Priesthood suffering ‘identity crisis’

Cleric warns of ‘a crisis in the identity of the priesthood’

A leading Belfast cleric has warned that a significant number of priests are suffering an identity crisis due to the increasing demands of their vocation.

Addressing participants at the ‘Living Church’ Congress in Belfast at the weekend, Fr Timothy Bartlett said the Church was currently suffering from “a crisis in the identity of the priesthood”.

According to Fr Bartlett, “After the second Vatican Council we quite properly invested a lot our time and effort in helping the lay faithful become aware of their common vocation culture in Baptism and their particular vocation in the Church.

“However, one of the unforeseen consequences of that has been a crisis in the identity of priesthood. I know a lot of priests have felt that,” he said.

Issuing a stern caution against the dangers of clericalism, Fr Bartlett appealed to the laity to support priests and to remind the clergy of their specific and unique role in the life of the Church.

“There is a danger on the one hand of clericalising the laity and there is also a danger of the clergy becoming clericalised,” Fr Bartlett warned.

“I think the lay faithful could help priests an awful lot by encouraging us that you want us to be different in an appropriate way. I would appeal to lay people not to be afraid to remind us priests that you also want us to be Christ’s men and to help us and support us in a human way,” he urged.

Fr Bartlett also said he felt “very passionate” about fostering vocations to the priesthood.

“We shouldn’t be afraid to specifically talk to young people about a vocation to the priesthood and to religious life. I believe there are so many younger people and even some older people too who have that call and maybe just haven’t had the right encouragement or opportunity. People should feel proud of a young person who chooses to take up that call,” he said.