Irish Clergy Crisis: Only One Priest to be Ordained in 2020?*

Aug 19, 2020 | 9 comments

{N.B. This story was amended 29th Sept. 2020, to take account of later reports of more than one priest being ordained in Ireland in 2020.}

Only one Catholic priest was scheduled to be ordained on the island of Ireland in 2020, according to a report by Sarah MacDonald to the Tablet, August 18th, 2020.

On Sunday Aug. 23rd 2020, Archbishop Michael Neary of Tuam ordained Rev Shane Costello to the priesthood for the Archdiocese, at Knock Basilica, Co Mayo.

Oddly, more bishops than priests would be ordained this year, according to Sarah’s report. The new bishop of Achonry, Fr Paul Dempsey was due to take place on 30 August. The new bishop of Kilmore, Fr  Martin Hayes was due to be ordained at the end of September.

According to Fr Paddy Byrne, parish priest of Abbeyleix and Ballyroan in the Diocese of Kildare and Leighlin, the problem of an ageing and declining number of clergy has been highlighted by the Covid-19 lockdown because the majority of clergy have had to cocoon as they are over 70 years of age.

Clergy are “blue in the face” talking about the vocations crisis, according to Fr Byrne.

“We need a radical reappraisal in Ireland – an honest dialogue about what has gone wrong with the vocation of priesthood.”

“The Church has a huge opportunity to be present in the bits and pieces of people’s broken lives and to do that with great fulfilment. But it is very sad that we are coming to a moment where the presence of clergy will be no more unless we do something to bring about real change,” Fr Byrne warns.

For the full Tablet report, click here.


  1. Frank Gregg

    For some years priests have appealed from our pulpits for new vocations with 50% of the congregation at least excluded from qualifying, and many married priests excluded .

    Is this exclusion prompted by the Holy Spirit or by clericalism – that dreaded falsehood where our church believes that only those who are ordained possess the gifts of leadership from the Holy Spirit?

    This has been so engrained in the mindset of our hierarchy from Rome over centuries – even prior to the Reformation.
    Education of the church laity has changed that in a cathartic way which the hierarchy is resisting in the dire need for structural change . It would seem they would rather let the organisation die than respond to the problem.

    Are they listening to the Holy Spirit?

    It seems this diseased notion of clericalism is favoured even by the priesthood and arch conservative Catholics themselves.

    The organisation is dying and maybe that is the will of the Holy Spirit, given the disastrous performance in dealing with sexual abuse and the absurdity of ‘mental reservation,.

    That looks like “heads I win – harps you lose”.

    Remember that God has no favourites and the laity consist of the royal priesthood.

  2. Paddy

    It’s not hard to fathom at all and doesn’t require an Einstein brain to see that sexual abuse and paedophilia are the main causes of Catholic church diminishment. So… fix it or fail – seeemples!

    • soconaill

      Fr Hans Zollner, Pope Francis’s point man on the issue, was complaining about the persistent failure of bishops, globally, to resolve this issue earlier this year – just as the Coronavirus was taking hold in Europe. ‘Paternalism’ was his term for both the tendency of bishops to underuse the gifts of lay people and the tendency of lay people to overestimate the power of bishops to solve the problem on their own. See:

      We are paying a high price for the consequences, yet the disruption caused by the coronavirus is shaking us out of old ways of going, so there is always reason for hope.

    • Billy Corr

      No. The *Decline in Vocations* preceded the sexual scandals.

  3. Tom Fallon

    Sadly the lack of vocations is a reflection of the general decline in Catholic belief and practice in the Western world. Other countries do not have the problem to the same degree. In fact some have an abundance of vocations. We will not have vocations until the Faith is believed and lived by ” Catholic ” families. If you want to help improve the situation, ” Pray that the lord of the harvest sends labourers into his harvest” as Jesus directed us, and join or found a branch of Serra International whose aim is to promote prayer for vocations.

  4. Bob

    Loss of faith = lack of vocations

    A very simple formula.

    • soconaill

      Faith in what or whom? Jesus called all, male and female, to follow him – not just some men to a very specific and historically determined sacramental role that did not exist in his own time. That the call to the sacramental male celibate priesthood should be seen as the definitive test of Christian faith today is not at all obvious, because the sacrifice of the Good Samaritan was not a ritual but an actual sacrifice, and anyone can be called to put him or herself out for the sake of another, in the complete range of human activity – including family life.

      Jesus’s acceptance of crucifixion was also an actual rather than a ritual sacrifice. To prioritise ritual above actual sacrifice is to make the Mass meaningless – and that is essentially why so many young people today cannot see the point of the sacramental priesthood. The connection with the actual sacrifices that anyone can be called to make on behalf of others, in their daily lives – especially just now – has too often been lost.

      • Lloyd Allan MacPherson

        John Wijngaards might agree that Aquinas and others figured out that celibacy was a bad idea. Is this the reason?

        Again, since 1948, can someone show me how the Roman Catholic Church’s Canons can essentially overwrite what was created to prevent genocide?

        If anyone could get away with a scenario such as this since 1948, it is the Church.

        There are bigger fish to fry in terms of the environment and all the bureaucrats want a Rifkinesque (Jeremy) energy transition in Ireland. Your country could do so much more.

  5. Sean

    Did Thomas Aquinas truly question celibacy? According to recent reading of a history of the debate on holiness, it was St Thomas who elaborated the theory of the ‘evangelical counsels’ of poverty, celibacy and obedience’ as a ‘holocaust’ or self-immolation in imitation of Jesus, arguing that this way of life was a more perfect manifestation of holiness than even the hierarchical claim of the bishops. The argument resurfaced at Vatican II, and again the ECs were presented as the more perfect ‘way’ – ch 6 Lumen Gentium.

    Sorry – your allusions to 1948, genocide and church canons are baffling me also. Maybe too much TV is gluing up my synapses, or whatever?


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