Posted January 25, 2006
Latest Statistics on Priests
A new study of priests ordained 5 to 9 years is about to be published by
NCEA and the Life Cycle Institute.
Some of the statistics well worth pondering include:
From 1990 to 2005 the average age of priests ordained in the previous 5 to 9
year study [conducted in 1989] rose by six years. Today, the average age of
these men is 43.
Today, more were born overseas than in the past; in 2005 17 percent of diocesan
priests and 255 of the religious priests were born overseas.
The percentage who had attended seminary college dropped sharply from 1990
to 2005. Among the diocesan priests it dropped from 61 percent to 37 percent. The number
of diocesan priests who received pre-theology training in seminary rose from
17 percent to 47 percent during those fifteen years.
Preparation for church administration after ordination continues to rate
very low in seminary training.
The vast majority of priests said their first assignments were “very
helpful” or “helpful” — 79 percent of diocesan priests and 83 percent of religious.
Many more priests in 2005 were serving as pastors than was the case in 1990.
In 2005 54 percent of diocesan priests and 18 percent of the religious were pastors. In
1990 the numbers were lower — 24 percent of diocesan priests and 11 percent of religious.
Of these priests serving as pastors in 2005, 36 percent of the diocesan men and 20 percent
of the religious men are responsible for more than one parish.
The sex abuse scandal has not damaged relationships with bishops or with
fellow priests. The main damage (which was felt by only a minority) is a
loss of trust in the bishops. On the whole, the sex abuse scandals have
renewed the commitment of a majority of these men to the priesthood.
Almost all priests reported that their priesthood is highly respected by
those they serve, and almost all encourage vocations to the priesthood and
religious life as much as possible.
In 1990 the top five writers with most influence on priests were: Karl
Rahner, Henri Nouwen, Thomas Merton, Raymond Brown, and Edward
In 2005 they are Pope John Paul II, Henri Nouwen, Thomas Merton, Karl Rahner
and Ron Rolheiser. In 2005, Pope John Paul II was far ahead of all others.
When asked what would improve the morale of priests in their diocese or
order, priests requested more support and leadership from the bishop, more
gatherings of priests, and better spiritual direction.