Thursday, April 27, 2006

Priestly Morale

Priests' morale reported high despite hurt, anger at abuse crisis

By Jerry Filteau

Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The morale of U.S. priests is high despite the hurt and anger they feel over the crisis of clergy sexual abuse of minors, a prominent priest-psychotherapist said at a seminar at The Catholic University of America.

Father Stephen J. Rossetti, president of St. Luke Institute in Silver Spring, Md., and author of the recent book "The Joy of Priesthood," led the April 24 seminar at the university's Life Cycle Institute.

He reported on a survey of nearly 1,300 priests in 16 dioceses that he conducted between September 2003 and April 2005 to assess the effects of the abuse crisis on priestly morale.

St. Luke Institute treats priests and religious with behavioral problems and addictions, including alcoholism and sexual issues.

One of the main findings of his survey, Father Rossetti said, is that 80 percent of priests say their own morale is good, but only 38 percent think the morale of their fellow priests is good.

He said the large discrepancy seems to stem from the fact that a large majority of priests are committed to their priesthood and happy with it, but "when priests look at other priests, they're seeing the hurt and anger and think morale is bad."

He said it also shows that it's a mistake to think of morale as a one-dimensional reality that is either simply good or simply bad. He described it, rather, as a "multidimensional thing" involving "a multilayered, complex set of emotions."

"Can you like your ministry and still feel hurt and angry? Yes," he said.

He said two-thirds of the priests surveyed found celibacy personally satisfying and only 17.7 percent said they would marry if they could, but more than half, 52.9 percent, said they supported mandatory celibacy for priests.

One bad piece of news is the large number of priests, 42 percent, who said they felt overwhelmed by the amount of work they have to do, he said. "If I were in a position of leadership in the church, I'd take notice of that," he said.

He said issues of priestly unity and fraternity are another source of concern: Only 58 percent said relationships among priests are good, and 47 percent thought there was a lack of unity in the priesthood.

Of the variety of factors that may contribute to a lack of a sense of unity, the biggest seems to be the ideological divide between those who described themselves as theologically conservative and those who described themselves as theologically liberal, he said.


I'm sure my pastor can attest to this, but especially the last part I included. He's not even rigidly traditional, and definitely not as traditional as I would like him to be, but since the parish under his patronage has always been a safe-haven for traditionally minded people who like to do the odd kneeling for communion here and there (showing respect for the Eucharist! The fiends!), he's always been given the evil eye by the other priests of this area.

Which reminds me of something. The pastor has never tolerated ridiculous stuff in the liturgy or things of that general nature. Last year, the parish sent a guy to the Mercedarian postulancy. The other parishes around here are often indistinguishable from bingo halls, with all sorts of crap going on during the liturgy. They don't send any people to seminary formation (except for maybe one guy about five years ago but I believe it's generous to include the are he came from as this area). Hmm...I wonder if there's something to that?