Hi Fred...

I've appended an AP piece on the shrinking ranks of the Catholic clergy and religious.

Despite desperate propagandizing, it would seem that the Catholic church is unable to convince its members to waste their lives on ritual nonsense.

This is a good sign. The vast majority of Catholics I know have personal religious/philosophical convictions that have little or nothing to do with Catholic dogma. For them the church is simply a social club more akin to the Elks or American Legion than anything else, a place to hold weddings and funerals.

Every Catholic I know has regaled me with tales of insensitivity and stupidity on the part of Catholic clergy at the most horrible times, especially funerals. It is only family tradition and a superstitious attitude trained into them as children that causes them to consider themselves Catholics in any way.

I was witness to one of these assholes-in-a-collar at the funeral of my friend's crib-death baby and couldn't believe the arrogance and insensitivity of the jerk presiding. My friend's then-husband-to-be (the child was born out of wedlock) is from a Catholic family and his mother is a hysterically superstitious woman. They caved in to a Catholic funeral to please her and it was a sorry mistake considering the heart-wrenching pettiness the priest showed.

He showed no sympathy whatsoever and seemed to regard the funeral as an opportunity to belittle them and everyone in the room for not groveling before the mother church. My friend is not a Catholic and she is not about to convert in order to please her now-husband's family. And all of this was to please a hysterical and superstitious woman who is more in need of institutionalization then religion.

It is unfortunate that the Church holds even this amount of superstitious hold upon them. They have been conditioned to think that there is no other church and they hold to the church the way a simpleton clutches a rabbits foot and are constantly disappointed when the rabbits foot doesn't work.

Yet both simpletons and devout Catholics make excuses for why their respective rabbits feet don't work and continue to rub them superstitiously at every opportunity.

They go on and on about the celibacy issue but I think the underlying problem is that folks just plain don't believe the nonsense the church spouts. They apparently want to hedge their bets by bending to superstitions inculcated in them from childhood, "just in case" they're true, but they are plainly unwilling to waste their lives performing endless and utterly empty rituals.

One must wonder what sort of low-grade priests/nuns they would recruit if they eliminated the celibacy requirement. Obviously, someone who is only prevented from taking vows by the lack of permitted sexual activity is hardly to be considered a profound philosopher or devout Catholic. The constant supply of sexual predators, liars and thieves who find their way into the priesthood and the exodus of decent priests/nuns into lay-life are very telling indicators of the decreptitude of this ancient and false belief system.


Experts: Active Priests on Decline
.c The Associated Press

PITTSBURGH (AP) - The Rev. David Bonnar remembers the day he was ordained. He says becoming a priest was the best thing that ever happened to him.

But as each year passes, fewer and fewer men are following in his footsteps. He knows it well. As director of vocations for the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh, Bonnar is responsible for recruiting candidates for the priesthood.

Bonnar was one of eight priests ordained by the diocese in 1988. This year, there will be perhaps two. In 1999, the diocese will not ordain a single priest - it may be a first for this century.

The 25-year decline in the number of active priests is part of what experts say is a church-wide trend in the United States, as is the decline in the number of men entering the seminary.

``Every diocese throughout the land is facing the same challenge,'' Bonnar said last week.

Nationwide, for every 100 men enrolled in Catholic seminaries in 1965, there are 40 today, said Dean Hoge, a professor of sociology at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.

And the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University reported that from 1970 to 1995, seminary enrollment in the United States dropped by half.

The chief source of the decline, Hoge said, is required celibacy. He estimated that the number of men becoming priests and women becoming nuns would quadruple if members of religious orders were allowed to marry.

In the Pittsburgh diocese, the number of active priests is now 371; a decade ago, it was 467.

``We have far fewer people responding to the call of priestly ministry than we did a generation ago,'' Pittsburgh Bishop Donald Wuerl said.

Each of the diocese's 218 parishes has at least one priest, but Wuerl said it is difficult to provide chaplains for hospitals, Catholic schools and nursing homes. He is familiar with the celibacy argument.

``I'm sure that it (celibacy) is very countercultural, but that requirement exists to be countercultural, and nothing speaks more eloquently to the coming of the kingdom, to the spiritual dimensions of another realm, than celibacy does,'' he said.

The diocese is emphasizing the responsibility of each parish to identify and encourage men to embrace the priesthood. Priests and seminarians visit schools and parishes to share their experiences.

The diocese also is producing a video for high school- and college-age men that details the priestly life. Wuerl will issue a pastoral letter later this year on religious vocations.

Although Catholics believe that men are called to the priesthood by God, Bonnar said the church also needs to ``share with people what a joy it is to be a priest.''

And despite the decline, Bonnar does not appear worried.

``We can always use more hands and more hearts,'' he said, but added, ``I don't think any of us are panicking. God has not stopped calling.''

AP-NY-04-06-98 0548EDT


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