Chapter Two: Literature Review


The best of these apostles began to say from this time onwards that to be a missionary is to commune with, to share in a common destiny, it is ‘to muck in with’, ‘to rot with’! (Congar 1967)


Leadership by one individual, without inbuilt critical control—or some division of power—can lead authoritarian exercise of authority which does not match the gospel, to personal power and compulsion. (Schillebeeckx 1985)

I. Introduction


To gain an understanding of why the bishops responded as they did to the phenomenon of clergy abuse, it will be helpful to review some of the literature available to the bishops during the time frame of this study—1970s to mid-1980s. The literature review focuses on two areas: (1) the church as an institution, that is organizational ecclesiology and (2) U.S. Catholic priests. The Catholic Church’s long time existence as a social institution has not guaranteed among theologians “agreement about the social reality of the Church” or among sociologists agreement “on how to define “institution” and on the methods to be used in studying the social reality of religion” (Baum 1974, 8).[54] Bonhoeffer (1927) argues that the Church must be considered empirically “because Christ entered into history” (qtd. in Watkins 1991, 695).[55] This chapter will not resolve any disagreements within these disciplines, but it will review some of the literature that will help the reader understand the U.S. Roman Catholic Church as a social and human institution.

Part of the reason for the lack of agreement among those who study the Church has to do with the essence of the Church—its divine and human elements. This dualism reflects the paradoxes that permeate the scriptures:

·     How blest are those who know their need of God; the kingdom of Heaven is theirs.

·     How blest are the sorrowful; they shall find consolation.

·     How blest are those of a gentle spirit; they shall have the earth for their possession.

·     How blest are those who hunger and thirst to see right prevail; they shall be satisfied.

·     How blest are those who show mercy; mercy shall be shown to them.

·     How blest are those whose hearts are pure; they shall see God.

·     How blest are the peacemakers; God shall call them his sons.

·     How blest are those who have suffered persecution for the cause of right; the kingdom of Heaven is theirs. (Mt 5:3-10)

It may seem out of place in a sociological study to include extensive scriptural references, but to understand the bishops and priests in this study, it is critical to understand the “lens” through which they perceived the world. The Church of believers focuses on the Church as “mystery” while the sociologist and ecclesiologists focus on the Church as a social system. The former accept a belief system based on scriptures that are replete with paradoxes—dying in order to live, giving in order to receive, and losing one’s life, only to find it. Using the social-science perspective to understand the Church as in institution means facing the most profound of paradoxes—that of being both divine and human. As Watkins (1991) writes, social scientists face “the tension between the Church which is the object of our faith and the erring community in which we live and worship” (692).[56] Thus, any study of the institutional Church needs to incorporate both dimensions of the Church.

The literature review that follows begins with a brief examination of the Church of Vatican II. This is followed by sociologists and ecclesiologists who examine the Church as a social system.

II. The Church as an Institution

The Catholic Church is the oldest social institution in the world, tracing its beginnings from “St. Peter of Bethsaida in Galilee, prince of the Apostles, who received from Jesus Christ the Supreme Pontifical Power to be transmitted to his Successors, resided first at Antioch, then at Rome for twenty-five years where he was martyred in the year 64, or 67 of the common reckoning” (Official Catholic Directory 1992).[57] From the first Bishop Peter through all his successors to the most newly consecrated, bishops believe that their episcopal office was divinely instituted.

Through the holy Spirit who has been given to them, Bishops are the successors of the apostles by divine institution; they are constituted pastors within the Church so that they are teachers of doctrine, priests of sacred worship and ministers of governance. (c: 375)

The above quotation highlights the tension that accompanies any discussion of an institution that is both human and divine. Even the word “institution” conjures different meanings. Most Catholics think of the Church as being “instituted by Christ”—“You are Peter (petras), the Rock; and upon this rock I will build my church” (Mt 16:18). Others are also apt to think of the Church’s juridical and organizational aspects. The institutional Church is tied to an event (hence the historical perspective referred to above) and to a historical person, whom some believe to be divine. It is not surprising that some people focus on the divine aspects of the Church and when the Church, in the person of its members, manifests the human side of the Church, they are terribly distraught.

In a very revealing essay on the inner workings of the Vatican II, French ecclesiologist Yves Congar, OP [58] discusses three themes from Vatican I that, at the insistence of Pope Paul VI, were to be continued in Vatican II. These dominant concepts of “the official ecclesiology” (130) were societas, societas perfecta, and societas inaequalis (131). Congar (1986) quotes treatises that use as a point of departure the idea that the Church Christ founded was a societas, meaning:

·     “a distinct visible society ... outside of which there would not be, the Christian religion”[59]

·     “a true and properly so-called society; an unequal society—and thereby called a hierarchical society”[60]

According to Congar (1986), Aristotle, Thomas Aquinas, Church fathers and popes used the concept societas perfecta. Perfect is used as meaning complete. The concept societas inaequalis, hierarchica was the “fundamental affirmation of official ecclesiology in the period between the First and the Second Vatican Councils” (133). Congar (1986) asks what happened to the values of a “perfect and unequal society” (135). The concept of the Church as a society was used in Lumen Gentium: “a people made one with the unity of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit” (4). The term societas perfecta has two meanings: (1) “the Church has of itself everything that it needs to achieve its end” and (2) the theme of libertas Ecclesiae, or the freedom of the Church to “find support for its freedom less in juridical agreements with the secular Powers and more in the dignity of the human person and the freedom to believe which is permanently linked to it” (138). Congar (1986) writes that at the Third Session of the Council (1964), Pope Paul VI said, “The Church is not an end in itself. It wants to be entirely Christ’s, through Christ and in Christ and entirely men’s, among men and for men” (quoted on p. 140). This led to the idea of the Church, as Conger (1986) writes,

… in the ecclesiology of Vatican II as the ‘sacrament’ of salvation, the ‘sign and instrument’ of ‘intimate union with God and of the unity of all humankind.’ What a dynamic idea! It points to a destination beyond the Church, to a being for all, to mission as ‘being with’ and as ‘dialogue.’’ (140)[61]

Finally, the concept societas inaequalis, hierarchica. While not rejected, this concept did not have the prominence it once had. Of prime importance was the People of God as a “messianic people” (Lumen Gentium 9).[62] The foregoing does not mean that the Church is any less hierarchical. It is still consists “basically of synods of bishops, national synods, councils of priests and pastoral councils” (142). But change was afoot. In 1963 Cardinal Montini told young priests,

At the Council, the Church is looking for itself. It is trying, with great trust and with great effort, to define itself more precisely and to understand what it is. ... While it is undertaking the task of defining itself in this way, the Church is also looking for the world and trying to come in contact with that society ... How should that contact be established? By engaging in dialogue with the world, interpreting the needs of the society in which it is working and observing the defects, the necessities, the sufferings and the hopes and aspirations that exist in men’s hearts. (143)[63]

Rahner (1967) said that in describing the Church as highly hierarchical, he was omitting “precisely what makes the Church the Church, namely, the communion of minds and hearts though sharing the divine life” (5).

The Church of the early 1970s was a Church in transition. The “societas inaequalis was dying out, supplanted by the new, revitalized Church of Vatican II.  But the Church described above dominated the thinking of many of the bishops in the 1970s to mid-1980s. Even those who made a sincere effort to understand the documents of Vatican II and to accept John XIII’s call of renewal—aggiornamento—had grown up in a Church that accentuated the hierarchical, patriarchal, organizational, and juridical natures of the Church. The teaching authority (magisterium) of the Church also dominated. The emphasis was on the “one, holy, catholic, and apostolic” Church (De Bovis 1961). As McBrien (1994) writes, “The whole treatise on the Church concludes with the thesis that Christ gave the Apostles and their successors the threefold power of teaching, ruling, and sanctifying, and that this is the primary law for the whole Church” (659).

The Church of the early 1970s was a post-Vatican II Church that was “more biblical, more historical, more vital and dynamic” (Dulles 1966, 11). The Church revitalized the metaphorical language and images of the scriptures—the flock of Christ, the vineyard of God, the Temple of the Holy Spirit, among others (Lumen Gentium 5, 6). But the Church very realistically describes itself as being made up of sinful men and is always in need of being saved, redeemed: Ecclesia semper reformanda: “… the Church, embracing sinners in her bosom, is at the same time holy and always in need of being purified, and incessantly pursues the path of penance and renewal” (Lumen Gentium 8). Again, the paradox of the human and the divine is at center stage.

When Bonhoeffer (1927/1963) examines the Church he is always conscious of the uniqueness of the ecclesial community. He writes, “It is possible to understand the empirical church only by looking down from above, or by looking out from the inside, and not otherwise” (145). Bonhoeffer’s (1927/1963) assessment of Church as a social reality, what he calls its “objective spirit” (173-174), is always closely tied to the incarnational and sacramental dimensions of the Church. This German Lutheran theologian’s perspective works well for Catholics because of his emphasis on the Church as a servant community with Christ at the center.

Ecclesiologist Karl Rahner also addresses the inadequacies of viewing the Church as a society and focuses on the Church as the sacrament of God’s saving his people. For Rahner (1975) the Church is not so much the Kingdom of God, but “the sacrament of the Kingdom of God in the eschatological phase of sacred history” (239). In his essay on “The Church and the World,” he states that Church members must give attention to the Church’s authentic nature. “For the Church is not a world-organization (“moral rearmament”) for a better world—on earth. It is the community of believers in that eternal life of God into which history is raised and transcended” (250).

Rahner’s most important contribution, as far as this study is concerned, deals with his dogged emphasis on the need to recall that we are sinners, not only as individuals, but as a society. For Rahner (1974), to focus on individual sin and to ignore the creation or toleration of inhuman conditions and institutions in society “is menacing” (124). Sin is seen as twofold—a sin against God and a “wound” to the whole Church. The idea of the sinner’s reconciling with the whole Church took hold, but the Council Fathers did not spell out this reconciliation. Rahner was very disappointed that Vatican II did not take seriously the Church’s sinfulness. As a sacrament, a sign and an instrument of communion with God, the Church opens the way for “the reentry of the penitent sinner into grace with God and reconciliation with the Church” (Adnès 1989, 109). Interestingly enough, even though Lumen Gentium stressed the sacramentality of the Church and Christ’s work of redemption, and called “ … to follow the same path in communicating to men the fruits of salvation” (8), a doctrine on penance is undeveloped and unexpanded (Adnès 1989, 100). The concept of a sinful Church is germane to this study because it focuses on the human aspects of the institutional Church. It also identified an area that Church leaders and laity have not addressed—forgiving priest-perpetrators.

One of the best collections of essays on the Church as an institution was compiled in the 1974 Concilium volume edited by Baum and Greeley. In The Church as an Institution, a serious attempt was made to provide theological and sociological perspec­tives on the Church. In addition to Hasenhüttl, discussed below, Baum (1974) briefly describes the vast fields of sociological study and their varying methodologies, and concludes that theologians cannot approach sociology as a “unified science” (31). “The theolo­gian must engage in creative theological work which the sociological understanding of the human reality is made to shed light on the Christian message regarding sin and salvation” (31). Wackenheim (1974) argues that “there is just as much reason to question ecclesial conditioning of society as that of the social conditioning of the Church” (34). He argues that the Church should state “what it is and how it sees itself” in response to sociologists’ inquiries (38).

Hasenhüttl (1974) cites four elements that are essential to the Church being considered an institution. The Church is an institution because, first, it has authority in pre-existing offices with permanent titles; second, it is governed by a code of law; third, it possesses infallibility; and fourth, it controls its subjects through its three main areas of power. They include (1) validating the subjects’ primary function, which is the administration of the sacraments, (2) exercising legal competence, and (3) regulating the religious and moral lives of the faithful (12). It is not only these characteristics that make the Church an institution, but the dogma of infallibility that solidifies the institutional Church. Hasenhüttl (1974) agrees with Dulles (1974/1978) that the essence of the Church is not fully described when seen just an institution. Hasenhüttl (1974) sees the congregation of the Church as being a “community for the spreading of love” (20), which parallels Dulles’s favorite model of the Church as the community of disciples.

Kaufman (1974) examines the Church as a religious organiza­tion and sees it in relation to Christianity on four points: (1) Christianity has been determined by the history of the Church and the various social conditions in which the church existed; (2) Christians existence needs both faith, ideas and creeds as well as the structure of a social organization; (3) organized churches, which have changed throughout history, have helped create the stability of Christianity; and (4) the ecclesiology of the Catholic Church’s ecclesiology is “organization blind” (77). This means that “theory has no place for the real weaknesses of the organization, and second, the organizational aspects of the Church appear in the theory only in the mediated concepts of “office”, “hierarchy” or “papacy” (77). While many would argue with this description, I think it supports my argument that the Bishops took for granted the organizational structure of the Church and did not pay attention to the needs of the Church as a human organization. Kaufman (1974) argues that the Catholic Church has developed like any other organization in terms of functional differentiation, bureaucratization, and socialization (see Weber 1947, Parsons 1937). But the Church’s view of itself is “endowed with a particular and essentially unchangeable structure of office … The main elements of the organizational structure are defined as parts of the deposit of faith by an act of historical reconstruction” ( 77-78). Kaufman (1974) continues:

This means that existing problems of the social form are defined as theologically relevant so that they can be discussed within the Church only in religious terms, i.e., in terms of the “real” and the “identical”, and not in terms of functional considerations. (78)

I don’t think that it is too much of a stretch to argue that many of the bishops used a theological lens through which to view some organizational issues.[64] For example, once ordained bishops viewed the presbyterate as permanent members of the mystical Church and not as human resources in a social organization. Rev. Joseph Fichter (1954, 1961, 1965, and 1968) wrote for years about the needs of priests, stressing the need for human growth and development efforts.

As both a social scientist and a theologian, Rudge brings a dual perspective to organizational ecclesiology. Of the five organizational theories Rudge (1968) identifies—the traditional, charismatic, classical, human relations, and systemic—he focuses on the latter as the most appropriate for ecclesial administration. When discussing conflict in an ecclesial organization, he makes an important point:

It is easy to treat these (conflicts) as personal misdemeanours and blame them on the corruption of human nature. That may be the cause, but it is also worth considering them as diagnostic indicators. What is manifest as conflict on a personal level may in fact reflect a structural disorder.… The absence of career structure could produce frustration which is given vent in the form of uncharitableness. (107)

Further Rudge (1974) advises,

The abhorrence of conflict in the Church on the grounds of the Christian ethic or the externalizational of it to engender a narrow and exclusive unit will not do. The objectifying of conflict as a thing which can be dealt with in a constructive way is the contribution of the sociology of conflict to ecclesial life. (108)

Later, and in reference specifically to clergy sexual abuse, Kennedy (1993) echoes Rudge’s strong admonition to bring conflict to center stage and to deal with it. Kennedy (1993) argues, “The greatest strength of American bishops is their pastoral response to the ever present realities of human sin, failure, loss and grief. The institutional aspects of Catholicism exist only so that this pastoral function may be fulfilled” (8). Not to do so, makes “official Catholicism” an accomplice to the tragedies suffered by victims and their families. Kennedy (1993) suggests that the bishops’ refusal to deal with the deep-seated root causes of clergy abuse may be because they are too disturbing or unsettling for them (8). Facing conflict and tragedies, Kennedy and Rudge would argue is not easily accomplished, but absolutely necessary, especially when the ecclesial society is changing or is in need of change.

O’Dea examines the pathology of institutions from two perspectives in two articles. In the one O’Dea (1974) examines the tension between institutional stability and creativity, the consequence of which is to obscure the line between “the essential and accidental and tends to exalt what is as the best possible expressed of what ought to be” (120). After a brief historical review of “what man ought to be doing here below, being the kind of being that he is” (120), O’Dea (1974) concludes that the Church failed because it did not understand the modern developments of the world. Worse, the Church’s forms of religious vocations “became hardened and rigid … The religious life was suffering from institutional truncation. Its forms were becoming alienated and the Church tended to resort to authority in compensation” (122). The Church is still faced with answering the question about what people ought to be doing given the kind of persons we are. By way of asking a question, O’Dea (1974) argues that the Church must preserve tradition and community without “rigidifying its forms so as to provide both the nurture of fellowship and the openness necessary for authentic growth” (126). I argue that one of the main challenges the bishops should have faced during the 1970s to mid-1980s, and are called to face today, deals with assisting priests find their way “to fulfillment” (127).

In a longer article, O’Dea (1963) examines the paradoxes that are part of institutionalization. Institutionalization results when cultural themes and human beings’ expectations become stable, reciprocal and “the expected ongoing activity of men” (72). As Parsons (1951) discussed earlier, this includes the definition of statuses and roles, goals and means—those prescribed and permitted, the articulation of culture, the various dimensions of the socialization processes. O’Dea (1963) argues “religion both needs most and suffers most from institutionalization” (74). O’Dea (1963) refers to the dilemma between the sacred and the prosaic that Durkheim (1945) discussed as being indicative of the emasculation that can occur because of institutionalization. O’Dea (1963) argues that charismatic leader and his message inspire a wholehearted response from followers, but the structure of statuses and roles emerges from within the stable institutional environment and elicits various other motivations, some of which may be diametrically opposed to the charismatic ideals of the founder. In this study, the strength and status of the institutional Church and of the bishops, the stability of, not only the Church, but the priesthood, enabled Bishops in the 1970s to mid-1980s to handle internally and without public attention the allegations of clergy abuse. Without institution­alization “all implications beyond the immediate presence of the religious experience or the charismatic leader must be surrendered by religion as outside its power to influence the behavior of men” (O’Dea 1963, 74). When allegations of clergy sexual abuse became public, “religion”—in this case the Catholic Church—seemingly surrendered its power to the public’s frenetic desire to blame and to punish for the abuse of power and the destruction of trust perpetrated by bishops as well as the abusing priests.

The first of O’Dea’s (1963) five dilemmas or paradoxes—“mixed motivation”—refers to secondary concerns being over-shadowed by the original goals of the leader. While the charismatic leader and his message inspire a wholehearted response from followers, the structure of statuses and roles emerges from within the stable institutional environment and elicits various other motivations, some of which can be diametrically opposed to the charismatic ideals of the founder. For religious practitioners can be impelled by a mixture of motives—the ideals of the institution and one’s own ideals and self-interests. Before clergy abuse became public, it is likely that, as will be demonstrated in chapter five, the ideals of the institution prevailed: the preservation of the institution and of the sacredness of the vocation to the priesthood. Later, when the cases became public, surely the motives and actions of the bishops were complicated by their “mixed motivations.” Were the values of the institution sacrificed for vested interests? Most likely. As the bishops faced the challenges and pressures from the economic, legal, political, moral, public relations, and social spheres, surely the tensions gave way to compromise.

The second dilemma—objectification versus alienation—focuses on the “alienation of the public religious life from the private religious interests of the members of a religious organization” (79). Once clergy abuse became public, from the victims’ perspective, the institutional church served to “separate the individual from the com­munity and to isolate him from solidarity with the religious group” (79). The separation from the community could occur in various ways. Most of the victims and their families were extremely close to the church, but once victims decided that the Church, in the person of the bishops, did not take actions against the priests and were thereby culpable and responsible, the nature of their previous relationships changed. The relationships changed over time, usually developing into separation and isolation. When clergy abuse occurred in the 1970s and early 1980s, the bishops spoke primarily to their families, isolating themselves from the victims. Although I think the bishops’ explanation that this was typical of how problems were handled is believable, this strategy proved to intensify the dilemma about which O’Dea writes.

The third dilemma of administrative order that O’Dea (1963) identifies is the alienation that can occur with the standardization of procedures, statuses and roles, as well as rights, obligations, and relationships within a total structure”(80). In the late 1980s and 1990s, in varying degrees the bishops were isolated from the accused clergy, mostly because of the insertion of lawyers into the situation. Once lawyers entered the scene, priests were cautioned to bring their own lawyers with them as diocesan lawyers were representing the diocese.[65] O’Dea (1963) writes, “Functional precedents become in later situations dysfunctional obstacles to forthright activity in response to contemporary problems” (81). While Weber (1974) argued for the efficiency of bureaucracy, O’Dea (1963) notes the tendency of a bureaucratic organization to “overelaborate itself (raising) problems of dysfunctional consequences” (81).

The third dilemma of administrative order—elaboration and alienation—is often connected with the dilemma of mixed motivation. Office holders elaborate their office to strengthen their position in the organization, when either (1) the administrative structure has become overelaborated and alienated from contemporary problems, or (2) the officer holders themselves become alienated from their group members. Again, the bishops faced the dilemma of finding a balance between preserving the institution and ministering to the victims. When no balance was reached, both exaggerated elaboration (of their office) and alienation resulted.

The fourth dilemma—concrete definition versus substitution of the letter for spirit—deals with the incorporation in the believer’s daily life of the truths of the faith. These truths, however, can become distorted and resemble less and less the original spirit of the founder. They can become burdens instead of guides to faith.[66] The fifth dilemma—conversion versus coercion—identifies the tension that exists when the values of society and a religious system become so intertwined that conformity to one necessitates conformity to the other. The two systems become so closely linked that have a deleterious effect on each other.

These five dilemmas, inherent in the routinization of charism, are the structural characteristics of institutionalization, which is addressed below in the section of priests.

One of the leading Catholic theologians who deal with the Church as an institution, Dulles’s Models of the Church (1974/1978) was the most widely read and respected by bishops.[67] Dulles’s use of models in his Models of the Church (1974/1978) varies slightly with more common sociological uses of the term. Marshall (1994), in his sociology dictionary, includes its use as a synonym for theory, a system of abstract concepts that is at a more general level than a theory. Marshall (1994) writes, “At root, models seek to simplify phenomena, as an aid to conceptualization and explanation (339). Dulles (1974/1978) uses “model” as Kuhn (1970) uses the term “paradigm” (33). Dulles (1974) writes, “Such a dominant model is ... a paradigm. A model rises to the status of a paradigm when it has proved successful in solving a great variety of problems and is expected to be an appropriate tool for unraveling anomalies as yet unsolved” (33). He quotes Kuhn, whose paradigms are “concrete puzzle-solutions which, employed as models or examples, can replace explicit rules as a basis for the solution of the remaining puzzles of normal science” (Kuhn 1970, 175 quoted on 33). More revealing and pertinent is Dulles’s introductory remark, in which he writes, “In selecting the term “models” rather than “aspects” or “dimensions,” I wish to indicate my conviction that the Church, like other theological realities, is a mystery” (13). Although “mysteries” are not the usual subject of sociological inquiry, the use of metaphors in the analysis and interpretation is. In its simplest form, Coffey and Atkinson (1996) define a metaphor as “a device of representation through new meaning may be learned” (85).

The use of Dulles’s models as “mysteries” intersects with the organizational culture perspective being employed in this study. Coffey and Atkinson (1996) urge researchers to think of the metaphors used by social actors in their cultural or social contexts. “Metaphors … grounded in socially shared knowledge ... may help to identify cultural domains that are familiar to the members of a given culture or subculture; they express specific values, collective identities, shared knowledge, and common vocabularies” (86). These are the elements of the organizational culture perspective.

The Catholic Church is replete with metaphors, symbols, and images that are widely diverse and reflect the multiple ways that the Church sees itself.  Some of these images are as old as the Church itself and others are more recent, reflecting changes in the Church’s thinking. Vatican II made obsolete definitions of the Church, such as Robert Cardinal Bellarmine’s[68] description of the Church as the “one and true Church ... a community of men brought together by the profession of the same Christian faith and conjoined in the commun­ion of the same sacraments, under the government of the legitimate pastors and especially the one vicar of Christ on earth” (quoted in Dulles 1974/1978, 20). The Church that most, if not all, of the bishops knew who were active in the 1970s to mid 1980s was fashioned according to Bellarmine’s image. Dulles (1974/1978) lists the elements of the Church as a profession of the true faith, communion with the sacraments, and submission to the legitimate pastors. Bellarmine’s definition relies solely and significantly of visible elements. Dulles (1974/1978) writes that Bellarmine:

... goes so far as to maintain that, where profession of the true faith is essential, actual belief, being an internal and unverifiable factor, is not. A man who professes to believe but does not believe in his heart would be on this definition a member of the Church, whereas a man who believed without professing to believe would not be. (20)

Although the above refers to the spirit of the seventeenth century Church, it reflects some of the dualism that permeated the teaching Church for centuries. This passage suggests a ritualism that, although often condemned by Church leaders, was quite rampant.

As Dulles (1974/1978) indicates, “The critique and choice of models depends ... on criteria” (190). Seems simple enough, but Dulles is too astute to let that the reader slide. He continues, “But here lies the rub” (190). Our criteria “presuppose, or imply a choice of values” (190). Our choices, consciously or not, are inextricably linked to our own belief system and its inherent values. Cognizant of this problem, Dulles (1974/1978) makes an attempt to specify seven criteria that would be “acceptable to adherents of a number of different models” (191), and attempts a reconciliation by providing two working principles. The first deals with finding the kernel of truth that drew aspirants to a belief system, even if it has subsequently been found faulty (193). The second principle is more germane to this study. Dulles relies on a principle of John Stuart Mill, also proclaimed by Maurice and Niebuhr: men are generally right in what they affirmed and wrong in what they denied. “What we deny is generally something that lies outside our experience, and about which we can therefore say nothing (Niebuhr 1951, 238-239; quoted in Dulles, 1978/1978, 194).

Dulles did not seek to have his five models accepted “without qualification ... for they to some extent come in conflict with each other” (194), nor does he seek a “supermodel” (195). He does add, however, in another book, A Church to Believe In (1982), and in the last chapter of his revised Models of the Church (1987) another model, which he took from Pope John Paul II’s encyclical Redemptor homininis (1979), Community of Disciples. Although this is not a “supermodel” (195), and “it is only one perspective on the Church” (226), it is “broadly inclusive” (207). Dulles (1974/1987) links it to the other models in last chapter (204-226). Critical to this study is the concept of the priesthood. How it is seen by those in authority, by the priests themselves, by their victims, and by us, the general public. Among the many early disciples, there were “(t)he Twelve ... the inner core ... (who) bore witness ... (and had to adopt) ... a manner of life that would make no sense apart from their intense personal faith in God’s providence and his fidelity to his promises” (209). Discipleship is at the heart of the priesthood. “Discipleship always depends upon a prior call or vocation from Christ“ (225). Dulles quotes Raymond Brown who says, “Church offices and even apostleships are of lesser importance when compared to discipleship, which is literally a question of (eternal) life or death” (1970, 21-26, quoted on 211). This giving of one’s life is an integral part of discipleship literature, as evidenced by Bonhoeffer in his The Cost of Discipleship, also quoted in Dulles, “When Christ calls someone, he bids that person come and die” (1963, 99, translation modified; quoted on 225).

In evaluating the models (190-203), Dulles (1974/1978) states that each makes some significant contribution, specifically the institutional model highlights the Church as “structured community”, but it can conflict with other models, as when it is “rigid, doctrinaire, and conformist” (194). Dulles (1974/1978) goes so far as to say the institutional model cannot be taken as primary because “institutions are subordinate to persons, structures are subordinate to life” (198). Rather the Church as a social institution is more correctly viewed as a “social construct” (198) modified by its members in every generation. All the respondent bishops echoed this attitude—that the Church viewed solely as an institution—is inadequate.

III. The Church As Mystery

To its believers, the Church is a mystery (Lumen Gentium 1-8; De Bovis 1961). In Christ, “it is like a sacrament--a sign and instrument, that is, of communion with God and of unity among all men” (Lumen Gentium 1). It is a hierarchical society (Catechism 779)[69] that “lives” in two worlds—in heaven and on earth. It defines itself in numerous ways, most often in terms of its founder, its professions of faith, and its figurative images that help reveal the mystical or invisible aspects of its identity.

Members of the Catholic Church believe that Christ, who is both God (Jesus Christ) and man, founded the Church (CCC: 763-766). “The one mediator, Christ, established and ever sustains here on earth his holy Church, the community of faith, hope and charity, as visible organization through which he communicates truth and grace to all men” (Lumen Gentium 8).

Members profess their faith in primarily two professions of faith, the Apostles’ Creed, which summarizes the faith of the apostles (CCC: 194), and the Nicene Creed, which reflects the tenets of the first two ecumenical councils (CCC: 195).[70] The Council of Nicea (325) is considered the first of the Church’s 21 ecumenical councils. It addressed many pastoral practices and Church discipline, many of which later were stated as ecclesial norms, or “canons.” These canons or church law, which attempted to preserve and enforce the Church’s traditional discipline, eventually became known as “canon law.” We will return to notion later on. The main attributes of these creeds are that the Church is one, holy, Catholic, and apostolic (CCC: 813-35, 857-865; Lumen Gentium 8).

The figurative images and metaphors of the Church include, among many others, the Mystical Body of Christ (Mystici Corporis; CCC: 779); the sacrament of salvation (Lumen Gentium 9; CCC: 774-776). In Lumen Gentium 6 are numerous images: a “sheepfold,” “a tract of land to be cultivated ... a choice vineyard,” and “the dwelling place of God among men.” Later, in chapter VII, “The Eschatological Nature of the Pilgrim Church and Her Union with the Heavenly Church,” the church is identified as “the universal sacrament of salvation.” It is one of the last descriptions of the Church that is germane to this study. The concept of salvation is central to the Church and its teaching. Implicit in the term “salvation” is the existence of sin. The concept of the Church as sinful is not an easy one to make for many Church officials. Part of the reason is, of course, because the Church is seen as the Body of Christ, which is without sin. Lumen Gentium deals with it this way:

While Christ, “holy, innocent, undefiled” (Heb. 7:26) knew nothing of sin (2Cor. 5:21), but came to expiate only the sins of the people (cf. Heb. 2:17), the Church, embracing sinners in her bosom, is at the same time holy and always in need of being purified, and incessantly pursues the path of penance and renewal. (8)

De Bouvis (1961) writes,

If we are to speak realistically about the Church’s holiness we must begin by looking once more at the materials of which the Church is built. ... The fact is that, whether we like it or not, we must take the Church as our Lord made her, that is as a people, organized, grouped and subject to the powers of order, of teaching and of government. The church is not first and foremost in heaven, but on earth. The Church does not exist solely in the secret places of men’s consciousness, but lives also outside these consciences, in the market-place. It cannot be otherwise since the Church is the assembly of men of flesh and bone, visibly united to one another through baptism, publicly professing the same faith and subject to the same leaders. (130)

Thus, the Church is a church of sinners. Membership is based on the sacrament of initiation—baptism—and the profession of faith (c: 205).[71]  Excluding excommunication, for apostasy, heresy, and schism, among others,[72] innocence is not a prerequisite for membership.

Regardless of the perspectives that one takes on the Church, the viewer is left with the reality of an institution whose members are linked with their divine roots and mission and a social institution with earthly, human roots, goals, and needs. The Pilgrim Church can be, as Harvey Cox (1965) writes, like the poker player, always looking for where “the action is.” Problems with its divine and human missions occur when Church leaders lose their sense of the Church as an eschatological Church. Then the Pilgrim Church can fail to inspire the world with hope. More importantly, viewing the Church as other than the eschatological People of God means “a religion without the world. The counterpart of this was of course a world without religion” (144). Lumen Gentium is based on the history of salvation and eschatology. Congar (1986) writes that this occurred, “not simply because the Council has assimilated all that was the best in biblical, theological and patristic studies ... but because it was above all a pastoral Council. It was doctrinal too, of course, but was concerned with teaching only in a pastoral perspective” (144).

Congar (1986), in “A Last Look at the Council,” distinguishes between the episcopate dispersed and the episcopate gathered together, and the two levels of thought that this engenders—sociological and theological. Congar (1986) writes, “At the sociologi­cal level, there is a gathering of bishops, a communication of ideas and convictions and each participant is take by the others beyond what he is alone” (340). At the theological level, tensions and maneuvering exist because the Church is human. But as Congar (1986) writes, “The Holy Spirit is active at a council and makes this sociological communication into a communion and a unanimity that is concerned with the City of God” (340).

The above brings us full circle. As Bonhoeffer reminds us,

No separation can be made between the Church as an institution for the keeping of christian religiosity and morals, and the church as a ministry from God. On the one hand the church is a society or union of people inclined to religion, where no particular spiritual life is going on, where there is not much vision for the future, where there is mostly satisfaction with the situation in which they live. On the other hand and at the same time the church is the community of the saints, people freed from their solitude by God and given to each other. (translated and quoted in de Haas 1972, 41).

The next segment of this chapter with U.S. Catholic priests who live out the tensions of being part of a social and ecclesial institution.

IV. The US Catholic Priests

It is appropriate to begin any discussion of the U.S. Catholic priests with a discussion of charisma. The laity’s interaction with the institutional Church takes place primarily through the local priest and only on special occasions through the bishop (for example, at the sacrament of confirmation). An understanding of charisma and priests will assist in an overall understanding of the Church as a social and theological institution.

While it is not always completely clear to which of the three types of charisma Weber is referring—“magical,” “prophetic” (or “genuine”), and “routinized,” the two that most pertain to Catholic priests are the prophetic charisma and routinized charisma, but for this study the latter is of particular interest. The routinized charisma is attached, not to the person, as are the other two, but to a social institution, in this case the priestly office in the Catholic Church. Thus Weber (1922/1963) writes,

the priest … dispenses salvation by virtue of his office. Even in cases in which personal charisma may be involved, it is the hierarchical office that confers legitimate authority upon the priest as a member of an organized enterprise of salvation. (47; also quoted in Fichter 1974, 6)

Interplay exists among the three types of charisma. The priestly charisma varies from the office charisma because it retains the mission aspect of the prophetic charisma, from which it is routinized. But the laity often confer on priests some of the magical charisma, and according to Weber (1922/1963), what is important is how the individual is perceived and treated. In his writings on the sociology of domination, Weber (1922/1963) describes the relation­ship that exists between the leader and his (or her) followers and calls the person who is imputed the qualities of the charismatic leader as having genuine charisma. Rahner (1969) uses as his theological starting point the following, which is also a good sociological definition because it incorporates the concept of imputation—the belief of the laity in the office of the priesthood.

the priest is he who, related to an at least potential community, preaches the Word of God by mandate of the Church as a whole and therefore officially, and in such a way that he is entrusted with the highest levels of sacramental intensity of this Word. (85, italics in original)

Weber devotes a great deal of time to the routinization of charisma, which occurs when the charismatic movement becomes incorporated into the everyday social institutions. Even more critical is the belief that the original charisma, of the founder or leader, can be pass down through the structure of the institution, and become an “office” charisma. Thus, the laity recognize the extraordinariness of persons, that in turn is passed on to the institution and its offices. Thus, priests “inherit” by virtue of their ordination, the charisma of both the institution and the office of priest.

Miyahara (1983) summarizes charisma in five points: (1) charisma should always be understood as imputed from followers; it is a “a product of the followers”; (2) charisma should be seen as “a product of a collectivity rather than an isolated individual”; (3) although charisma is a “collectively produced illusion,” it is also an expression of alienation and isolation; (4) charisma exerts “real” power although it is an collective illusion; (5) charisma is neither necessary nor desirable (383-384). Miyahara (1963) summarizes Weber’s caution on charisma: “Bear the fate of the time that is devoid of charisma, i.e., is “disenchanted.” … Do not be seduced by the charm of charisma in order to hastily deny the disenchanted modern social life” (384). Miyahara echoes Weber’s emphasis on the noncharismatic “ethic of responsibility” (1919a, 1919b) and social organization’s need of charisma.

While many might argue with the distancing from charisma that Weber suggests, it may be helpful in understanding the tensions that are inherent in the human and theological responsibilities of the Church that is both human and divine. Surely the Church needs charismatic priests, even of the magical and prophetic class, but I do not think it is too much of a stretch to suggest that less emphasis on the routinized charisma of priests might shed light on the needs of priests as human beings and thereby on the institutional Church’s responsibility to support and develop its priests. The commitment to priests does not have to attract attention; it must be on going and an integral part of the life of the priest. This is similar to Light’s (1985) idea of the helpfulness of keeping some issues out of “the sunshine” (234).[73] Nor does this does mean that a charismatic leader, of whatever type, is not helpful. In 1963, Daniel Callahan said of American bishops, “They are neither theologically nor pastorally creative but are, instead cautious and timid. In comparison to the German, French or Dutch hierarchy, they have left few marks on the liturgical or theological developments of our day” (145). In chapter six I argue that what is now needed is creativity and courage.

One of the reasons bishops may have been hesitant to respond to the allegations of clergy abuse can be attributed to both the prophetic and routinized charisma of priests in general, and the abusing priest in particular. Many of the priests who became priest-perpetrators were extremely well liked, even loved, by their victims and their families. Others were so highly revered because of their office;[74] no one would suggest punishment. Weber’s discussion of charisma helps us understand the reactions of the people during the time of the abuse and strengthens his advocating an “ethic of responsibility” in place of “ethic of absolute value” (1919a, 191b).

The following is a brief description of Catholic priests as they were often perceived. It reflects the imputed aspects of charisma discussed above.

To answer the formidable question of what is the Church’s experience of priesthood, Burghardt (1981) divides his answer into three segments—scripture, history, and contemporary theology (157).[75] The first stage focuses on the priesthood as a specialized ministry, but Burghardt quickly points out that in scripture no “determinate essence of ministerial priesthood” exists. Nor is there an easily uncovered “core idea of the Church’s specialized ministry” (158).[76] Even though scholars cannot find in the Old Testament “a primary referent for our conception of Christian ministry ... (or) ... in the New Testament ... a clearly formulated definition of Christian ministry” (Maly 1971, 6), this does not mean that these sources cannot be used to fashion a description of ministry. [77] Burghardt (1981) identifies four facets of Christian ministry. To be a priest is to be:

·     a disciple, which means being “called” as the first disciples of Jesus were called to leave their family and their occupations and follow him.[78]

·     an apostle, which means being “sent” to serve others by preaching, praying, working, and administering the sacraments, etc. [79] 

·     a presbyter, or elder,[80] is a person responsible for the pastoral care of the churches.

Using one of the NT epistles, Burghardt (1981) writes the presbyter “must be above reproach, temperate, sensible, dignified, hospitable, an apt teacher, gentle, not quarrelsome ... His task calls for authority that does not dominate, that is softened by being wonderfully warm and human” (160).  To Burghardt (1981), the priest is

·     … a celebrant, or presider, at the Eucharist. While not his “total task, ... it is a central preoccupation of priesthood ... (it) is the heart of a man’s priesthood. (160-161)

Most significant for this study, Burghardt (1981) writes, “the priest does represent institution” (160). He is a “churchman.” He cannot stand outside it; he can disagree with it but he is officially part of the institutional Church.

Burghardt’s (1981) second stage focuses on the historical approach to priesthood, which has changed over time responding to “different theologies of ministry, different models of priesthood” (162). He summarizes these changes in five models:

·     the jurisdictional model, which dominated Catholic thinking for several centuries after the Council of Trent (1545-1563), endowed the priest with a “plenitude of authority in a ‘perfect society’” (162).

·     the cultic model, in which the priest was a seen as a “hierophant, the performer of sacred mysteries” (163). He was the mediator between the community and God.

·     the pastoral model, which gained popularity after Vatican II, defined the church as “an interpersonal communion, an intercommunion of persons” and the priest is “viewed primarily as pastor or community leader ... (who) brings people together and seeks to activate in them graces and charism ... for the benefit of all” (163).

·     the prophetic model, “based on conceptions of prophet and apostle found in the Old and New Testaments” (163), focused on proclaiming the word of God and calling people to repentance and conversion.

·     the monastic model, which views the viewed the priest as “the holy man, the guru, the spiritual director” (163).

The above provides a brief introduction into theological perspective on the priesthood. It has highlighted the sacredness of the vocation to the priesthood. The following segments focus on the humanness of priest, and thereby on the humanness of the institutional Church.

A. Sociological View of Catholic Priests

In the 1970s, the bishops had access to the plethora of information on American Catholic priests. Because of the great exodus of priests during the 1960s, priests became the subject of many sociological studies. Sociologists wanted to understand more about the institutional Church from which the priests chose to leave. Two prolific priest-sociologists lead the investigations of not only priests’ resignations, but on a multitude of issues. The lesser known, but highly respected was Joseph Fichter. From his earliest writings, Social Relations in the Urban Parish (1954), few aspects of the priest’s life went uninvestigated by Fichter. He sought to present as balanced a view as possible. In 1965, he focused on the relations between parish priests and his “best” parishioners (Priest and People), and in 1968, he focused on the role and status of parish curates. In America’s Forgotten Priests (1968), he identified the curate’s complaints of alienation, loneliness, and impersonality.[81] Probably his most important contributions were in his investigations into alcoholic clergy.[82] In his important book The Organization Man in the Church (1974) he addresses the issues that began this chapter—the Church that is both hierarchical and charismatic. He wonders why the Church “vivified by the Holy Spirit” (7) should experience tension, even antagonism. When Fichter (1974) discusses the differences between laity and priests, he concludes, “the clergy represent a kind of marginal man.“ They cannot be of service to men if they remain strangers to the life and conditions of men” (9). He then identifies the crux of the problem that, in turn, becomes the bishops’ problem, in terms of developing his presbyterate. As Presbyterorum Ordinis indicates, priests are set apart, not separated, but freed to be totally dedicated to their ministry. The “lower clergy,” Lipsky’s (1980) street-level bureaucrats, are caught in the middle of being separated, yet united. Mindful of Weber’s distinctions among the types of charisma, Fichter (1974) argues that more often than not an interpenetration exists between the prophetic and the priestly. He concludes,

… the priest sees the institution as an end in itself, while the prophet sees the institution as a means to a higher end. Institutions are at the service of men. It is only when men think of themselves as servants of the institution—or are treated as such by either the lay congregation or by the ecclesiastical authority—that they become shackled to traditional and unchanging forms. (15-16)

Considering how the priests see themselves is only part of the issue. It is imperative that the bishops see their presbyterate as human resources, human capital, in need of renewal and opportuni­ties for growth. Fichter (1974) writes, “the Church makes its greatest impact on the world through its trained professionals” (50). He argues that the Church is an organization with a purpose. To achieve its purposes, it should always be reforming and updating: Ecclesia semper reformanda. Fichter echoes Bennis and Slater’s (1968) admonition that survival is dependent on change being institutionalized.

Fichter (1974) argues strongly for the institutional Church’s seizing its responsibility to care for the priests’ personal and professional development. He supports Kennedy’s (1971) notion that an institution of the Catholic Church’s size must seek a balance between institutional needs and the personal needs of its personnel. Fichter (1974) writes,

… the Church vocation is described ideally as one which calls for warm human relations, personal devotion, mutual love and respect throughout the system. The need for improved management in dioceses and religious orders is not merely a matter of humanizing the managers themselves, or of satisfying the human needs of the Church personnel. It is more urgently a matter of the proper utilization of manpower in the Church, so that these trained professionals will not go elsewhere to make the most of their expertise in the service of God’s people. (28-29)[83]

In the sociological study of Catholic priests, fifty-six percent of priests who had resigned from the priesthood still considered themselves priests (Greeley, 1972b, 291).[84] This is not surprising given the fact that being a priest means responding to what is perceived as being personally “called” by God to a highly respected and influential profession,[85] to a position of power and prestige within the oldest social institution in the world. Fichter’s (1965) “most significant finding” in his survey of 2,183 diocesan priests and 2,216 adult Catholics[86] is that “the laity thinks more highly of the priests than the priests think of themselves” (198). This reflects, not professional modesty, but “the genuinely high status that clergymen occupy in American society” (198).

In his summary of how priests and parishioners see priests, Fichter (1965) writes, “The role of spiritual father, as counselor and confessor, is the preferred self-conception that the parish priest entertains” (200). Given the subject of this research, this self-perception is especially telling. Fichter (1965) continues, “Nevertheless, he continues to do what has to be done, even though his seminary training has not prepared him for it” (200).

In sum, through his many works on priests, Fichter provided the bishops with solid suggestions on how to assist the priests (and presumably themselves) in their personal lives and in their ministry, even mindful that these two worlds are intimately interrelated. As I argue in chapter six, the bishops had an obligation to help the priests. A key to the priests’ plea for help is in Fichter’s (1965) work on clergy-lay relations. “In comparing the pastoral image as seen by the clergy and the laity, the most significant finding is that the laity thinks more highly of the priests than the priests think of them­selves.” (198). Putting aside possible professional modesty and the high status with which the laity regard priests, this study suggests that the bishops needed to address the underlying dissonance of these statements.

Jean M. Jammes (1955) a French priest, discusses the expectations, criticisms, and mistakes of Catholics and their priests. Although the respondents in his survey were French, two issues are applicable, I think, to American Catholics. The first deals with mistakes. Jammes (1955) found that Catholics vigorously defend their priests and will speak to another Catholic about them, but will “resent mentioning of a mistake to an outside” (96).[87] The same is true of mistakes made by the Church. They are “unwilling to discuss with the world at large mistakes within the Church” (97). The second deals with independent relationship between expectations and mistakes. Their expectations of a priest are based on the priests’ ministry—the work as “man, man of god, and mediator” (98), and not mistakes seen. Jammes (1955) writes,

Because the high number of expectations people have for the priesthood, they know that they will find many mistakes; but, because the mistakes are in a certain way foreseen and accepted, people do not react to mistakes with bitterness. Theirs is not an attitude of criticism, but of sorrow, pity and prayer” (98).

Clearly times have changes since the mid-1950s. But the attitude of the laity must be considered when assessing the bishops’ actions in the 1970s.

No writer has brought more attention to the American Catholic priest than has Greeley.[88] In The Hesitant Pilgrim: American Catholicism After the Council, Greeley (1966) he questioned the sociological and theological wisdom of an institutionless Church , which was being advocated in some circles as an antidote to the deleterious effects of institutionalization. He argues against dismantling the ecclesial institutional structure. What is needed is, as John Gardner advocates, is on-going renewal, and he argues that an institution renew itself without first destroying itself. Deinstitu­tionalization, in addition to being contrary to the letter and spirit of Vatican II, would destroy the indissoluble nature of the Church, which is both visible and invisible. Greeley (1966) writes,

The Church—the organizational Church—is the light on the mountains shining before men. … you don’t put out a light because it is not yet shining as bright as it ought; rather, if the light is not shining so brightly, you polish the lens to see that the lamp reflects the light within as it ought. Because the visible, organizational Church is not yet the most perfect sign of the invisible, mysterious Church that it ought to be does not mean that the visible Church ought to wither away; it means it ought rather to grow and improve. (55)

In the chapter on the pastor[89] and curate, Greeley (1966) notes that the efficiency of any institution depends on the morale of its key members, especially if they are highly skilled and the institution heavily depends on them (97). Greeley (1966) argues that the Church is still using patterns of behavior that are markedly different from the newer social milieu in which the priests were now living. He concludes by admitting his anger at a system that often traps pastors. He writes,

the present relationship between pastor and assistants is very often evil, does harm to the Church and, indeed, may be the greatest single obstacle to the spread of the people of God in the United States; to leave it aside would make a mockery of the aggiornamento.

The Bishops, the pastors of the diocese, and the pastors of the parishes had a challenge before them—that of recognizing that social conflict and criticism are the precursors to change and growth. At the dawn of the 21st century, the situations that provoked Greeley’s (1966) and others’ comments and the advice he offered still holds true.

In 1970,[90] Greeley threw fuel into the fires that were raging between conservatives and progressives. He doesn’t side with either, but attempts to highlight the problems that were helping to create a crisis within the priesthood. He foreshadows the findings in Kennedy’s (1971) study that state priests are immature. He points to the training of priests that fosters cowardice when what they need is bravery.

Most importantly, through the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) Greeley (1972b) published the study commissioned by the NCCB. The NCCB directed its Committee on Pastoral Research and Practices to undertake studies on the life and ministry of priests. The report on the sociological study was issued under the title, The Catholic Priest in the United States: Sociological Investi­gations. In the methodology section, Greeley (1972b) clearly described the sampling procedures so the bishops would be confident in the results. Virtually every aspect of the priests’ life is discussed—education, vocation, personality, spirituality, morale and celibacy issues, attitudes and values, ethnic background, and reasons for resigning. Greeley’s (1972b) conclusions support what Kennedy (1971) in his psychological study finds—that Catholic priests are no more nor no less emotionally immature than any other group in society (311), except that this finding needs to be considered in tandem with the fact that priests have more education and training than do most men in society. In addition he lists other assets of Catholic priest. They have a high degree of personal morale, a regular prayer life, more “liberal” views than a sample of the laity (but less than bishops), and given the choice, they would again choose to be priests.

On the liabilities side, Greeley (1972b) finds serious problems. The priests (1) are dissatisfied with ecclesial structure and decision-making; (2) have systemic and substantial differences with their bishops on almost every issue; (3) have vast differences with bishops on sexual morality; (4) do not accept obligatory celibacy; (5) are considering resigning (3% either certainly or probably will leave) or have resigned (5% from 1966 to 1969) from the priesthood;[91] (6) have a decline in enthusiasm for recruiting new candidates; (7) have a generally lower job satisfaction than unskilled workers; and (8) clearly fail to meet the standards of a high degree of self-actualization and psychological well-being (313). Greeley (1972b) suggests that policy-makers have to address the issues of authority and feelings of loneliness, but he does not identify as does Kennedy (1971) the need institutions have to set priorities on their human resource needs and their institutional goals. This is the inevitable conclusion, however, of this and many of Greeley’s works on priests.

The sociological studies briefly reviewed here provide an important view of the priests. But the following section of the psychological aspects of the priesthood is a critical added dimension. It is by no means exhaustive, primarily because this is not a psychological study. But it does provide information that, if heeded, would have been (and one hopes will still be) helpful to bishops and seminary directors.

B. Psychological Studies of Clergy

Clergy abuse cases prompted the bishops to examine their admission policy and seminary training. But this was only after the news of clergy abuse cases had become widespread. For more than 30 years, seminaries have been using psychological testing of candidates. In 1965, Menges and Dittes published an exhaustive abstract bibliography of psychological studies of clergymen. Some of the studies came from other denominations, but some were with Catholic clergy and religious. The categories of studies provide a good overview of the multiple factors to be considered when assessing the training and performance of priests. Studies were classified according to (1) unique characteristics of personality, background, and procedures, (2) effectiveness by definition, personality, background, and procedures, and (3) other variables, such as consequences, counseling and therapy, and mental illness. The authors also provided a survey of psychological testing tools.

An even more helpful article came from the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA), the Assessment of Candidates for the Religious Life: Basic Psychological Issues and Procedures (1968). This book addresses the issues that would be affected by any training renewal program. The book covers issues from the basic issues needed to develop and administer a psychological assessment program to an argument for the psychological assessment of religious personnel. In the appendices are an annotated bibliography and a description of tools, scales and methods used in the psychological assessment of religious orders.[92]

The Catholic Priest in the United States: Psychological Investigations

Because it was commissioned by the NCCB, Kennedy’s (1971) The Catholic Priest in the United States: Psychological Investigations is of major importance, not only to this study, but to the present members of the NCCB. The NCCB commissioned the Bishops’ Committee on Pastoral Research and Practices, under the chairmanship of Cardinal John Krol[93] to do a series of studies on American priests. Although the psychological study was not a widely distributed as was the Greeley (1972b) sociological study, both were very accessible to bishops and priests.[94]

Like Greeley (1972b), Kennedy (1971) clearly describes the methodology used in the survey of priests from small, medium, and large diocese and religious institutes (sample n=719). The methodology was based on a decision to ensure that priests who volunteered for the interview would consider it a “highly dignified approach to me as a person” (29). In addition to in-depth interviews (n=271), the researchers used a variety of other psychological instruments.[95]

Kennedy (1971) describes the developmental framework, through which the researchers and evaluators perceived the subjects in terms of health rather than sickness.[96] Kennedy (1971) writes,

… instead of choosing a system of psychiatric classifica­tions, or emphasizing a diagnostic method that would lead to an emphasis on possible pathological features of the population, the interview was designed as a vehicle for understanding a normal group of men in the language of growth and development. This flowed from the basic understanding that the subjects of the research were normally functioning individuals who would best be understood in a positive rather than potentially negative language. (20).

The scientific underpinnings for the developmental framework came from Erik Erikson (1963), whose multi-stage schema follows a person through his psychosocial development.[97] Because Erikson (1963) uses scientific and literary terms to describe the eight stages, the findings of the 1971 study are readily understandable.

Rooney’s (1971) literature review classifies studies according to issues that would have been of great interest to bishops, especially those that dealt with the seminarians—their personality, ability to persevere, their effectiveness, the effects of seminary, and their motivation (196-203). Of significance to the bishops would have been Fichter’s research (1965) on the relationships between priest and bishop: “more than half of the curates expressed a negative opinion on three related items: personal interest of the bishop, his communication with them, and the free and open communication existing in the diocese” (206).

The smallest percentage of priest were considered developed (7%). Clearly these are the men whom the bishops, other priests, and laity expect to find in their dioceses and parishes. They are happy with the choices they have made, and they live responsible lives. Their spiritual, emotional, and psychological selves are well integrated. They are mature, have a personal and realized faith, are able to integrate role expectations, and can implement religious ideals in their lives. Because of these strengths, they are able to function with a minimum degree of difficulty. The developing priests (18%) need assistance because they seek more from life—“wider forms of life experience” (15)—to broaden their social and occupational horizons. The maldeveloped (8%) are dysfunctional and relatively unresponsive to their psychological and spiritual problems.

It is the underdeveloped priests who are of special interest to this study because, as indicated in chapter six, they closely resemble the profile of priest-perpetrators. Kennedy (1971) writes that the underdeveloped priests lack proper integration of emotional and intellectual growth, and they have not successfully passed though adolescence (8). These men are more comfortable with teenagers; they are good at covering up their underdevelopment. Thus, under the guise of volunteering to help by taking on all the youth-related activities, they find their comfort level of with post-pubescent boys. They lack adult relationships and have few close friends (9). These underdeveloped priests needed attention. That they did not receive it is puzzling and disturbing.

Evident in the data from both the priest-perpetrators and bishops is a kind of institutional acceptance that once ordained, the priest had a vocation and he was virtually left on his own. I suspect part of this was because within the clerical cultures, the idea of “vocation” was sacrosanct.[98] In response to the question of why priests stay in the priesthood, Greeley (1972b) reports, 60% active diocesan and 65% religious priests cite “sense of vocation” (257).

The most distressing aspect of this study is that the signs of crisis, or distress, of immaturity, of human and spiritual need were ignored.[99] Few, if any, steps were taken to do something to assist the American priests. In individual dioceses, bishops surely did make some changes, especially after the great exodus of the 1960s. But I could find no evidence that the NCCB initiated discussions on the findings of the psychological report, made any attempts to follow through on the suggestions made, to respond to the needs of the struggling priests, to address the questions raised by the study, or to urge bishops to attempt diocesan responses to the institutional call for setting priorities. One cannot help but think that perhaps the abuse crisis might have identified earlier if more had been done to assist priests who were crying out for attention and help.

[54] In a more recent book, Schillebeeckx (1985) discusses the same kind dualistic perspective of the Church, and more specifically ministry—from the socio-historical and theological perspectives.

[55] Sanctorum Communio was first published in 1927 and reprinted in 1963 as Sanctorum Commio: A Dogmatic Enquiry into the Sociology of the Church.)

[56] For a thorough review of the literature on social science theories and organizational ecclesiology, see Watkins (1991, 689-711).

[57]  The Official Catholic Directory Anno Domini (year) is published yearly. I used the 1992 edition, unless later data was warranted.

[58] McBrien (1980) calls him “the century’s most important ecclesiologist” (647).

[59] Quoted on pg. 131 from J. V. Bainvel’s De Ecclesia Christis (Paris 1925).

[60]  Quoted on p. 131 from A.M. Vellico’s De Ecclesia Christis: Tractatus apologetico-dogmaticus (Rome 1940).

[61]  Lumen Gentium 1 and Ad Gentes 11, respectively.

[62] Congar (1986) writes that the term populus messianicus was his own, made in response to a request from Mgr. Marty (151-152).

[63] Quoted in Congar (1986, 142-143). From Cardinal Montini’s Discorsi al Clero 1957-1963 (Milan 1963, 78-80). Quoted by Chenu, Peuple de Dieu dans le monde (Paris 1966, 12, fnt. 1). Italics by Fr. Chenu.

[64] The dichotomy that I am suggesting does not extend to fiscal responsibilities. In these matters, most bishops take on the laws of checks and balances. For a thorough examination of the fiduciary aspects of Church life, see Shupe (1995).

[65] In the late 1980s and 1990s, bishops were forced to deal with adults victims and their families, which sometimes included two generations—the parents and the wives of the victims. Some would argue that the presence of insurance companies and lawyers for both sides of the litigation greatly increased isolation among the parties. For a thorough discussion on the loss of faith and trust, see Rossetti 1993 .

[66] For example, the roots of the Catholic Church, are in the forgiveness of sins. After the Lateran Council (1215), Catholics were required to confess their sins annually, but by the 15th century (the eve of the Reformation) Spanish Catholics virtually abstained from this practice. Haliczer (1996) provides an in-depth examination of the Church’s disastrous efforts to bring back auricular confession through case studies and trial documents of the sexual misconduct of priests and penitents during the time of the Counter-Reformation (1530-1819).

[67] See Reese (1989, 372 note 7).

[68] Dulles provides two cites: De controversiis, tom. 2, liber 3, De ecclesia militante, cap. 2, De definitione Ecclesia” (Naples: Giuliano, 1857), vol. 2, p. 75.

[69] From Catechism of the Catholic Church, hereafter abbreviated as CCC.

[70] The Council of Nicea (325) is considered the first of the Church’s 21 ecumenical councils.  The second was held in 381.

[71]  Footnote 11 in Unitatis Redintegratio 3 does not use “members” most probably because of Pope Pius XII’s encyclical Mystici Corporis. Some present day theologians think that those who are baptized “outside the visible border of the Catholic Church who have not knowingly or deliberately separated themselves from the unity of the Body” can be considered members. See also c: 205, Provost 1985, 126-129.

[72] See cc: 205, 1013, 1718.


[73] In reference to the reform of the Social Security Act, Light discusses the usefulness and the disruptiveness of bringing “sunshine” into the legislative process.

[74] See chapter five for discussion on the ethnic values of the laity during the 1970s. See also Greeley’s (1972c) The Denominational Society, especially chapter 5.

[75] J. Lécuyer’s, C.S.Sp (1959), What is a Priest? starts with the priesthood of the apostles and covers the various stages of priesthood—from diaconate to bishop, and the “priesthood” of the laity. He, too, ends with the hierarchical, sacramental priesthood, who are “chosen men as representatives of the Priesthood of the Head of the Mystical Body” (123). A very good book of articles on the priest from the pastoral theological view is Rahner’s (editor, 1969) The Identity of the Priest.

[76] Burghardt, S.J. uses the working paper on ministerial priesthood prepared for the 1971 Synod of Bishops as his “springboard.” The faulty assumption, which undergirded the working paper but fortunately was not in the final draft, dealt with the idea that a “clearly articulated notion of ministerial priesthood” existed in sacred scriptures (158).

[77] The bible is made up of writings from ancient Greek, Aramaic, and Hebrew texts. The Old Testament (OT) contains 45 books, which are often divided into four segments—Pentateuch, Historical, Wisdom, and the Prophets. The New Testament (NT) contains the four gospels, the Acts of the Apostles, Revelations, and epistles of letters—14 from Paul, and seven from disciplines.

[78] See for the hardships of the apostolic calling and for their mission: Mt 8:18-22, Mk 6:7-13, Lk 9:1-6, Lk 9:62; and calling the apostles: Mt 9:9, Mk 1:16-20, Jn 1:35-51.

[79] In Catholic theology there are seven sacraments, the purpose of which is to “sanctify men, to build up the body of Christ, and finally to give worship to God” (Abbott 1966, 158): baptism, confirmation, holy eucharist, matrimony, penance (or reconciliation), holy orders, and the sick.

[80] See Acts 15:2-6, 21:18; Hb 11:2; 1Pt 5:1; and 1 Tim 5:17.

[81] Greeley (1972b) addresses the loneliness issue in his sociological survey.

[82] In the mid-1970s he conducted a survey for an alcoholic treatment center, Guest House, and then continued his research on this topic. Fichter published six articles in 1976, four in 1977, three in 1978.

[83] Worse, of course, is the possibility that as underdeveloped men, suffering from “arrested development,” they might become sexual predators. As will be seen, the profile of the underdeveloped priest looks very similar to the priest-perpetrator.

[84] For more on priests’ resignations, see Change (1998), Schoenherr and Young (1990), and for an assessment and update on the latter, see Young (1998). Greeley is a diocesan priest who is also a sociologist and a prolific writer. Because of the data gathered through the National Opinion Research Center (NORC), Greeley has accumulated and analyzed data, and written about American Catholics: its members (American Catholics Since the Council: An Unauthorized Report, 1985), priests, women (Angry Catholic Women), married and divorced couples, young people, ethnic groups, schools (Catholic Schools in a Declining Church, including higher education and anti-Catholicism in North America.

[85] For the most comprehensive coverage of the priesthood as a profession, see Fichter’s Religion as an Occupation: A Study in the Sociology of Profession (1961) and Priest and People (1965). Although a heterogeneous group, according to Fichter (1965), parishioners perceived their priests as performing different roles, which included being “(a) executive, (b) insolvent businessman, (c) overburdened professional, (d) spiritual leader, and (e) personal friend” (184). Greeley (1972b) writes, “The priesthood is a profession because it possesses the dominant attributes generally ascribed to a profession: expertise, autonomy, responsibility, and commitment to serving people” (171). See also Gustafson 1965.

[86] The priests chose their “best parishioners for this study. Fichter reasoned that “since the priest is trained for his job, and is working at it, he is also the one who best perceives what his role is and ought to be. ... the best friends of priests... are competent to express their opinions on the basis of day-to-day observation and experience” (184).

[87] Jammes sees this as the laity’s viewing the priest, not as a client, but as a partner.

[88] The Denominational Society: A Sociological Approach to Religion in America (1972c) is one of the better works in the sociology of religion. Some do not like the fictional side of Greeley, in which he exposes the seamy, sexual, and corrupt side of the Church’s ministers. Others think that his honesty is refreshing and much needed.

[89] Chapter 8, 97-117.

[90] In New Horizons for the Priesthood.

[91] Although lower than in other professions, the rate was higher than in times past, and the main reasons were desire to marry, loneliness, and discouragement in priestly life (313).

[92] Not surprisingly most of the studies were done for master’s and doctoral research at the major Catholic universities, Catholic University of America, Fordham, and Loyola in Chicago.

[93] See Appendix A, John J. Rooney (183-219) in Kennedy (1971).

[94] All the bishops knew of both books and most had on hand or near by the Greeley book, but few, if any, had the Kennedy book. I found the Greeley book readily available, but not so the Kennedy book.

[95] Four basic tests: Loyola Sentence Completion Blank for Clergyman, Self-Anchoring Rating Scale of Maturity Faith Scale with specific factors, such as Identity, Integrity, and Trust, and Personal Orientation Inventory (Kennedy 1971, 34-44).

[96] This decision surely helped when making the presentation of findings to the NCCB Committee on Pastoral Research and Practices.

[97] Erikson (1963) describes a person’s psychosocial development in eight stages and uses literary and scientific terms to help with interpretation.

[98] In fact, the cliché, “My son, the priest,” is reaffirmed by the percentage of priests who say that their mothers were the ones who most strongly encouraged them to become a priest: diocesan bishops: 33%; active priests: 28%, major religious superiors: 24%, and active religious priests: 29% (Greeley 1972b, 49).

[99] As indicated in chapters two and six, the bishops asked for a psychological study, received data on priests’ underdevelopment, and then did not follow up on