When professional Catholics burn out

Midway through 2018, I was packing to give a talk to a group of Catholics. Glancing at my phone, I saw what lay ahead: delayed flights through four cities, an arrival long after midnight, jet lag, a meet-and-greet, the talk with a Q. and A. afterwards, and a 4 a.m. wake-up call the next day to make my way home. Then I would have to get up and teach three classes back-to-back and scramble to meet several writing deadlines. I nearly threw my phone across the room.

Public speaking opportunities for Catholic women like myself are rare, and I do not take them for granted, but after many years of writing about difficult issues in Catholicism, ranging from immigration and abuse to homophobia and sexism, I was having an increasingly difficult time giving talks about how the church can do better without throwing up my hands and telling the audience they would have to fix things themselves.

Advertisement

In spite of creeping feelings of cynicism, I was still going to Mass, still Catholic in spite of years of bruising revelations about the church and still friends with many other Catholics. I was still writing prolifically, juggling multiple speaking engagements with a full-time job teaching. But I was also exhausted, snarky and constantly feeling a sense of impostor syndrome. I soon realized: I was not burned out from Catholicism; I was burned out from being a professional Catholic.

This phenomenon is not new. The psychologist Christina Maslach has studied burnout since the 1980s and wrote the book Burnout: The Cost of Caring, which focuses on jobs that require a great deal of emotional labor, like those in education, counseling and health care. Ms. Maslach eventually designed a “burnout inventory,” to measure how badly an employee has burned out. The qualifiers for burnout include emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, feelings of incompetence, cynicism and a dwindling sense of professional efficacy.

Those who burn out are often highly skilled and specially trained. This can include people who work as doctors and nurses, but it also extends to people whose faith and professional life are intimately combined. For this group, the challenge can be particularly acute, because often the commitment to faith that compels a person to work for or on behalf of the church—whether studying and teaching theology, writing about the church or serving in its social services arm—suffers when this work becomes overwhelming. A challenging workplace can result in a desire to distance oneself from those things associated with it, even the church itself, thus potentially distancing a person from the very coping mechanisms or community that could help weather the storm. The church is a global community, but after years working for it, it can start to feel like you are stuck in one small corner.

Thomas Plante, a professor of psychology at Santa Clara University, has worked for decades with both members of the clergy and lay Catholics who are suffering from burnout. Dr. Plante says that for many lay Catholics who want to work for the church because of their strong faith, a close-up look at the church’s flaws can plant the seeds of cynicism that may lead to burnout. Some work closely with the clergy for the first time and see that clerics can have “some very human problems,” like anger management, pornography addiction, sexual abuse or alcoholism. Dr. Plante also says that because of basic lifestyle differences that accompany the vows of celibacy, obedience or poverty, members of the clergy who supervise lay employees may not fully appreciate “what the life of a lay person may be like” when it comes to issues like the financial stresses of child care and responsibility for a mortgage. Dr. Plante said this push and pull between an idealized view of the church and what happens when people go to work for it can create circumstances in which lay employees who “feel like they’ve made a sacrifice in order to work for the church” can feel “pretty devastated” when the institutional church turns out to have deeper problems than they may have imagined.

The Roots of Catholic Burnout

I am not alone in my Catholic burnout. Over the course of a month, I interviewed a variety of lay Catholics, including theologians, catechists, volunteers, Catholic nonprofit staff members and church staff who volunteered to talk to me about their own cases of burnout. I chose to focus on lay Catholics instead of members of the clergy, not because clergy people do not experience burnout—from all evidence, they do so with some frequency—but because they often have access to church-funded resources, ranging from therapy and spiritual direction to retreats to sabbaticals, which are not always readily available or affordable for the rest of us.

I was not burned out from Catholicism; I was burned out from being a professional Catholic.

I am using pseudonyms for those I have interviewed, so they could speak more freely. Although they were experiencing burnout, they also needed and in many cases wanted to hold on to their jobs. Ms. Maslach’s research shows that burnout is common in fields in which people consider the work their calling. Perhaps it is unsurprising, then, that many people I spoke to are devout Catholics who have willingly given years of their lives to the church. But loving the church and working for it can be entirely different matters.

In secular settings, burnout is often the result of overwork. The same can be true for Catholic employees. Employees in both settings might be constrained by tight budgets, which leads to more multitasking; and as a result, employees hired and trained for one job may find themselves responsible for several. But the structure of the Catholic Church can add additional layers of complication. A top-down, clerical-heavy structure can also be present in some Catholic job environments, which can cause lay employees to feel that their voices are not heard or respected.

But burnout is more than a human resources issue, it can be a contributing factor to pushing people away from a faith they once loved.

Bob, a convert to Catholicism who worked for a large diocese as a youth minister, says that he was at one point asked to overhaul the campus ministries for the entire diocese. In the beginning, Bob says, he was able to make the mission a collaborative effort among the students and lay staff he worked with. But he felt that many clergy members adopted a paternalistic attitude. Bishops treated priests like their children, and priests in turn “started treating their parishioners as kids.” Bob adds that there was a lack of connection between clergy and lay employees that manifested itself in unexpected ways. When his daughter needed braces on her teeth, he was told it was not covered by the diocesan health plan because her dental problems “were caused by bad behavior, like thumb sucking,” and that the diocese “shouldn’t have to pay for your kids’ bad behavior.”

Burnout is more than a human resources issue, it can be a contributing factor to pushing people away from a faith they once loved.

After that incident, Bob soon began to feel a strong sense of cynicism, one of the hallmarks of burnout. He began avoiding the office and spending most of his time at the Newman centers he was working with, and eventually he took a job in Protestant ministry and left the Catholic Church, returning to the Seventh Day Adventist tradition in which he was raised. When I asked if things were different working in Protestant ministry, he strongly affirmed this. In all his years working for the Catholic diocese, he says, “not one of my bosses and my supervisors really asked about my family.”

Developing appropriate work/life boundaries can be hard for people working in Catholic organizations. Dave, now in his 30s, who was raised Catholic, worked as the principal of a Catholic high school for several years. The job of principal was at times overwhelming, yet he initially attributed this to “just the cost of the cross.” But he also noted that it felt like “getting the crap kicked out of you” every day. The high school was located in a small town, and sometimes he would drive an hour away for groceries to avoid running into demanding parents or students during his time off.

Dave is now a youth minister for a large diocese, so he is out in the field nearly every day, meeting people for mentorship and accompaniment and organizing events, and thus spends only a day or two a week in the diocesan office. He enjoys it, but sometimes feels he cannot quite disconnect from it. The people above him do not always seem to understand what his position takes out of him, and he has had little to no communication with them about this.

As a lay minister, Dave says that “being close to Christ is crucial for what I do. If I can’t do that, it’s impossible to do my job.” But the diocese he works for does not offer time off for a retreat and has no resources for lay employees seeking spiritual direction. The average length of employment of a lay minister in his diocese, according to Dave, is about a year and a half. At that point, Dave says, exhausted and demoralized, they burn out and quit.

Some organizations seem to accept that burnout is part of the deal.

Some organizations seem to accept that burnout is part of the deal. Amy works for a large Catholic nonprofit. She is from a Catholic family, attended a Catholic college and lived in an intentional community, where she did volunteer work. After graduating, she hoped to “continue doing work that was good for the world,” so when a position opened up at a homelessness prevention call center, a Catholic nonprofit, it seemed like a good fit. But Amy found that her days were mostly spent at a desk, and that listening to people’s experiences of trauma made her “leave work so angry and frustrated and exhausted.”

Her supervisors acknowledged the stress intrinsic to her work, but Amy felt the office had simply accepted that “this isn’t a job you can do forever,” since staff turnover was so high. For Amy, “it really doesn’t always feel like our employees get treated as we say we want to treat our clients,” and while the nonprofit’s mission is about charity and compassion, she feels she has not always been treated with either. The nonprofit serves large numbers of clients; but, Amy says, “we’re putting out numbers at the expense of our employees’ well being and health.” Amy acknowledges that this culture of “give, give, give” is an issue at many nonprofits and social service agencies. Part of her job involves giving presentations about the organization’s good work, but given the turnover rate of employees at her organization and the way she feels she has been treated at the office, she often feels like a fraud.

Burnout Among Catholic Academics

Although the life of a college professor may seem cushy from the outside, academics often feel pulled in multiple directions. On top of teaching classes and grading assignments, they are also required to write, publish, advise students, direct dissertations, serve on committees and do service work. Lay theology faculty members at Catholic colleges and universities are also sometimes expected to act as de facto ministers to students seeking spiritual guidance, maintain a courteous relationship with the religious orders who run their schools, give talks in local churches and develop a relationship with the school’s diocese. They also have to grapple with declining enrollment in religious studies as a discipline, and with feeling that their voices are not always heard in the upper levels at their schools.

Although the life of a college professor may seem cushy from the outside, academics often feel pulled in multiple directions.

For Deborah, teaching ethics and moral theology and doing public programming in theology at her Catholic college have been “very, very deeply” affected by the disillusionment many young Catholics feel about the church today, which she frequently sees reflected in her students. Among her students, she says, “Catholic social teaching is utterly unknown,” which means she must work to weave more background about it into her classes. She also works on projects involving faculty members from other departments and thus serves as a kind of theological translator between her students and fellow faculty members. This might be less of a challenge if she did not feel so discouraged by the church herself.

“Being Catholic and being able to speak about Catholic things—that’s part of my livelihood,” she says. It is also part of her identity. Still, Deborah feels anger over sexual abuse by members of the clergy and over what she sees as church leaders’ failure to take a stand for the marginalized during the 2016 presidential election, among other issues. She describes her involvement in the church right now as “very fraught.” Even after 20 years as a professor, she worries that her employers at her college would not welcome her “pushing, criticizing and nudging toward the kind of reform that I think is needed.” Deborah’s burnout is fueled by the fact that she feels her job requires her to be a booster for the church, but she has lost the capacity to do that.

Is There a Solution for Burnout?

At the end of my interviews, I asked each person what he or she saw as solutions to the kind of burnout they have felt. Deborah mentioned she might find hope in convening Catholics who work in different kinds of ministries and organizations for networking, collaboration and support. She believes this might forge relationships that could help prevent burnout. Bob said that “the tradition really needs to affirm the gifts of the employees that work for it and involve them in decision making” in order to avoid burnout—in lay ministers particularly. Dave sees burnout as a spiritual crisis that requires a spiritual solution: “We have to do more for the spiritual lives of our lay employees. Because, to me, the biggest reason why most people get burnout is just a lack of like a real, solid, spiritual life.”

To me, the biggest reason why most people get burnout is just a lack of like a real, solid, spiritual life.

Amy remarks that part of the problem is the way Catholic nonprofit employees in particular see their work. “There is a danger in the way we talk about vocation,” she says, “because when we tie vocation to job, it makes it so that people give so much to their job.” Amy also sees many people drawn to Catholic nonprofit work as “being set up for burnout” and says nonprofits should look to secular models where there is more collaboration and mentoring of future leaders.

Dr. Thomas Plante proposes that, from a psychological perspective, burnout requires a series of solutions. Employees need to have “reasonable expectations” of their employers, especially when it comes to working for members of the clergy, and understanding that their employers have “human issues and problems.” He also says that employers and employees alike need to have reasonable boundaries around work hours and expectations. He says this is increasingly difficult because of technology, but it needs to be talked about more to avoid exploitation and resentment. Third, both lay employees and clerics need to understand that when it comes to communications, “your emergency is not my emergency” and set boundaries around that. Finally, Dr. Plante says, church work is stressful in general, because employees and volunteers are encountering people during major life events. All of us need to find ways to “be gentle with one another, and take care of one another.” Ultimately, he adds, it is also O.K. to realize that working for the church is not for everybody, even if it at first seemed to be a calling, just like working a dream job in tech, sports or entertainment might not turn out to be as ideal as it first seemed.

For some church employees, discovering a solution to burnout is simply a matter of time, communication and negotiation. Ann, who works on staff at a parish, found herself in a stressful situation when her priest boss went on sabbatical. Ann was left juggling “a multitude of funerals” and trying to find priests to cover them, talking to the families, planning the liturgies and just doing more and more work that she was not being paid for. She was also in graduate school, and the stress bled into her family life. When her boss returned, however, he saw the stress she was under.

Ann was open with her boss and explained she would need some things to change for her to stay at her job.

Ann was open with her boss and explained she would need some things to change for her to stay at her job. She asked for two weeks sabbatical to go on a silent retreat, help finding a spiritual director and a conversation about work boundaries. She received all of these things, and as a result, has been able to stay at the parish and has begun to also do some freelance writing and leading of retreats. Ann’s experience might not be commonplace; but it does demonstrate that with some give and take and open lines of communication, lay church employees can find ways to achieve a better work/life balance.

The church might also take a page from worker-owned collectives, for example, where employees have a greater sense of self-agency. Even at some corporate jobs, human resources professionals recommend simple changes like adjusted workloads, company-sponsored stress relief workshops, mandated vacations and frequent and honest communication to ameliorate symptoms of burnout. It is unlikely that the Catholic Church would abandon its entire structure for the sake of its workers, but it might at least consider deliberately implementing some of these strategies if it hopes to hold on to them as employees, and as Catholics.

For me, the solution to burnout has been mostly to do a little less writing and a lot less public speaking and traveling, but that is a privilege afforded by my second career in academia. Many of my fellow Catholic journalists, and most of the people I interviewed for this essay cannot afford to be that choosy. But my ability to say no and to turn down assignments, honed in hours with a therapist who saw evidence of my burnout the moment I walked through the door and opened my mouth, always comes with a heaping side serving of Catholic guilt. As Sister Frances told my freshman class in high school, shouldn’t I always be willing to do more, give more, to give until I have no more to give? Perhaps. But perhaps those of us who serve the church in a professional capacity can do more, and do better, when we have a handle on our mental and physical health. The high cost of burnout can ultimately be the loss of both.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
Rhett Segall
1 month 3 weeks ago

Kaya, your experience and those you reference reminds me of this anecdote about Carl Jung: A patient called and asked for a session. "Sorry" Jung said. "I have to see someone else." Shortly afterwards the patient sees Jung relaxing at the beach. "You said you had to see a client!" the patient said, indignantly. "I do", Jung replied."It's me."! Perhaps the story of John XXlll fits in here too. When the needs of the Church seemed overwhelming to him he would pray at night: "Lord, it's your Church. I'm going to sleep."

Pancho Mulongeni
1 month 3 weeks ago

How beautiful Rhett. Though we don't see eye to eye on the LGBT question, here we find common ground.

Rhett Segall
1 month 3 weeks ago

Thank you Pancho. As Christians we always need to return to our "common ground."

Thomas Ruda
1 month 3 weeks ago

Kaya, Excellent article! I have worked for the Church for several years and have burned out during one of these jobs. I left the job when this happened and found work in the secular world for many years. In 2009 I was asked to come back into this work as a Pastoral Associate. My response to the priest who asked me was (while laughing at him) "Why would I want to do that? I know what it's like and all the problems associated with working for the Church." He insisted he wanted me for the job and gave me 1 month to think about it. Every day of that month I knew my answer would be no. On the last day, I got up and was ready to tell him no. I met with him and ended up saying yes. I realized the Holy Spirit moves us into places where we don't want to go but need to enter. I am grateful for my experience and now continue to work as a Prison Chaplain. Talk about jumping into the proverbial fire..the Fire of the Holy Spirit that is. We are needed to help the Church, and the world, become more human and loving. But it certainly costs us. I have found it is well worth the cost.

Greg Krohm
1 month 3 weeks ago

Great article. I am sending to several friends in church ministries.

Tom Poelker
1 month 3 weeks ago

This comes from an ex-seminarian, former Catholic Charities employee, former orphanage chaplain, one-time Newman house employee with a personally funded graduate theological degree.

What I notice as missing in this account is any sense of lay ministers being members of a community rather than individuals employed by an institution. From the beginning, Christianity and its liturgy have been communal experiences where members support each other in the difficult task of following Jesus. Yet our lay ministers struggle alone.

What I observed on some of my jobs was that bosses were very interested in following best practices in their businesses but not in knowing or loving their Christian employees.

Catholic bosses seem unaware of Papal teaching on how to treat employees. Our Human Rights Office was shut down when it pointed out that school employees had a right to have a union according to papal teaching. I had a pastor reject a specific missal rubric with a blithe, "We don't do it that way, here." If lay ministers cannot even appeal to church documents, of course they will be ground down and frustrated.

Without a supportive community, with individual church employees struggling alone with the institution, with clerics more interested in being seen as good managers than as good Christians, what is to be expected from the conscientious other than burn out and possible departure from the church.

John Mack
1 month 3 weeks ago

I was thinking along those lines but decided not to say it. My thought was that there needs to be lay pastoral Congregations for church workers so they can listen to each other and support each other and have a spiritual director and an advisor from outside the church structure. Such groups exist in the Episcopal church. When I taught in a school for HS school drop-outs/the expelled we had a psychologist and psychiatrist to consult monthly in group sessions that dealt with limits, problem solving, mutual caring and support. We also role played interactions with difficult students. Role playing with difficult/patronizing bosses would help too. we were collectively managed so we had ways to cope with problems in relationshios but no one could talk to anyone as a "superior."

John Mack
1 month 3 weeks ago

“Catholic social teaching is utterly unknown.” She made this comment in regard to students. I was once asked by a priest College president,"What is Catholic social teaching?" I laid it out briefly, as simply as possible. It was all news to him.

rose-ellen caminer
1 month 3 weeks ago

The most outrageous thing I've ever read about the US Catholic diocese is what I just read; that a diocese would deny insurance for a child's braces on the grounds that thumb sucking caused a child to need braces[not true]and that thumb sucking is" bad behavior" on the part of a toddler, child, and the diocese should not pay for such "bad behavior"on the part of a toddler, child!! I can not believe what I read! How any adult could use the words "bad behavior" , regarding thumb sucking by a child just boggles my mind. As does denying an insurance payment on that ridiculous claim. This has angered and upset me more then all the exposes about clergy sexual abuse and cover up; which as bad as that is, at some level I can empathize with and understand, even;it's at a level of human weakness and fallibility so to speak.But this attitude,this absurdity is beyond the pale and just provokes anger and outrage on my part. It does change how I regard the catholic church here in the US,now.It's beyond paternalism, I don't know what it is, utter stupidity, shear callousness, right wing Puritanism, what?That anyone could think this way, is a mind boggling offensive.This is how Catholic clergy in positions of responsibility, pastoral concern for their flock, actually think and talk?!

Carla Eble
1 month 3 weeks ago

My father was a pastoral associate. If our pastor would have permitted him to be paid through the diocese program, our family could have received health care coverage. Instead, he decided to maintain complete control over parish employee pay and the parish didn't offer healthcare for lay employees. In order for my father to continue working for the Church, my mother had to secure a job that provided the family healthcare coverage. The pastor openly and consistently complained that my father should not be making more than he did although as a single man whose housing, retirement, and healthcare was provided for, all his income was essentially discretionary for him. Am I still mad?

Carla Eble
1 month 3 weeks ago

My father was a pastoral associate. If our pastor would have permitted him to be paid through the diocese program, our family could have received health care coverage. Instead, he decided to maintain complete control over parish employee pay and the parish didn't offer healthcare for lay employees. In order for my father to continue working for the Church, my mother had to secure a job that provided the family healthcare coverage. The pastor openly and consistently complained that my father should not be making more than he did although as a single man whose housing, retirement, and healthcare was provided for, all his income was essentially discretionary for him. Am I still mad?

Oz Jewel
1 month 3 weeks ago

“Come to me, all you who labour and are burdened, and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves.
For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”

Burnout is directly caused by doing work not allocated to you by the Holy Spirit, it is carnal work and not spiritual work.
This article is a great example summing up all the unnecessary tasks mistakenly assumed to be the will of God by the self-righteous politically correct.
Go on retreat, seeks God's will for your life, and obey.

Erin B
1 month 3 weeks ago

"Go on retreat" - yeah, real easy to do when you can't get sanctioned time off to go or assistance in retreat costs. You didn't read the article very well.

Oz Jewel
1 month 3 weeks ago

this article addresses the high flier, the workaholic, the overweeningly ambitious, the persons doing too much beyond their legitimate calling.
Catholic Professionals - did you notice the headline?

Someone obliged to work so much they are collapsing are not getting "burnout" but living in a society which allows such conditions to exist or where living on the margin of survival is shared widely.
Chalk and cheese.

If the article can be read to include everybody exhausted by the demands in their lives, then it is rubbish.

J Jones
1 month 3 weeks ago

I worked in a Catholic-run, publicly funded setting. I took a huge pay cut and gave up union support and protection to do work in that environment because I wanted to be able to speak directly and engage actively, if only with my coworkers, about the fact that I am in my profession due to my commitment to the Works of Mercy. The beginning of my exit was the day I needed to address my shifting schedule, overtime due to crisis needs of the people we served and the entity, etc., and was told never to just show up at my supervisor's door because my supervisor would decide "when to take meetings".

Oz Jewel
1 month 3 weeks ago

Taking a fee for giving a blessing is forbidden, it is known as Simony.
Doing 'charitable' work as a Christian for money is simply being a social worker or an employee and charity is absent.
Handing out money or goods which comes from other people is not giving charity, it is just work like being a paymaster or delivering packages.
It is important to roll back this blurring of functions.
Handouts are now robbed of all their previous quality, having been corrupted by the social justice meme and the neo-Marxist socialism labelling giving stuff to the relative needy something which it is their right to receive according to the judgement of justice.
No sense of gift received, no sense of gratitude prompted.

The topic has nothing to do with Catholicism, it concerns work/life balance and teamwork between paymaster and paid AND it is totally rich country and first world conditions.

Erin B
1 month 3 weeks ago

This topic has everything to do with Catholicism. The whole point of the article is that no one expects burnout to happen when you are in ministry. Everyone going into this career thinks that this will be the ideal workplace. You get to openly express your faith, you get to help evangelize to others, what could be better? The problem is you have priests who know nothing about running a business (because, yes, a church is a business) and they look for easy fixes to fill gaps in employment. You have one staff member doing the work of three very quickly, but they're still getting paid comparable to one person. I speak from experience on this. Doing the work of three people is impossible in a 40 hour work week, and when your priest demands that the work gets done, you find yourself clocking 60, 70, even 80 hours a week trying to get everything done. Burnout happens very quickly in an environment where employees should be supported. Finding spiritual support while working for the Church is close to impossible. You clearly don't know what it's like to work in ministry.

J Jones
1 month 3 weeks ago

It's one more consequence of clericalism. Priests are taught that theirs is the greatest sacrifice, that they have given everything to God and the people of God when in reality, most diocesan priests and religious priests serving parishes (and, I suspect, corporate ministries like America Magazine, etc) have a VERY solid middle class income and standard of living when all of their Church-provided benefits are accounted for. (Add in all the gifts given to "poor father" by parishioners: the free vacation spots, the fancy meals out. I will never forget seeing a priest I worked with speeding around town in a convertible sports car willed to him by a parishioner).

Having been practically pickled in the narrative of their holy sacrificial lives and convinced of their own capacity to manage these deprivations with grace, they can't understand the complaints of persons of whom the Lord has demanded less.

Oz Jewel
1 month 3 weeks ago

I deny that it is ministry.
It is labour for hire, just like working at the gas station or the local McDonald's.

Now, talk to me about the social justice involved in the work hours of a mother with 4 children under 5.

I work in medicine, unsociable hours, split shifts, night calls out 3-4 am, whole long weekends in charge of emergency departments with much work literally life and death.
I denounce the self-pitying whingeing.
"So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full."
Matthew 6:2

J Jones
1 month 3 weeks ago

Oz, if you are a doctor or nurse, your compensation exceeds that of almost any other worker in ANY kind of ministry or care-focused work, certainly in the US. Your use of the word "whingeing" suggests to me you may live in the UK and my guess is that in the NHS where compensation could be lower than in the States, I am wagering you STILL make more than almost any other group of workers in any kind of ministry or care-focused field.

Emergency room work (yours) and crisis social work (mine) are merely one kind of ministry, which anyone with his eyes open in a hospital, of all places, should be aware of, though doctors and priests often have a similarly myopic field of vision when it comes to assessing the relative of other workers' contributions, needs and sacrifices...

You make a wonderful point about the labor of parents with multiple children to care for. Huge umbers of the lay people in fulltime ministry to the church ARE mothers and fathers in fulltime ministry to their families too...

Oz Jewel
1 month 2 weeks ago

Take off your blinkers and read what I actually wrote.
I did not declare, and do not believe, that being a health care professional myself that I am in a Christian ministry. I work for pay; lots of work and sufficient pay to live. My tent-making is medicine.
It is done in a rural remote area of Australia; in the bush amongst very poor people by Australian standards.

The topic seems to me to be people self-describing their tent-making AS ministry in the one, holy, universal and apostolic institution when they are deluded, they are working in the world for pay like me. There may be a hint of underpayment, but the main thrust seemed to me to be that her life was overloaded and it was the fault of the church,
They have no special call on heaven to be treated as special, and that is certainly the flavour which I detect in the article - "Mother Church should be looking after me in a special way".

J Jones
1 month 2 weeks ago

No one requires you to consider your work as ministry. Please forgive me for that assumption. In the US, the fields of medicine and social work have historically been full of lay Catholics in part because of their faith tradition and not every Catholic has the good fortune to have every material need met by the Church's the way priests do.) Nonetheless, I recognize your objection to lay workers in the church considering their work ministry. And the Church itself calls the labor of lay-workers ministry (and had done so long before they glommed on to that cynical legal distinction that allows them to fire gay or unmarried pregnant staff).

Anyway, it sounds as if a significant factor in your disagreement is with that fundamental definition of ministry and lay callings. So be it. For the those who do accept that definition, it is entirely rational to address the way RCC clerics treat their co-ministers who are also their employees.

Are you aware of the part of the examen directed to employers (in this case, the RCC)? It draws from the Gospels.

There is also a long history of clerics living very well while the women vowed to the Church and under the authority of those same clerics lived and labored in impoverished conditions. Most Catholic sisters in the US who are now older than about 70 can tell you about that.

This is, then, not a new issue Kaya is addressing. As the supply of clerics and Religious men and women (Brothers, Sisters and nuns) dwindles, the RCC is going to rely more and more on lay workers and it doesn't have a good track record as far as its treatment of the clerics' co-ministers go. Kaya's article well-timed.

(If your issue is with the Church using public money to fund what it then calls "Catholic charitable works", I am with you one hundred percent: there needs to be more transparency that most "Catholic charity" these days is neither Catholic nor charity. It is taxpayer funded services. The lack of transparency allows most Catholics to believe something which is simply not true about the Church at the level of the diocese or the Vatican. But that is not what the article is about).

J Jones
1 month 3 weeks ago

It's one more consequence of clericalism. Priests are taught that theirs is the greatest sacrifice, that they have given everything to God and the people of God when in reality, most diocesan priests and religious priests serving parishes (and, I suspect, corporate ministries like America Magazine, etc) have a very solid middle class income and standard of living when all of their Church-provided benefits are accounted for. Add in all the gifts given to "poor father" by parishioners (the free vacation spots, the fancy meals out and I will never forget seeing a priest I worked with speeding around town in a convertible sports car willed to him by a parishioner). Further add in the reality that many priests are not actually celibate. Add in the reality that, among the many many more who are actually celibate, there are those clerics for whom celibacy is a chosen and natural and happy state. When the person is sexually healthy and well-developed (and I believe there are thousands of priests who fit that description), the charism of celibacy frees one to be available for intimacy with every person and experience encountered and that is as wonderful as any other life full of connection.

Having been practically pickled in the false narrative of their holy/wholly sacrificial lives and convinced of their own capacity to manage these deprivations with grace, these clerics and their hierarchical betters can't understand the complaints and needs of persons of whom the Lord has demanded less (per the cleric-privileging narrative).

Though it risks blowback from those who mistake criticism of classism for an endorsement of socialism, "clericalism" is simply classism in the RCC. And classism always demands most from those with the fewest reality-based resources. And that means classism always erodes the financial, emotional, spiritual and relational resources of those at the bottom of the specific class system.

I grew up an officer's kid; the kid of two professionals with graduate degrees; a private school kid: i am a professional with a graduate degree; I am privileged enough to drop out of my profession for a decade of fulltime uncompensated volunteer work (my coworkers who were factually poor refused, correctly, to allow anyone to describe my involvement as "voluntary poverty"; they insisted correctly that it was "voluntary simplicity" because they understood that my privilege was right there on my skin, in my language, in my skill set, in my resume, in my earning power, in my social support system, in the doors just waiting to swing wide open the minute i left our ministries).

All of these are class systems: the church, the military, the education system, the corporate world, the volunteer world, on and on. As I said, "clericalism" is simply classism in the RCC. And classism ALWAYS demands most from those with the fewest reality-based resources. And that means classism always erodes the financial, emotional, spiritual and relational resources of those at the bottom of the specific class system. That is why "professional Catholics" are a whole other kind of Catholic worker than the clerics who employ them ...... and who benefit measurably and immeasurably from the services and commitment of the people Kaya describes.

And then there is this: https://www.washingtonpost.com/investigations/warnings-about-wva-bishop-went-unheeded-as-he-doled-out-cash-gifts-tocatholic-leaders-/2019/07/03/7efa27f4-8d4c-11e9-b162-8f6f41ec3c04_story.html. Note Cardinal Burke's in-defense-of-my-integrity exlanation that he received "honorariums" for "speaking to priests" who travelled with Bransfield to Rome. Then we have Archbishop Lori who received $3000 in Mass "stipends and travel expenses" for travelling from DC to WV. It looks like these guys have a thousand ways to enrich themselves for doing what they were ordained to do, including chatting with their fellows priests. They are grifters.

Oz Jewel
1 month 2 weeks ago

What was that about the people boastful of their virtue? They have had their FULL reward

J Jones
1 month 2 weeks ago

If you are referring to my comments about myself, unearned privilege (which is MOST privilege, including mine) is NOT a virtue: it is systemic inequality. My point was that those with privilege are responsible for understanding their privilege and for not demanding that privilege beget privilege. Few of us privileged persons got there alone or anywhere close to it: systemic discrimination burdens and impoverishes one group while freeing and enriching another. Likewise, the privilege class in the Church --- the clerics --- didn't get there alone. And it is high time they collectively and individually focused on the examen: how did I treat my workers?

I do not know what your statement (they have had their FULL reward means or who it references.)

Advertisement

The latest from america

Light streams into St. Gabriel’s Passionist Parish in Toronto. (Photo courtesy of Larkin Architect Limited)
The daily light show at St. Gabriel's in Toronto is not just aesthetically moving, writes Dean Dettloff. It is part of a church design that reminds us of human dependence on the earth.
Dean DettloffAugust 23, 2019
“The Church is a family of families,” Pope Francis writes in “Amoris Laetitia.”
Kerry WeberAugust 23, 2019
Our commitment to God is expressed through living out the gospel, but also in your fidelity to prayer. Day in and day out. “Showing up and shutting up,” as my friend likes to say about daily prayer.
James Martin, S.J.August 23, 2019
In this Aug. 20, 2019 drone photo released by the Corpo de Bombeiros de Mato Grosso, brush fires burn in Guaranta do Norte municipality, Mato Grosso state, Brazil. (Corpo de Bombeiros de Mato Grosso via AP)
A record number of wildfires and the rapid deforestation of the Amazon are prompting Latin American bishops to plead for international action, writes America’s correspondent in Brazil, Eduardo Campos Lima.
Eduardo Campos LimaAugust 23, 2019