From the Register:
Catholic priests are emerging from dark days of the child sexual abuse scandal with a new sense of hope and accomplishment, according to a new survey that will be published before the end of the year.
The survey mirrors the sentiments expressed by three veteran priests of the Des Moines Catholic diocese, who spoke to the Des Moines Sunday Register about what it has been like to be a priest during the scandal.
The priests talked about feeling anger and betrayal toward abusive priests. They also were fearful that under the U.S. bishops' new zero-tolerance policy, they might be unjustly accused and removed from the priesthood. However, all said they have been buoyed by the support of their parishioners.
Read the complete article Ragsdale: Priest morale rebounds from DesMoinesRegister.com.
Yesterday's article is on the morale of the priesthood, with extensive quotes from Des Moines-area priests. I'm not all that familiar with the Des Moines diocese, hailing myself from Sioux City and having spent much time in Davenport.
The following caught my eye in particular:
"We were talking last week that there isn't a priest shortage, that we are moving out of a surplus," Siepker said. "Catholics got spoiled in the U.S. Most parishes had its own priest, and some had several. There were three or four Masses on the weekends. Now, outside of Des Moines and Council Bluffs, almost every parish is paired. We are more like the pioneer priests, traveling from parish to parish."
Hess likes being a parish priest, but, at 60, he's feeling "spread thinner."
"I'm not as young and vigorous as I used to be," Hess said. "There never seems to be enough time to pray and reflect so you can do a good job. We're pulled in all kinds of different directions."
The greatest gift today's priests said they could receive from their congregations would be to be relieved of parish administrative tasks, according to the survey.
As far as Iowa goes, I would agree with that assessment. All over the state, parishes are not closing to the degree as they are in other places, but they are being grouped together. In my hometown of Fort Dodge, the three parishes along with several others from surrounding smaller towns are grouped together in a 'Team Ministry' format. This is good in some ways and bad in others, given the fact that last year, due to scheduling mishaps, at one parish everyone showed up for Christmas Mass except the priest.
Larger cities can close down parishes and have the people drive a few extra blocks to the next parish. In Iowa, closing a parish entails driving 30 miles or more to the next town. Solutions are worked out, but as the surplus passes, more and more will have to be done.