My article earlier this week is called Are Young Priests More Orthodox? In it, I explained that young guys enter seminary pretty conservative, but slowly become more liberal after ordination. I asked a 58-year-old Catholic Priest friend in the South of the United States for feedback. (He belongs to a different Southern diocese than the one featured in the picture above.) I half-expected him to tell me I was too cynical, so I was surprised that he texted back 21 points much more critical of the American bishops’ interactions with their priests than anything written in my blog two days ago. I asked him if I could use it in a blog post, and he said yes.
Keep in mind as you read these 21 points of how he sees priesthood/bishop relations that he went to a prestigious seminary for Americans in the 1980s. This means he has seen many priests become pastors and bishops. And many left the priesthood, too. Keep in mind also as you read this that he is a conservative Novus Ordo priest, meaning there is no Traditional Latin Mass at his parish.
Finally, keep in mind that he has been a pastor (“parish priest” as they say in the UK) for quite awhile, meaning he has been trusted by his bishop, fellow priests and diocese for a long time. In other words, the following cynical words on American diocesan vocations do not come from a traditional “canceled priest” but one still running a parish with all the new sacraments.
I think my older priest friend would agree with me that any young man capable of celibacy and orthodoxy should join only a traditional congregation of priests, not a regular diocese.
So, here are 21 points from how a non-traditional but conservative American priest friend of mine feels after decades of faithful service:
My observations (some theological others sociological):
1. As a priest ages, he wares down and loses his fight.
2. He becomes worldly and gets stingy. Old people are usually stingy because they become fearful of the future and they get more and more attracted to material goods, money, security, and creature comforts.
3. You see how much you have lost over the years and you see that this is destroying your “success” and fewer people are following.
4. We are in a youth culture and the older you become you become more irrelevant.
5. The young priests are a threat to aging—looks, better assignments, their public support by the congregation, the people reminding you that father youngster is so fantastic.
6. The bishop is generally accepting of a young priest because he is not threatening to his authority.
7. Bishops share their vision with young priests more trustingly because they get on board and they want to move up and have power.
8. The Church is a hierarchy so each man tries to live in the snake pit to survive and propel himself up the ladder
9. St. Alphonsus Liguori explained it that a parish priest will become exactly like the parishioner not the other way around. That is why he advised against the diocesan priesthood.
10. The older one gets, he realizes that he could be homeless if he crosses the bishop.
11. Older priests realize that they are not respected by the Church and that their service is not appreciated by the bishop.
12. As we age, we get cynical, usually because you see the hypocrisy of the clerical life.
13. You start-out wanting to be a saint and realize that the organization is not about holiness, but of expedience.
14. The priest, as he ages, realizes that he really is all alone in this vocation. He had lost his family to be with the Church and the parishioners don’t rally to support him so he is a very isolated man
15. Priests go thru a crisis of faith where everything they thought was objectively true is questioned. This deeply disturbs his faith.
16. Priests really want a shepherd but they find out they are employees.
17. Youth are willing to sacrifice… that is youth, and as we age we can’t.
19. Pastors get tired of caring for the physical plant and that gets him giving up on the traditional faith.
20. The pressure makes him feel trapped in the priesthood.
21. Technology and the speed of the world overwhelms the older men. They can’t figure things out… computers, phones, meetings, chancery business expectations etc.