Polemics & Exchanges

On Matters Ecclesial

Once again, Joe Ecclesia has written a “Letter to a Bishop” (Correspondence, January) that resonates on the other side of the Atlantic. English parishes have been warned that they can no longer assume that they will have a resident priest.

English Catholics have been told to be prepared for the number of Masses cel- ebrated to be reduced, for parishes to be amalgamated, and for churches to be closed. We are, as our cardinal archbishop has told us, in a time of crisis. In his own archdiocese, there were 843 working priests in 1990; a year ago, the number had fallen to 623; and it is projected to fall to 471 by 2015, a reduction of nearly 50 percent in 25 years.

There are, no doubt, any number of reasons that can be put forward to explain how this has come about, and Joe Ecclesia touches on one that has certainly played–and is playing–its part. The culture of too many seminaries has been lax, liberal, and in some cases downright distasteful. But then so have other aspects of Catholic life. Not always, not everywhere, but often and frequently enough to be damaging, a kind of self-satisfied contentment seems to have crept into the institutional Church. The mood at too many Masses is one not of devotion and recollection but of busy external participation. The atmosphere is not one of worship but of mutual admiration....

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