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Study says today's younger priests are like older priests of 1970s

A new sociological study of US Catholic priests has found that the views of younger priests in 2001 on many church issues were similar to those held by older priests in 1970.

It also found that priests as a whole were happier in 2001 than in 1970, that fewer were thinking of leaving the priesthood, and that fewer thought they would marry if celibacy became optional.

On the other hand, it found that priests in 2001 were more concerned about overwork and unrealistic demands of lay people -- a function possibly of the fact that the Catholic population increased more than 30% during that time while "the total number of nonretired priests declined 30% to 35% between 1970 and 2001."

The results of the new study were summarised in a 30-page report, "Changing Commitments and Attitudes of Catholic Priests, 1970-2001," by Catholic University of America sociologist Dean R. Hoge and doctoral student Jacqueline E. Wenger. It was released to Catholic News Service on Monday.