The share of new U.S. Catholic priests identifying as theologically “progressive” has fallen so low that the phenomenon has “all but vanished,” according to a report published Tuesday.
The 18-page report, issued Nov. 7 by The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., said that when priests were asked to describe their theological outlook on a spectrum from “very conservative/orthodox” to “very progressive,” none of those ordained after 2020 described themselves as “very progressive.”
The report included a graph showing that the proportion of priests who identified as “somewhat progressive” or “very progressive” fell from almost 70% among those ordained in 1965-1969 to less than 5% among those ordained in 2020 or later.
Researchers said there was a similar drift away from political liberalism and toward “moderate” and “conservative” positions.
“Simply put, the portion of new priests who see themselves as politically ‘liberal’ or theologically ‘progressive’ has been steadily declining since the Second Vatican Council and has now all but vanished,” the report said.
The report, entitled “Polarization, Generational Dynamics, & the Ongoing Impact of the Abuse Crisis,” presented further insights from the National Study of Catholic Priests, conducted by The Catholic Project.
The study, billed as the largest of its kind in more than 50 years, consisted of a census of bishops with 131 responses, a survey of 10,000 priests with more than 3,500 responses, and in-depth interviews with more than 100 priests….
The report also highlighted a contrast between the responses regarding political and theological outlooks. While 52% of priests surveyed described themselves as politically “conservative” or “very conservative,” 44% said they were “moderate.”
But the authors said that “the ‘moderate’ middle” had collapsed when it came to theological views.
“A full 85% of the youngest cohort describes itself as ‘conservative/orthodox’ or ‘very conservative/orthodox’ theologically, with only 14% (the smallest percentage of any cohort) describing themselves as ‘middle-of-the-road,’” they said.
“Theologically ‘progressive’ and ‘very progressive’ priests once made up 68% of new ordinands. Today, that number has dwindled almost to zero….”
From The Pillar