Wednesday, 29 June 2016



Would I advise any young man in 2016 to join the Catholic priesthood?

That is an interesting and complex question.

The first question we need to ask ourselves when answering this question is: "What is the Catholic priesthood meant to be"?

The second question is: "What is the Catholic priesthood like today as things stand"?

And then we can answer that question: "Would I (we) advise a young man of today to join that priesthood"?


The answer to this question is simple. A Catholic priest is meant to be "another Jesus" or as we used to say in the old days - an alter Christus.

By being another Jesus I DO NOT mean that a Catholic priest is meant to be "godly" or indeed "sinless". No purely human being can be this day. Only Jesus, we Christians believe, was 100% God and 100% man. 

The rest of us are only 100% human.

But there were some very distinguishing things about Jesus - The Priest - that we human priests must be if we want to be genuine priests.

Jesus was a man of faith - absolute faith in His Heavenly Father. Priests, more than ever before must have a strong faith and a strong belief.

It may surprise some people to know that there are a great number of priests who DO NOT have faith - who are virtual agnostics or atheists. Some of them went into the priesthood for the wrong reasons - to please Mammy; to have a reasonably well paid and secure job with stability; to achieve community status etc. 

In the course of my 40 years in the priesthood and 46 years in the Church I have met quite a number of priests who have told me that they have no faith or that they have lost their faith and are only staying in the priesthood because they have nowhere else to go!

This situation leads to a sterile and useless priesthood and such men are doing both themselves and their communities intense harm. Quite simply they do not belong in the priesthood. They are like policemen who no longer believe in the law.

PRAYER: Jesus - The Priest - built his life and ministry around prayer. He would often sneak away from the crowds to be alone with the Father. 

A priest MUST BE a man of prayer.

Again I have met many priests who have told me that they do not pray. Of course if you no longer believe why would you pray?

COMPASSIONATE SERVICE: A priest - a good priest - should see himself fundamentally as a SERVANT. Essentially a priest is not the centre figure in a community or the leader of the community. He MUST BE a SERVANT of that community.

And that means 24/7 service. 

The modern Catholic priesthood has morphed into a "profession" - like law or medicine.

Essentially the priesthood is NOT a profession. It is, as they would say in Downton Abbey - "going into service". 

Priests should gravitate to and be surrounded by the world's outcasts - as Jesus was - the poor, the non respectable, the prostitutes, the tax collectors and the "sinners".

I challenge you to call on any modern Catholic presbytery or rectory today and you'll find a distinct lack of outcasts about the place and a real presence pf the blue rinse brigade.  

As a retreat master said of many priests: "HE WENT OUT TO DO GOOD - AND HE DID WELL".


The Catholic priesthood has become in too many respects a middle class "profession".

The priest has become the lord and master and not the servant.

Over the 20 centuries the Church has moved away from being the Family of God and the Community of Believers to being a multinational with bishops are area managers and priests as branch managers. 

What used to be about service has now become about power, control, money and property. 

The priest is part of the establishment that controls the people and no longer a servant of the people. 

The priesthood has been severely infected with worldliness, cynicism, careerism, capitalism and "professional advancement".


The modern Catholic priesthood is skewed by the Church's medieval approach to sexuality and by the imposition of a compulsory celibacy that is not working.

This has turned many priests into "deviants" - that is - being one thing in private and pretending to be a totally different thing in public.

This brings its own type of spiritual and psychological schizophrenia with it.  Many, if not most priests are sexually and emotionally immature people who are being forced to live double lives. This situation is destructive of mature person-hood.

As a result priests become involved in illicit relationships with women and men. They abuse power. They drink or gamble too much. They become addicted to golf. And a very small percentage of them sexually abuse women, men and children. 


The modern Catholic priesthood is like a packet of cigarettes and should carry the following health warning:


It would take a very grounded, very mature, very strong young man to resist all the pitfalls of the modern Catholic priesthood.

Maybe, if they are not super strong, they should think of the following:





  1. Yes it does take great maturity and deep faith to be an effective priest. There is an underlying hostility and distrust of the Church in many quarters. Mostly though there is a widespread indifference to matters of faith in general. Ireland has a cultural Catholicism, not one of deeply held conviction, even among some clergy. It takes a man of very strong faith not to be affected by the indifference often palpably present at baptisms, weddings , funerals, first communions, confirmations. A man could quite easily succumb to being a mere functionary whose main motivation is to enjoy a comfortable livelihood with lots of free time.

  2. I should be extremely reluctant to encourage any young man to become a Catholic priest, simply because theology of priesthood, as it currently stands, is more likely to damage his soul rather than serve it.

    St John Vianney (the Curé of Ars) offers a potted, and highly sentimental, version of
    that theology: "Oh how great is the priest...God obeys him...Without the sacrament of
    Holy Orders, we would not have the Lord...And if the soul should happen to die (as a
    result of sin), who will raise it up? Again the priest. After God, the priest is everything!"

    If any young man were to take this self-aggrandising, clericalist claptrap to heart, I
    should greatly fear for the future welfare of his soul.

    Vianney was no intellectual, and it shows. The kind of priestly self-regard that he encouraged lay behind every attempt to cover up sexual abuse of children, and every
    arrogant refusal by Church hierarchs of requests for transparency. In fact, such
    phrases as "alter Christus" (which I utterly reject) express Vianney's self-lionising
    concept of priestood in a nutshell.

    A priest does not command God, and God does not obey him. Without Holy Orders we would still have the Lord, just as the ancient Jews had him before the Incarnation.
    The Kingdom of Heaven is within everyone. As Jesus said this, it must, therefore, be true. And as the kingdom expressions (Kingdom of Heaven, Kingdom of God) in
    Aramaic literally mean "God's sovereign presence", then God himself (including the Lord) is had by all...without any priestly activity.

    Vianney, and his kind, would have priests made a privileged people, a caste set above everyone else. Effectively, a class of untouchables. How could any young man
    thinking of priesthood and aware of such inflated notions of it remain unaffected by this worldly s***e?

    1. More pastors and fewer witch doctors or wizards.

  3. Magna Carta, Thank you for your usual honesty.

    I have just celebrated 40 years of priesthood - 30 of those years OUTSIDE the institutional church.

    I find that I can live my priesthood better on the outside than on the inside of the institution - as I am not bound by Canon Law and the rules and customs / expectations of the Clerical Club.

    At 64 I do not regret my decision to be a priest and I find my ministry to be an integral part of my life.

    I agree 100% with all you say about the caste.

    But I do come across some very genuine and good young men who want to be servant priests.

    What are we to say to them?

    Should we encourage them to minister independently and outside the system?

    That kind of a ministry is a lonely furrow. But it is only for the strong.


    1. BTW MC - Are you a priest?

      Just interested

    2. Bishop Pat, you are the only priest I know who fits the servant model of priesthood insisted upon by Christ himself. In this you are a light, which many of your fellow priests would have snuffed out many years ago. That
      they failed to do so is testament to the power of your bond with Jesus, the Master.

      I know there are sincere young candidates for the priesthood; I just wish they weren't so young (some of them are only teenagers...God help them!).
      When I said that I should be extremely reluctant to encourage any young man to present himself as a candidate for priesthood, I did so not because
      my confidence in priesthood is gone (it isn't; but I have no faith in current theological models of it), but because such youngsters could not possibly remain unharmed by them. Had I the power, I should refuse to ordain
      anyone under the age of 25 (preferably older).

      We need to go back to gospel basics to rediscover, not the social
      humiliation, but, paradoxically, the greatness of Christ's servant model of discipleship. For when we decrease, Christ increases in us. Now THAT is
      true greatness. But many of today's priests would rather present themselves than Christ...and it is being fostered by worldly notions of

      As to whether I myself am a priest, I respectfully, for personal reasons, must decline to answer your question.

      May our loving, forgiving and compassionate heavenly Father, continue to grace you with the wisdom, the love and the means to minister to his children whom others would callously reject.

    3. Dear Magna Carta, Thank you for your comment and comments but please understand that I am far from being the best priest I could be as I too have my weaknesses, failings, sins and limitations.

      I did tell Cahal B Daly in 1986 that my priesthood was not from him and that I would not allow him or others to take it from me.

      I agree with you about seminarians being too young. I think it is far better for them to attend university or go into the work place before ever attempting to enter the seminary.

      I think they should also experience intimate relationships during this time.

      I agree with your 25 +

      We do need a whole new THEOLOGY and SPIRITUALITY of priesthood and indeed church.

      When I look at the young guys that go into seminary at 18 or so I feel sad - thinking to myself - "There go the lambs to the slaughterhouse".

      I totally respect your own privacy :-)


  4. MourneManMichael29 June 2016 at 17:12

    Excellant analysis and recommendations Pat, and similarly to Magna C and Anon @ 14:42.

  5. Pat,
    I have just noticed a photograph of the very recent ordination of Fr James O Reilly at the church in Lagmore. It is noticeable that in the group photo of clergy taken at the ceremony that there are very very few older priests.
    What is the reason for that. Is it that they cannot watch another young man throwing his future away and that with time he will become just like them,cynical and disheartened. Or are they all away out for the evening with their girlfriends/boyfriends or is it simply that they just couldn't give a flying f**k.

    1. Perhaps they have gone the way of the dinosaurs and are all dead.

  6. The Priesthood is the highest calling but Maynooth destroys vocations. It is rotten to the core.

    1. I believe it is wrong to call the priesthood "the highest vocation". There would be no priests were it not for the vocation of parenthood.

      The priest is the servant of the servants of God.

      We need to stop exhalting priesthood to godly heights.

      No servant is greater than his master.

      The people of God are our masters and mistresses.

    2. Well spoken, Bishop Pat. I should have expected no other comment from you. You did not disappoint.

  7. Fanny Mullaney gets rid of any seminarian who is catholic

  8. Not in Ireland.

  9. I have to say that after 35 years of ordination, I would be most reluctant to recommend to a young man that he become a priest. And, if I were that age again, I hope that I would have the sense to think twice about becoming a priest.

    That will shock people, I am sure. I am not bitter and twisted, I have not had horrendous experiences at the hands of bishops and the Church authorities, I have had some wonderful ministries, and hopefully have done some good. But, what stands out more than anything to me about priesthood as it is configured today is the inherent damaging and unhealthy lifestyle and expectations of the priesthood, and in particular the requirement of celibacy which leads to lonliness, dysfunction and emotional and psychological damage.

    I work closely with clergy of other denominations in ministry, and am struck by the comparison between my RC colleagues and non-Catholic collegues. The latter present as much more grounded, level, stable and mature in all aspects than do the vast majority of my brother RC priests. The odd culture in which we require our priests to live makes them immature, selfish and stunted. Lack of meaningful relationships, family, children, looking after a home, looking after expenses, concerning oneself with children and family - all these things make RC priests poorer, not richer.

    Until the RC Church comes up with a model of priesthood that is enabling rather than hobbling, I would not recommend a young man to offer himself for ministry. He is risking too much that is too valuable.

    1. Fr, what an honest comment.

      I agree with you that it is nearly impossible to recommend young men to the priesthood without a whole new approach to Church, priesthood, celibacy, sexuality etc.

    2. MourneManMichael1 July 2016 at 00:44

      A well informed insightful and thought provoking comment.
      Thank you for that.
      From your comment I think that despite the inherent contradictions and conflicts in your work, you are certainly a force for good, and I wish you well.

  10. I attended a vocations wk.end many years ago in drumallis retreat house . I entered on a Friday wanting to be a priest and I left on Sunday wanting to be anything but a priest . I met the vocations director who had the worst attitude I've ever encountered he thought he was god himself . I met a few other priests who tried to act hip and (down with the kids) it was quite embarrassing, like watching ur dad dance to ur music . The only genuine priest I met was bishop Walsh and by that I mean he was genuinely miserable. The other young men I met were either toffee nosed morons or camp queens . I spent the wk.end listening to a load of meaningless prayers which ment nothing to me nor to them either they were just bashing them out for the sake of it . I returned home and spoke to my then p.p and he more or less told me he was glad I saw sence

    1. I'm not surprised you had that experience. Others have had similar.

      Lets just call it a total lack of authenticity.

      At least you were not targeted by anyone for inappropriate activities.

      Hope you have done well in Civvy Street.

    2. I'm not surprised you had that experience. Others have had similar.

      Lets just call it a total lack of authenticity.

      At least you were not targeted by anyone for inappropriate activities.

      Hope you have done well in Civvy Street.

    3. Thankfully I was left to my own devices . I did ok stayed in the job I was already in and managed to keep my faith but I'm no longer a roman catholic

    4. I am glad you did ok. I'm also glad you have managed to keep a faith in God. The RC institution is more and more irrelevant.

  11. Priesthood is a vocation. A gift and call from God. Once bitten the bug is impossible to shake off. Sadly society and circumstances have stifled many a good young man's call. This to me is one of the real modern demons. In my current parish I can still preach on rota on a Sunday morning. This gives me some form of affirmation and sanity. I do not believe I could do this in Eire. Vocations to Priesthood still exist but need a place like the Oratory to grow safely. I wonder about all the lads who have left and can only surmise a flickering light has been dampened down

    1. Sean, As I hope you know you can minister at The Oratory anytime and FOR The Oratory anytime - in UK, Eire etc.

    2. Agree Sean. Priesthood is a vocation and you can never get it out of your system. Cessed functioning as a priest in the seventies after a disastrous encounter with Mgr Mullally and lack of support from fellow priests. Never been laicised because once a priest always a priest. I never wanted to leave and was very troubled for many years afterwards.

      I deserved a period of penance and prayer for my many sins and would have availed of such but it wasn't offered. The only offer was 'leave and now'.

      Some tout, I suspect a fellow priest but still don't know for sure, had reported me and I can only assume exaggerated what was happening in my life. I admit I was struggling, but I was still praying and celibate.

      Only for my parents I would have ended under a bus in London. When my mother died I cleared the house and in the small hours of the morning I celebrated mass in front of her coffin on my own. Not very liturgical but I know she was with me in spirit.

      I am married with three children and as happens at 70, I am now celibate and embracing it. Lately, I have started going back to Mass in a parish with a priest who lives what he preaches.

      I would love to be able to fill in for him the odd time.

    3. A very thought provoking comment.

      The story of Mass for youd deceased Mum is most touching. You would be welcome to celebrate at The Oratory. Pat.

  12. Good to know Pat Thank you. I'm in Manchester

  13. Dear Fr I can identify with much of what you say. I'm sure Church of England might be a possibility as a Self Supporting or Ordained Local Minister. Like me age would be a factor but not necessarily a barrier. Pat is also offering a great possibility

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