Priest shortage in the Roman Catholic Church
||The examples and perspective in this article deal primarily with the United States and do not represent a worldwide view of the subject. (March 2013)|
||This article needs attention from an expert in Religion. (February 2009)|
Shortage by area
The situation in the USA is that the “Catholic Church is unique among eleven of the largest Christian denominations in several areas: the dwindling supply of priests, the increasing number of lay people per priest, the declining number of priests per parish, [and] the increasing number of priestless parishes...In the Catholic Church, the total number of priests has declined from 58,534 in 1981 to 52,227 in 1991 and 45,713 in 2001 (a 22 percent loss between 1981 and 2001). Requirements for celibacy, poverty and obedience may be factors. In every other group, including denominations in which membership has declined (e.g., the Episcopal and Evangelical Lutheran churches), the total number of clergy has increased. 
The Catholic Church is not unique regarding the ratio of church members to total clergy. With the Catholic population formerly increasing steadily (according to some estimates) and the number of priests declining, the number of laypeople per priest has climbed from 875:1 in 1981 to 1,113:1 in 1991 and 1,429:1 in 2001 (a 63 percent increase). The Catholic Church is not unique in that the declining number of priests in parish ministry is producing a marked increase in the number of 'priestless' parishes. In 1960, only about 3 percent of Catholic parishes had no resident pastor. By 2000 that figure was up to 13 percent, and by the summer of 2003 it had risen to 16 percent". 
Between 1965 and 2010, the number of USA parishes without a priest climbed from 549 to 3,342.  Research by Davidson found "a growing shortage of Catholic priests but an increasing supply—some analysts say an oversupply—of clergy in most Protestant denominations".  Similarly, research by Richard Schoenherr found that “the current clergy shortage is a distinct Catholic crisis”.
One in ten Americans brought up as Catholics leave the faith (Pew Research Center poll 2009) but immigrants from Catholic nations maintain numbers. 
In Ireland Father Brendan Hoban, stated, "We believe that in 20 years time there will be very few priests in Ireland. "We believe too, as everybody understands, that without priests you have no eucharist, and without eucharist you have no church. "We are saying, 'what's the plan B'." 
"The only region in the world where Catholicism is experiencing overall growth is in Sub-Saharan Africa, according to the World Christian Database." 
Around the world, the priest shortage is leading to a sacramental and pastoral deficiency for religious communities. This is because the faithful currently depend primarily on priests to confer the seven sacraments in Catholicism. The distances that faithful must travel for a Mass, baptism, etc. have become ever longer since the priest shortage has led to the closing of many local churches. On the other hand, priests must travel greater distances as they are spread to cover more parishes. Priests have less time for the individual churchgoer since they must care for a greater number of them.
In some western countries the shortages have meant many parishes have had to share a priest and staff with one or more other parishes or have had to close. In many parishes, some of the duties performed by priests are instead performed by other personnel, such as deacons and members of the laity.
It has also been argued that the shortage of priests contributed to the Catholic sex abuse cases. The suggestion is that the Roman Catholic hierarchy tried to act to preserve the number of clergy at all costs and ensure that sufficient numbers were available to serve the congregation, despite serious allegations that some priests were unfit for duty. Others disagree and assert that the Church hierarchy's mishandling of the sex abuse cases merely reflected their prevailing attitude at the time towards any illegal or immoral activity by clergy.
- Dean R. Hoge, The First Five Years of the Priesthood: A Study of Newly Ordained Catholic Priests. Liturgical Press, Collegeville, Minnesota 2002. Page 3.
- A.W. Richard Sipe, Celibacy in Crisis: A Secret World Revisited. Brunner-Routledge, New York and Hove 2003. Page 136.
- Frequently requested Church Statistics This suggests that the Roman Catholic population is increasing worldwide but other sources contradict it.
- Fewer and Fewer
- [Schoenherr, Richard. 1993. Full Pews and Empty Altars: Demographics of the Priest Shortage in United States Catholic Dioceses. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, p.6]
- Catholic Church At Crossroads: Demographics, Social Issues Pose Challenges
- Association of Catholic Priests discuss Church's future
- epd: Katholische Kirche setzt Strukturreform fort
- Catholic Priests in India 'Outsourced' to Meet Clergy Shortage in West – 2004-06-11