Less than half of US Catholic priests ‘trust’ their bishop


Seminarians listen to Brandon Vaidyanathan, associate professor and chair of the Department of Sociology at the Catholic University of America in Washington, speak during a presentation on the results of the Catholic Priest Study.

CNS photo/Bob Roller

A new survey of Catholic clergy in the US has shown high levels of support for tough policies against sexual abuse and widespread distrust of their bishops, with just 49% of survey respondents indicating they do confidence in their bishop.

The survey also indicated that most priests are satisfied with their work but report being overworked.

The report surveyed 10,000 clergy, receiving 3,516 responses from 191 dioceses. It was conducted by sociologists from the Catholic University of America. The researchers conducted 100 intensive follow-up interviews.

Priests said they loved their jobs, scoring ratings well above the general population. Nearly eight in ten priests could be described as “fulfilled” based on their responses to ten questions that assessed their “happiness and satisfaction in life, mental and physical health, sense and purpose, character and virtue , and their close social relationships”.

“I am happy in my life. I find true joy. I love what I do,” a religious priest told researchers. ” I like people. I feel like I’m firing at full throttle. I remember every day how incapable I am of doing it on my own. I say: “God, it is your Church, you take care of it; where you need me, give me what I need. Don’t let me get in your way. … What I do is meaningful and impactful.

Despite these high satisfaction scores, 45% of priests showed at least one sign of burnout, and nearly one in ten showed severe signs of burnout. Religious clergy were less likely to reveal burnout, with one-third showing at least one indicator, compared to half of diocesan clergy. Young priests were much more likely to report feeling burnt out than older clergy.

One of the main negative factors in evaluating the well-being of priests was the lack of trust in their bishops. This led to an 11.5% reduction in the welfare of priests among those who expressed a lack of trust in their own bishop. The survey also revealed widespread distrust of bishops as a whole, with just under a quarter of priests expressing confidence in their leadership.

These attitudes were particularly vivid when it came to fears that a priest might be falsely accused of sexual abuse and that the bishops would not help him fight the allegation.


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