The following is a response I posted in Father Z’s blog. There was an ongoing argument started when someone saw that the number of permanent (lay) deacons had doubled since 1985 (from 7,204 to 16, 380) while the number of diocesan priests almost halved (from 22,265 to 13,072), and immediately committed a post-hoc fallacy: “The decline was caused by the reinstitution of the permanent diaconate!” Unfortunately, my entry was fairly late in the game, so I doubt it’ll be noticed:
The reason for the decline of priestly vocations is not due to the re-establishment of the permanent diaconate. Rather, there are two proximate causes: 1) Failure of priests to actively recruit; and 2) Altar girls.
Rather, the growth of the permanent diaconate could very well point to the presence of what we call “stunted vocations”—that is, men who might very well have grown up to be priests had they been in regular contact with priests who were passionate about (or at least comfortable in) their vocations.
Many regulars on this board have commented on this fact: Wherever you have server girls, you don’t see more than one or two server boys. The ranks of the altar servers was at one time prime recruiting ground for would-be priests precisely because the boys were not only being socialized into an active participation in the Sacrifice but because they were constantly in presence of at least one potential role model … often more.
But it remains true, even in an age that’s pushing our children into sexual precocity and unisex behavior, that young boys don’t want to do “girl stuff”. Get an equal number of boys and girls into any group activity, and the girls tend to take over (especially if they happen to be Irish), making it “no fun” for the boys.
I note that the number of graduate seminarians is slightly up, as is the number of ordinations. But I submit that, if we want to build the vocations, we have to bully our priests into recruiting more actively … and, I fear, start the process of excluding girls from service at the altar. I say, “I fear”, because it won’t be taken kindly in many quarters, and not just by liberals.
That’s what happens when you let your kid read history, psychology, sociology and political science … he comes up with the darnedest things!