carried out at the National Conference of Priests last week on the forthcoming synod
Priests speak for themselves
THE Catholic Herald survey, carried out at last week's National Conference of Priests in Birmingham, drew replies from 55 delegates. The issues on which we asked their opinions were based on the Instrumentum Laboris, or working paper, which will form the basis of an agenda for deliberations at the forthcoming Synod of Bishops in Rome in October.
The main topic under consideration at the synod is ' training, or "formation", of priests. This, the document ' makes clear, is not confined to • seminary training, but encompasses the ongoing, lifelong learning process which begins before ordination and continues throughout a priest's ministry. For this reason, we felt it pertinent to ask the clerics their views on a wide variety of issues concerning their life and work today, as well as their opinions on how well their formal seminary training served them.
The questions, and results, were as follows.
: From your experience, would you say seminarians today (a) get plenty of experience of pastoral work during training? (25 per cent) (b) get enough pastoral work during training? (34 per cent) or (c) do not get enough ' experience of pastoral work during training? (38 per cent) (abstentions: 3 per cent) The survey also provided a breakdown of answers based on year of ordination, and the answers to this question showed that a high number, 63 per cent, of those ordained for ten years or less believed that seminarians did not get enough pastoral work experience during training. Do you think assessing seminary applicants with the help of a psychological test, as is suggested in the Vatican working document for the synod, would be (a) definitely worth considering? (56 per cent) (b) worth considering? (44 per cent) (c) not worth considering? (0 per cent) All respondents believed psychological tests were worth looking into, with the biggest endorsement coming from priests who had been ordained for between 21 and 30 years. Of them, 64 per cent thought a test was definitely worth considering.
Do you believe the profile of Christian unity issues in our seminaries is (a) high enough? (12.5 per cent) (b) quite high? (27 per cent) (c) not high enough? (49 per cent) (abstentions 11.5 per cent) Among priests ordained for between 11 and 30 years, the majority (64 per cent) believed ecumenical issues did not have a high enough place in the seminaries, perhaps reflecting the importance many parish priests of several years standing have begun to give to unity matters.
Do you believe loyalty to the church's official teaching in a priest is (a) extremely important? (56 per cent) (b) quite important? (38 per cent) Clearly, the majority of priests continue to believe that loyalty to official church doctrine is of great importance. Indeed, it is surprising that even one priest (accounting for the 1.5 per cent) thought loyalty was "not important". He was, interestingly, in the older age group, having been ordained more than 30 years.
Do you believe the reduction in priestly vocations should prompt the church to (tick more than one if appropriate) (a) lower the educational qualifications required for seminary entrance? (1.5 per cent) (b) consider ordaining married men? (74.5 per cent) (c) allow lay people a greater role? (92.7 per cent) (d) none of these (0 per cent)
Of priests ordained ten years or less, 90 per cent believed the church should consider ordaining married men. Of those ordained for between 11 and 20 years, 77 per cent were in favour; of those ordained between 21 and 30 years, 70 per cent, and of those ordained more than 30 years, 66 per cent.
Is your workload heavier today than it was five years ago (if applicable)?
(a) yes (76 per cent)
(I)) no (18.5 per cent) (abstentions 5.5 per cent) The highest proportion of "yes" responses came from the group ordained between 11 and 20 years: of them, 83 per cent said their workload had increased.
If yes, does your workload (a) often get on top of you? (16 per cent) (b) sometimes get on top of you? (58.5 per cent)
VAX (c)nevetget on top of you? (1.5 11 per cent)
(abstentions 24 per cent) Although the number of priests who admitted their workload "often" got on top of them was quite low, among priests ordained between 21 and 30 years a surprising 57 per cent said they were overworked.
To help you deal with the pressures of priestly life, does your diocese provide you with a centralised support service?
(a) yes (51 per cent)
(b) no (44 per cent) (abstentions 5 per cent) The second Vatican Council encouraged lay people to get more involved with all aspects of parish life. Do you believe this call has yet been answered (a) fully? (1.5 per cent) (b) partially? (94.5 per cent) (c) not at all (4 per cent) Does your church have the following (tick more than one if appropriate)?
lay parish council (74 per cent) lay eucharistic ministers (96 per cent) lay readers (97 per cent) What was most interesting here was the number of priests who could not answer in the affirmative: the results show that more than a quarter of parishes do not appear to have councils on which lay people are represented.