By Courtesty Redemptorist Publications (Reality Magazine, March 2016)
A study commissioned by the council of Priests of the Archdicocese of Dublin has attempted to look into the future and its view is bleak. The study was conducted by an international company that advises clients on human resources in planning for the future.
Among other findings, the report estimates Mass attendance could be expected to decline further from its present level by a further 47% by 2030. Figures for Sunday practice between 2008 and 2014, showed a decline of 20%, and the report projects a further decrease by 33% between 2014 and 2030.
It predicts that a decline of 61% in the number of full-time priests is likely in the same period. As of June, 2014, there were 110 priest-religious and 275 diocesan priests under the age of 75 (estimated as retirement age) in the service of Dublin diocese (i.e. 386 in total). There are an additional 14 religious and 19 diocesan priests between 75 and 80 who are still in service. The report estimates that catering for the requirements of the estimates number of Mass goers in 2030 would require 246 full-time priests. A realistic assessment of the number of priests available, based on current trends in recruitment, suggests that shortfall of more than one hundred is likely, increasing to 130 if the religious orders relinquish their parishes.
While marriages celebrated in church are likely to decline by about 4% a year, funerals and baptisms will probably remain stable (the report cites the argument alleged by some religious correspondents that parents are having their children baptised to ensure school enrolment).
The report’s proposals include recruiting priests from elsewhere (from other Irish dioceses or from overseas), greater use of lay people, allowing priests to concentrate essentially on liturgical ministry and make it attractive for older priests to continue in some form of part-time ministry.
- Towers Watson Report to Dublin Priests Council
- Fr. Gareth Byrne, Chair of the Council Of Priests in Dublin, interviewed by Wendy Grace on “A Question Of Faith”.