Who's Afraid of the "New Breed" of Priests?

December 2001By Michael S. Rose

Michael S. Rose, of Cincinnati, is author of The Renovation Manipulation. His latest book is Ugly as Sin: Why They Changed Our Churches from Sacred Places to Meeting Places (Sophia Institute Press).

Over the past several years a stream of articles addressing the new “conservatism” among Catholic seminarians has seen publication in both the Catholic and secular press. Many of these have highlighted the widening generation gap between 1960s-style priests (i.e., those who are now in charge of most of the institutions in the Church) and their younger counterparts who, braving seminary straits, are emerging as faithful sons of the Church. Perhaps the most prominent article of this new genre was a New York Times Magazine cover article headlined “The Last Counterculture” (Apr. 4, 1999) — referring to the priesthood.

The response generated by such articles is more revealing than the articles themselves. Jeannette Batz, columnist for the liberal National Catholic Reporter, for instance, responded to the Times Magazine article quite passionately. In short, she was offended.

“Really good priests don’t live at a remove from culture,” Batz contended. Batz sees these young seminarians as scared little boys — “scared to watch TV or listen to James Taylor.” Are these seminarians really scared or might they manfully be seeking to avoid the temptations of the world, to lead lives more conducive to carrying out their ministry?

If a priest wants to preach against pornography, must he really immerse himself in peep shows, porn magazines, and phone sex lines? Does a priest need to participate in the unjust structures of the American business world before denouncing them from the pulpit?

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