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Thursday, January 15, 2004

Young fogeys.

Andrew Greeley describes a curious phenomenon among younger Roman Catholic priests:

For more than three decades now, as a sociologist and a priest, I have been tracking the evolution of the beliefs and practices of the Catholic clergy and laity in the United States. My most recent analysis, based on survey data that I and others have gathered periodically since Vatican II, reveals a striking trend: a generation of conservative young priests is on the rise in the U.S. Church. These are newly ordained men who seem in many ways intent on restoring the pre-Vatican II Church, and who, reversing the classic generational roles, define themselves in direct opposition to the liberal priests who came of age in the 1960s and 1970s.

But the truly disturbing news is at the end:

Priests as a group are simply not in touch with the laity. In the 2002 Los Angeles Times study only thirty-six of 1,854 priests identified clericalism as one of the major problems facing the Church's laity. Astonishingly, only forty-seven priests thought the sex-abuse scandals worth mentioning. For some reason, priests of all generations are unable or unwilling to see the clergy as responsible for the departure of disaffected laypersons—a problem that today plagues the U.S. Church.

To explain the laity's dissatisfaction with the Church, priests from all generations tend to trot out the usual litany: individualism, materialism, secularism, lack of faith, lack of prayer, lack of commitment, media bias, hedonism, sexual freedom, feminism, family breakdown, lack of education, and apathy. The advantage of such explanations is that they free priests from any personal responsibility and put the blame on factors over which the clergy cannot be expected to exercise much control. The rectory thus becomes an isolated citadel battered by cultural forces, which encourages precisely the sort of closed, band-of-brothers mentality that the Vatican II reforms were designed to break down.

(Andrew Greeley, "Young Fogeys," The Atlantic Monthly 1/2.04)

Copyright © 2004 by Philocrites | Posted 15 January 2004 at 10:25 PM

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January 16, 2004 12:29 PM | Permalink for this comment


This is a huge problem which is completely off the radar screens of everyone but the religious sociologists. The divisions in the Catholic Church will only deepen as a result.


January 18, 2004 01:11 PM | Permalink for this comment

The funny thing about this is, they had a point-counterpoint in the Star-Tribune yesterday, and I picked it up right after reading this. It was between two priests, on the question of priestly celibacy, and the older, scruffier priest was fur it and the younger, more kempt priest was agin it. And the younger priest actually made a point of saying that more young priests were agin it...which would have been great if he'd been able to factor in the people who didn't become priests because of the pressures and changes Greeley discusses....

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