Priests Are Not As Humble As They Used To Be

The National Catholic Reporter recently ran a feature reflecting on Vatican II. I think the most enlightening part is the survey of priests and their attitude towards laity. Priests that went to Seminary during or slightly after Vatican II are far more likely to view themselves as ‘servant leaders’ than pre Vatican II priests or post Vatican II priests.  The NCR notes that this shift is related to official church policy :

And with official church encouragement, Pettingill pointed out. “It does seem to me that in certain documents that the priest is gradually being exalted above the people he is going serve — things like only the ordained being allowed to clean sacred vessels, the emphasis on priestliness to the point a man is almost put on a pedestal. And that is dangerous for both the priest and the people because we are all human, and it is that humanity that makes us able to deal with one another.”

Others, including Fr. Norbert Dlabal, agreed. “The new generation of priests does seem to want to maintain a distinction between priesthood and laity,” said Dlabal, pastor of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish in Goodland, Kan.

The new CARA study echoes his language. The most recently ordained priests “feel strongly about … making a clear distinction between themselves and the laity,” write the authors.

According to the 2009-2010 research, more than two-thirds of millennial priests — those ordained after the midpoint of John Paul II’s 1978-2005 papacy — agree “strongly” with the statement: “Ordination confers on the priest a new status or a permanent character which makes him essentially different from the laity within the Church,” compared to 48 percent of both pre- and post-Vatican II priests and 36 percent of Vatican II priests.

Far more than any specific policy reversals I am concerned about the trend within the Catholic Church for all decisions to be made from the top down. The hierarchy of the Church seems to truly be convinced that it already knows everything, and it is only a matter of convincing others through either logic or discipline. It is sad to see the hierarchy completely abandon the last vestiges of humility; and given the survey of recently ordained priests it does not look like this trend will reverse itself anytime soon.


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