Posted April 7, 2003
A Document that needs to be Revisited
Reflections on the Morale of Priests
Bishops’ Committee on Priestly Life and Ministry
The National Conference of Catholic Bishops, Washington, DC, pp.20
Excerpt from the Introduction:
. . . Morale depends on so many factors, events and circumstances, many of which can be changed to create a new spirit that can be life-giving and energizing.
Our reflections on morale, however, need to be placed within the context of discipleship which is central to spirituality for the priest today. Such discipleship involves a relationship to the Lord and a living out of the Paschal Mystery. Yet, there are human and ecclesial realities which affect morale that can enhance or debilitate the desire of priests to be disciples of Jesus in today’s world and Church. It is these realities that we address in this reflection.
Morale among priests can differ from diocese to diocese, from region to region, from time to time, within a country or the Universal Church. We know from experience that when the morale of priests is high, the mission and ministry of the Church becomes a positive experience for all within the Christian community. When the morale of priests is low, the quality of ecclesial life diminishes and almost every area of church life suffers, from evangelization to vocations, from liturgical celebrations to service with and to the People of God.
. . .We recognize that morale is an internal state of mind in regard to hope and confidence. As such, it is first of all the responsibility of the individual priest. Furthermore, in difficult times, positive morale constitutes a call to an heroic exercise of the virtue of hope. Nonetheless, the morale of priests has a common aspect and a common context for which church leaders have a mutual responsibility. Although there are present today powerful individual examples of priestly ministry shared in creative and energizing ways which continue the mission and ministry of the Church, it is also clear to us that there exists today a serious and substantial morale problem among priests in general. It is a problem that cannot be simply attributed to one or another cause or recent event, but its profile and characteristics can be clearly described, and its presence needs to be addresses directly.
Excerpts from document:
“Role expectations among clergy leave many feeling trapped, overworked, frustrated and with the sense of little or no time for themselves. The continuing shortage of clergy casts its shadow on both present ministry and future hopes. Official directives which focus on duties ‘only the priest can do’ tend to increase the workload and make for less effective ministry.”
“Among some priests, there are a significant number who have settled for a part-time presence to their priesthood. Many feel they have worked hard and long to implement, or at least adjust to, the practical consequences of Vatican II. The sense that much of that effort is now being blunted or even betrayed and they elect to drop out quietly.”