The largest survey of Catholic priests in decades was recently released. Titled, Well-being, Trust, and Policy in a Time of Crisis: Highlights from the National Study of Catholic Priests, this survey received responses from over 3,500 priests and 131 bishops.
The good news is that 77% of priests and 81% of bishops were categorized as “flourishing” and reflects high levels of well-being, according to the study. Only 4% of priests reported that they were considering leaving the priesthood.
The bad news is that 45% of priests report one symptom of burnout. Additionally, only 49% of diocesan priests today express confidence in their bishop and only 24% expressed confidence in the leadership and decision-making of the bishops in general. Only 36% of surveyed priests believe their bishop would help them with personal struggles. 82% of priests agree that they regularly fear being falsely accused of sexual abuse. Only 28% of priests would describe their bishop as “father”.
These sobering statistics should raise alarm bells with bishops. After all, if over half of a general’s officers lacked confidence in that general, what would be the chances that a battle or a war could be won? If over half of employees in a business lacked confidence in their boss, how successful could anyone expect the business be? What is even more absurd is the responses of bishops: 70% of them considered themselves “father” to their priests. Really? Have they spoken to their priests? Have they gotten to know their priests? Obviously the answer is a big fat NO on too many occasions.
What is amazing are some of the recommendations priests have made to make their ministry more robust. One is the following: having the bishop know the names of the priests! Another recommendation was to treat priests accused of wrongdoing as innocent until proven guilty.
In the Gaylord Diocese, confidential discussions that members of Gaylord Diocesan Watch have had with multiple priests in the Diocese reflect these findings. It should be of no surprise to anyone who is apprised as to the current state of the Diocese that these findings are very concerning. Who would want to become a priest with these statistics? Which parent would promote their son or daughter to religious life with conditions outlined in this report? Will Bishop Walsh act positively on the findings of this survey? We will watch for his response. As of this writing, we have not seen a discussion of this report from Bishop Walsh.