The majority of U.S. Catholic priests love their work. They are overworked and angry at the U.S. bishops' handling of the sex abuse crisis.
Among younger Catholic priests there's a shift in orthodoxy: There are almost as many self-identified "conservatives" (28 percent) as self-identified "liberals" (30 percent). There is an increasing number of homosexuals.
In these findings by a Los Angeles Times nationwide survey of U.S. Catholic priests released Oct. 20 and 21, the reassuring element is that because the bulk of hardworking priests love their work, the notion of the parish as the dynamo of the church, the Catholic norm and goal, is reinforced.
Matched against some earlier statistics, plus surveys from Catholic sources, the Times poll helps shade in greater detail the silhouette though not the content of the 21st-century emerging church. Taken together, the Times and earlier polls provide an outline of a church that is priest-short, yet with a laity willing to welcome ordained married men and women as priests. It is a church faced with a widening orthodoxy variance between younger priests and older priests, and, similarly, between younger priests and the laity.
Given the latest activity in the Vatican regarding denying ordination to homosexuals, the Times poll does send the priest-short bishops a warning shot on the numbers.
The Times poll focused on a topic the bishops don't want to face: While some 15 percent of the current clergy listed themselves as "gay or on the homosexual side," among younger priests 23 percent did so.