Free Republic
Browse · Search
Topics · Post Article

Skip to comments.

Young Fogeys: Young reactionaries, aging radicals-U.S. Church's unusual clerical divide
The Atlantic Monthly ^ | January/February 2004 | Andrew Greeley

Posted on 01/15/2004 10:24:30 AM PST by Polycarp IV

Young reactionaries, aging radicals;the U.S. Catholic Church's unusual clerical divide

by Andrew Greeley


S ome forty years ago, as the dramatic events of the Second Vatican Council unfolded, a spotlight was trained on the Catholic Church. It was, commentators said, a revolutionary time. The Church fathers broadened the canons of scriptural interpretation, invited other churches and denominations to engage in friendly dialogue, and attempted to understand the strengths of the modern world. They defended religious freedom, condemned anti-Semitism, and recalled the traditional notion that the Church was made up not just of its clerical hierarchy but also of its laity. They approved the translation of the liturgy into vernacular texts. Although in actual practice the reforms were only modest attempts at housekeeping, made by moderate men who had no intention of destabilizing the Church, they nevertheless contradicted the Church's traditional attitude toward reform—that the Church had not changed, would not change, and could not change. In that regard any reform at all was indeed remarkable.

For more than three decades now, as a sociologist and a priest, I have been tracking the evolution of the beliefs and practices of the Catholic clergy and laity in the United States. My most recent analysis, based on survey data that I and others have gathered periodically since Vatican II, reveals a striking trend: a generation of conservative young priests is on the rise in the U.S. Church. These are newly ordained men who seem in many ways intent on restoring the pre-Vatican II Church, and who, reversing the classic generational roles, define themselves in direct opposition to the liberal priests who came of age in the 1960s and 1970s.

The divisions created by Vatican II are not new, of course. Caught up in the reform euphoria that followed the council, the lower clergy and the laity almost immediately developed a new ideology based on respect for women and for the freedom (including the sexual freedom) of the laity. On these matters, quietly or loudly, the laity and the lower clergy did resist the teachings of the Church.

The backlash was swift. Church leaders, realizing that reform had slipped out of their control, grew increasingly convinced of the need for a Restoration—a movement in which the upper clergy would close ranks and reassert their authority. Newly appointed bishops would restore the rules; theologians who disagreed would be silenced; and, as much as possible, the old order would be re-established. Even some of the progressives of the council, frightened by the laity's exuberant interest in change and by the declining influence of the Church in the United States, lost their nerve and joined in the call for a Restoration. Today's young conservative priests are rallying to this call.

W ho are these young counter-revolutionaries? Several studies are helpful in answering this question: a 1970 National Opinion Research Center study (with which I was involved); two studies released by the Los Angeles Times, in 1994 and 2002; and a 2002 study by the sociologist Dean R. Hoge. Hoge's The First Five Years of the Priesthood: A Study of Newly Ordained Catholic Priests is particularly useful. Hoge reports that half the newly ordained priests he encountered believe that a priest is fundamentally different from a layperson—that he is literally a man apart. Hoge also reports that almost a third of these priests feel that the laity need to be "better educated to respect the authority of the priest's word." These beliefs are strikingly at odds with those of the predominantly liberal generation of new priests studied in the 1970 NORC survey. Today's young priests tend to want to restore the power that the clergy held not only before Vatican II but also before a large educated Catholic laity emerged as a powerful force in the Church after World War II. Older priests today often complain that their younger colleagues are arrogant, pompous, and rigid, and that they love to parade around in clerical dress. The image that comes to mind is young versions of the old ethnic monsignors of the Depression era.

Stark differences exist between older and younger priests on many major areas of concern within the Church. The 2002 Los Angeles Times study reveals that priests of the Vatican II generation overwhelmingly support the idea that priests should be allowed to marry. In the study 80 percent of priests aged forty-six to sixty-five were in favor, as were 74 percent of those aged sixty-six to seventy-five. Only about half the priests under thirty-five, however, supported the idea. The study revealed a clear divide, too, on the ordination of women. Sixty percent of priests aged fifty-six to sixty-five, and at least half of those aged forty-six to seventy-five, supported the idea, but only 36 percent of priests under forty-six did. Significantly, even priests over seventy-five—whose views took shape well before Vatican II—were slightly more likely to support the marriage of priests and the ordination of women than were the young priests.

The lines are a bit less clear on questions of sexual ethics. According to the same Los Angeles Times study, about half of all priests reject premarital sex and homosexual sex as always wrong. But only about 40 percent of the younger generation believe that birth control is always wrong—a revealing failure of the Restoration efforts of the past thirty years, which have been fundamentally opposed to birth control. And younger priests seem to have a higher general regard for women than older priests do—an attitude demonstrated most clearly in the 1994 Los Angeles Times study, in responses to questions about support for official condemnation of sexism and for better ministry to women, and concern for the situation of nuns. This attitude, which is in line with the views of the laity, explains some of the clergy's resistance to the Church's teachings on sexuality. Nonetheless, younger priests are more than twice as likely as priests aged fifty-five to sixty-five to think that birth control and masturbation are always wrong, and they are significantly more likely to think that homosexual sex and premarital sex are always wrong.

Priests as a group are simply not in touch with the laity. In the 2002 Los Angeles Times study only thirty-six of 1,854 priests identified clericalism as one of the major problems facing the Church's laity. Astonishingly, only forty-seven priests thought the sex-abuse scandals worth mentioning. For some reason, priests of all generations are unable or unwilling to see the clergy as responsible for the departure of disaffected laypersons—a problem that today plagues the U.S. Church.

To explain the laity's dissatisfaction with the Church, priests from all generations tend to trot out the usual litany: individualism, materialism, secularism, lack of faith, lack of prayer, lack of commitment, media bias, hedonism, sexual freedom, feminism, family breakdown, lack of education, and apathy. The advantage of such explanations is that they free priests from any personal responsibility and put the blame on factors over which the clergy cannot be expected to exercise much control. The rectory thus becomes an isolated citadel battered by cultural forces, which encourages precisely the sort of closed, band-of-brothers mentality that the Vatican II reforms were designed to break down.

TOPICS: Culture/Society; Editorial; Philosophy
KEYWORDS: andrewgreeley; babyboomers; catholicchurch; catholiclist; generationgap; generationy; vaticanii
Navigation: use the links below to view more comments.
first previous 1-2021-4041-57 last
To: Alberta's Child
By the time you are gone, nobody is really going to know that there ever really was a "progressive" movement in the Church.

That's like saying that by the time Lenin and Stalin were dead no one would remember that there had ever been a Russian Revolution. Very unlikely, especially when there are millions of corpses to testify to the reality of what occurred. Same thing with the Catholic Church. There are tens of millions of souls that have fallen away from the faith thanks to the revolution that has occurred since 1962. This is not something to be forgotten, but something to be taught to future generations as an object lesson in the catastrophes that occur when man usurps the place of God.

41 posted on 01/15/2004 1:00:48 PM PST by Maximilian
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 3 | View Replies]

To: sinkspur
That only 2% of the American clergy thinks the sexual abuse situation was a "big deal" shows just how out of touch they really are.

This is true. Even if the "young fogeys" are an improvement over the horrendous 70's generation, they still fail to grasp the enormity of the situation facing the Church today. It will take many years before the full extent of the damage from this scandal will be fully appreciated. And that is just one part of the overall damage suffered by the Church since 1962.

42 posted on 01/15/2004 1:04:36 PM PST by Maximilian
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 15 | View Replies]

To: CAtholic Family Association

I learned a new word today! Thank you!

43 posted on 01/15/2004 1:30:11 PM PST by TheGeezer
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 13 | View Replies]

To: TheGeezer
I think it is the perfect word for all liberal dissent, literally when it comes to liberal moral theology and figuratively in regards to liberal philosophy. Read especially the "related terms" below.

INFECUND: Unfruitful; not producing young; barren; infertile.

Related Terms:
acarpous, arid, barren, celibate, childless, desert, desolate, drained, dried-up, dry, dull, earthbound, effete, exhausted, fallow, fruitless, gaunt, gelded, impotent, ineffectual, infertile, issueless, jejune, leached, literal, menopausal, mundane, nonfertile, nonproducing, nonproductive, nonprolific, prosaic, prosing, prosy, regrettable, sine prole, staid, sterile, stolid, stuffy, sucked dry, teemless, uncultivated, unfanciful, unfertile, unfruitful, unideal, unimaginative, uninspired, uninventive, unoriginal, unplowed, unpoetic, unproductive, unprolific, unromantic, unromanticized, unsown, untilled, virgin, waste, wasted, without issue
44 posted on 01/15/2004 1:39:02 PM PST by Polycarp IV (
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 43 | View Replies]

To: Incorrigible
And Doc, you have to put a "Greeley Alert" warning in the title of these threads lest one reads the content and becomes corrupted!

Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima fogey culpa.

45 posted on 01/15/2004 1:41:15 PM PST by Polycarp IV (
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 40 | View Replies]

To: Maximilian
This is true. Even if the "young fogeys" are an improvement over the horrendous 70's generation, they still fail to grasp the enormity of the situation facing the Church today. It will take many years before the full extent of the damage from this scandal will be fully appreciated. And that is just one part of the overall damage suffered by the Church since 1962.

The results do seem shocking. But as I said to Sinkspur, I am still a little skeptical until I see how the survey was worded and structured. Were choices given or were respondents asked to provide their own lists? How was the question worded? And when were the surveys sent out or collected? Was it before the most recent wave of revelations?

Moreover the survey had to have been a voluntary one, which means the respondent pool was necessarily self-selecting. On the other hand it was apparently 1800+ priests, which is about 4% of the national population of priests. If only 2% of that 4% honestly think that the sex scandals are a serious issue confronting the church, that's hardly a good sign.

I don't doubt that the real percentage - whatever it is - is lower than it should be.

There is, to be fair, the possibility that some may feel it is not a problem in terms of current and future priestly development: that the seminaries have (motsly, at any rate) cleaned up, decent safeguards are now in place, and that the main offenders are pretty much rooted out. And there would be some justice in that view based on what I know. Unfortunately there still remains the cleanup of past problems, which will dog the Church for years to come; to say nothing of the crisis of confidence that has erupted as a result of the scandals. Even if the root problems have been fixed these aftermaths will continue to be a problem for the Church for years to come.

46 posted on 01/15/2004 1:41:21 PM PST by The Iguana
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 42 | View Replies]

To: sinkspur
All of the priests I know, in fact, do think it is a big deal that a small % of priests homosexually abused boys and young men.

They also think it is a big deal when any priest commits the sin of having homosexual relations (or condoning them).

47 posted on 01/15/2004 2:15:38 PM PST by Notwithstanding (Posting from Bavaria)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 39 | View Replies]

To: CAtholic Family Association
Fr. Greeley's findings, Deo gratias, are mirrored in postsecondary education, where the tenured radicals running the academy face an increasingly conservative student body with each passing academic year.

As one of those conservative professors outnumbered ten-to-one by postmodern "progressives," I'm delighted to witness this return to sanity.
48 posted on 01/15/2004 6:37:18 PM PST by Hibernius Druid (Perseverantia Vincit!)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: CAtholic Family Association
Many years ago Fr. Greeley and I – being of the same age - studied from a now passé little book called “The Baltimore Catechism” – a simple, yet effective, primer directed at helping to set the course for our character development.

We studied it hard – if for no other reason than to avoid the wrath of Sr. Mary Watchout when her inevitable call came in class to recite from it. Poor motivation? You bet. A reality of our then lives? You bet. Effective? You better believe it! Did we learn the purpose of life . . .why God made us . . . the Works of Mercy . . . the Ten Commandments and the Beatitudes? No doubt about it. That snot-nosed little fat Albert kid sitting next to us in class might well trip us in the playground at recess, but – by all that was sacred to us – we were determined that absolutely no one would ever be able to find a flaw in our ability to buzz through the Catechism. Being able to conquer the little book of life was a hell of a lot more important than avoiding Fat Albert’s playground challenges and harangues.

Fast forward some many decades – decades beset with much more ‘learning’ through empathic involvements in the intricacies and nuances of the process called maturation – and, through sound and quiet reflection ask, “. . . what has changed from those pristine days spent in grade school where we sweat the flash card drills, . . . the geography and spelling lessons,. . . the history workbook assignments, . . . the ‘Palmer methodologies’ writing drills, . . . the “stand-at-attention” when Father Highbritches walked into the room, . . . the dreaded trip to the Principal’s Office for talking in class or sassing back at Sister What’s Her Name when she told us to clean the erasers after school?”

Boiled down to one simple word what has changed is simply “focus”; focus drifted away from the Beatitudes and the Ten Commandments and now obsessively ‘locked-in’ on annihilating that guy who is still with us – Fat Albert. The Fat Albert then, is, for Fr. Greeley today, none other than his political opposition now – the President of the United States.

With this change in focus blessed and embraced by the “Greeley Generation Clerics”, we have exchanged principle for politics, relegated the lessons of the Baltimore Catechism to the back shelf and replaced them with a new set of rules and procedures. We have embraced expediency at the expense of eternity. In a most disturbing fashion, we have forgotten the one simple and elementary question - “why did God make me?”; a basic question, the answer to which we once so well knew and proudly heralded.

We have permitted the Father, Son and Holy Ghost to be replaced by the “Pro-Choice” tripartite alliance of Beelzebub, the NARAL crowd and Americans United For Separation of Church and State. Playboy magazine outsells Our Sunday Visitor while “God Bless America” has become a treasonous epithet.

We have permitted the prenataly lobotomized relativist thinkers du jour to supplant the Magisterium of the Roman Catholic Church in our thought processes.

We have embraced a style of expedient manipulation in lieu of forceful frontal confrontation with the patently absurd and fatally flawed egalitarian carpe diem doctrines of the times.

We genuflect at the altar of Political Correctness to such a degree that it has replaced the Promise of Fatima. The once simple and humble concept of public prayer is now as feared as a diagnosis of diphtheria was a century ago. The writings of Fulton J Sheen and Daniel Lord, S.J. have been supplanted by the blather of the social engineers of the day a la ‘Bill & Hill’, Kim Gandy and Gloria Stinem.

In short, we’V made a Faustian pact with the devil himself wherein political advantage trumps the Ten Commandments, the Natural Law and all of the once “good news” we got from that now out-dated and much forgotten Baltimore Catechism.

We are not, with these comments, suggesting that “we put Christ back into Christmas” as Christ has never left Christmas. We are – as with the “new” clerics of which Fr. Greeley complains - suggesting an honest and sincere return to Christmas; a return burgeoning with a rededication to the concepts and tenets so clearly and basically outlined in our Baltimore Catechism; a return, to be very specific, for those among us making up the cabal of miscreant “catholic” social engineers and pontificating political figures who have, with hardly a peep from the bishopric, worked in the past to derail the likes of the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003, together with other comparable legislation aimed at protecting God’s most delicate and beautiful human treasure; the treasure worth dying for – our kids, in utero and beyond.

With the assistance of the Holy Spirit,and the young clerics about whom Fr. Greeley so vociferously complains, we – as a human race, made in the image and likeness of Christ – shall succeed.
49 posted on 01/16/2004 1:01:21 AM PST by TIPPERARY
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: sinkspur
The priests know about it, and 98% of them don't think it's any big deal.

Evidence please? I think you are full of $*&@ and I am offended - very offended - that you would actually think this not to mention type it out.

There is NOT ONE priest I have ever met who is not sick about this. Sometimes I think you actually hate priests.

50 posted on 01/16/2004 6:29:27 AM PST by american colleen
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 33 | View Replies]

To: american colleen
Read Greeley's survey. The sexual abuse crisis is not a major issue to only 2% of the priests in the United States.

Direct your profanity to him, not me.

51 posted on 01/16/2004 6:32:30 AM PST by sinkspur (Adopt a shelter dog or cat! You'll save one life, and maybe two!)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 50 | View Replies]

To: american colleen
Astonishingly, only forty-seven priests thought the sex-abuse scandals worth mentioning

Out of 1854 priests, that's actually 2.5% of American priests who actually think the abuse crisis is a major issue.

52 posted on 01/16/2004 6:35:17 AM PST by sinkspur (Adopt a shelter dog or cat! You'll save one life, and maybe two!)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 50 | View Replies]

To: Alberta's Child
... belched into oblivion .... bump!
53 posted on 01/16/2004 6:38:17 AM PST by Petronski (I'm *NOT* always *CRANKY.*)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 3 | View Replies]

To: sinkspur
That is crap. The survey didn't ask any questions about the scandal- never mentioned it in fact - it asked what the major problems facing the Church's laity are.

The major problems facing the laity are the same problems we've had for years... Mass attendance has not fallen off in the last two years which one could attribute to the scandals.

You and Fr. Greeley are inserting something into a questionaire that wasn't even touched on in the questionaire and then extrapolating from your insertion exactly what you want to assume. For the record, the laity is more concerned with (in the context of the scandals) the behaviour of the bishops - just ask Voice of the Faithful people.

I have not met ONE priest who wasn't sick over this whole thing - not ONE. The liberal ones, the progressive ones and the orthdox ones, all of them.

54 posted on 01/16/2004 6:53:54 AM PST by american colleen
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 52 | View Replies]

To: american colleen
You and Fr. Greeley are inserting something into a questionaire that wasn't even touched on in the questionaire and then extrapolating from your insertion exactly what you want to assume.

Read the article again. You're missing it.

55 posted on 01/16/2004 6:55:46 AM PST by sinkspur (Adopt a shelter dog or cat! You'll save one life, and maybe two!)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 54 | View Replies]

To: sinkspur
There is an old saw in the social sciences that says the plural of anecdote is data.
56 posted on 01/17/2004 7:10:49 AM PST by TradicalRC (While the wicked stand confounded, Call me, with thy saints surrounded. -The Boondock Saints)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 15 | View Replies]

My husband gives my 3rd grade son (homeschooled) new flashcards to memorize from the Baltimore Catechism every week. He tells us he wants to save those flashcards to use with HIS kids someday.
57 posted on 01/17/2004 7:33:30 AM PST by mom3boys
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 49 | View Replies]

Navigation: use the links below to view more comments.
first previous 1-2021-4041-57 last

Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.

Free Republic
Browse · Search
Topics · Post Article

FreeRepublic, LLC, PO BOX 9771, FRESNO, CA 93794 is powered by software copyright 2000-2008 John Robinson