Report reveals British Catholics 'in denial' about vocations crisis
When asked to rate the 10 most important issues facing the Church, British Catholics put the shortage of priests at number seven.
The revelation is contained in a 200 page report published last week, Diocesan Dispositions and Parish Voices, accuses the Church in England and Wales of being "in denial" about an imminent crisis.
Compiled by the Queen's Foundation for Theological Education in Birmingham, the report says the number of Catholic priests in Britain is expected to be cut in half in the next 10 to 15 years.
It suggests many parish priests will either retire or die in the next 10 years and there are not enough in training to take their place and no strategy to cope with the shortage.
It predicts that nearly a third of churches could be without priests by 2005 and says: "The implications for the parishes are immense. The role of the priest will inevitably change and he will not be accessible as he once was."
The first concern of those surveyed was the number of young people leaving the Church. The report predicted that churches would have to close and lay people would end up doing much of the priest's pastoral work and acting as ministers.
Six dioceses took part in the research and 450 bishops, priests, and lay people were consulted.
The report placed the blame partly on the "narrow focus" of parishioners who are concerned about internal matters such as Mass times, car parking, and parish halls and not vocations or mission.