19Mar 2012 Vatican statistics could inspire anger or courage

On March 15 The Irish Catholic reported from the Vatican’s Annuario Pontificio 2012 on “Global Growth for Catholic numbers”. The figures relate to December 2010.

This conveys an encouraging picture. The numbers of Catholics, and of priests and bishops, increased in the year Dec 2009 – Dec 2010.

Nevertheless, we have a continually growing problem, if my calculations are correct, as is seen here:

  Dec   2009 Dec    2010 Increase %   increase















Bishops & Priests Total


Bishops & Priests % of   total



The % increase in the number of Catholics surpasses the increase in the number of bishops and priests. (Permanent Deacons increased 3.69%.)

In the statistics for December 2009, bishops and priests were 0.0404% of the church. Bishops and priests now come to 0.03489% of the church.

I do not know whether the Annuario Pontificio offers information on the average ages of bishops and priests; I suspect these too are increasing.

The lay people whom priests and bishops are ordained to serve are now 99.965% of the church. Without full normal access to celebration of the Eucharist, they are seriously handicapped in their mission in the world.

The increase in church membership is encouraging. The failure of church authorities to address the importance to each Christian community of a full celebration of Eucharist every Sunday needs to be addressed urgently. I wonder whether the Eucharistic Congress will address this.

Can we find a way to infect Catholics with the same fervour as seen in the followers of Rugby and Hockey and other sports? Even to infect them with the same sense of disappointment/anger/shame when faced with failures in the church? St Augustine is reputed to have written: “Hope has two beautiful daughters. Their names are anger and courage; anger at the way things are, and courage to see that they do not remain the way they are.”

Yours hopefully !

Pádraig McCarthy

2 Responses

  1. Gail

    In many ways these statistics are meaningless without being able to drill down for detail. Pádraig correctly highlights the example of the mean age of clergy which is not given. Other information provided in the annual returns reports the number of seminarians worldwide without qualification. Is this of itself a measure of ‘strength’ of the church?
    Given that today’s Visitation Report is only a summary, rather than the full document, it would apper that little has changed in the Vatican’s approach to speaking the full truth.

  2. Pádraig McCarthy

    I should have given links to a very brief summary of some of the Annuario Pontificio report.
    The first, in English, has less information (and has a mistake); the second, in Italian, is fuller.
    See http://www.radiovaticana.org/en1/Articolo.asp?c=570246 and http://www.radiovaticana.org/it1/articolo.asp?c=570223
    I have not seen the full 2012 report, or any other summary from it.
    However, I think there is meaningful content in what is presented above, for reflection.

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