From JOSEPH CARROLL in Paris R ECENT survey ant011oattitude on the part or the clergy.
French rural clergy has revealed that many of them are depressed, ill at ease with the laity. lacking the means of subsistence, and highly dissatisfied with their seminary training.
Four hundred chaplains of rural Catholic Action groups, gathered in Paris to study the question "Why are we Priests?", have just heard a resume of the first results of the enquiry, conducted by a Catholic journal. The findings are based on 500 repl ies. A more extensive enqu i r y among 1.000 priests is to be made soon by the National Research Council in. collaboration with a clerical committee. Addressing the chaplains. the Abbe Choquer, assistant national chaplain to the Rural Catholic Youth Movement, said that. without exaggcrat log. there is a serious and profound crisis among the rural clergy which often takes the form of "resignation without hope".
It is not so much a feeling of isolation, he said, as of being useless. "As long as the Church does not change in its conception of the priesthood and in the kind of respect it shows for its priests, I shall refuse to send anyone to the seminary.'
Many priests are confused when Faced with the 'question: "What are the most important tasks of the priest.". the Abbe said. Likewise. they are ill at ease in their dealings with a laity which no longer accepts an authoritarian There arc also priests, he said. who experience a sense of inferiority when dealing with militant lay people who have a more intense evangelising zeal than they have themselves. Tourists in France often remark On the poverty of the country priests and the present enquiry shows that many of them find that lack of means interferes seriously with their pastoral work.
They complain that the system of payment is "irregular and varies a lot from one type of work Or parish to another, and represents a real insecurity".
The priests concerned say they find this abnormal and humiliating. causing them to live by espedients. Stipends are regarded Often lorm of simony. Another result of their poverty is a feeling of being cut off from reality and of living a marginal existence, incapable of confronting a well-educated laity who often show them contempt for not being up to date. This admission was made by 70 per cent of the priests questioned.
On the question of whether the priest should have a seculuar job or profession, a number of the replies were strongly in favour. pointing out that this would solve the financial problem but above all it would allow the priest to "integrate himself better into the world. know it from the inside and mix with the laity without having complexes".
In their answers concerning the seminaries the priests showed themselves highly critical.
-We have received a formation which was too bookish, narrow and dull. We were kept too much in a hot-house, treated like children until the age of 26, and had to learn everything afterwards. Our spirit in initiative, critical faculties and sense of responsibility were stifled or at least put to sleep in the name of holy obedience." The Abbe Choquer pointed odt in this connection that the reform of the seminaries had already begun but -he wondered if it was based sufficiently on past experience to ensure its RLICCCSS. Relations with superiors was, he said. the "burning question". Many priests no longer accept the lack of a brotherly spirit in their dealings with deans, vicars-general and bishops. One priest wrote: "We sometimes have the impression of being orphans. We are fOrever being told that the bishop is a father to his priests. We would like really to feel this paternity. The bishop is someone who passes by, who knows nothing of you as you know nothing of him."
Other priests deplore the "out of date and ridiculous pomp" attached to the episcopacy and complain they are treated like pawns on a chessboard.
There is no doubt that the French hierarchy will study the results of this enquiry and the subsequent one with the closest attention. and they may ;le expected to discuss them at the time of their next general assembly in Rome in October.