or political end.





Boston Archdiocese turns over files; immediately moves to have them sealed.

Y'all should read Conor Dugan's strong defense of Notre Dame's Catholic identity from the comments below.

We watched John Sayles' Sunshine State last night, for two reasons: it's about Florida, and it features Edie (Carmella Soprano) Falco.

I've always liked John Sayles' movies....okay. His leisurely pace gets a bit too leisurely sometimes, but what is inarguable is that his films are always interesting, always different.

This one concerns itself with development in Florida, apparently based to some extent on Amelia Island, which becomes "Planation Island" (one of the big developments on Amelia Island is Amelia Plantation), and at the historically African-American beach area called American Beach, which becomes "Lincoln Beach" in the movie. As exiles, we enjoyed seeing the Florida sites, although it was jarring to see that Weeki-Wachee (home of the mermaid show in which the Falco character had once worked) had been moved across the state from the Gulf Coast to the Atlantic, but that's okay.

Typical Sayles: lots of characters, lots of dialogue, some of which was excellent, and some of which was unexpectedly dreadful - stagey, overwrought, artificial.

However, I have to say that Edie Falco was pretty...mediocre. I don't understand the raves her performance got. First - there was her accent, which was dreadful. I guess it was supposed to be southern, but it had an awful lot of Yankee in it. She was supposed to be your typical long-term Florida beach resident, an identification they accomplished by having her hair bleached out and messy, and having her slouch around the whole movie in various spaghetti-strap t-shirts and shorts. Her character was supposed to be bored, yeah, but even bored people change their expressions once in a while.

A task force is studying what to do with St. John's College and Seminary in Camarillo, CA.

A Cuyahoga grand jury is about to wrap up its business:

The full returns from an investigation Mason calls "unprecedented in scope and magnitude" won't be known until Dec. 3. That is the day when nine members of the grand jury will cast their votes on whether to indict any of the 100 priests or 260 others connected with the diocese who have been accused of sexually abusing children. For an indictment to happen, seven grand jurors must vote yes. Mason said he expects several priests will be indicted, but he wouldn't speculate how many. He characterized about half a dozen of the cases as "tough calls" that could go either way, depending on the grand jury's mindset. But most of the cases are either too old or too weak to be prosecuted, Mason said.



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