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Posted May 11, 2006

Sociologist offers solutions
to growing divide among U.S. priests

MINNEAPOLIS (CNS) -- The priest shortage, generational and cultural gaps and differences in leadership styles are contributing to a growing divide among U.S. priests, according to a noted sociologist.

James Davidson, a Purdue University researcher who studies the sociology of religion, spoke at a workshop preceding the April 24-27 annual conference of the National Federation of Priests' Councils. In his talk on "Understanding Divisions, Building Community," Davidson asked the priests to identify particular challenges within the priesthood that obstruct their ministries.

Responses included a widening cultural and political divide, power struggles among fellow priests and between priests and bishops, and differing models of priesthood. Davidson defined two opposing models of priesthood: cultic, which sees the priesthood as above the laity, and servant-leader, which involves more of a team approach with the laity.

"That's where I hear the greatest clash," he said.