by Robin Lind

The satisfaction of a priest’s essential human need for appreciation and companionship is the major predictor of whether or not he will remain in the ordained ministry, according to a study of American Roman Catholic priests conducted for the National Federation of Priests’ Councils by Dean R. Hoge of the Catholic University of America.

The survey of more than 600 priests ordained since 1992, including seventy-two who have since resigned from the priesthood, was designed to answer two questions: ‘Why did some resign?’ and ‘What factors enhanced the satisfaction of those who did not?’

The questions reflect the concern over the decline in priestly ordinations of U.S. Catholics during the past quarter century which has led to professional lay ministers now outnumbering priests active in parish posts; the number of active diocesan priests has dropped about 13 per cent per decade with new ordinations falling to an estimated 35 per cent of replacement needs, according to the survey report.

Survey results showed that almost half the former priests found loneliness of priestly life to be “a great problem” compared to only 10 percent of active priests. The issue of living a celibate life reflected a similar division with 8 percent of active priests designating it a great problem compared to 47 percent of the priests who had resigned. (Just over a third of the former priests have since married but nearly two thirds said they would be interested in being active married priests if marriage were permitted.)

Among other findings, the survey revealed that priests who resigned were more likely to be:

  • Ordained at a younger age than those who remained active priests. 
  • Born in the United States. 
  • From larger dioceses. 
  • From “the liberal faction in today’s debates about ecclesiology.”

Factors that enhanced the satisfaction of those who remained in the priesthood included:

  • First assignments the respondents rated “helpful” or “very helpful.” 
  • Overwhelmingly positive experiences with early mentors. 
  • Conviction that ordination confers a special status that sets priests aside from laity.

Although celibacy was revealed to be the major factor affecting satisfaction with priestly life, it was the emotional support that comes from rewarding human interaction that Hoge determined to be the essential determinant in staying or leaving.

“Whether a priest is heterosexual or homosexual, in love or not, it will not drive him to resign unless at the same time he feels lonely or unappreciated,” the report concluded. “This is a basic finding of our research.” 

Hoge, who presented the report at the annual meeting of the Religious Research Association in Columbus, Ohio, in October 2001 is director of Catholic University’s Life Cycle Institute in Washington, D.C. A veteran student of religious sociology, he is a Presbyterian layman.

Survey conclusions were based on analysis of questionnaires sent to a random sample of active priests selected from forty-four dioceses and forty-four religious institutes as well as twenty-seven personal interviews with both active and resigned priests. Final results included data from 261 diocesan priests, 266 religious and seventy-two resigned priests (fifty-seven diocesan, fifteen religious).

Berkeley Dean Out

by William R. MacKaye

Dr. R. William Franklin, dean of Berkeley Divinity School in New Haven, an Episcopal institution that is affiliated with Yale University Divinity School, abruptly resigned in mid-December at the end of three months of tense negotiations between Berkeley officials and Yale auditors over how Berkeley kept its books.

Franklin, a church historian who taught at General Theological Seminary before becoming Berkeley’s dean four years ago, became “Bishop’s Scholar-in-Residence” with the Episcopal Diocese of New York January 1. 

Berkeley gave up having its own faculty when it affiliated with Yale in 1971, but retained a measure of independence with its own board of trustees, endowment, budget, real estate, and small staff. Franklin, like his Berkeley predecessors since the merger, served concurrently as associate dean of Yale Divinity School. Some 27 percent of Yale Divinity’s students are Episcopalians.

Christian R. Sonne, chair of Berkeley’s board, said in a statement that the board had reviewed Yale’s “internal, confidential audit.” Many of its details “have proven to be incorrect or misleading while many others have proven to be perfectly appropriate,” Sonne said. The statement, issued by a New York public relations firm, said the board concluded that none of the issues raised by the auditors warranted punitive action and that there had been no misappropriation of funds.

Yale officials sought to keep the audit and the ensuing negotiations secret, but a copy of the auditors’ report was leaked to the Hartford Courant, which published stories stating that the report said Franklin misused and mismanaged funds. 

Sonne’s statement said that suggestions Franklin’s resignation was related to the university audit were erroneous. Relations between Yale and Berkeley are currently being renegotiated, however, as they have been every ten years. Some members of the Berkeley board assert the institution should seek great independence while there are reports that Yale has called for authority to hire and dismiss the Berkeley dean and greater control over Berkeley’s money.

CTS to Calgary

by Bob Bettson

Until the 1980s Calgary, Alberta, Canada’s fourth largest city, had no institutions for graduate theological education despite the presence of a large university, the University of Calgary. But that picture has changed. The latest development is the creation of a new campus in southwest Calgary which will house a consortium of institutions including the Canadian Theological Seminary (CTS), now located in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canadian Bible College,of Regina, and Nazarene University College in Calgary. The move of CTS to Calgary is now planned for 2003. Board chair Ken Burkart said the seminary also considered relocating to Edmonton, Alberta or a different location in Regina.

One of the factors in moving to Calgary was being closer to a large constituency of Christian and Missionary Alliance churches in British Columbia and Alberta. CTS isn’t the first seminary to move or start up in Calgary in recent years. Prairie Graduate School, an interdenominational evangelical seminary launched in Three Hills, Alta. in 1988, moved to Calgary in 1994. The Canadian Convention of Southern Baptists now operates a seminary just outside Calgary in the small town of Cochrane. It has just completed building new townhouse-style housing for students.

It isn’t surprising Calgary’s new theological education community is drawn from the evangelical part of the Christian spectrum. Southern Alberta is part of Canada’s Bible belt. Two of Alberta’s most famous premiers, Ernest Manning and “Bible Bill” Aberhart were leaders of Social Credit governments and well-known evangelical preachers and radio evangelists.

Changes at the Top
The board of trustees of St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary in Crestwood, New York, has elected the Reverend John H. Erickson as the school’s new dean. He will assume the office in July, upon the retirement of the Reverend Thomas Hopko. Erickson has been teaching church history at St. Vladimir’s since 1973.

R. Scott Rodin, president of Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wynnewood, Pennsylvania, for the last five years announced his resignation, effective June 30. Rodin said he has a strong sense of God’s calling to more active pursuit of teaching, preaching, writing, and strategic planning and envisioning. “These are my passions,” says Rodin, “and I have had infrequent opportunities to use these skills, while needing to rely daily on areas where my expertise and interest are at a minimum.” 

R. Robert Cueni, senior minister of Country Club Christian Church, in Kansas City, Missouri, has been elected president of Lexington Theological Seminary. Cueni is the author of six books on congregational ministry. He has served on the board of Christian Theological Seminary, Indianapolis, Indiana. Cueni’s predecessor, Richard L. Harrison, Jr., is now pastor of Seventh Street Christian Church, Richmond, Virginia. 

Memphis Theological Seminary of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church has elected a retired United Methodist minister who served eleven years on its board to act as interim president for the next two years. The Reverend David Hilliard will serve as interim president for the seminary, in Memphis, Tennessee, until July 2003. His predecessor, Larry Blakeburn who served four years, has become pastor of Cumberland Presbyterian Church, Dyersburg, Tennessee. 

The Reverend Richard Paperini has been named president-rector of Mount Angel Seminary, St. Benedict, Oregon. Paperini came to Mount Angel Seminary eight years ago as a teacher of liturgical theology and a spiritual director. He has also served as formation director, director of spiritual life, liturgical formation director, and acting administrator. Paperini succeeds the Reverend Patrick Brennan, who was president-rector for ten years before going to the North American College in Rome to serve as spiritual director. 

Luder G. Whitlock, Jr., a member of In Trust’s advisory council, has retired as president of Reformed Theological Seminary, Jackson, Mississippi. 

Bishop to Vancouver
Canadian Anglican Bishop Jim Cruickshank, whose Diocese of Cariboo ceased operations on December 31, is returning to the Vancouver School of Theology, where he has served as a member of the faculty before, to serve for a six-month period as “Bishop in Residence.” Cruickshank’s former diocese, which was in eastern British Columbia, was bankrupted by lawsuits against it arising from abuse at aboriginal residential schools.

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