In the four decades ending in the year 2000, the number of priests will decline by 40% while the number of Catholics will grow by 65%. Schoenherr sees the priest shortage as the major force for change within the Catholic Church, and his book explores the reasons for the decline as well as its broad implications for the nature and control of the church. Schoenherr argues that mandatory celibacy is the primary cause of the shortage. He predicts that the shortage, along with the feminist movement among nuns and laywomen, doctrinal changes, and the growing pluralism in the church will lead to the end of mandatory celibacy, albeit after bitter clashes with conservative forces.

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