(LifeSiteNews) – Amidst a crackdown on the Traditional Latin Mass, confusion on established Church teachings on sexuality, and liturgical abuses, good news has emerged for faithful American Catholics and the future of the Catholic Church.
A new study from Catholic University of America found that most new priests, those ordained after 2020, consider themselves “conservative” or “orthodox,” while there are fewer and fewer “progressive” priests.
The survey of 10,000 priests conducted by The Catholic Project represents a statistically significant amount, as there are roughly 37,000 priests in the United States.
“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 stated.
The report stated further:
Asked to describe “their views on most matters having to do with theology and doctrines” on a scale from “very progressive” to “very conservative/orthodox,” there are significant cohort differences…More than half of the priests who were ordained since 2010 see themselves on the conservative side of the scale. No surveyed priests who were ordained after 2020 described themselves as “very progressive.”
“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,'” the researchers wrote.
“Theologically ‘progressive’ and ‘very progressive’ priests once made up 68% of new ordinands. Today, that number has dwindled almost to zero,” the researchers wrote.
Priests ordained before 2002, when sexual abuse accusations began to come to the forefront, described their seminary training as “inadequate” and said “screening was not done properly.”
Priests ordained after 2002 provided comments that indicated they saw it as part of their mission to restore trust in the priesthood. “This was a time that the Church needed good men,” one respondent told The Catholic Project.
“There must be part of my vocation and my calling as a priest in this time that’s not accidental,” another said. “And the Lord intends to use me and my priesthood to help restore this and restore the trust and credibility of the priesthood for people.”
Priests also reported feeling higher levels of trust in small dioceses versus larger ones. There was also higher levels of trust when priests viewed their bishops as being of the same theological viewpoint as them. “If a priest describes himself as theologically conservative, for example, and he believes that his bishop is also theologically conservative, it is likely that he would report a high degree of trust in his bishop,” the report stated.
“In contrast, if a priest reported that he did not align with his bishop on theological matters, he would predictably report low trust in his bishop’s leadership; a similar line exists for political values,” the report stated.
The authors wrote in their conclusion:
We are witnessing a major shift in the way priests in the United States view themselves and their priesthood. Younger priests are much more likely than their older peers to describe themselves as politically conservative or moderate. Younger priests are also much more likely to see themselves as theologically orthodox or conservative than do older priests. These shifts can be a source of friction and tension, especially between younger and older priests.
Self-described liberal or progressive priests, considered both politically and theologically, have been declining with every successive cohort for more than 50 years. Self-described liberal or progressive priests have all but disappeared from the youngest cohorts of priests.
Anecdotal evidence affirms findings
The survey by The Catholic Project is affirmed also by anecdotal evidence, including the increased interest in the traditional cassock garb of priests, the demand for reverent liturgy among younger generations, and increased support for receiving the Holy Eucharist on the tongue.
The conservatism of new priests is also seen in the growth of traditional religious orders such as the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest, the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter, and the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius.
Young Catholics have also produced the “Mass of the Ages,” a popular trilogy of documentaries on the Latin Mass. Small, conservative colleges such as Thomas Aquinas College and Christendom College have continued to produce priests and other religious vocations as well. Dissident National Catholic Reporter has also taken notice, with articles about the increasing conservatism of priests and seminarians.