Ninety percent fewer seminarians; 35 percent fewer priests, and many are old; 92 percent fewer religious brothers; 90 percent fewer nuns and sisters — all in the space of just 50 years.
The drop in the numbers of men and women willing to give their lives for the Church has been beyond dramatic. Certainly, it isn’t news that there are enormously fewer numbers of priests, sisters and brothers than in days gone by, but what needs to be understood is why this happened.
It isn’t enough to just make it a simple, overly broad answer like “Vatican II caused it.” To whatever degree, the Second Vatican Council is involved, it only provided the means. It wasn’t gradual; it was a spiritual meteorite that hit the Church in the late 1960s. What we are feeling today is the lingering effect of it.
If the Church is going to rebuild Herself, we need to ensure that the same mistakes are not repeated. Facts have to be faced and examined objectively. Something was already present in the Church before Vatican II that allowed for the implosion of the Faith.Never forget that every bishop at Vatican II who signed the documents had been born, baptized, confirmed and ordained in the Old Rite. So the notion that the Old Rite — meaning the Traditional Latin Mass — is a cure-all is not well thought out.
The Church imploded when the TLM was the normal, usual routine. Something was already stirring in the souls of many laity and religious prior to the Council. Mass attendance before the Council was already on the way down before the Council, across the West. Obviously, it got a lot worse after Vatican II, but the dynamite was already laid.
The state of the Church in those days running up to the Council may very well have been a case of a mile wide and inch deep, in other words, the termites had already been at work for some time, so when the strong wind blew, it didn’t take much to bring the whole house down.
The same was true of religious orders at the time. They were burgeoning, busting at the seams. How did the convents and monasteries empty out so fast? Remember, it was not just the case that people stopped coming. It was the case that people stopped coming secondarily. The primary disaster was that the already professed left in droves.
So what was wrong just below the surface with all these vocations? That many would not ever come, while sad, is not shocking. What is shocking is those that had already dedicated themselves to the religious life, made vows, took oaths and so forth — that these would just chuck their vows aside.
And more to the point, as the Church tries to resurrect from this implosion, we need to be certain that we aren’t laying the groundwork for the same thing to happen again, if not at this moment, then somewhere shortly down the road.
All of this is the topic for this week’s “Mic’d Up,” a fantastic discussion about the collapse and resurrection of the religious orders.
What is needed in any vocation is love for the Faith. And it has to surpass the love of evil that enemies of the Church have. The zeal for evil among Planned Parenthood supporters, for example, is enviable. The degree of constancy and conviction that those dedicated to the destruction of the Faith have is astounding.
Venerable Bp. Sheen used to say: “The Communists have all zeal and no truth, and we Catholics have all truth and no zeal.” The religious orders ultimately fell apart because they fell out of love with Our Lord and His Holy Catholic Church. When the opportunity presented itself, and there became a choice between Our Lord and His Holy Bride, they looked at each and chose the lesser.
That can happen to any one of us, religiously professed or lay person. People have to love; their relationship with truth, with the Faith, must be enhanced and advanced daily. They must have a sense of mission; we must have a sense of mission.
The problem facing the Church today is that the sense of mission has been reduced to a watered-down emotionalism where the mission is your feelings. That’s not mission; that’s ego. We must be in love with Our Lord in His Church — not some in love with some imaginary feeling of being in love.
Love compels greatness; it compels sacrifice; it compels a vocation.
As an early “religious” once said, “If I have not love, I am a noisy gong and clanging symbol” (1 Cor. 13:1).
EDITORS NOTE: Originally published at ChurchMilitant.com.