Young Catholic Priests In America Are More Conservative Than Older Generations, New Study Finds

By Kate Anderson

A recent study from the Austin Institute (AI), a research group at the University of Texas, showed newer generations of Catholic priests are more likely to be conservative than their older counterparts, despite the leadership of Pope Francis and the Vatican becoming more liberal in recent years.

The study was based on a similar survey from the Los Angeles Times in 2002 that found younger priests were noticeably more conservative and showed that as the age of the priests increased they were likely to identify with a more progressive approach. AI’s study found that among issues like abortion, younger priests still condemned the practice at a high rate in comparison to other issues.

Priests ordained after 2010 expressed concern regarding the direction Francis is taking the Catholic church.

“In the latest cohort of priests, ordained in 2010 or later, only 20.0 percent ‘approve strongly’ of Pope Francis and nearly half (49.8 percent) disapprove, whether ‘somewhat’ or ‘strongly,’” the study pointed out. “Evidence from other survey items suggests this pattern is attributable to the relative conservatism of the recent cohorts.”

Pope Francis became the first Vatican pope to endorse same-sex civil unions in 2021 and in August, he selected then-Bishop Robert McElroy for the position of cardinal. McElroy has voiced support for same-sex marriage and female roles in the clergy, and has denounced Archbishop of the San Francisco Archdiocese Salvatore Cordileone for denying communion to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi over her support of abortion.

AI’s survey concluded that there was a “notable conservative shift on ecclesial matters” in comparison to the Time’s survey in 2002.

“[P]riests in the more recent survey were, on average, less in favor of female deacons, less in favor of ordaining women as priests, and less favorable toward married priests compared to the 2002 Times sample,” the study stated. “Likewise, when asked about politics, priests in the recent samples were significantly more likely to describe themselves as conservative compared to 2002.”

Pope Francis speaks as he leads the weekly audience in Saint Peter's square at the Vatican, October 14, 2015. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini
Pope Francis speaks as he leads the weekly audience in Saint Peter’s square at the Vatican, October 14, 2015.

Conservative priests were more likely to believe that Jesus was the sole way to salvation at 82% but only 19% of more progressive priests supported this view, according to the study. The average age of new priests that joined the clergy since 1992 is around 37, as opposed to the 1970s when new priests were on average 27.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Austin Institute did not respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.

Complete Article HERE!

Uh, Can the NYT Please Not Treat Catholic Reactionaries as a Fun Sexy Trend Story?

By Molly Olmstead

On Tuesday, the New York Times published an opinion piece that declared “New York’s hottest club is the Catholic Church.”

The piece was written by an editor at the stuffy conservative Christian journal First Things, which, under the recent leadership of the Catholic theologian R.R. Reno, has swung toward the reactionary right. The author of the piece, Julia Yost, argued that young, cool intellectuals—bored by the corny politics of their liberal peers—have found transgressive delight in embracing the rituals of traditional Catholicism, along with at least some of its moral stances on sex and gender.

These young edgy reactionaries, she wrote, are associated with the buzzy but mostly nominal downtown Manhattan “Dimes Square” scene. (The name refers to a restaurant in the area.) They have embraced “monarchist and anti-feminist sentiments,” she wrote, and they debate esoteric Catholic topics.

“This is not your grandmother’s church—and whether the new faithful are performing an act of theater or not, they have the chance to revitalize the church for young, educated Americans,” Yost declared.

The writer also didn’t mention that “trad Cath” social media, with all its semi-ironic memes about saints and sacraments, attracts those who like to post winkingly about the Crusades. Or that there is a growing group of traditionalist Catholics, yearning for an old version of the religion before the church took out violently anti-Semitic language from its liturgy, who sometimes tread dangerously close to white supremacy. (Traditionalist Catholics are often defined by their rejection of the teachings of the 1965 Second Vatican Council.)

Just as white supremacists reach back to a fictional version of the Middle Ages or the Viking Age to create their own mythos, the trads look back to an imagined pre-modern church.

Yost is not entirely wrong about Catholicism’s online cultural moment and the “transgressive” appeal of it for the young participants. It’s undeniable that many young trads pride themselves on their intellectual independence from their peers, and on the countercultural nature of the worldview they’ve embraced.

Yost may also be right that Gen Z’s intellectual formation in the waters of social media could naturally make the aesthetics of Catholicism more tempting. Catholicism, in an artistic sense, is nothing if not dramatic. It’s gold and lace. It’s incense and violence. It’s martyrs and marble and blood. (Or at least, the theatrical version of it is. Pope Francis has urged the church to drop its obsession with “grandma’s lace.”)

But Yost tries to push the argument further than it really goes. Young trads may think they are being transgressive, but that does not mean that they genuinely are. There are some 50 million Catholics in the U.S., and there’s no denying the influence the religion has had in shaping the country: Just look at its role in the reasoning of the justices who overturned Roe v. Wade. The Met’s “Heavenly Bodies” theme, Yost argued, was chosen because “Catholicism pairs well with transgression.” Are we sure it’s not because of the centuries of religious artwork? The opulence of the church’s vast historical wealth? Or of the slight thrill of sacrilege, rather than the appeal of traditionalism?

This line of the piece was intriguing to me: “The scenesters of downtown Manhattan may simply find it less dreary to shame one another for fornication than for bearing privilege.”

But Yost tips her hand when she implies that these young people have been, essentially, forced into this position by the failures of secular society. “Disaffection with the progressive moral majority—combined with Catholicism’s historic ability to accommodate cultural subversion—has produced an in-your-face style of traditionalism,” she writes. “By disparaging traditional gender roles and defining human flourishing in meritocratic terms, progressive moralism militates against young people’s attainment of basic goods: marriage and procreation.”

It’s this—more than describing the fashion of any sort of scene, real or imagined—that matters here. The traditionalists are not all harmlessly “larping.” Many are campaigning, sometimes quite vehemently, for the stripping of rights from women and queer people

Yost knows this. Her arguments about the church’s “chance to revitalize the church for young, educated Americans” makes assumptions based on the specific philosophy First Things represents. To conservative Catholics, there is a clear strategy to survive this crisis point in the church’s history: embrace tradition, embrace aesthetics, embrace black-and-white morality and discipline to give clarity in a tumultuous and confusing time. Pope Francis’ strategy is the opposite: reach out to the young and disaffected and bend, as much as possible, to the times; embrace the vast diversity of the faith and hope young people are drawn in by compassion

The church in the U.S. is, in many ways, torn between these two philosophies. In New York, the several members of the trad Cath Dimes Square crowd may be the flashiest and most exciting public display of the faith to trend story aficionados—as a journalist, I certainly can’t scoff at a fun trend piece—but there are so many other forms of Catholicism operating in the city, with far greater numbers: Immigrant groups, socialist worker groups, old-fashioned Italian and Irish cradle Catholics. It’s a mistake to overstate the trads’ influence, or even to imply they’re the most interesting story in the Catholic Church right now—especially in New York.

It would also be a mistake, however, to ignore traditional Catholics’ political power. There are degrees to trads. Some are apolitical converts or reverts, who love the “larp” of it, as Yost noted. Some choose to engage more in the church’s political wars than in partisan politics. (Yost nods to the sedevacantists, who typically think Francis is an anti-pope; they may be oddballs, yes, but they are also loud and active on social media). Some—the “rad trads”—are ready to wage the culture wars in American politics, regardless of whose civil rights are thrown under the bus. And extremism experts have been warning about them for some time.

To be fair, Yost writes with some skepticism of this crowd, especially when it comes to their perceived faith. The story links to pieces on “the housewives of white supremacy” and the “awful advent of reactionary chic.” But still, Yost urges the reader not to reject the Dimes Square trad Caths’ practice as inauthentic because “‘authentic’ internal conversion is not a Catholic demand but a Protestant one.” Instead, she says, “what Catholicism requires is adherence to disciplines and dogmas.”

She’s right that we can’t dictate who is and isn’t a Catholic by examining the authenticity of their faith. But she falls short by claiming it is, instead, a matter of rule-following. Scholars will tell you there are many ways to live out any religion, including Catholicism. Polls show that even when it comes to basic dogmatic elements, such as the literal transformation of the Eucharist, many Catholics simply shrug off the official line. Some Catholics choose to draw inspiration more from biblical teachings on tolerance and compassion. Catholics, like nearly all Christians, have chosen which elements of the faith to live by. Yost and the First Things crowd highlight a militant and rigid version of that choice, declaring it the church’s promising future.

Complete Article HERE!

With bishops like these, it’s hard to be Catholic

Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone leading a service in San Francisco. His stance against Nancy Pelosi will alienate others who are tired of U.S. clerics’ rigidity.

By Jackie Calmes

To flip the famed line from “The Godfather Part III,” just when I think I might return to the Catholic Church, they pull me back out.

“They” are the church’s archbishops and bishops, in particular those in the United States, who not only advocate for the church’s teachings against gay rights, contraception and abortion, which is their right, but also repeatedly enforce them in ways that often seem un-Christian and downright wicked. All the while, the church’s pedophilia scandal persists into a third decade because of the clerics’ coverups.

What would Jesus do? Not act like these guys.

On Monday, two weeks after the archbishop of San Francisco, the archconservative Salvatore Cordileone, ordered that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi not receive Communion because of her support for abortion rights, leaders of the Colorado Catholic Conference sent an open letter condemning state lawmakers who’d voted for an abortion-rights bill.

The Denver archbishop and three bishops admonished the lawmakers not to take Communion until they performed “public repentance” and confessed their sins to a priest. In contrast, they praised four Republican legislators who opposed the bill. Increasingly, church leaders overtly ally with the Republican Party, despite its general hostility to policies beneficial to needy people once they’re born, to immigrants and to those on death row.

The clerics’ “pro-life” actions in California and Colorado came even as Americans were reeling from news of one mass shooting and then another, including the massacre of fourth-graders. Four bishops wrote a letter to Congress calling for “reasonable gun control measures,” but where’s the muscle and outrage comparable to that against abortion rights?

Seven months ago, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a statement on the sacrament of Communion that stopped short of singling out the pro-choice President Biden for sanction, but only after much debate. While conservative bishops are often critical of the progressive pope, uncommonly so, Biden had just enjoyed a warm meeting with Pope Francis, who blessed the rosary the president routinely carries and urged him to keep taking Communion.

As Francis says, the Communion wafer that Catholics believe incorporates the body of Christ “is not a prize for the perfect.”

With the Supreme Court expected to soon issue a decision overturning abortion rights after a half-century, the divide between Catholic bishops and most rank-and-file church members is likely to widen. A majority of the justices, five, are conservative anti-abortion Catholics.

The U.S. church hierarchy isn’t exactly playing single-issue politics. Opposing gay rights as well as contraception also remain the bishops’ preoccupations, at the expense of attention to poverty, social and racial justice, and nonviolence. Those latter issues are the ones that “my” church emphasized during my first 18 years, including 12 years in Catholic schools. Then came Roe vs. Wade in 1973, and the peace-loving church turned culture warrior.

I recall Masses during which the priests directed us church-goers to use the small pencils and postcards provided in the pews to petition lawmakers against abortion. There were parish convoys to Washington to protest on the anniversary of Roe. And there were the periodic sermons, including one so graphic when I listened from the front pew with my preteen daughters that I switched parishes — and took another step in my walk away from the church.

Yet from early on, even as I accepted the church’s teachings and its authority to preach them, I privately questioned why those positions should bind the state, public officials (including the Catholics among them) and citizens of other faiths.

Again to quote Francis, speaking in this instance about LGBTQ people, “Who am I to judge?”

I’m hardly alone in my estrangement from the church. While Catholicism remains the nation’s largest religious denomination, the church has declined in membership from about a quarter of the U.S. population to roughly one-fifth. Polls consistently show that the hardline positions of so many bishops are anathema to most of their so-called flock.

The bishops may be known as shepherds, but we’re no sheep. A poll of Catholics in mid-May from the Associated Press and NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that 63% of Catholic adults said abortion should be legal in all or most cases; 68% said Roe should stand. Both percentages are in line with the views of the overall U.S. public.

Two-thirds of Catholic adults said Catholic politicians who are pro-abortion rights should not be denied Communion, and even more — 77% — said that Catholics who identify as LGBTQ should be allowed to receive Communion.

Still, a Catholic diocese in Michigan recently said its pastors should deny the sacraments, including baptism and Communion, to transgender, gay and nonbinary Catholics “unless the person has repented.” That’s rich coming from “leaders” of a church in which a disproportionate number of priests are gay.

Thank God, literally, for the dissenters like Archbishop Michael Jackels of Dubuque, Iowa, who recently said that “protecting the Earth, our common home, or making food, water, shelter, education and healthcare accessible, or defense against gun violence… these are life issues too.”

It’s priests like him, and the sentiments they espouse, that entice me to return to the church. Yet there are just too few like him among the men in charge. The self-righteous Cordileones are setting the tone, in religion and politics. And they keep pulling me back out.

Complete Article HERE!

Pelosi vs. Cordileone isn’t only about abortion.

It’s about women and bishops.

The list of reasons Catholic women stopped listening to bishops is a long one.


In October 2021, Pope Francis initiated a two-year “Synod on Synodality,” aimed at finding out what Catholics and others think about the church. He may get more than he asked for.

Preliminary results indicate one thing: Women are fed up. They like Francis well enough, but they are not much interested in what bishops and priests have to say.


The latest kerfuffle between San Francisco’s Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is at the tip of a very big iceberg.

Pelosi’s perceived support of legalized abortion at the federal level collides with Catholic teaching. Hairsplitters who support her will argue that she does not support or promote or procure abortions, she simply supports current American law and works to preserve it.

Hairsplitters on Cordileone’s side will argue that because Pelosi is perceived to be, as they say, “pro-abortion,” she creates public scandal and therefore must be denied access to the Catholic sacrament of Communion. They say the Code of Canon Law trumps U.S. law.

But Pelosi and Cordileone’s battle may be seen more broadly as one battle in a decades-long disintegration of trust between women and the bishops.

Some say it all started with Pope Paul VI’s 1968 encyclical, “Humanae Vitae,” which ignored the recommendation of his own Pontifical Commission on Birth Control. Eight years after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration had approved the first oral contraceptive pill, the pope took some 7,000 words to say “no” to contraceptive measures beyond what came to be known as “natural family planning.”

Catholic women in the United States and around the world ignored the pope’s decision. You didn’t have to track sales of “the pill” to realize what was going on. Jokes about the size of Catholic families suddenly became a gauzy memory. Women were clearly listening to the opinions of the men in the pulpit, then returning to their homes to manage their private matters as they saw fit.

Once women began to bypass church teaching on birth control, they found other reasons to ignore the bishops. At the top of that list are clerical sex abuse and the subsequent episcopal cover-up. But there is also the question of allowing women to be active participants in Masses, and the ordination of women.

The 1983 Code of Canon Law decreed any layperson could perform the duties of lector and acolyte, or altar server. It took another decade before the Vatican agreed that “any layperson” included women. To this day, many bishops around the world want women kept away from the altar, despite Francis’ updates to the law that allow women to be formally installed as lectors and acolytes.

Ordaining women as priests is not a discussion the hierarchy is going to have, but ordaining women as deacons is a distinct question. Women were ordained as deacons in the early church. No matter: The naysayers connect the two orders, saying because women priests are definitively forbidden, so also are women deacons. (They overlook the fact that their logic fails. If the two orders are so connected, then the historical fact of ordained women deacons may be used to argue for women priests.)

The arguments over ordination, altar servers, lectors and birth control are all debatable, however. The definitive nature of church teaching on abortion is clear.

But all the same, for a bishop to make a public event out of a private discussion is unseemly. Before she was elected to Congress, Pelosi had five children — after the FDA approved the birth control pill. She is proud of her Catholic heritage.

Pelosi is the most powerful Democrat in the Congress. Would Cordileone, or any other bishop, prefer a non-Catholic? Or is the problem that Pelosi is female?

Complete Article HERE!