- Published on Saturday, 26 February 2011 06:05
- Written by John Draper
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In their new book Our Fathers, Australian academics Chris McGillion and John O'Carroll report that the Catholic Church has a priesthood in a "professional crisis". While their study was done in Australia, it most likely applies equally in similar cultures like New Zealand, Canada and in fact most western countries. It probably does not apply in Italy, South America and other places where there is still a strong Catholic Culture (although I'd love to be proved wrong on this). Based on a survey of 1550 active and 160 retired priests, the consensus seemed to be that the Vatican was out of touch, bishops were bad managers and the future of the church was a cause of great concern.
Some of the telling results were that:
- 54.3 per cent thought they had too little say in the life of the church.
- Only 35.4 per cent thought bishops were doing a good job, with one saying their performance was ''between poor and mediocre''.
- 43 per cent did not feel nurtured by their bishop while 41.5 per cent did.
- Almost 65 per cent did not think Rome understood the challenges facing priests and 70.1 per cent thought it often failed to understand the nature of the Australian church.
But the biggest problem is that priests do not really believe what they are told to teach the "faithful".
- Only 19.2 per cent thought it sinful for married couples to use birth control.
- Almost 70 per cent thought abortion was always a sin [but 30% did not!]
- Only 40.2 per cent said the same of sex before marriage.
- More than 70 per cent thought celibacy for priests should be optional and several priests made ''no secret of the fact they were in long-term committed relationships with women''.
So what else bothered them? The ordinary Catholic lay men and women were not involved enough and attendance at mass was dwindling.
Does that sound like a Church that is "winning"? If the Catholic Church is gaining members like it claims, (USA Today) then it's not because they are doing the right things. It's because they are strong in South America and growing in uneducated Africa. They are conning gullible uneducated peasants and brainwashing children before they have a chance to think for themselves. This kind of thing cannot happen in Australia and similar countries so they are "losing" there.
To me, the big news is that Catholic priests do not agree on some of the basics of Catholic teaching - primarily related to sexual behaviour. Has that changed over the years or did they always think like this but were afraid to speak out and "lose their jobs"? When I was much younger and still Catholic, it would have been a big help to me to know that many priests agreed with my thinking!
So am I being unfair in saying that these priests are being immoral in keeping quiet? I wonder how many are living a lie and harming countless people by doing that.
Extracts from the book courtesy of Leesha McKenny RELIGIOUS AFFAIRS editor at the Sydney Morning Herald