The number of new priests entering into training at the St Patrick’s College Maynooth is at a record low this year.
The seminary has only six new trainee priests this year, which makes it the lowest number of new priests to attend the college since it was founded in 1795.
In contrast, The Church of Ireland has accepted double that number of students training to become ministers, including two women, for a total of twelve new students studying at the Church of Ireland Theological Institute in Dublin, reports The Irish Times.
The six new trainee priests at Maynooth are coming from Cork & Ross, Elphin, Kilmore and Tuam, with Killaloe sending two men to the seminary.
At one stage, St Patrick’s College Maynooth was the largest seminary in the world, reports Irish News, and was capable of training as many as five hundred priests every year.
This year, the number of priests in training at Maynooth is less than a tenth of that, at forty-one.
The number of new trainee priests has declined dramatically since 2013, with a drop in admissions of over 33% in the last four years.
Some trainee priests are undertaking a preparatory year at dioceses across Ireland, however, fifteen dioceses remain unrepresented by either new students at the seminary or by priests undertaking a preparatory year.
This year’s extremely low admission rate follows reports of a “gay culture” in Maynooth seminary last year, with trainee priests removed from the institution by Archbishop Diarmuid Martin following Grindr allegations.
Martin claimed that his reasoning behind removing priests from Maynooth and sending them to continue their training in Rome was unrelated to the reported crisis, citing a “poisonous” atmosphere.
One member of the Association of Catholic Priests, Fr Brendan Hoban, denounced Martin’s decision to send priests to Rome as “unfair”.
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