Bielawski reports from Verona, Italy on a recent study of the state
of the priesthood in Poland conducted by Prof. Józef Baniak.*
are 35,000 Catholic priests in Poland. From his research Prof.
Baniak learned that fully1/3 (perhaps 50 percent) of Catholic
priests abandoned the priesthood during the last 50 years. It is
impossible to establish the exact numbers because of the secrecy of
the church’s system.
numbers of candidates and priests increased during the pontificate
of JPII. But there is a paradox: on the one hand the number of
candidates for priesthood (religious and diocesan) increased, on the
other hand a greater number of priests and seminarians are leaving
or being expelled. Actually only 46 to 54 percent of candidates are
Seminarians frequently have girlfriends and “are not able to control
their sexual instinct.” This is an open secret that is apparent to
the superiors of the seminaries who refuse to talk about it openly.
Of course, “official” reports of bishops paint quite a different
picture of the vocation situation.
frequently priests who are leaving the priesthood do so after 5 to
10 years after ordination. Generally the reason given is because of
a “woman” and the desire for family life. A large number of those
who leave have led a double life and become tired of it or are
pressured by a woman companion. Some priests are leaving after
serving many years in parishes. It is not unusual for a priest to
have several children with different women.
found that 30 percent of priests and seminarians in Poland are
homosexually oriented. This is the same percentage that I have found
in my studies of clergy in the United States. I have estimated that
at any one time half of that percent here are sexually active. He
does not estimate how many there are sexually active.
based his conclusions on interview responses of 764 of 984 diocesan
and religious priests who answered his survey.
According to him the main reasons for leaving the priesthood are:
depression caused by solitude, low self-esteem and
problems with alcohol
desire to have a family—only 17.5 percent did not
think about leaving the priesthood because of this desire
all listed a strong crisis of their own identity and
the problems with sexual abstinence
30 percent are leaving the priesthood because of the
conflict with superiors (obedience)
Hoge of Catholic University has headed the most substantial
sociological studies of the priesthood in the United States. Many of
his observations about US priests echo Baniak’s observations,
especially problems with loneliness and celibacy. (Cf. Hoge,
The First Five Years of Priesthood, 2002) But he,
along with other US Catholic scholars is loath to explore the
problems of sexual behavior. For good reasons. Sex is a difficult
subject matter to study under the best circumstances. Also, since
the church labels any and all sex outside a valid marriage as sinful
the territory becomes reserved for moral and biblical consideration.
The bishops were forced into response by the sex abuse crisis to
look at one area of sex by clergy because the behaviors were
criminal. (Cf. The John Jay Report,
2004) Any other discussion of sexual activity like masturbation,
sexual affairs with women or men, etc., by men who are marketed as
celibate and sacred really becomes forbidden and suspect. But
Baniak’s work joins a growing number of attempts to help the church
face the reality of sex and celibacy—Sipe, 1990 about the US
priesthood, Kotze about clergy in South Africa 1991, Rodriguez 1996
about the priests in Spain. The challenge to understand will not go
Uniwersity of A. Mickiewicz in Pozna´n author of books in which he
analyzed the question of vocations to the priesthood and the fact of
leaving it: Wierno´s´c powolaniu a kryzys tozsamo´sci kapla´nskiej.
Studium socjologiczne na przykladzie Ko´sciola w Polsce, WT UAM,
Pozna´n 2000, ss.350; Rezygnacja z kapla´nstwa i wybór zycia
malze´nsko-rodzinnego przez ksiezy rzymsko-katolickich w Polsce.
Studium socjologiczne, „Nomos", Kraków 2001, ss.355; odrebna ksiazke
po´swiecilem wcze´sniej powolaniom kapla´nskim i zakonnym, zob.
Dynamika powola´n kapla´nskich i zakonnych w Ko´sciele
rzymskokatolickim w Polsce w latach 1900-1994, Studium
socjograficzne, "Nomos", Kraków 1997, ss. 255.
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