The Italian Almanac

priest's collar

Drifting Priests

A top Vatican cardinal complained that Catholic priests are becoming worldlier, less obedient and increasingly reluctant to wear a cassock. Absorbing the values of western society, priests are also less and less interested in prayer and community living and more interested in personal freedom, said Cardinal Franc Rode'.

''A drift towards bourgeois values and moral relativism are the two great dangers that weaken religious life,'' said Rode', who heads the Vatican department which governs monks, nuns and priests not attached to parishes. The often-cited fall in vocations to the priesthood was actually not the main worry, the Slovenian prelate continued, noting that in 2006 vocations fell only 0.7%.

''The biggest problem today is the climate of secularisation present not only in western society but also within the Church itself,'' he said. Without citing any names or specific episodes, Rode' listed a number of ways in which this change was visible among priests and members of religious communities. They were: ''Freedom without constraints, a weak sense of the family, a worldly spirit, low visibility of religious clothing, a devaluation of prayer, insufficient community life and a weak sense of obedience''.