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Posted February 14, 2003

Changes in the culture that have caused
changes in the lives of priests

Taken from the Dean Hoge Study The First Five Years of the Priesthood


We postulate that three cultural trends have caused changes in the lives of priests.

The first is the desire of American lay Catholics for more participatory Church structures. This trend has occurred mostly among younger Catholics, an it has been well documented (D'Antonio et al. 2001)

Young Catholics, especially educated young Catholics, prefer Church governance to include more input from laypersons and even favor new procedures such as lay selection of priests for parishes. This trend has the effect of leveling the deference between laypersons and priests.

Second, religious authority is gradually being seen more and more as an individual matter rather than an institutional matter. The authority that Americans accorded the clergy and Church leaders in the past the belief that the clergy really can be counted on to know the mind of God has been gradually weakening, so priests today find that they need to earn that authority by their leadership and example; it does not come automatically with the office.

Third, attitudes in the realm of sexuality have liberalized, especially in regard to premarital sex and cohabitation. Young Americans are much more tolerant and individualistic on these matters than older persons. Catholic or not. The problem this raises for priests is that popular culture is gradually moving further and further away from Catholic moral teachings, making pastoral work more difficult.