Clerical Narcissism

Rod Dreher has a chat with a former Catholic priest about attitudes. The former priest thinks that the Catholic problem is not so much clericalism as it is narcissism. The latter is the “underlying pathology,” which is supported and nurtured by clericalism. Lots of examples given, like Bishop Kevin Farrell’s purchase of a $1.3 million home at a time of great financial stress.

This was an issue highlighted by Lee Podles in his book, Sacrilege. Tom Doyle also identified it as a key issue. Others have identified how it has contributed to liturgical attitudes.

6 thoughts on “Clerical Narcissism

  1. It’s very hard to say that any one class of people suffer from a particular psychological problem, you may as well say that all priests are alcoholic (wet or dry) there are a fair number out there. Clericalism brings it out. Many laws of the Church designed to foster a good lifestyle and heal particular problems have over time contributed to infantilising clergy and making them dependent on the bishop and their diocese. This isolates them from the public at large. take the example of rectory life. Priests live in rectories because at a time in history it was determined to be more healthy than the alternative. However in this day and age rectories and rectory life isolate people from the realities experienced by parishoners.
    One of the first things that has to happen is that catholic priests are paid the same amount as their peers in the reformed churches, then they have to find their own place to live etc. However don’t you see some of the problems this would bring about. It would mean a less mobile priesthood, a bishop couldnt ask a priest to move at short notice. It would put greater power in the hands of the laity and so on. The bottom line is that catholic priests are treated like children and for the greater part they take it. It is very easy to have your living arangements taken care of, no mortgage or rent to worry about. The same when it comes to food or gas. how many priests out there have had to change their lifestyle because of the hike in gas or food prices?

  2. I got a bo’sun or two to which I’d love to see you explain the infantilising effect of free housing and chow.

    I’d sell tickets.

  3. Well, Franklin, what if that bo’sun was treated like an admiral by everyone else on board, but treated like a raw recruit by the CINC? What if that bo’sun got in trouble if he had a girlfriend but was winked at if he had a boyfriend? What if that bo’sun spent his time obsessing about the color of the rigging and the flowers in the mess?

    Think that would fly? Or … sail?

  4. Franklin, I speak from the inside, and I agree with what Bill has to say. A friend of mine, a retired senior NCO told me the difference he witnessed in dealing with men who married and moved into housing with wife and children and those who stayed single and depended on the army for their housing and chow. While there will always be exceptions, in general those who moved into houses where they had to pay rent or mortgage were more mature. Breakdown in relationships was a reality but in general they were better adjusted to the world around them. Finally there are very few bo’sun who will have free food and housing for life. Sooner or later they have to make it on their own.

  5. Celibacy seems to breed narcissism. Many priests, myself included, only have to think about themselves. The myth is that celibacy is supposed to free the priest to serve others unselfishly but it can also work in the reverse. Many priests turn into self absorbed bachelors. Because the priest is totally invested in his identity as “the priest” he can also be overly attached to titles and wardrobe. The priest often has little else but his parish and his priesty identity. It would seem as if we would have healthier and happier priests if they had to also think about the needs of a wife and family (and also received affection and support from same).

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