Vocations to the priesthood are plummeting in Poland, with the number of men entering seminaries falling 20% just over the past year.
Driving the news
Seminary Rectors Conference chairman Wojciech Wojtowicz revealed the stunning decline in seminary numbers Monday.
In 2019 to date, 324 candidates have entered diocesan seminaries, down from 415 in 2018.
So far this year, 174 men have begun their priestly formation with religious orders, down from 205 last year.
In total, 498 men in Poland have have started their education as Catholic priests this year – that’s 122 fewer than in 2018.
Altogether, there are 2,853 seminarians currently preparing for the priesthood in the country: a number down 60% on two decades ago and a fall from a high of around 9,000 in 1987, Wojtowicz explained.
The Seminary Rectors Conference chairman claimed that despite the drop-off of native vocations, Poland still remains an attractive destination for seminarians around the world to undertake their priestly formation.
Why it matters
Wojtowicz pointed to three principal factors to explain the slump in vocations: a declining birth rate, dropping rates of belief in young people and negative media reports about the Church.
These last two factors have wreaked particular havoc on the Polish Church, marked by a disconnect, at least in some places, by a progressive laity and an ultraconservative episcopate.
Last week sixteen priests sent a letter to the Pope’s representative in Poland denouncing alleged sexual abuse and abuse of office by the Archbishop of Gdánsk, Sławoj Leszek Głódź.
The Polish Bishops as a whole have also been accused of complicity in a new anti-sex education law that detractors say will send Poland back to the “Middle Ages”.
Representative of that ultraconservative strain is the Archbishop of Krakow Marek Jedraszewski, who not only fired diocesan staffers for not being married but has also attacked on multiple occasions the “rainbow plague” of the LGBT+ rights movement.
For their unflagging support for the ruling conversative Law and Justice (PiS) party, Polish bishops and priests have even come under fire from Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) observers for their meddling in the October elections that returned PiS to power.
It because of scandals such as these, not to mention the ongoing clergy sex abuse scandal, that just 7% of Polish youth affirm they “fully trust” the Church.
The scandals have also led to protests in different Polish cities of ordinary Catholics who say they want to take the Church back from their ultraconservative priests and bishops.