Lament follows Pontiff’s dissolution of traditional orders [and religious houses (see comment below)] in Belgium [and elsewhere]

by Stephen Wynne  •  •  May 23, 2018    

VATICAN CITY ( – Pope Francis is voicing frustration at the “hemorrhaging” of priests and religious across Europe.

At a gathering the Italian Bishops’ Conference on Monday, Francis voiced alarm at the collapse in vocations in what was once the heart of Christendom.

“How many seminaries, churches, monasteries and convents will be closed in the next few years?” he asked. “God only knows.”

Pope Francis faulted demographic changes, Church scandals and growing materialism (the “dictatorship of money”) for the collapse in vocations and warned a certain “vocational sterility” is overtaking Europe — a condition he suggested is unsolvable.

The Pontiff has suggested the Church study ordaining married priests to cope with the shortage in South America’s interior, a proposal expected to come into sharper focus during the October 2019 Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazon Region.

Reeling from its own vocations crisis — ordinations are at an all-time low — Germany has indicated it would be interested in this solution. In April, Bp. Franz-Josef Bode of Osnabrück, vice president of the German Bishops’ Conference, announced that if the Pope opens the door to married priests in the Amazon, German bishops ask him to do the same for their own country.

But rather than ending clerical celibacy, traditionalists maintain, the key to nurturing vocations is fidelity to Church teaching, a deepening of devotion to the truths of the Faith.

From 1978 to 2011, they point out, the number of vocations began to recover, with the greatest gains coming during the pontificate of Pope St. John Paul II.

They point out that wherever orthodoxy is nurtured, vocations flourish. From 2014–15 (the last year for which figures are available), the number of priests fell by 2,502 in Europe — an epicenter of theological dissent — even as they continued to climb in more the tradition-minded Africa and Asia.

Abandonment of orthodoxy, critics say, is the common root of vocational collapse, whether it manifests through leftist movements like Liberation Theology (Latin America) or the heresy of Modernism (Europe), dissent from Church teaching spawns an erosion of faith and a collapse in vocations.

In the heady years before Vatican II, throngs of American and European missionaries flowed into the Amazon to nourish the Faith. But as Modernism spread across the West, vocations waned and the flow dwindled. Liberation Theology, meanwhile, sapped the strength of homegrown seminaries. Today, the Amazon region counts one priest for every 10,000 Catholics.

Likewise, as Germany has reemerged as a hotbed of heresy and dissent in recent decades, seminaries have emptied and churches have closed. Munich — the heart of German Catholicism — counted just one new seminarian in 2016.

Tradition-minded Catholics point to theological orthodoxy as the key to vocational vibrancy; in a 2017 article titled “Return of the Vocations Crisis,” for example, Vaticanista Marco Tosatti illustrated this position with two examples from the United States:

In the diocese of Madison, Wisconsin, a liberal atmosphere prevailed until 2003 — a year that had six seminarians. Robert Morlino became bishop that year, and his efforts brought the number of seminarians to 36 in 2015. … A similar situation may be found in the diocese of Lincoln, Nebraska. Bishop James D. Conley has explained to the Catholic World Report that, in his opinion, the growth of vocations in his diocese had its root in fidelity to the traditional teachings of the Church.

Faithful Catholics note that the capacity for turnaround isn’t a strictly American phenomenon. Contrary to Pope Francis’ suggestion, they assert the European vocations crisis is in no way insoluble. They point to Belgium — one of the countries worst-hit by Modernist dissent — as an example.

From 2010–15, the archdiocese of Mechelen-Brussels was led by André-Joseph Léonard, a noted traditionalist. During his time as archbishop, Léonard oversaw the creation of a new traditional association, the Priestly Fraternity of the Holy Apostles (PFHA). Its growth was explosive.

Whereas other Belgian seminaries hadn’t registered a single vocation in years, the PFHA produced six priests and 23 seminarians between 2013 and 2016.

But in 2016, the orthodox order was shut down by Léonard’s successor, Abp. Jozef De Kesel, a noted liberal. De Kesel said he decided to shutter the PFHA because “too many” of the order’s seminarians were French, instead of Belgian.

His explanation found no traction among tradition-minded Catholics. Brussels is the capital of the European Union, whose motto is “Unity in Diversity.” Half the city’s residents are imports from other EU states or migrants from the Muslim world. More residents follow Islam than any other faith. In light of these facts, for faithful Catholics, De Kesel’s “too many French” fell flat.

The founders took their case to the Vatican supreme court, which was expected to soon decide in favor of reviving the fraternity.

But before the court could rule, Francis intervened. In April — six weeks before lamenting Europe’s vocations crisis — he signed decree of dissolution for the flourishing religious order, extinguishing the resurgence of vocations in Belgium.

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  1. Pope Francis vs Contemplative Orders: Euthanising religious life: Vatican’s nun doc and utilitarianism
    The latest document on women’s contemplative life – from men who manifestly loathe it – is aimed at either forcing all nuns to conform to the Bergoglian New Paradigm, or getting rid of them.
    Latest for the Remnant:
    Funny you should mention autonomy: Bioethics and the dissolution of “unviable” monasteries
    It’s funny that the buzzword of the day in Rome should be “autonomy”. As we shall see, the document [“Cor Orans” – Implementing Instruction of the Apostolic Constitution “Vultum Dei quaerere” on women’s contemplative life, of the Congregation for the Institutes of Consecrated Life and the Societies of Apostolic Life] is what I’ve called above a “chopping block”. Vultum dei quaerere made it clear that this juridical document would provide a set of legal criteria by which a monastery can be considered viable, religious life worthy of life, so to speak, and that those considered to have failed the test would be closed.
    Note the language used here:
    “If the situation of incapacity is irreversible, the solution, as painful as it is necessary, is the suppression of the monastery.”
    It jogged a memory for me. “Incapacity”… Where had I heard that language used before? Most pro-life observers in Britain will tell you that it was the “Mental Capacity Act” of 2005 that established in British law the concept that a person with permanently “reduced capacity” could be legally starved and/or dehydrated to death by doctors.
    Read the rest [of The Remnant artricle] here.

  2. [Re: Priestly vocations in some “conservative” and mega-numbered, heavily Hispanic-populated (arch)dioceses]
    No vocations this year in [“conservative” Abp. Cordileone’s] San Francisco archdiocese; meanwhile, [only] three to be ordained in [600,000 Catholic] Oakland
    [A progressive parish in a conservatively-led archdiocese]
    The Office of Vocations for the Archdiocese of San Francisco has announced Holy Hours June 10, 3 p.m., at churches in San Francisco, San Mateo and Marin counties.
    “There will be seminarians and probably some discerners at the various Holy Hours, but it is open to everyone to come and pray for vocations to the priesthood in response to ‘Jesus’ command to pray to the Harvest Master that he might send laborers into his vineyard,’” Father Patrick Summerhays, director of vocations for the Archdiocese of San Francisco, told Catholic San Francisco.
    The Holy Hours, held at a time of year when the archdiocese usually ordains new priests, are “in response to our having no ordinations to the priesthood this year in San Francisco,” Father Cameron Faller, assistant director of vocations for the archdiocese, said. Holy Hours in each county will make the prayer opportunity accessible to as many people as possible, Father Faller said.
    Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone will preside at the Holy Hour in San Francisco at St. Cecilia Church. Father Tom Martin will preside at the Holy Hour at St. Matthew Church in San Mateo, and Father Andrew Ginter will preside at the Holy Hour at St. Isabella Church in San Rafael. Both priests are also assistant directors of vocations for the archdiocese.
    Signing up at Invisible Monastery website, he said, is a specific way people can commit to personally pray for vocations:
    Full story at Catholic San Francisco.
    On May 25, three men will be ordained to the priesthood at the Cathedral of Christ the Light:
    [A modern cathedral in a heavily traditional-Hispanic populated diocese]
    On May 25, three men will be ordained to the priesthood at the Cathedral of Christ the Light in Oakland.
    They are Rev. Mr. Jimmy Macalinao; Rev. Mr. Jose Arturo Bazan; and Rev. Mr. Mario Rizzo.

    And, in a first for the Diocese of Oakland, a permanent deacon is being ordained to the priesthood.

    Full story at Catholic Voice Oakland.

  3. [Another conservatively-led diocese (by Bishop Thomas Tobin in Providence, RI – not Cardinal Joe “Iron-pumper” Tobin in Newark, NJ) with few or no seminarians or recently ordained priests]

    Catholic seminary says it has no applicants for fall program

    By Associated Press – May 23, 2018

    PROVIDENCE, R.I. — The Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence says no men have applied for its seminary program in the fall.

    The Rev. Chris Murphy tells WPRI-TV it’s rare that there are no new applicants to Our Lady of Providence Seminary. Between two and six men have entered the seminary each fall over the past five years. Murphy said Tuesday the church is not in crisis mode. He says it is looking at new ways to reach men who may be thinking about priesthood.

    Four priests in the Providence Diocese are scheduled to retire this year. One man will be ordained into the priesthood in June.

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