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Archbishop of Zagreb Dražen KutlešaLaudatoTV / YouTube

(LifeSiteNews) — The news that 45 new priests were ordained in the country of Croatia was published just before the seventh Sunday after Pentecost, the Mass that contains the Gospel reading, perhaps providentially, that Our Lord Jesus Christ warns His disciples of false prophets “who come to you in the clothing of sheep, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.”

In 2023, in a country with just 4.2 million inhabitants, of which 79% identify as Catholic, Croatia yielded a whopping 45 new priests.

One might conclude that the Catholic shepherds of the sheep of Croatia are not among the false prophets that Jesus Christ warned us about. In fact, the particular country, with a majority Catholic population, is obviously bearing the fruits of the Holy Ghost. 

Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit, and the evil tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can an evil tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit, shall be cut down, and shall be cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits you shall know them.

The Gospel struck me forcefully that recent Sunday. How does the bountiful harvest of priestly souls in the small country in eastern Europe – for which Pope John Paul II warned of “a silent apostasy” in 2003 – compare with the recent ordination numbers in dioceses within the United States? 

LifeSiteNews reached out to several dioceses for statistical information regarding the number of priestly ordinations in the United States.

Ordinations, in the pre-Vatican II Church, occurred four times per year on the Saturdays of Ember Days, since removed from the new liturgical calendar in the Novus Ordo Missae. Perhaps the Council Fathers and their successors unwittingly foresaw that many, dare I speculate, most dioceses surveyed in 2023 in the U.S. would not have been able to field one candidate for priestly ordinations four times in one liturgical year.  

By their fruits, you will know them

In the state of New York, there were 13 diocesan ordinations for a population of more than more than 20 million, of which a large plurality, if not a majority at one time, was likely Catholic.

The breakdown of the ordinations are as follows: for the Archdiocese of New York (3 ordinations), Brooklyn (4), Albany (2), Buffalo (1), Syracuse (1), Ogdensburg (1), Rochester (0) and Rockville Centre (1).

In business, that would be what is called “a going out of business curve.” Where there are no priests there are no churches, where there are no churches there are no sacraments, and where there are no sacraments there are, at least eventually, no Catholics. 

The Archdiocese of Louisville in Kentucky had zero ordinations in 2023, and in 2020 just five, including the numbers from 2019. 

In the Diocese of San Diego, there were four ordinations in 2023, so they could have at least conceivably had ordinations for each of the four Ember Saturdays using the 1962 missal.

The Diocese of Arlington, Virginia is still producing a relatively high number of priests annually, with 17 over the past two years and a total of 45 new priests since 2015, the highest per annum number of priestly ordinations of any of the dioceses responding to the LifeSiteNews requests.

Perhaps it is not too surprising that this diocese, which contains Christendom College as a great fuel of the Catholic faith together with up to 21 parishes that formerly offered the Traditional Latin Mass previous to the crackdown to eight earlier last year, would continue experiencing the fruits of the Holy Ghost in the midst of freefalling numbers in the rest of the country.

The Archdiocese of Los Angeles could also be viewed as a glimmer of hope (when compared with most U.S. dioceses) of major metropolitan dioceses with eight ordinations in both 2023 and 2022 and another seven in 2021, with reportedly 11 million Catholics in the state (not broken down by each diocese). But still, these results are nothing like having 45 priests ordained in ONE YEAR with a population of 3.3 million Catholics as seen in Croatia. 

The Archdiocese of Baltimore reported to have had eight priests ordained in 2023 with around 500,000 Catholics, another bright spot in a diocese whose urban Catholic population is imploding. 

The Archdiocese of Chicago had five ordinations in 2023, two in 2022 and eight in 2021, totaling 15 over the past three years, serving 2.156 million Catholics. 

The Archdiocese of San Francisco (the land of St. Francis by name) reported to have eight total priestly ordinations over the past three years with a Catholic population of 442,000. 

Compare these numbers with an eastern European country (Croatia) with about 3.3 million Catholics that ordained 45 priests in one year (two of whom were brothers, including a third brother ordained as a transitional deacon). Where is the Catholic faith flourishing in the family, in the parishes and in the culture? 

Again, you will know a tree by its fruits.  

In the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, there were five ordinations in 2023 with a Catholic population of more than half a million. Dating back to 2013 (11 years), there have been 46 priests ordained for the Milwaukee Catholic population. Milwaukee currently reportedly has 72 seminarians, according to their spokesperson. 

The Dioceses of Pittsburgh and Kansas City received three newly ordained priests each this summer. Kansas City has had 33 dating to 2013.  

While Pope John Paul II’s warning in 2003 for Europe as a whole continues unabated with the obvious exception of Croatia, perhaps it can now be viewed as a foreshadowing of the spread of this apostasy to the United States a mere 20 years later. Without new priests, the sacraments become less available and the Catholic faith does not impact the culture. In fact, the Catholic faith dies out without new priests. 

The Diocese of Charlotte, North Carolina, with a burgeoning population of 500,000 Catholics driven primarily by relocating Catholics from the north – has a total number of seminarians and transitional deacons (7) numbering more than 40 – with the majority having strong interest in the pre-Vatican II liturgy and sacraments. Unfortunately, the regularly scheduled Traditional Latin Mass that occurred both Sundays and select Holy Days and weekdays for the seminarians was cancelled earlier this year with no rationale provided by the diocese. Fortunately, the Society of St. Pius X chapel in Mount Holly is an easy drive or ride for its every-Sunday TLM. 

For more detailed information taken from a survey of 334 prospective 2023 ordinands from 116 dioceses, check out the information compiled by CARA. 

Several other significant dioceses and archdioceses (including all of the major ones in Florida) did not respond to requests for information by deadline. 

The going out of business curve, except for a few faint bright spots, seems to be continuing to accelerate across the vast majority of the United States.

You will know a tree by its fruits.