Saturday, April 24, 2010

Let's enlist short-term priests as a long-term solution

A different perspective from Fr. Andrew Greeley, who has studied the priesthood extensively, in the current issue of U.S. Catholic.

I've been doing sociological research on the priesthood for more than 30 years. There are two findings from this research that are beyond question. The first is that priests on the average are the happiest men in the world, happier in their professional and personal lives even than married Protestant clergy. The second is that men are on the average inclined to leave the priesthood (ordinarily) under two conditions: They are unhappy in priestly work, and they want to marry. If they are happy in priestly work and want to marry, on the average they are much less likely to leave.

Note the words on the average in the previous paragraph. My assertions are about the average. There are priests who are miserably unhappy-and unfortunately they set the norm for priestly comments about how low morale is. There are also many priests who love their work but want to marry powerfully enough that they leave the priesthood.

The angry letters that these two paragraphs normally engender are from those who don't read the two paragraphs carefully before they head for the e-mail. Those who don't like these findings are free to do their own research.

I usually follow up these two conclusions with the recommendation that the church experiment with a limited term of service for priests, a kind of priest corps like the Peace Corps (or the Jesuit Volunteer Corps or the University of Notre Dame's Alliance for Catholic Education)...

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