success stories

Posted December 3, 2003

Book: The Naked Parish Priest: What Priests Really Think They’re Doing
Authors: Stephen H. Louden and Leslie J. Francis
Continuum, London, pp. 232

Excerpt from Jacket:

In the Naked Parish Priest over 1,400 priests serving in parochial ministry have laid bare their hearts, their minds, and their souls. With a great deal of openness and honesty they have given their views on the priesthood and current Catholic teaching.

The largest ever survey of Catholic priests in England and Wales uncovers priests’ attitudes to homosexuality and paedophilia in their ranks, as well as their attitude to contraception and abortion.

The survey reveals some surprisingly liberal beliefs within the priesthood with regard to the ordination of women and the giving of communion to divorced and remarried parishioners. It also examines priests’ beliefs about the doctrinal teaching of the Catholic Church, and investigates their feelings towards their own training and ministry.

Some of the conclusions of the survey can be startling, for example, only two out of five priests support the Catholic Church’s total ban on artificial contraception. Nonetheless, the findings offer a fundamentally positive view for those concerned with the future of the Christian Church at the start of a new millennium.

Excerpt from Book:

Denial and secrecy still seem, therefore, to be the most prevalent reaction to most sexual problems among priests, not least because sexual issues themselves can become terribly complicated. Such secrecy about clergy sexuality is paralleled among clergy in the United States of America of whom it has been written that ‘priests over fifty-five appear to be extremely reluctant to discuss such issues, even with classmates they have known for decades — and most priests are over fifty-five.’

One priest who decided to break the rule of silence made it clear that he had no inclination toward homosexual orientation himself, but respected priest colleagues who were practicing homosexuals.

“I know several priests who are gay and in longstanding relationships with another man. Their priesthood does not seem to be impaired by this — their ministry in fact seems to be enhanced.

There was less reticence, however, on the subject of alcoholism. Some of the replies were unusually honest, as in the case of the priest who wrote as follows about his responses to the question in the survey concerning signs of physical and mental poor health.

“In my alcoholism I could have ticked them all, but fifteen years of sobriety have changed my whole life.”

Perhaps such honesty should be less surprising since the first step in any worthwhile alcohol rehabilitation programme demands acknowledgement of the problem and the need for help.

One respondent took exception in the survey to the wording ‘becomes alcoholic’, asserting:

“Bad question. A person doesn’t become an alcoholic. The sickness is there and manifests itself with drink (usually the first).

Table of Contents:

1. Training for public ministry

2. Training for pastoral ministry

3. Training for work with people

4. Training for the priestly life

5. Theology and priesthood

6. Experiencing priesthood

7. Dress and deference

8. Relating to the laity

9. Celibacy and priesthood

10. Fallen priests

11. Jesus and Mary

12. Marriage, sex and death

13. Church and sacrament

14. Rome and the Vatican

15. Catholic institutions

16. Ecumenism and intercommunion

17. Changes in the Catholic Church

18. Ordination of women

19. Emotional exhaustion

20. Depersonalization

21. Personal accomplishment

22. A future in the priesthood