Better formation of children could avert shortage

As I read “Steady change” (In Focus, June 27) and “Empty Pulpits” (Editorial, June 27), I wondered why the priest shortage is projected to increase, when the Catholic population is projected to grow 25 percent — even as the general population is projected to decrease? Normally, growth in a population (in this case, Catholics) also brings growth in the various professions — including the priesthood. 

But there’s something else happening that is contributing to this projected shortage that we see even today. First of all, even though most parents are bringing their children to Church to be baptized and for classes in preparation for their first Communion and confirmation, in a typical parish, catechetical instruction commonly comes to a dead end after those classes. This leads to a second reason for the projected shortage of priests: the general lack of parental interest in seeing to the ongoing religious education of their children. The third reason for the projected shortage is two-sided: the culture in which we live today is tearing the fabric of our Christian life apart, and there is a lack of interest in learning more about our Catholic faith on the part of adult Catholics. 

While a vocation to the priesthood is a grace, perhaps it’s time that we adult Catholics also take up the study of the Catechism of the Catholic Church so we know and can pass on to our children our Christian values and thereby do the part that is ours to avert the shortage of priests. 

— Pamela Haines, MTS, RHIA, St. Petersburg, Fla.

Small pool of candidates

Your June 27 articles on the priest shortage were very thorough. The next question is what can be done about it. 

First of all, the Church has proclaimed that 50 percent of Catholics are categorically disqualified because they are women. Perhaps as much as 95 percent of the remaining Catholics are likewise disqualified because they have vocations to the married life. So, we are left with a pool of a mere 2.5 percent of Catholics. Then we need to consider that only a small percentage of that 2.5 percent would have a priestly calling. This is a sure blueprint to a shortage. What can the Church — that is, the people of God — do about it? Nothing. It is in the hands of the hierarchy. 

— Joseph Keenan, Netcong, N.J.

Political, moral rights 

On Sept. 12, 1960, presidential candidate John F. Kennedy, evidently untutored in Catholic thinking, said: “I do not speak for my church on public matters — and the church [which is to say, Christ the King] does not speak for me.” He did speak, unknowingly, for 50 years of similarly unversed but self-identified Catholic politicians, whose political consciences are, in the main, obdurately divorced from Church teaching (“John F. Kennedy’s political legacy,” July 4)

Such politicians arrogantly compartmentalize (or ignore) the faith, refusing to see political issues always in the light of the Gospel as taught in and through the magisterium of the Church to which they profess fidelity — when such fidelity redounds to their political benefit (see Jn 12:43). They enjoy the legal right to campaign as they choose, but in traducing the teaching of the faith they do not have the moral right to call themselves “Catholic.”  

— Deacon James H. Toner, Ph.D., Cromwell, Conn. 

Recommended reading 

Re “Clash of cultures” (In Focus, May 30). Russell Shaw has written a gem — straightforward, analytic, objective. This is a must-read for all Catholics. I hope the Vatican absorbs, responds and revamps. 

— Don Barton, Jacksonville, Fla.

Taxing correction 

There is an important factual error in Ferdinand Oertel’s article about the Church in Germany (July 4). The Church tax is not “8 or 9 percent of an individual’s income.” It is 8 or 9 percent of the individual’s income tax — a huge and important difference. Though our freewill system of Church support seems superior, the German system has one advantage we do not enjoy: The wealthy support the Church in accordance with their means. In our freewill system, despite exceptions here and there, the poor and those of modest means pay a higher proportion of their income in Church support than the wealthy. 

— Father John Jay Hughes, St. Louis, Mo.

Catholic education 

Re Father Norbert Wood’s comment that “when it comes to same-sex parents, their lifestyle alone is not an obstacle to the enrollment of their children [in a Catholic school]” (“Same-sex parents and Catholic schools,” June 13)

The only thing that a Catholic school education can offer that is not offered at any other private school or public school today is the nature of the Catholic religion and its beliefs. 

A couple of the same sex publicly affirm their commitment to a union that has historically, at best, been tolerated by other cultures and social systems. In truth, if any culture embraces or accepts a lifestyle that at its core does not produce children, it will cease to exist after a short period of time. 

The Catholic school system is under no obligation to accept children whose parents or legal guardians have chosen not to believe in the basic teachings of the Catholic Church. 

— Tom Sporman, Circleville, Kan.Better formation of children could avert shortage