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WASHINGTON (ChurchMilitant.com) — A comprehensive study shows a significant ideological shift among Catholic priests in the United States.
The Catholic University of America's "The Catholic Project" study, which released its initial data in October 2022, published new findings Tuesday showing a marked decrease in priests identifying as politically liberal or theologically progressive.
Drawing on responses from 131 bishops and 3,516 priests, along with over 100 in-depth interviews, the study reveals a conservative swing since the Second Vatican Council.
"The portion of new priests who see themselves as politically 'liberal' or theologically 'progressive' has been steadily declining ... and has now all but vanished," the survey found.
Focusing on more recent ordinations, the survey reports more than half of the priests ordained since 2010 identify with conservative ideologies. Notably, none of the priests ordained after 2020 described themselves as "very progressive."
The study further notes that more than 80% of priests ordained since 2020 label themselves as "conservative/orthodox." This is in sharp contrast to the pre-1960s clergy, among whom a majority identified as "progressive" or "very progressive."
When it comes to political self-identification, there's a broader spectrum, yet a clear conservative preference remains. Roughly 52% of new priests consider themselves "conservative" or "very conservative," with 44% claiming a "moderate" stance.
The study stops short of analyzing the reasons behind these ideological changes but suggests that watershed moments such as the Second Vatican Council and the 2002 clergy sexual abuse crisis could be influential, based on insights from the interviewed clerics.
"The causes and consequences of these shifts ... are no doubt complex," the report states, indicating intricate dynamics at play within the Church's clerical community.