Queensland Catholics "lost!", claims author
In his new book, Lost!, launched this week, Melbourne author Michael Gilchrist lashed out at a culture he says creates "lukewarm" Catholics, singling out Queensland as by far the worst Australian state in attracting students for its seminary.
Gilchrist, a former university lecturer who edits the AD2000 magazine, compares the numbers of students for the priesthood in different states in Australia, the Courier-Mail says.
Only seven students for the whole of Queensland are currently studying at Brisbane's Holy Spirit Seminary, including one man in his 60s, according to the book, which was launched by Catholic TV personality Mike Willesee.
This compares with 44 students in Sydney, 41 in Melbourne and 20 in Perth, where nine new priests were ordained last year and 81 since 1991, Gilchrist claims.
In addition, both Sydney and Perth each have second seminaries with 20 students in each training to be missionary priests for the Neocatechumenate, a Catholic organisation that sends priests to areas of need around the world, including Australia.
Gilchrist said the seminary numbers for the entire state of Queensland were about half the number of students in the seminary in the small rural NSW diocese of Wagga Wagga.
Approaches such as planning for priestless parishes, restructuring of parishes and organising more lay-led services were counterproductive. "They become a self-fulfilling prophecy," he said.
"If the priesthood is devalued when lay people are seemingly presented as substitutes, who would wish to enter a seminary with all the sacrifices that entails?"
"People who are willing to make sacrifices to a priest will not do so for a religion that is lukewarm and does not challenge their comfort zone," Gilchrist writes.
The book also criticises religious education in Catholic schools, concluding that despite more than $3 billion in Federal Government funding received per year by the Catholic school system, 97 per cent of young Catholics leave the Church within 12 months of ending secondary school.
"Core Catholic beliefs, such as the divinity of Jesus, are not believed by increasing numbers of students in Catholic schools," Gilchrist said.
"The state of Catholic religious education is so poor that many weekly Mass-going Catholics are now sending their children to non-Catholic schools to protect their faith," Gilchrist concludes.
State faces priest shortage (Courier Mail, 25/10/06)
LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
AD2000 website | Lost! Book launch (AD2000)
Archdiocese of Brisbane
Holy Spirit Seminary Queensland
Seminary of the Good Shepherd
Editor credits Pell for seminary numbers increase (CathNews 1/6/06)
Pope blesses cornerstone of new Sydney Seminary (CathNews 14/10/05)
25 Oct 2006