USA: Well-being, Trust, and Policy in a Time of Crisis: Highlights from the National Study of Catholic Priests

Brandon Vaidyanathan, Ph.D., Christopher Jacobi, Ph.D., Chelsea Rae Kelly, Ph.D.
Department of Sociology, The Catholic University of America
Stephen White, Sara Perla
The Catholic Project, The Catholic University of America. October 2022

• We surveyed 10,000 Catholic priests, of whom 3,516 respondents across 191 dioceses and eparchies completed our survey (36% valid-case response rate).
• We conducted in-depth interviews with more than 100 priests who participated in our survey.
• We also conducted a census survey of U.S. bishops, of whom 131 completed it (67% response rate).

La Croix International reports:

US Catholic priests have little trust in their bishops. That’s one of the findings of the “National Study of Catholic Priests”, a 25-page document released last month in the run-up to this week’s general assembly of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).According to this survey of 10,000 presbyters nationwide conducted by the “Catholic Project” – an initiative of the Catholic University of America – less than half of diocesan respondents (49%, down from 63% in 2001) have “a great deal” or “some” confidence in their leaders, and only 24% have confidence in “bishops in general”.While 92% of the bishops who were questioned say they would help their priests in the event of personal difficulties, only 36% of the priests believe their superiors would actually do so. They place bishops at the bottom of their circle of support, after parishioners, family members and other priests.The distrust is particularly evident in the handling of sexual abuse accusations. While 82% of priests say they are “regularly afraid of being targeted by false allegations”, 51% say their superiors will support them in these situations and 36% say their diocese will give them the resources to defend themselves in court, for example.

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One Comment

  1. Pat Savage says:

    The first line of the report would bring fear to any priest.

    “US Catholic priests have little trust in their bishops.”

    In light of recent events in this little parish we call Ireland, would any priest have confidence that in the darkness of moments when a priest speaks, no matter how challenging the message might be, that they would retain the support of their bishop or brother priests?
    However, I don’t think this is just restricted to priesthood or bishops but is a wider change in society that is now showing more evidence of the ME culture, whereby, protection of oneself appears to be more important than showing loyalty or support.

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