Study Finds that Most Catholic Priests are Happy and Appreciate Celibacy
one's reported relationship with God was strongly predictive of happiness as well. Again, there was a strong correlation (r=.53).
So we see our spiritual life as being a powerful contributor both to inner peace and personal happiness.If there is so much violence and unhappiness in our world today, where does it come from?
My findings suggest that we will never find the inner peace and joy that we are searching for until we find a personal relationship with God. Most of our priests have found such a relationship, and they are happy men because of it.
ZENIT: Could you say something about the role of interpersonal relationships -- with family, friends, cohorts, or parishioners -- in a priest's happiness?
Monsignor Rossetti: There were several surprising findings in the research, which upon reflection, made perfect sense.
For example, I ran another multiple regression equation and asked what was the strongest predictor of one's relationship with God, that is, what variable most likely contributes to a positive relationship to God. The response was clear: having close friends (the correlation was a strong r=.46).
Developing a healthy relationship with others helps us to connect with God.
Many times Jesus himself spoke of love of God and love of neighbor as two sides of the same coin. Or, as the Scriptures tell us, "For whoever does not love a brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen."
And the statistical results confirmed this Gospel teaching: To love our neighbors and to build a charitable relationship with friends, family and neighbors helps us to love God, and vice versa. All of these are important in becoming happy people.
Isolation causes unhappiness. We are meant to be connected with others.
The good news here is that the vast majority of priests -- over 90% -- reported having solid friendships with other priests and with the laity.
One of the great joys and supports for the life of a priest is his connections with others.The secular notion that priests are lonely, isolated men is simply not true.
Indeed, priestly happiness has been rising over the past several years and will likely rise even higher. In my research only 3.1% of priests were even thinking of leaving the priesthood. Given the enormous pressure on priesthood today and the many real challenges facing these men, this is remarkable.
ZENIT: What about celibacy? How does it relate to a priest's happiness?
Monsignor Rossetti: This was also an interesting finding. Those priests who felt called by God to live a celibate life and who experienced celibacy as a personal grace, despite its challenges, were much more likely to be happy men. The correlation between this positive view of celibacy and priestly happiness was a strong r=.47.
The good news here is that over 75% of priests have found celibacy to be a positive part of their lives. This percentage is likely to rise even higher in the future. It is the youngest priests who most strongly support mandatory celibacy.
So, contrary to a secular mentality, support for priestly celibacy will likely rise in the future among priests in the United States. It is disappearing as a "hot button" issue among priests in the United States.
But this is challenging. It is one thing to accept celibacy as a necessary part of a priest's life, but it requires a much deeper level of spirituality to experience celibacy as a gift from God and a personal grace. It requires a depth of living that is profound.
As I sit back and reflect upon the findings of this study, I find myself inspired by the commitment and spiritual vitality of these priests' lives.This is the real truth underlying the findings of the study: Our priests are happy and holy men.
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