I was wondering recently what has happened to Fr. Greeley since the accident he experienced. He is back with some advice on how to attract young men to the priesthood. No it’s not allowing priest to marry, but allowing priests to sign up for a time and then reenlist like they do in the military.
He reminds us he has been doing sociological research on the priesthood for 30 years. His previous sociological expertise told us in a column that America was too racist to elect Obama. I wonder if Fr. Greeley has met with President McCain yet?
We are all aware of course of the scriptural passage “A priest part-time like Melchizedek.” Plus of course the scriptural example of the Apostles putting in a couple of years and then kicking back in another profession. Some people actually think St. Paul was executed when really he just went back to just being a tentmaker. Of course the priesthood is just a job, not an actual vocation from God don’t you know. Plus six years in seminary is just not enough time to discern the call. Diocese would be so happy to pay for six years in the seminary and for a priest after five years to move on to civilian life as Fr. Greeley suggests. Plus don’t we all want a priest not actually committed to the priesthood? It is much more inspiring to have a priest who is in a tour of duty and just might re-up if he feels like it.
Of course why stop there. What Fr. Greeley says about the priesthood applies equally to marriage. There are people miserable in marriages just like in the priesthood and so instead of those guidelines from that idealistic Jesus about marriage being indissoluble we can sign up for five year hitches instead. Or maybe seven year hitches until the seven year itch sets in. After all the priesthood and marriage are just sacraments and they can be as temporary or permanent as you want them to be. Why sacrifice for Christ – just do things until you get bored and are no longer happy.
Fr. Greeley asks “Who are we, in other words, to question where the Spirit leads a person?” Because everything we do can be attributed to following the Holy Spirit. Be a priest for a while – that’s the Holy Spirit calling you. Leave the priesthood to go do something else – why once again that’s the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit must seem rather fickle to liberals. Feel like being a preist again later on – well that’s also the Spirit calling.
Neither the church nor its people nor the priesthood itself is well served by a miserably unhappy priest. What are some of the reasons a man might want to leave? His parishioners get on his nerves; he can’t stand teens; his fellow priests make him chronically depressed; he wants to begin a family of his own; the work is oppressive; he’s bored and he shudders at the thought that he will be doing the same things for the next half century; he has served under three bishops, all of whom have been fools, and he can’t take the folly anymore; he’s exhausted, worn out, bone tired. Permission to return to the lay life as one who has finished his commitment to active service enables both him and the church to cut their losses.
Pick up the cross daily when you want to. Parishioners getting on your nerves of couse is not something you could use towards your sanctification. The heck with the offering it up stuff – that’s for people actually committed to Christ and his Church. Again what about a miserable unhappy spouse – just wait till the marriage tour is over and don’t re-up.
What Fr. Greeley is trying to do is make the exception to the rule be the rule. Priests already can be laicized for serious reason. Sure there is a stigma attached to this, but it is not exactly like anyone goes into the priesthood blindly and without sufficient time to reflect on their vocation. Besides why is the answer for a miserably unhappy priest be that he leaves the priesthood as if this is the only option. Father Groechel who has worked with a lot of priests who left the priesthood would certainly not agree that this be the best solution. He has also worked with returning priests who found their problems did not go away upon leaving the priesthood. Certainly there are other underlying causes that might be looked at.
The final argument is that if the church is faithful to its commitment to permanent celibacy, God will provide priests for us. Thus we do not and even should not consider modifications. This is one of the favorite cop-outs of bishops and conservative laity: Blame God.
Can’t say I have ever heard clergy or conservative laity blame God for the lack of the number of priests. God still calls men to the priesthood, but that does not mean they all answer the call. It is also not God’s fault that we are having much smaller families. The contraceptive worldview and lack of openness to life is not exactly God’s idea. There are plenty of reasons in the current culture that makes it difficult to young men to answer the call. Though this lack is area specific since parts of the world have plenty of men answering a vocation to the priesthood. The growth of the Catholic Church in Africa is not caused by Africans allowing men to sign up for a tour of duty as a priest.
Fr. Greeley thinks that there must be modifications made of this type to bring in young men. No explanation for why during the history of the Church that we have not had a problem with men answering the call for the most part. What has changed is the culture and the modifications that must be made is not the term of the priesthood, but how we work against a culture that works to silence the call. Caving into the culture never inspires anybody.
I believe Fr. Greeley is making a good faith attempt at a solution to the priestly shortage problem. I just think his solution is worse than the problem.
Fr. Greeley does at least make a good point in regards to celibacy.
…I think that celibacy is a positive good, and my research shows that it is. It does not interfere with happiness for most priests and may contribute to it.
…Those who bother to discuss my proposal tend to be bitterly against it. For many liberal Catholics (lay and clerical), it is a matter of absolute faith that celibacy is the critical weakness in the church. They think it is the cause, for example, of sexual abuse in the priesthood, though the problem is virtually the same among married Protestant clergy. Nonetheless, they say, celibacy has to go.
I haven’t read his stuff, at some point will, heard his fiction is, well, readable if nothing else.
A couple years ago I sent one of his articles defending celibacy to a co-worker who tends towards the dissident end of the scale. She’d previously stated her fondness for Greely. I just LOVE when I can take such sources to bolster a point of dogma that is actually faithful!
The real tragedy in this is not the piece that he wrote so much as the fact that there might actually be people who take him seriously.
For years I’ve been putting up with people who casually claim the Holy Spirit as the source of their ideas. Once, at a meeting of some clergy where one such whined as Greeley does about ‘stifling the Spirit, ‘ I stood up and publicly requested of God that He “strike me down if I ever attempt to blame my ideas on the Holy Spirit” –a remark that was not particularly well-received.
“Once, at a meeting of some clergy where one such whined as Greeley does about ’stifling the Spirit”
Aha. The Christian version of Who Moved My Cheese?
Greeley’s absolutely right. I became a priest for the perks of the job: 3 hots and a cot; paid utilities, including high-speed Internet and cable; a big salary; and the esteem of all the people. If things get too difficult, or people don’t like me, I’m out of here.
It’s offensive to compare military enlistment with reception of a Sacrament. When I enlisted in the Air Force, I did not receive a Sacrament that changed the state of my soul for all eternity. Enlistment in the military is temporary, the Sacrament of Holy Orders is forever.
Although he doesn’t name him, I think to Fr. Greeley that Fr. Rutler refers in characterize a certain Priest’s novels as “scandalous”. They are worldly and equivocal in a way that even Graham Greene’s are not.
I think part of the problem with us priests is that some of us DO see the priesthood as a “job” instead of as a vocation, or, if you will, as a “mode of being.” That leads to depression much more easily, as I imagine you’d get depressed about being a dad, if you thought of your wife and kids as “jobs and chores,” instead of a sacrificial love.
Good grief! Sorry about the typos. Here’s another run at it: Although he doesn’t name him, I think it is to Fr. Greeley that Fr. Rutler refers in characterizing a certain Priest’s novels as “scandalous”. They are worldly and equivocal in a way that even Graham Greene’s are not.
I know people who fully agree that marriage should be done in contracts, that you can renew every 5 or 10 years. Its a horrible way to view any vocation
Having read some of Greeley’s fiction and sociological works I have a mixed view of his published work.
His fictional works that do not rely on recurring characters from previous stories are better and more original. Read with a certain maturity and no preconceived notions some of it is interesting and thought provoking. He has really gotten lazy with some of his series however.
His sociological work has been a surprise to me. He publishes findings that present a generally good and healthy priesthood in the US, does not sugarcoat the problems and seems amazingly honest in discussing both the incidence and unique differences of men with primarily same sex attractions in the priesthood. Oddly, his recommendations frequently seem to have no connection or basis in his findings. He usually makes recommendations that fit well with the “liberal” wing of the church, but does not hide data to the contrary or attempt to make strong connections between his findings and his recommendations. It is genuinely strange.
This idea has shown up other places recently but it is actually something he originally suggested in published work a few (maybe even several) years ago. It is really not at all new. I am just curious as to why it is getting attention now.
I think this is a moot point. Depending on whether or not a priest finds a bishop or congregation with lax enforcement of canon law, one can already find priests who behave as though they were priests only part time. The Church already has a structure in place by which men can be married and still do work similar to some usually performed by priests. It’s called the permanent diaconate.
I this idea is more than several years old. I believe that it is something which even dates back to the last century. I recall coming across this sentiment (and some even more disturbing versions) back in 2003 and I got the impression that the organizations had held the opinion for several years already.
(I believe it was a more frightening version of rent-a-priest. I also remember that they hold the notoriety of employing the rudest priest I’ve ever encountered.)
I highly recommend this video:
sounds like he is recommending a sabatical to prevent burnout.
I could suggest a few places: see the buffalo in the Great plains (work on an Indian Reservation); how about a tropical island (The Philippines always can use teachers and pastors); or how about a real treat: working in Africa, with it’s animals, and people who know how to pray…
Years ago I read a few of Fr. Greeley’s books. Even though I was rather “liberal” then, he writing made me somewhat nauseous!
His idea of having priests sign up for a certain number of years makes me wonder what he thinks the Sacrament of Holy Orders actually does to a man’s soul.
It is not just a job or a career, it is a VOCATION. Sadly, some bshops and priests and even some laity regard priesthood as a job, albeit 24/7. When a business model is used by the diocese often the parish priest can feel like he works for a corporation and not for Holy Mother Church. Priests and pastors are not managers, we are fathers. Our parish is our family, not employees, customers, constituents, stockholders, etc. Bishops are fathers, too, and not middle management or executive bureaucrats. The business model is NOT Catholicism but it is infecting HOW we do things. Unhappy priests are the ones whose prayer life is not what it should be. They do not take a day off or their vacation regularly. They may even miss annual retreat, not because they are lazy but too consumed with DOING parochial duties. Priests MUST make time for their spiritual lives. They NEED an annual retreat (canon law) and they should also have a spiritual director they meet regularly. Priests need good priest friends, not just to complain about diocesan nonsense but to encourage and inspire. They need a monthly day or afternoon of recollection with other priests and deacons, just to pray, study, discuss, and enjoy FRATERNITY. Burn out occurs when priests DO too much activity and neglect to BE priests by taking necessary time to PRAY, to STUDY, to REST and to experience sacerdotal FRATERNITY. These then in turn help the priest to be more alert, attentive, enthusiastic and rejuvenated for his parish and parishioners. IF he is too busy to pray and study and make time for his spiritual life, he will crash and burn. Priests who neglect their spiritual life and use the excuse that their daily work is enough are fooling themselves. They are the ones who either get nervous breakdowns or become bitter and cranky old priests in their old age. Fr Greeley’s suggestion applies to the business model priest who sees his vocation as a career. The real vocation, like the married man, is much, much more. But even the married man must take care of himself so he can better take care of his wife and kids. A physically or spiritually sick husband and father ill serves his family. Same goes for a priest who is father to his parishioners.
DQM: I agree with your assessment of his writings. Some of his fiction books are pretty good, others are terrible. I really enjoyed his memoir. His sociology books (haven’t read them all) are frequently good, but he will have suggestions that don’t have anything to do with the data!
As far as this goes, I’m sure he’s right. More men WOULD be interested in being a “term limited” priest than are interested in being a “real” priest (my terms, not Greely’s). But I doubt we would want to have the sort of men who would be interested in that as priests.
The problem in general with ideas about “fixing” the priesthood is that it derives from a panic about a priest shortage. There’s ALWAYS been a priest shortage, the ’50s boom in vocations notwithstanding. Our Lord warned us that the harvest would be plenty but the laborers few.
I have read many of Bishop Frederic Baraga’s letters asking for priests to come to Americas. He had a young priest working with him who couldn’t handle winter in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. It wasn’t the treks on snowshoes that bothered him as much as living on potatoes all winter, which was the only food available. But even he didn’t leave the priesthood over it, just begged his superiors for a transfer to a more civilized post.
Father Trigilio: what you said!
Greeley is an idiot; I’ll be glad when his kind shuffles off this mortal coil!
…sigh, I wish he would just take the hint and retire.