Aug 20, 2006

Unsettling Statistics on European Religious

My husband believes the annulment flood over the past 40 years should be made a critical topic among Catholic bloggers. Looking around, I found the Feb 8 2005 announcement of a press conference describing Dignitas Connubii that was issued to tighten up 'loose' proceedings in granting annulments, especially in North America. The press conference referenced world-wide annulment statistics from 2002:
It is first of all necessary to provide some statistics concerning causes of matrimonial nullity. The source is the Annuario Statistico della Chiesa for 2002.
The year 2002 seemed a little old so I tried to find a later statistical report.

A search revealed a very interesting Word document simply titled "1" found in the files of chiesacattolica.it. Dated June 1, 2006, the document was edited by Mons. Antonio Ladisa and presents data on religious vocations, especially from Italy as compared to the rest of the world (but none on annulments). Ladisa is studying the vocations crisis in Europe and trying to determine whether the crisis is happening everywhere or only in some locations.

The first table in Ladisa's report presents 1977-1997 figures on the numbers of priests in five regions of the world. Religious vocations in Europe are compared to worldwide numbers. The key statistic is that Europe constitutes 30% of the world-wide Catholic population, but produced (in 1990):
  • approximately 60% of the total of diocesan priests (153,000 of a world-wide total of 261,000);
  • 46% of religious order priests (66,400 of 142,900);
  • 52% of religious (442,000 of 848,000);
  • 43% of the religious brothers;
  • approximately 80% of the members of Secular Institutes
The above data appear disastrous for the future of the church. A very high percentage of world-wide religious vocations in 1990 came from Europe, but Europe now is producing significantly fewer numbers because of a scarcity of children and decreasing Catholic religious practices.

The table below easily shows this very unsettling problem. The number of secular institute priests and nuns from 1990 to 2004 are shown. A world-wide decrease of almost 8% is noted, and almost all of the loss is caused by an 18% drop in European priests and nuns that in 2004 still constituted 72% of the total world-wide members of secular institutes. In other words, large percentage increases in Africa, America, and Asia did not make up for the large loss in European members of secular institutes.

Membri istituti secolari

Continente

anno 1990

anno 2004

variazione

Africa

451

528

17.1

America

4,757

6,043

27.0

ASIA

892

1,527

71.2

EUROPA

25,272

20,800

-17.7

OCEANIA

47

44

-6.4

Mondo

31,419

28,942

-7.9

The document identifies the numbers of 1998 ordinations in each Italian region, notes that foreign priests are needed, and goes into some detail about their characteristics. Almost 1,700 foreign priests serve Catholics in Italy.

One hopeful statistic in the report deals with cloistered nuns in Italy that increased from 5,000 in 1978, to 7,651 in 1998.



2 comments:

Alison said...

I am with your husband. The vocation of marriage is on the attack and everyone should pray daily even for marriages they believe strong. As faithful as I think my husband and I are to our vows and as much as I love him I pray daily.
One book that you may want to check out is Robert Vasoli's What God Has Joined Together. It is one of the best documented books I have ever seen written. He outlines the crisis and the norms used in America. It is a scandal that crosses into conservative and traditional lines. I look forward to your post. I am glad you are investigating this and going where few will venture to go.

Dust I Am said...

Vasoli's book has been in our home for a number of years. My husband stumbled across it yesterday and gave it to me to encourage my post on the subject. I'm looking around to see if anything has changed since Dignitas Connubii was issued.