Click here to advertise on CatholicCulture.org

semantics and the soft sciences

By Diogenes (articles ) | Feb 03, 2004

In the current America, Sr. Katarina Schuth reviews Evolving Visions of the Priesthood, a new book by sociologists Dean Hoge and Jacqueline Wenger, who report on a survey of American priests conducted in 2001 and who "communicate and interpret extensive data about generational changes in the priesthood and the impact of those changes on the church in the United States." Schuth writes:

The findings confirm what most observant Catholics have known for some time: newer priests (45 and younger) hold a significantly different ecclesiology from that of their older counterparts (46 to 65), but somewhat similar to those over 65. The self-identity of newer priests correlates with "the cultic model of priest loyal to John Paul II, the doctrinal teaching of the Church, and a hierarchical model of governance." The older servant-leader model priests are "more democratic, more supportive of lay ministry in the Church, and more conflicted concerning the pastoral application of church teaching, such as the prohibition of artificial birth control."

In rough terms the picture seems accurate. Yet it's both vexing and amusing to note how the descriptive terms have been ideologically pre-loaded by the authors. On one hand we have "cultic model" priests, and on the other hand "servant-leader model" priests. One might justifiably use either term, but they don't belong to the same descriptive axis. And "cultic" is one of those words which, as Flannery O'Connor says, have "a private meaning and a public odor."

Joseph Sobran once asked how our political perspective might change if the media, instead of labeling the scandal of the month "Korea-gate," called it "Korea-quiddick" instead. You can steal a lot of bases, he pointed out, by your choice of words.

Suppose a conservative sociologist presented exactly the same data as Hoge and Wenger, but referred to the "sacramental model" of ministry for the under-45s in contrast to the "stewardess model" for the 46-to-65s? Or perhaps the "prayer-and-penance model" for the former versus the "bourbon-and-boys model" for the latter? Might not the editors of America register some hesitations as to the author's objectivity and scientific detachment?

An appeal from our founder, Dr. Jeffrey Mirus:

Dear reader: If you found the information on this page helpful in your pursuit of a better Catholic life, please support our work with a donation. Your donation will help us reach seven million Truth-seeking readers worldwide this year. Thank you!

Progress toward our September expenses ($13,688 to go):
$35,000.00 $21,311.73
39% 61%
Sound Off! CatholicCulture.org supporters weigh in.

All comments are moderated. To lighten our editing burden, only current donors are allowed to Sound Off. If you are a donor, log in to see the comment form; otherwise please support our work, and Sound Off!

Show 2 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: - Feb. 04, 2004 7:44 PM ET USA

    A good, orthodox friend of mine with loads of catechetical and Churchy experience refers to the 45-65 age group of priests as "hippies". She has a point, no?

  • Posted by: - Feb. 03, 2004 5:29 AM ET USA

    I don't have a problem being a "cultic model" priest. However, the priest who presides at the Mass acts "in persona Christi," who is the eternal high priest and the victim being offered is the Lamb of God. Christ offers himself for our redemption and is made present in the Mass so that we may participate in that saving act. Therefore, I think all priest are to be both "sacramental" and "pastoral." We are to model ourselves after Christ the Priest and Victim.

Subscribe for free
Shop Amazon
Click here to advertise on CatholicCulture.org

Recent Catholic Commentary

Eucharistic Adoration, a Sure Sign of Catholic Renewal 10 hours ago
The Mystery of Music, Part II 15 hours ago
Our Spiritual Destiny and the Horror of War September 19
The Islamic roots of terrorism must be addressed September 19
Each of us is destined to marry Jesus Christ September 18

Top Catholic News

Most Important Stories of the Last 30 Days
Cardinals criticize Kasper proposal, escalating debate on remarriage/Communion CWN - September 18