Secular clergy numbers fall by a sixth in two years23 January 2014 | by James Macintyre
The number of diocesan priests in England and Wales fell by more than 15 per cent from 2010 to 2012, according to the latest figures compiled by the Catholic Directory.
The total figure of priests across all dioceses dropped from 3,200 in 2010, to 2,708 in 2012, a decline of 15.4 per cent, or almost a sixth.
Over the same period, there was an increase in the number of retired priests, from 776 to 805, a rise of 3.7 per cent.
The decline in secular clergy is revealed in the new 2014 edition of the directory. The directory did not include statistics last year due to concerns about their reliability but the new editor, Sr Catherine Wybourne, says she has received up to date information from all the dioceses.
While recent years have seen an increase in the number of seminarians in England and Wales the decline in the number of priests continues to pose a problem for dioceses.
Earlier this month, The Tablet reported that at least four churches had been closed in the Archdiocese of Birmingham, in cases where the Archdiocese said the “future is not sustainable”. Parishes are also being merged and the Archbishop of Birmingham, Bernard Longley, has said he cannot guarantee to provide a resident priest for each parish.
The Bishop of Northampton, Peter Doyle, last month disclosed that he is struggling to provide a priest for every parish. In his diocese there are just 39 priests serving 69 parishes and 27 Mass centres.
Above: Chrism Mass in Westminster Cathedral 2013 Photo: © Mazur/catholicnews.org.uk
A tale of two papaciesPremium
Which way does God face?Premium
Manage my subcription hereManage
Sign up for our newsletterSign Up