Moncrieff Show’s National Priest Survey 2012

1. How long have you been a priest?
96% serving for over 10 years.

  • The oldest comment was over 60 years as a priest.

2. Do you believe in God?
100% Yes

  • But often have doubts
  • Is the Pope a Catholic?!

3. Do you believe in the Catholic Church’s conception of God?
92% believe in the Catholic Church’s conception of God
4% Don’t
3% Unsure

  • God is a mystery. The Creed is an attempt to put words on this mystery”

4. Has the handling of abuse cases in the church over the years altered your faith?
23% Yes
75% No

  • It has made me less secure in my beliefs
  • I am disappointed with how poor leadership there has been but faith is different
  • In Jesus – No. In the church – yes. My faith is growing and altering all the time.
  • My faith was never based on the assumption that people don’t sin and that people don’t cover up. The above cases appalled me but they did not change my faith as such. Faith should include an understanding of the reality of evil, weakness, sin and cover-ups.
  • I remain hopeful because of my faith in God.
  • It has challenged my faith but also deepened it.
  • I have lost faith in the institution
  • My faith has not been damaged – but my faith in the Church has taken a beating.

5. Do you feel that the church hierarchy understands the work and challenges faced by priests in a modern world?
37% feel the hierarchy understand
61% do not feel the hierarchy don’t understand
2% unsure

  • Never did. No Bishop has parish experience!
  • Definitely not they are a disaster.
  • They don’t seem to know the questions never mind suggesting answers.
  • Irish hierarchy yes. Church hierarchy no.

6. How do you think the Vatican handled church sex abuse cases in Ireland?
10% Well
63% Poorly
27% Other

  • There was an appalling lack of understanding about the reality of sexual abuse.
  • TheVatican’s  dealing with Catholic Sex Abuse was similar thought the world and not just      inIreland.  Also they followed the advice of psychiatrists and treatment centres in      relation to victims. It’s only being dealt with internationally since the 1980’s we’re all learning. I also not the HSE and its social workers continue to make a lot of mistakes. We’re all learning.
  • Extreme disappointment with continued Vatican’s response – double speak; be “obedient”, don’t think for oneself;      “our masters inRome have all and proper answers.
  • Appalling treatment of victims. Church institutions were seen as more important.

7. Do you think lay people should be more involved in the church?
98% Yes
2% No

  • Take over completely and then the priest can become a service provider
  • Administration of all parish/church leaving priest free to visit sick and administer sacraments.
  • By being actively consulted on pastoral policies.
  • For consultation and decision making.

8. Are people in your parish interested in getting involved?
76% Yes
4% No
20% Unsure

  • There is always a core number but not the majority
  • I find it very hard to get people involved. I constantly invite them but very few take up the challenge.
  • Yes if encouraged and given training people are very willing to give their time and talents. We now see well qualified pastoral workers and parish managers.
  • Not as much as I would like. It takes a tremendous amount of encouraging and urging to get people involved. I am      especially disappointed in the lack of interest in opportunities to deepen the understanding of faith.
  • Very much so, there has been about 120 involved over the past 15 years.

9. Do you think women should be allowed become priests?
60% Yes
30% No
10% Unsure

  • Women Priests would have a lot to offer in many ways- They are good listeners, more understanding and very sensitive to peoples’ needs. Women priests are doing a great job in other  Christian Churches.
  • God calls all of us, men and women to minister.   Women bring a great richness to our lives and to our church.
  • Jesus didn’t ordain any of his female disciples and also I note the difficulties the Anglican Church is experiencing since they ordained women in their parishes. Many are returning to the Catholic Church now.
  • No theological reason for not ordaining women.  They except tradition which the Church always regarded as very important
  • Why not? The scriptures contain enough evidence  of female ministers.St Paul wrote that the Holy Spirit cannot be reined in – at the moment it is clear  to me that the Holy Spirit is saying “enough of a male only priesthood”.

10. Should sacraments only be administered to people from families who attend mass on a weekly basis?
17% Yes
78% No
5% Unsure

  • People who don’t believe in God should not lie publically at the child’s birth and making a vow to God you don’t believe in is not a good basis for martial honesty is it? It’s a matter for people not the priest to decide.
  • Jesus didn’t refuse to help anyone so why should we?
  • Theoretically it is correct but pastorally  impractical. Until other changes in clerics themselves are made and seen to be made.
  • I find this a very difficult question. Once a person is baptised they have a right to receive the other sacraments but  our preparation for the other sacraments is very poor – I know we are trying to find ways to have better preparation for the sacrament.

11. Do you think priests should be allowed marry?
17% No
78% Yes
5% Unsure

  • Sometimes I think yes, but if we did get married it would be a huge pressure on a wife and children. They would be exposed very much and I would not be able to dedicate my whole life to the parish. Irish parishioners have high expectations of what they want from a priest.
  • Yes. But there must always be a place for a celibate priesthood.
  • Yes. Although I think few would be suitable!

12. Do you think if priests were allowed marry the number of people entering the priesthood would increase significantly?
22% Yes
65% No
13% Unsure

  • I have no doubt about this. The celibacy law is the one major obstacle to young men entering the priesthood. We live in a different world to the 12th century.
  • Don’t know. Golf widows would have nothing on priest widows! The workday is 7am-10pm some days. Funerals, changed plans, no weekends off … No family life.
  • In Co. Monaghan where I live and where there is a significant number ofChurch      of Ireland members and Presbyterians, there is a scarcity of Protestant ministers.
  • It would be good that those who wish to get married have an option but many priests are unsuitable for marriage.  Too bachelorised, too incapable at negotiating / compromising. Also would the parish fund a married clergy?

13. Do you think Anglican priests who are ordained as Catholic priests should be allowed remain married?
92% Yes
3% No
5% Unsure

  • Don’t care. Converts do what they want, that’s  normally why they converted in the first place!
  • I don’t think that there is any basis for celibacy once this particular ministry was allowed.

14. Do you think that Bishops serve a fixed term e.g. in the region of 6-10 years?
68% Yes
27% No
5% Unsure

  • The Bishop is a representative of Christ in the local community. It might be  popular but it would be quite unspiritual and a defeat of faith
  • Neither priests nor bishops should serve just terms it destroys the bond between people and bishop/priest. How can a bishop be a father figure when he moves all of the time. Anyone spending more than ten years in the one job/place goes stale and a move/change freshens you up.

15. Does your bishop actively seek the views of priests, religious and lay people when making important decisions in your diocese?
44% Yes
44% No
12% Unsure

  • No – the new missal would be a good example.
  • As a religious priest the bishop does not have much contact with me or those in my community.
  • Not to my knowledge. I have never been consulted.
  • Yes. But then he doesn’t listen. Consultation is only a pretence- worse!
  • Not sure. He does not seek my view but he may seek views of others. The Church is not a democracy.

16. Do you believe that Irish bishops are too subservient to Rome?
67% Yes
31% No
2% Unsure

  • Pope John Paul II selected them precisely for that quality!
  • Bishops everywhere are subservient toRome.  Bishops are usually trained in Rome and ideologically conditioned so why expect a revolt from the inside?
  • They have no collective mind of their own which might empower them to develop a      distinctive Irish church united with the universal church.

17. In the light of your experience of the priesthood would you still choose it if you were setting out again?
81% Yes
13% No
6% Unsure

  • Probably not. I would have gone into a monastery instead and might yet.
  • I have experienced many disappointments and abuses in my priesthood – bullying, dishonesty, politics etc.
  • Would do it with no regrets – it was a privilege
  • Not without changes.
  • I  would find another way of serving God and people.

18. What is your attitude towards “clustering” parishes in response to the shortage of priests?

  • I regard it as inevitable because of numbers
  • This is a big opportunity to introduce more lay people into the ministry.
  • Necessary to do but hard to achieve
  • It is only a “band-aid” solution. It is all right in the short term but it will not be a solution in 10 or 20 years time. The church has not faced up to the celibacy question. I am not speaking as a young “radical” priest. I am an “old canon” near retirement age.
  • It’s a natural and common progression. The realisation is dawning; we have plenty of priests and too many churches! My church has 7 priests for 8000  people – completely daft!

19. Do you think the general public still respects the clergy in the way they traditionally did in this country?
10% Yes
49% Most do
23% Only a minority
12% No
6% No sure

  • Local clergy are respected by their people
  • You assume that Irish people used to respect priests
  • The culture is very anti-priests and religion  generally. How many people in the media practice Christianity?
  • I consistently experience respect from the general public. I hope it is based on me offering respect.

20. Do you think the work and role of the priest in the community has changed over the last 2 decades?
84% Yes
12% No
4% Unsure

  • Less involvement in local GAA groups and such societies
  • We are still expected to do everything cheerfully and willingly. If we can’t do something we are insulted and if we can we are forgotten. Keep the show on the road! Even if there’s no fuel, actors and no drivers. Nothing changed since the 1970’s.
  • He is no longer regarded as being the only person to give advice about the spiritual. Lay people also have taken over the role the priest would have had in local clubs etc.
  • Decrease in numbers means workload has increased. Plus we have to delegate more of our responsibilities to parish councils, pastoral workers etc. It’s a good thing
  • The priest is now a circus ring master for weddings and holy communions and confirmations.
  • It is more about service than leadership. You are respected for what you can do rather than what you are.

21. Has your ability to fulfil your duties as a priest been affected by abuse scandals in the church in recent decades?
46% Yes
52% No
2% Unsure

  • Life goes on – you get on with it.
  • We are afraid to visit homes and we need backing and witnesses all the time.
  • Definitely. Really as no presence to young people in Catholic education. Priest as a role model is lost to them. Pity.

22. Do you think all priests’ reputations have been damaged by abuse scandals in the church in recent decades?
65% Yes
35% No

  • Yes in the eyes of many who do not personally  know priests.
  • People at a local level know their priests / us / me better and understand us more than some commentators believe
  • Yes but unfairly for the most part.

23. How would you describe the role you currently play in your community?

  • I try to offer the values and purpose, the guidance and comforts and neighbourliness of the Catholic Christian life to all comers.
  • I try to help people discover prayer. I try to deepen the faith of people through preaching. I try to be a friendly listening presence, especially with the sick.
  • A midwife – bringing to birth a contact with God’s face.
  • I am more than just a priest – I have to be counsellor,  alms giver, preacher, a shoulder to cry on etc.
  • We are under pressure to keep everything going. I spend too much time in the administration of schools.

24. What do you think your role should be?

  • A pastor, a mediator of God’s love for his people
  • Spiritual leader. Persuer of social justice issues. On the side of the poor and tax      oppressed.
  • A  servant, a leader, I continuously call families and communities into an active relationship with Christ
  • In many ways the role of the priest is becoming clearer and better defined.  The priest is the spiritual leader of his community, bringing the good  news of the gospel to their lives. Many of the roles in the past were a  distraction.
  • To  preside at masses and ceremonies, to facilitate people of old ages who wish to play their part, to affirm others in their giftedness to the parish and beyond. To interpret and proclaim the Gospel and its relevance  to our time.

25. Do you think that the Taoiseach’s criticism of the Vatican in the Dail last July was appropriate/inappropriate/fair/unfair? 
21% Fair
75% Unfair
4% Unsure

  • He needs to practise what he preaches. He says “Children first” but then he removes resources from the most vulnerable communities a most vulnerable people – children.
  • I know he was reflecting the anger of the people bit I think there were a few inaccuracies in it. For example, he alleged that theVaticanprevented the investigation into child abuse in the past 3 years. There is no proof that this was the case.
  • I      articulated the justified anger of Irish Catholics. But it was too selective and had agendas that reflected anti Catholic and anti-Vatican   groupings.
  • He simply made a fool of himself.
  • Stupid
  • Fair criticism but should have been more accurate in what he said.
  • Some of what he said was necessary but he went overboard on his comments about the zeal of confession.
  • Inappropriate and adolescent. He behaved like an angry, ill  informed teenager eager to please a section of society. His failure to be  equally harsh on the mistakes and management perpetuated by governments, past and present, is appalling and hypocritical.
  • It seems to me the Taoiseach’s speech was justified as an  expression of inter-state, diplomatic conversation with an external government that blocked and frustrated the Irish government investigation but it was unfair because it was heard by many inIrelandas a judgement on the  Irish Bishops and priests. Church and state, politics and religion really are different. They intermix but politics does not rightly rule religion.  What are the points of  the Taoiseach’s speech?  Behaving badly even on an international level may be satisfying but it is just school boy behaviour. At the end of the day it led only to a loss for the Irish people.  Playing to the gallery is not always good even if it is good politics.

26. Do you feel that priests and the Catholic Church in general are portrayed fairly in the media?
14% Yes
84% No
2% Unsure

  • We are all tarred with the same brush. They can be hurtful in their general comments. I work hard but could do without the sneers and nosiness from some media.
  • But why shouldn’t we be? The Irish media also hates women, GAA, the Repulicans in the US, the Tories in theUK, immigrants, Africans, travellers and Irish speakers.
  • The media uses priests when it suits them that is both positive and negative.

27. Is Irish society ‘anti priest’?
24% Yes
74% No
2% Unsure

  • Irish media is. Irish people aren’t.
  • Irelandis, and always was, a pagan country of druid origin. A veneer of Catholic was useful for getting a job in a school and civil service. Now money is better.
  • Publically yes but on the ground very supportive  to the priest.
  • Yes. Except when they want us to bury or marry them, or they want an interview!
  • Irish society by and large are not anti-clerical but the Irish media are and unfortunately the Irish media believe they are Irish society.

28. Do you feel victimised by media coverage of the church in Ireland?
64% Yes
31% No
5% Unsure
I’ve been insulted by strangers in the street and been called paedophile at least a 1000 times. I have been depressionalised rather than victimised.
Not as bad recently as it was.
29. How big an impact do you think the RTE Fr. Reynolds affair has had on the religious community in Ireland?

  • It helped people to realise that you can’t trust  the media
  • It had a fairly big impact. One of the great fears of priests is a false allegation and blackmail. If there is an allegation made against a priest, regardless of how ridiculous it is, he has to go. It is very unfair. An attempt was made to blackmail me with a false allegation. It is not nice place to be.
  • It is time priests got fair play. It’s time the anti-church attitude of many in the media was challenged. They are not about the law either.
  • They felt let down. I think that RTE did not check their facts as they were asked to do before broadcasting the programme.
  • It was a great relief to learn that he was  innocent. But the whole “affair” has not impacted great on the media or the church. People don’t change their ways, because a journalist      has given a prejudice report. In other words, we know there are good and bad priests and we know there good and bad journalists.
  • It showed that not all allegations are true. It was trial by the media.
  • We are hurting. This story and experience highlighted the fact that truth was sacrificed to fuel media bigotry.

30. Has your confidence in RTE as the state broadcaster been damaged by the Fr. Reynolds affair?
14% No
33% Yes
16% Severely
30% Had no confidence in RTE before the affair
7% Unsure

  • RTE isn’t completely evil. Some journalists are  good and most of them are trying to do a good job under difficult circumstances etc.
  • The media can destroy peoples characters unless they too are subjected to accountability.
  • RTE is in the entertainment business, fact. The truth is seldom entertaining in the tabloid manner.
  • With any broadcasting station one has to read between the lines and the various agenda of producers and presenters.
  • What RTÉ did was despicable and totally unjust –  RTÉ would be the first to demand that heads should role in the church. I do not want to be triumphalist but what RTE was a grave violation of justice.
  • The RTE mentality / values / practices always seemed to me manipulative and self serving. The Fr. Reynolds affair merely caught them out. I’ve heard of no resignations, no sackings or people taking responsibility. It has merely encouraged priests to seek greater      protection under Catholic priests ofIrelandunion/group who appear to have a good legal team to advise an protect priests when falsely accused.

31. Do you think the Catholic Church should be involved in state education?
83% Yes
11% No
6% Unsure

  • Catholic parents should have the opportunity to send their children to Catholic schools. Likewise those of other religions and no religion should have their choices respected.
  • Catholics are citizens too.
  • People should have a choice.

32. Do you think religion is important within the school curriculum?
95% Yes
2% No
3% Unsure

  • A Godless school is anti-human, anti-personal & anti-family.
  • Otherwise we will have a nation of atheists, full of murders and suicides.
  • We should develop the whole person especially the creative side. Spirituality is part of personal development.

33. Do you think that this is an appropriate time for such a Congress in Ireland?
51% Yes
45% No
4% Unsure

  • Is there ever an appropriate time to publicly profess belief?
  • Again it shows how out of touch the Church is – why do we need a Congress?
  • The church needs renewal. This is an occasion to begin the process.
  • We  need revival.

34. Are you or lay people in your parish excited about the Eucharistic Congress?
31% Yes
59% No

  • I think it’s a fantastic opportunity for us all to pray to Jesus and also to welcome 45,000 Christians from all over the world toIrelandto worship Jesus. I’m really looking forward to the week long celebrations inDublin
  • Waste  of money. It’s the leadership of the Church congratulating themselves when none of them should be in situ!
  • Interested more than excited yes.
  • Hard  to be motivated on something that is so far from many peoples lives
  • A  few are excited – the Congress smacks of harvest. The present time is a time to plough, harrow and sow some seeds.
  • There are more pressing issues in their lives. The people see it as a triumphalism.  There is an anxiety that another scandal will break between now and then.
  • It  means so very little. I feel that it will be a PR exercise for the hierarchy to parade around with a spirit of arrogance. I’m not at all enthused by the event.


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  1. Sarah Flynn says:

    I hope you don’t mind, but I would like to respond in very plain simple language expressing the views of a young Irish Catholic girl.
    I don’t see why people, namely the media, are so fixated at trying to get Priests and Religious people to give yes/no answers to questions that cannot be answered with one syllable. The abuse scandal is an atrocity and a huge issue for the Church to deal with, however it is only one of the issues that face the Church.
    I am not in any way belittling the abuse and torture that people have been subjected to by some who ‘worked’ for the Catholic Church, however the Church is an institution – to put it crudely a business. A business trying to uphold these ideals & unfortunately through the ‘job interview process’ bad, unsuitable applicants have slipped through the net. This is not good enough, of course not but it is reality. The ‘board of directors’, in my eyes, made bad decisions when discussing a solution to these atrocities and as a result it is the priests, those on the ground that are left to try and pick up the pieces.
    To speak about issues such as married clergy, yes the law may be changed to allow priests to marry, but who is to say that there would be any of our ordained priests who would go ahead and actively search for a wife. Yes, of course it would allow more men to consider their calling more seriously & therefore allow the celebration of the Eucharist to be secure within communities for that bit longer.
    I personally do not believe that priests should be married. For me, it is not about celibacy, for me that is a seperate issue. I believe, very simply that priests cannot have full commitment to the people of their parish and be true to the commitment they give to their wife. It would not be fair on the parishoners and it certainly would not be fair on their wife, something would have to give.
    About celibacy; I believe that only men ordained and those considering their calling can speak properly on this issue. To lift the vow of celibacy is not even a part of the solution in trying to eradicate abuse. In my opinion, abuse happens because someone is cruel, rotten to the core, not because they are sexually frustrated.
    I do not believe that you would meet one honest, decent man of the cloth who is not ashamed and sorrowful over what has happened within their institution. That does not mean they are scapegoats! Yes we should be able to speak openly with them, we as lay people cannot speak, as easily, directly to our Bishops as we can our Parish Priest so we should be able to address issues with them, however fully understanding that they do not have all of the answers, they can not answer for people they are not connected to – the abusers. They can however bring us back to our faith, help us reconnect with Jesus, pray for us as followers of Jesus within the Catholic Church and pray with full voice for those who have been abused.

  2. Michael Coren, in his latest book, Why Catholics are right, explains that the married priests admit that they are torn between the needs of family and the needs of the parish. Something has to give. It’s an excellent read and I’d recommend it to all ACP readers/members.

  3. Association of Catholic Priests says:

    I read the Moncrieff National Priest survey 2012 and as a married catholic priest I would like to make a comment on section 11 no 11 of the survey. It asks the question: “Would the parish fund a married clergy”?
    One of the arguments against a married priesthood is the financial burden it would be on the church. Speaking from my experience as a catholic married priest in Brazil and knowing the experience of other married priests here I believe that this problem can be solved. In my case when I got married 29 years ago I took up a job as an English Language teacher. This has been a steady job for me during all these years. I don’t earn a big salary but I have managed to rear two children – we live in a modest house. During all these 29 years of pastoral ministry that I have been engaged in I have not been a financial burden to the church as also are the thousands of lay people actively engaged in pastoral work. If tomorrow the church called me back to full ministry finance would not be a problem as I have my own job. I have been able to reconcile being married, having a job and finding time for pastoral ministry. I am sure that among the married catholic priests in Ireland there are those who are engaged in some form of ministry. If they too were called back to ministry like me they also would not be a financial burden as they already are employed.
    It is said that one of the reasons why the law of celibacy came into being after the Lateran Council of 1139 was because of financial reasons.Once again let us not use this argument to kill the desire that catholic married priests have to once again be welcomed back into ministry just as the Anglican priests with their wives and children have been received into full communion with the catholic church.
    Brian Eyre (Recife, Brazil)

  4. Eddie Finnegan says:

    I would have to agree with Tom Hayes as to lack of clarity on how the sample was chosen and on how reliable the survey can be even as a rough dipstick approach. Granted, a better than one-third response is as good as one can expect in most surveys unless the sample is captive.
    Some of the questions are dodgy – some of the appended comments seem edited in a particular direction.
    “Do you think lay people should be more involved in the Church?” [Q.7] could hardly produce a less than 98% response. Why isn’t it 100% ?
    “Does your bishop actively seek the views of priests, religious and lay people when making important decisions in your diocese?” [Q.15] evoked 44% Yes and 44% No – yet none of the five appended comments reflects that Yes vote. And why are 13.68 priests Unsure – unless they’ve been thrown by the phrases ‘actively seek’ or ‘important decisions’?
    And Tom’s right: the presentation doesn’t do much for the findings. That “martial honesty” [Q.10], though, may suggest that one priest understands that marriage can be a war zone. Was it the same man who in Qs 11 & 12 wondered about the suitability for married life of the over-bachelorised? Beware what you wish for!

  5. I’m impressed by the 60% “Yes” answers on question #9 and even more so by the comments, especially “Why not? The scriptures contain enough evidence of female ministers. St Paul wrote that the Holy Spirit cannot be reined in-– at the moment it is clear to me that the Holy Spirit is saying ‘enough of a male only priesthood’.” It’s reassuring to know that the surveyed priests can read the Gospel with minds open to the signs of the times.
    About the comment under #9 on the ordination of women causing problems for Anglicans: reform, which Anglicans have been engaged in since the era of Second Vatican Council (when ecumenical hopes ran high) searches out a path across stormy waters. No religious organization embarking on reforms should expect calm seas or steady, peaceful progress. In 1968, Archbishop of Canterbury Arthur Michael Ramsey prophesied turbulence as well as safe harbor from the storm when he said, “Today the earth is being shaken, many things are cracking, melting, disappearing; and it is for us who are Christians to distinguish the things which are shaken and to receive gratefully a kingdom which is not shaken, the kingdom of our crucified Lord. Within this kingdom, the writer [of Hebrews xii, 27-29] goes on, we offer to God the worship he can accept– but as we do so we are never in cozy security, we have awe in our hearts, for we are near to our God, and our God is a blazing fire.” It’s good counsel, a counsel of courage, not only for Anglicans, but maybe also for the Assembly. http://anglicanhistory.org/amramsey/lambeth_opening1968.html

  6. Tom Hayes says:

    To call this a “survey” is at the very least an overstatement. The station’s website notes that “The Newstalk survey was submitted to 320 priests nationwide. 114 priests responded.” This is hardly a reliable sample of Irish priests. There’s no indication of how the sample of 320 were chosen to begin with. And the number of respondents is so low that the margin of error is ludicrously high. Considered from a research methods perspective, this equates in reliability to the type of data used in adverts by companies trading in pet food or facial creams! And on a lighter note: the presentation of the findings doesn’t enhance its credibility either. E.g. “People who don’t believe in God should not lie publically at the child’s birth and making a vow to God you don’t believe in is not a good basis for martial honesty is it?”

  7. Mary Burke says:

    Very interesting reading indeed and thank you for publishing the results here. I wonder why the question of support for gay clergy – bishops and priests, was not raised. It’s a missed opportunity.

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