A couple of weeks ago, a news story was featured in the Philadelphia Inquirer on the surge in seminarians in the Philadelphia Archdiocese.
Finally, the Philadelphia Inquirer wrote a positive piece on the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. Unfortunately, reporter David O’Reilly did not give Archbishop Charles Chaput his due in accounting for the spike in ordinations under his tenure. It is not “the Francis effect” that explains the surge in seminarians; it is “the Chaput effect.”
How does Bill Donohue know this? Because if it were “the Francis effect,” there would be an increase in men studying for the priesthood throughout much of the nation. This hasn’t happened. To be sure, there has been an increase, but it is not widespread: a small number of dioceses disproportionately account for the uptick.
If “the Chaput effect” explains the increase, then there should be evidence from the Archdiocese of Denver, Chaput’s previous assignment, that seminarians increased under his tenure. There is. In 1997, Chaput took over the Denver archdiocese, and by 2006 it ranked third among all the dioceses in ordination. Under his leadership, the Denver archdiocese was typically in the top ten in the nation in attracting men to the priesthood. That he has brought his special gifts to the Archdiocese of Philadelphia is evident in the latest data.
O’Reilly erred—there is no reason to believe it was intentional—when he said there are 28,215 priests in the U.S. The correct figure is over 38,000.
Strong leaders such as Archbishop Chaput are not going to get a break from militant secular news outlets like the Philadelphia Inquirer. They’ve made up their minds, and they will never be on our side.