The Vocations Crisis is Man-Made - Those Who Made it Are Now in Their End-Game

Torch of The Faith News on Friday 20 March 2015 - 22:38:03 | by admin

Elden F. Curtiss, the former Archbishop of Omaha in Nebraska, famously nailed the roots of the 'vocations crisis' in an article he wrote for his diocesan magazine Catholic Voice back in 1995.

His Grace wrote: 'It seems to me that the vocations ''crisis'' is precipitated by people who want to change the Church's agenda, by people who do not support orthodox candidates loyal to the magisterial teaching of the Pope and bishops, and by people who actually discourage viable candidates from seeking priesthood and vowed religious life as the Church defines these ministries. I am personally aware of certain vocations directors, vocations teams and evaluation boards who turn away candidates who do not support the possibility of ordaining women or who defend the Church's teaching about artificial birth control, or who exhibit a strong piety toward certain devotions, such as the Rosary.'

He's Right! I can testify from my own lived experience that there are priests who, having first helped to engineer the vocations crisis in England, are now involved in the implementation of 'pastoral programmes' which aim at lay-leadership of parishes in light of the 'crisis' in vocations to the priesthood. They created the problem and now they are giving us their solution.

Early in 1997, I attended a selection conference at Ushaw Seminary near Durham. Miraculously I got through that selection conference and was allowed to join up for seminary formation. I was amazed to be picked in light of the fact that half of those who interviewed me thought it more important to investigate my views on women priests, women house-keepers (!) and Liberation Theology, than on whether I was converted to Christ, supportive of the Magisterium, working on personal holiness or keen to evangelize and save/care for souls.

I could fill tomes on my experiences as a seminarian between 1997 and 1999. However, in this article I will speak of just a few points touching on those words of Archbishop Curtiss.

During my time at Ushaw, I volunteered to help look after potential students attending for the selection conferences in 1998 and 1999.


During the first year, one of the young men I had been assigned to look after went past my room in tears. He was a decent, devout and well adjusted lad, in his early 20's, with a strong love for Christ. I got him a coffee and offered a supportive chat. 

He explained that he knew that he would not be getting accepted for formation, because a priest on the seminary staff had just grilled him at interview. This was because the lad believed that the Church is Hierarchical and because he also believed that the use of contraception was objectively sinful. 

Now, the last time I looked, those are things which the Magisterium of the Church officially teaches; there is a whole section of the Second Vatican Council's Constitution Lumen Gentium dedicated to the hierarchical nature of the Church and Humanae Vitae was promulgated soon after the Council. 

Sure enough, this young man was not selected for seminary formation. I met him a couple of years later in Lancashire, where he was serving the Church through involvement with an orthodox youth group. He was still sad that he had not been able to pursue priestly ordination.  

The priest who interviewed him seemed so enamoured of the lay vocation that he often sported splendid ties and blazers himself, in lieu of clerical attire. He went on to PhD studies on the nature of priesthood, the shortage of priests and the future of lay-led parishes. His studies attempted to force a dichotomy between the 'cultic' model of priesthood and the 'pastoral' model. I can just imagine if someone had suggested to the late Canon Michael Culhane that those priests who 'preferred' a 'cultic' model were less inclined to practice the 'pastoral' nature of the priesthood. He'd have laughed them right out of town. And rightly so.

That seminary priest has since gone on to play a significant part in the development of a pastoral programme, in a major UK diocese, which seeks to overcome the vocations 'crisis' by bringing on lay-leadership of parishes.


During a selection conference in this period, a 28-yr-old man, attending for interview, confided in me that he had already attended Ushaw for selection fully ten years earlier. At that time, one of his female interviewers had asked for his views on the pro-life movement. He had enthusiastically endorsed it and spoken of his support for public pro-life witness. At the end of his interview, the lady interviewer had stated: ''Young man, I suggest that in future you keep your views to yourself!'' Unsurprisingly, he had not been accepted for formation at that time. After a whole decade the sense of being called to the priesthood had never left him.

At another selection conference during that period, a young man sporting an ear-ring and a giant pagan symbol on his coat attended for interview. During the weekend, he stormed out, saying ''P-L-E-A-S-E!'' when Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament was mentioned by a couple of seminarians. At a social evening with seminarians, he acted very effeminately and crudely promoted homosexual ideology.

Another student and I put our necks on the line to suggest to the staff that this man was not suitable for seminary. Realizing that we would likely damage our own chances of ordination if we spoke of the homosexual issue - we would have been labelled 'homophobic' and thus deemed suspect by the staff - we decided to focus on his extremely ill-mannered approach to existing seminarians during the social evening. A couple of weeks later, a priest on the staff came to see us with the following message from the bishop who had sent this man for formation: ''X is coming to the seminary. Be nice to him!''

Around this time a key member of the Ushaw staff, who had also abandoned all clerical dress in favour of slacks and casual, open-necked shirts, gave us a course on Pastores Dabo Vobis; St. John Paul II's apostolic exhortation on priestly formation. Unfortunately, the content of the course did not include the actual content of the document! Instead, we were told that, as priests of the future, our job would be to act as 'animators' who would 'empower the laity' and help them to take over leadership and decision making of the Church. We were told that the future for the Church was not in the priesthood but in the laity. This priest contended that the Hierarchical 'model' focused on the Papacy was to be replaced by lay-leadership at the local level. Our job would be the implementation of this model at the start of the new millennium. That's not what I had signed up for! During his course, this priest even suggested that the 10 Commandments were more of a code for daily living which had been drawn up for a nomadic community of sheep herders... 

In another course, this same priest tried to push for a 'Mass-free' ecumenical day to 'celebrate' the Millennium. He asked to know our responses to this suggestion. Realizing the danger to our vocations if we crossed swords with him, most of the class remained silent. He then demanded a response. One student tried to give an academic response in the third-party, along the lines of, 'Based on so and so, some might say.' The priest then said he was not interested in such academic answers, but demanded to know our emotional responses: How did his suggestion make us feel? 

When we had all answered, the priest gave us an angry lecture about sectarianism and how in ''true ecumenism'' we ''don't just go off and do our little Catholic bit!'' He was speaking of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

The following Sunday this priest used his homily at the main college Sunday Mass to publicly berate our class in front of the whole college for supposedly holding to 'sectarian views.'

Today, this priest also is involved in a sophisticated programme to implement lay-leadership in yet another English diocese, in light of the 'crisis' in vocations and the resultant priest-shortage.

It should also be noted that unhealthy nepotism was at work in the selection/out-selection of future seminarians. Some of the most Modernist of the staff at Ushaw had family members - such as sisters and in-laws - hosting interviews at selection conference weekends. As Michael S. Rose pointed out, in his informative book Goodbye Good Men - How Liberals Brought Corruption into the Catholic Church, there has been a real 'gate-keeper phenomenon' in the seminaries. 

Present Day

Pope Francis has called the Church to move beyond self-reference and to go out to the peripheries. Pope St. John Paul II spoke often of the need for a New Evangelization. He also explored the lay vocation in great depth in his apostolic exhortation Christifideles Laici. This developed insights of the Second Vatican Council on the lay vocation to take Christ out to the world and to act as a leaven in society. The nature and manner in which lay people exercise their vocations as priest, prophet and king are distinct from and dependent upon those appropriate to the ministerial priesthood. 

Many dioceses in the Western hemisphere have instead adopted a programme of self-reference and lay-leadership due to a supposed 'crisis' in vocations. Make no mistake; there is a crisis. It has many contributing factors: breakdown in family-life; the pressures of secularization; collapse in catechesis and Catholic education worthy of the name; loss of reverence in the Sacred Liturgy; abandonment of a Catholic understanding of the priesthood, of sacrifice and of the centrality of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

What has often been overlooked in the 'crisis' of vocations is the fact that much of it is engineered. The seminaries had been taken over long ago by dissenters intent on re-making the Church according to their own Modernist whims. 

I have met priests and former seminarians from England, Ireland, North America, Germany and the Netherlands with similar stories to tell. There are a lot of damaged orthodox guys out there, who set out to follow Jesus Christ in the Church and ended up getting persecuted by the very enemies of Christ and Catholic orthodoxy who had taken over the choke-points of Catholic leadership, education and formation.

This was all identified years ago. What has perhaps been unseen is that these same people have now moved into their end-game. Having spent decades of their lives in seminaries thwarting orthodox vocations and favouring those dedicated to something other than the Catholic view of Doctrine, Liturgy, Prayer and Morals, these people are now heading up sophisticated 'pastoral programmes' to bring in lay-leadership of parishes.

Like true Hegelians, they have given us the problem and now they are working through their own final solution.

Years of their work have honeycombed the structure of dioceses, deaneries, parishes and schools. Now emptied of much of their Catholic content, these can be 're-envisioned' to suit the new agenda of these post-moderns. The priest who hindered the first young man I discussed above has actually studied post-modernist deconstructionism in some depth. He admitted in my company years ago that he wanted to apply it to the seminary. It would appear that he is now doing it to an English diocese. This deconstructionism aims at maintaining the outward appearances of existing structures, to avoid confrontation from traditional opponents - viewed as 'resisters' - whilst deconstructing the content from within. Once accomplished, the remaining structures can be re-used to support the reconstructed agenda of the post-modernists.

It all sounds very futuristic and daring to those committed to it. In reality, what it leaves us with is an existential loss of the Catholic faith, hierarchy, orthodoxy and sacraments which Christ gave to us. Instead we have groups of leftist-leaning elderly ladies providing social work, prayers and religion as a hobby. Mass, Confession and Benediction give way to flower festivals, discussion groups and theological dissent.


Archbishop Elden F. Curtiss was right: the 'crisis' in vocations is engineered. Those who engineered it have now moved on to implement its effects by bringing in the lay-leadership they have always desired.

Thankfully, those few places which remained faithful to Catholic Tradition have never had a vocations crisis to speak of. These are the lights that will remain to remind the Church and the world of the Divine nature and mission of the Church.


Oh Lord, give us priests.

Oh Lord, give us holy priests.

Oh Lord, give us many holy priests.