It’s not priests’ morale we should worry about

It’s not priests’ morale we should worry about

I admire and respect priests and the difficult and challenging work of their vocations. Some priests I know are hard-working men who get little reward other than personal satisfaction and knowledge that the Lord sees all.

Still, I’m with Amy Welborn in her disquiet over remarks made by the USCCB president in his opening address to the US bishops. His talk focused on priestly morale and Amy asks, “Do really holy people need their morale tended?” She continues:

Priests are human beings on that same road I am, on different points on the journey. But to put shoring up their morale at the center of the episcopal agenda derails the train as it quite pointedly indicates that radical, God-centered holiness isn’t even a destination. Feeling okay is.

It’s not the Amy or I are insensitive to the special challenges faced by priests, but is focusing on their morale and feelings really the most important duty facing the bishops, or should the focus be on, oh, I don’t know ... personal sanctification and holiness?

Sounds like some bishops are still listening to those “mental health professionals” instead of the saints and Church fathers. Has Bishop Skylstad been in touch with Dr. Mary Gail Frawley-O’Dea again?

  • It seems to me that there has been a great deal of focus on feelings since the concept of renewal started getting emphasis after Vatican II, and it’s not just the feelings of clergy that are being probed.  One could almost conclude that the counseling session has replaced confession.

    In fact, that counseling session sometimes takes place inside the confessional these days. Confession is about sin and holiness.  Counseling is about improving mental health, and recognizing those influencing factors over which we may have no control.  Not the same thing at all.  Guilt and repentence finds no home in the counseling session, neither does holiness, since in counseling we are all to learn that we are really ok just as we are.

  • For a presbyterate that feels abandoned by their episcopal fathers—especially through episcopal dis-association form their presbyterates after the scandal broke—there is some gladness that the bishops are talking about the presbyterate at all.

    We all pray, though, that talk of morale will evolve into a more nuanced discussion of an authentic drive for holiness and the renewing of a healthy sacerdotal fraternity. 

    Blessed Charles Faucald (founder of Jesu Caritas—a priests’ fraternity that focuses on the call to conversion, holiness, and prayer): Pray for us!

  • If the general thrust is to make sure the priests ‘continually improve’ – but without a parallel bolstering of their essential importance (renewed respect and acknowledgement of the priestly role) – then it will prove to be an exercise in futility.