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Reports of My Death Have Been Greatly Exaggerated PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Thursday, 07 February 2008 07:24
Interesting how this works.

It is all over the news this morning - there was a world-wide drop in Catholic religious of nearly 10% in 2006 and the world-wide total had dropped below 1 million. This is based upon a back page article in L'Osservatore Romano on Monday which gave the annual report on Church statistics.

Per Catholic World News:

Between 2005 and 2006, L'Osservatore Romano reported, the number of male and female religious in the world dropped by nearly 95,000. The entire religious population now stands at just over 945,000.

On Tuesday, a Vatican spokesman issues a correction (via MSNBC)

The total of men and women in Catholic religious orders in 2006 stood at 945,210, which is 7,230 fewer than the previous year, said a Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Ciro Benedettini. He said an article Monday in the Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, had overstated the decrease.

No one seems to know where either the figure of 95,000 or 7,230 came from. But the gap between a "nearly 10% drop" and a 7/10th of 1 % drop (not nearly as sexy) is dramatic, A drop of only 7,230 in 2006 would mean that the number in 2005 was already well below 1 million - at 952,440.

Oh, and by the way, there was a blip upward in diocesan priests The Vatican's statistics office said the total number of priests worldwide stood at 405,000, with an increase of 600 diocesan clerics.

None of this is a surprise to those of us who do the math every year. The roughly 405,000 figure for priests has held steady for nearly 10 years now. But the neatness of those images "nearly 10%" and "under 1 million" captured some headline writer's imagination.

Then Associated Press really outdid itself on Wednesday, adding to the figures a couple of quotes from a two year old speech by Pope Benedict.

As quoted by MSNBC:

'Churches appear to be dying'

The Vatican has long lamented a decrease in the number of priestly vocations in Europe and elsewhere in recent years, while the number of priests has increased in Africa and Asia.

The Osservatore Romano report did not give a reason for the recent figures.

Pope Benedict XVI said in a 2005 speech to Italian priests that the West was "a world that is tired of its own culture, a world that has arrived at a time in which there's no more evidence of the need for God, much less Christ, and in which it seems that man alone can make himself."

Mentioning Australia, Europe and the United States, the pontiff said in that speech that "one sees that the great churches appear to be dying."

There's the bottom line: "the great churches are dying".

One can only be surprised that the AP didn't also announce the time and place of the funeral.

Meanwhile, I suppose this means I ought to nice to Fr. Mike. Being a religious and rarer-than-hen's-teeth relic of a dying church and all.

I just may have to buy him that small Starbucks latte I owe him.

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