Ireland, once called the "most fruitful of mothers" as a breeding ground for Catholic priests, is now so short on priests that it's turning into a crisis. The Diocese of Dublin, the center of the country that Pope John XXIII once considered a bastion of Catholicism, now has 46% of its priests over 80 years old, and just two who are under 36 years old.
The reasons for this are obvious to anyone with a brain. The Church itself is focusing on the celibacy requirement; it doesn't take a genius to figure out that asking a young, intelligent man to be celibate isn't exactly a win. The Church leaders are actually contemplating a change in this requirement, which is amazing.
But I think the biggest problem facing the Catholic Church is all of the sexual abuse scandals over the last decade. It seems that every time we turn around, there's another horrifying story of a priest who molested 10, 50, 100 or even more children, and lately the stories have turned to how the Catholic Church itself was complicit in shielding these child abusers, and worse, placing them in positions where they could repeat their crimes.
It used to be that being a Catholic priest was an honor. Mothers would beam with pride when introducing their priest sons. Now, imagine Mom telling your friends that you decided to enter a seminary to become a priest – your Mom would be embarrassed. It's rather sad.
There's a third reason for the decline, too. Christianity, and religion in general, is in a massive decline throughout Europe, and Catholicism is just part of that general trend. But I don't think that fully explains the shortage of priests in Ireland. This one is the Catholics own fault.