Monday, September 1, 2014

On Conservative Priests and Pope Francis

Pretty much every Catholic knows that younger priests, for reasons discussed ad nauseam, tend to skew more "conservative".

Pretty much every Catholic knows that Pope Francis, by his own honest admission, skews more "liberal".

These are broad generalizations, and I raise them only to help make a point:

I know a lot of younger clergy who have been really challenged by Pope Francis, but who have ALLOWED Francis to lead them,
who have worked hard at doing more for the poor
who have taken a hard look at their priesthood and been open to the possibility of growth
who have been open to the possibility that they need to grow
who do believe that the Holy Spirit was, in fact, behind Pope Francis' election

I raise this just to say that I did not witness this "openness" from older more "liberal" clergy with regard to Pope Benedict.


  1. It is not part of Catholic dogma that papal elections are always and directly inspired by the Holy Spirit. They are of always providential, although sometimes for inscrutable reasons.

  2. Fr why are you opening this can of worms? It is obvious that you are a fan of Pope Benedict's, and that is fine. From my experience, I don't think it is possible to label all younger priests as conservative or older priests as liberal. I was not a fan of Pope Benedict, but I had the utmost respect for him as a religous person. I have followed you for some time and really admire your dedication and honesty, so I am just a bit curious about what prompted your statement. BTW I am a huge fan of Pope Francis. His humbleness is inspiring to me.

    1. why I'm opening this can of worms is not something that I am required to share. I did, based on experiences, feel it needed to be shared.

      I still remember watching priests and religious sisters walk out of the TV room at St. Meinrad when Pope Benedict was elected, and they were downcast and didn't even applaud. I haven't experienced that same reaction from younger clergy with Pope Francis, and I felt, based on some things that I've experienced recently, that it needed to be said.

    2. Fr. John,

      I have followed your blog for some time and enjoy reading your posts not because I always agree with them but because they often give me food for thought.

      As one of the "older" and somewhat more "liberal" priest I am not sure I agree with your assessment. I think some of my generation of priests felt that the final years of the pontificate of St. John Paul II and the pontificate of Pope Benedict moved the Church away from their understanding of Vatican II, but to say they were not open to either's leadership in the Church is a broad generalization. I think history will prove that in many ways they were the right men for the right time. I also know from much discussion of my generational brothers that overall we were accepting if not pleased with the pontificate of Benedict. Does that mean we always agreed with everything he did and said? Certainly not, but the fact that we questioned and offered other points of view did not mean we did not accept his leadership. Just as I am sure there are priests who question something Pope Francis says or does without intending to question his leadership.

      I agree with Fr. PJM's comment about the Holy Spirit guiding papal elections and the Church. Why John Paul II? Why Benedict XVI? Why Francis? God knows! And I think all of us would do well to keep our focus on what unites us as Catholics rather than what divides us. Healthy, respectful dialogue helps the Church.


      Fr. Tom Clegg (I had to publish this as anonymous because I don't know how else to send it. And I'm not THAT old!)

    3. I didn't suggest that they questioned his leadership, but that they weren't as open to what Benedict was doing.

      I'm simply noting that younger priests are labeled as "rigid" but I think the younger clergy that I know inspire me by their openness to Francis, and I saw a lot more rigidity from older clergy with regard to Benedict than I have from younger guys with Francis. I guess I want to affirm the younger guys for that.

      In response to this post, a priest of the Archdiocese relayed to me that when the clergy of Indianapolis watched together on TV the naming of Pope Benedict, there was a gasp and hardly any applause. I saw the same thing from an older priests and some religious at St. Meinrad. I cheered and rang the bells at Annunciation not because I cared about what direction Francis was going to lead but because we had a new pope

  3. The liberal priests reaction to your post proves your point! Thank you for being so honest.