New Catholic priests figures in decline

Fewer Austrians decided to become Catholic priests in the first half of this year than in 2009 as the church’s crisis continues.Church officials said today (Thurs) 24 men will be consecrated priests in 2010 by the end of this month. They said 33 consecrations took place in the first six months of last year.The Austrian Roman Catholic Church’s reputation suffered dramatically over the past few months as around 700 people came forward to report violent and sexual abuse at its institutions.The Church reacted by setting up a special commission to deal with the cases and provide victims with financial compensation and therapy.Critics however appealed to people to consult independent help lines as they accused former Styrian People’s Party (ÖVP) Governor Waltraud Klasnic who is heading the commission of having too close ties to the church.Researchers from Kepler University in Linz rocked Church leaders by revealing that 59 per cent of Catholic priests they interviewed wanted mandatory celibacy to be abolished.More than 30,000 Austrians left the Church in the first three months of this year, up by 42 per cent compared to the same time span of 2009 when more people than ever cancelled their membership. Fears are increasing that up to 80,000 Austrians will leave the Church throughout this year.Last year’s 53,216 people quitting their membership meant an all-time record high.