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)|
In 2008, 49,631 parishes in the world had no resident priest pastor. While the number of Catholics in the world nearly doubled between 1970 and 2008, growing from 653 Million to 1.166 Billion, the total number of priests declined from 419,728 to 409,166.  A problem exists because there is no agreed definition of a Catholic.
Possibility that Roman Catholics are increasing 
The ratio of laity to priests has nearly doubled in the last 40 years according to those who claim the number of Catholics is increasing.
|“||Somewhere in Rome, my name is on a list of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics. (...) Baptized in the Roman Catholic church, I'm still counted among its members, though I left the flock decades ago. Once you're in, (...) says you're in for life.||”|
The number of Roman Catholics worldwide is no longer increasing as it previously was   and the future is unpredictable. Lapsed Catholics are included in the statistics as Catholics but are unlikely to appreciate or feel a need for the services of priests.
Shortage by area 
United States 
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 also is 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). No other religious group even comes close to that increase....The Catholic Church also is 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.
Further literature 
- 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.
- Pope Francis: a leader for believers and atheists alike
- Catholics in crisis
- Statistically speaking: Vatican numbers hint at fading faith practice This suggests the proportion of Roman Catholics remains steady at 17.5% of the world population
- 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