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Esteemed priesthood is not for their sons.

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Most college students esteem the priesthood but would not encourage their sons to become priests.

A survey of 250 students in Catholic and secular institutions found that 68 percent either would not encourage their sons to be priests or were not sure whether they would. Only 32 percent said they would encourage their sons.

Respondents overwhelmingly attributed the priest shortage to mandatory celibacy and "life outside a family circle."

These were among the findings of Msgr. Terrance Berntson, who conducted the survey during a sabbatical leave. Berntson, pastor of St. Gregory the Great Parish here, developed the questionnaire with some help from parishioner Diane Pike, chair of the sociology department at Augsburg College in Minneapolis.

Then, as he traveled around much of the United States last fall, Berntson stopped at campuses to deliver the survey. Almost 100 of the 250 respondents were active in Newman Centers at the universities of Montana and Illinois, Ohio State and Harvard. The others were theology students in Catholic schools: Creighton University, Omaha; Christian Brothers University, Memphis; the College of St. Catherine, St. Paul; St. John's University, Collegeville, Minn.; the University of Notre Dame; Boston College; and the Catholic University of America in Washington.

Respondents said the priest shortage could best be resolved by selecting female deacons and by sharing some priestly duties with laypeople. Married priests and female priests were the next most popular choices.

"But the amazing thing is that 80 percent replied that the priesthood is important and 99 percent said either important or semi-important," Berntson said. "That is a wonderful statistic for priests to know."

Moreover, 84 percent of the students identified the priest's principal role as "spiritual leader"; 4 percent said "social reformer"; 8 percent said "counselor."

On homilies in their home parishes, almost half -- 46 percent -- reported they "usually" were satisfied. "We thought that is normally what kids criticize," Berntson said, yet only 20 percent said they are "not usually" satisfied with homilies. More than 90 percent of students, in assessing causes for the priest shortage, listed mandatory celibacy as significant (70 percent) or somewhat significant (24 percent).

High ratings also went to lack of life in a family setting: 57 percent listed that as significant, 32 percent as somewhat significant.

In contrast, only 16 percent listed the "suspicion that some priests are child molesters" as a significant factor in the priest shortage.

Also ranked higher were "expectations of high moral and spiritual development." That was rated significant by 28 percent of the students, somewhat significant by 45 percent.

Rated low as causes of the priest shortage were low income, clerical garb, parish housing, long working hours, the authoritarian nature of the work and confidential nature of counseling involved.

Berntson and Pike found no significant difference between the responses of men and women. Nor did they find much difference between the perceptions of students in secular and Catholic schools.

Almost half of respondents -- 49 percent -- said they accepted the church's official teachings on sexual morality, but 66 percent said they did not accept church teachings on birth control. Notably, 42 percent of those who listed themselves as "conservative" disagreed with the church on birth control.

Berntson, 59, became interested in questions relating to the priest shortage when, for six years recently, he taught ministry at the St. Paul Seminary of the University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis.
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Title Annotation:college student survey
Author:Gibeau, Dawn
Publication:National Catholic Reporter
Date:Sep 3, 1993
Words:561
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