Priest numbers slide by 500 in just a decade
springtime auto-demolition of Vatican II comes to the priesthood in Ireland]
by Cathal Barry
April 21, 2016
The number of diocesan priests in Ireland has plummeted by more than 500 in just 10 years, according to the latest official statistics.
The most significant fall off was between the years 2013 and 2014, when the number of priests dropped by 120 in the 12-month period.
Vatican figures show that while there were 3,141 diocesan priests in Ireland in 2004, that figure had dropped by 514 to just 2,627 in 2014, the latest year for which statistics are available. However, since about a quarter of these priests are thought to be retired, the real figure for diocesan priests still actively working is probably closer to 1,900.
The figures are published in the latest Annuarium Statisticum, the statistical yearbook of the Church.
The number of diocesan clergy has been sharply declining, except between the years 2007 and 2008 when there was a modest increase of 10, the figures show.
While death and a lack of vocations are the primary contributing factors to the fall in the number of diocesan clergy, a significant number of priests have also left the priesthood over the same period.
Between 2004 and 2014, 83 priests left the priesthood permanently, the new statistics show. This number amounts to 16% of the decline in the number of priests. The Vatican lists such departures as “defections” and this does not include priests taking a break from ministry, or those who have retired from active ministry.