Friendly advice from a brother in Christ

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Chicago-area Episcopal priest George Smith offers this thoughtful and sympathetic reflection on the Roman Catholic priesthood and the current in a letter to the editor in today's Chicago Tribune:

As an Episcopal priest, I am an outsider yet close enough in vocation and tradition to offer the following observations. Although I support the idea of married priests and ordination for women, I don't think these changes would easily solve the problems facing the Catholic Church. First, basic questions must be asked about the work and expectations of Catholic clergy. Today's priests are leading parishes with thousands of members. Consider the workload of saying daily masses, visiting the sick and elderly, and presiding at countless funerals and weddings. The hours are long and the pastoral work is demanding, difficult and lonely. At the same time, these priests are put on a pedestal and expected to be holier and closer to God than anyone else. How can anyone live up to such expectations?

Smith goes on to point out higher rates of substance abuse and depression among clergy. Though Roman Catholic priests by and large love their work, every one I personally know is profoundly overworked. Though not a direct cause of this current crisis, I have to agree with Smith when he says, "The goal of a healthy, vibrant and transparent priesthood is an urgent one."