Despite the sex abuse scandals, the Church has seen a renewed interest in training for the priesthood. "The more bad publicity we've had, the more students we get," says the head of a leading Melbourne seminary.
- The Sunday Age
Fr Brendan Lane didn't see this coming. Twenty years ago, the number of young men training to be priests in the seminary had dwindled to about 20. Fr Lane, the silver-haired priest who heads the Corpus Christi College, saw an institution in decline.
"I thought with attitudes as they were, we're finished," says Fr Lane, who was then a parish priest. Two decades on, and the priest of 41 years has witnessed a transformation, a revival in interest in the priesthood that means he doesn't have enough rooms at the seminary, and an appeal to fund an extension will be launched.
At last count, this year will see close to 60 men in training to be priests in Melbourne alone – the highest number since the early 1970s. Across Australia, the number is more than 150.
This is striking, counter-intuitive news. For the past decade, the Church has been shaken by revelations of the sexual abuse of children by clergy, and worse, the cover-up of the crimes and the protection of the offenders. To be a Catholic – let alone a priest – meant dealing collectively with this stain, this shame.
The logical conclusion would be a priesthood and Church in decline. Yet a different and surprising picture is emerging, partly demonstrated each morning at 6.45am in a pocket of Carlton, where in the bluestone chapel at Corpus Christi, every pew is filled by men called to the priesthood.
"This turnaround has been a real surprise I think to us, especially with the bad publicity," says Fr Lane. "But in fact the more bad publicity we've had, the more students we get.
Revitalised Catholic Church attracting more trainee priests (The Sunday Age)
NSW seminaries are training more priests than ever (The Sun Herald)