Monday, December 10, 2007

Even the happiest of men flaunt their woes

Another article offered in the spirit of occasionally offering dissenting views from reliable sources...

Albany Times Union
First published: Friday, December 7, 2007

It is time that certain Catholic liberals give up their knee-jerk response to the sexual abuse problem. "Let priests marry, let them have legitimate sexual pleasures and then they won't become pederasts," they say. This argument, heard usually from those who would claim to be feminists, reduces the wife in a marriage to the role of satisfying a man's sexual needs so he won't have to victimize young boys.

A recent study of schoolteachers as pederasts leaves little doubt that some married men and women will prey on their students whenever they think they can get away with it. They might just be the kind of people who enjoy variety in their sexual partners.

I never have been able to understand these layfolk who are obsessed with the abolition of celibacy. It may well be an appropriate modification of the structures of the Catholic Church in a time when most American young men do not find the priesthood attractive. However, a cursory reading of the literature on the personal and professional satisfaction among the clergy and reports from the spouses and children of Protestant (and Greek Orthodox and rabbinical) clergy seems to indicate that family relations are an enormous problem for many of them.

In addition to the usual problems of spouse and children, married clergy are subjected to the pressures from their parishioners, who often assume the spouse is an unpaid member of the parish team, and ecclesiastical authority, who often assume ministerial families must be like Caesar's wife -- beyond reproach in every way.

Those crusading Catholic lay leaders might consider the distinct possibility they would make the priest's life even more difficult. Survey data gathered at the National Opinion Research Center indicate that clergy score higher on measures of personal and professional satisfaction than any other professional group. While there are problems for the professional cleric (not enough money to raise an upper-middle-class family), there are rewards and satisfactions that seem on balance to be better than in any other profession.

Moreover, another NORC project found that Catholic priests had higher scores on measures of personal and professional satisfaction. They are, on the average, the happiest men in America. Priests don't want to admit this because it deprives them of their self-pity. There's nothing more satisfying than feeling sorry for yourself, whether you're a doctor, lawyer, accountant or priest.

I see in the newspapers that priests in Milwaukee are sending a delegation to meet with their archbishop about the terrible state of their morale. Their plight may in fact be worse than the average American priests, but I kind of doubt it. We live in a veil of tears where things routinely go wrong. There is no immunity from aggravations and heartache. Otherwise, why would so many priests seem to think a wife would solve all their problems?

The myth of a morale problem, combined with the shame of the sexual abuse crisis, probably explains why so many priests do not try to recruit young men to walk in their footsteps. The so-called vocation crisis may well be a self-fulfilling prophecy. Self-pity does not attract others to walk your path. Most priests are happy in their work. It is time they reveal this dirty little secret.

Andrew Greeley's e-mail address is

No comments: