The lived experience of Irish diocesan priests. A qualitative study of clerical identity, obedience and celibacy.
Weafer, John A.
University College Cork
The main aim of this thesis is to document and explore the lived experience of Irish diocesan priests and former priests, in order to explore the reality of diocesan priesthood in contemporary Ireland, and to investigate how, if at all, diocesan priesthood has changed in Ireland during the past fifty years. It sought to do this by interrogating the stories of thirty-three diocesan priests and former priests, and by placing their individual stories within the broader context of Irish society and the Catholic Church, during the fifty-year period, 1962–2012. The research focused on three core areas of priesthood – identity, obedience, and celibacy – and it addressed the following questions. First, how do Irish diocesan priests understand their priesthood and how has this understanding changed over time, if at all? I will argue that three paradigms of priesthood co-exist in the contemporary Irish Church, and that each of these models corresponds with a distinct period in contemporary Irish Church history. I will also demonstrate the existence of underlying similarities in the cultural practice of priesthood that transcend the different generations of priests. Second, how do Irish diocesan priests negotiate their priesthood within a large and complex institution? My study suggests that Irish diocesan priests are typically loyal and obedient. However, they are not necessarily subservient. Third, how do Irish diocesan priests understand and experience celibacy in their day-to-day lives? My study demonstrates that celibacy is typically understood and experienced along a continuum, ranging from total acceptance to total rejection, with most priests somewhere in between. Fourth, I will argue that while priests are experiencing many difficulties in their lives, there is insufficient evidence from the present study to indicate they are experiencing a crisis.
Irish diocesan priesthood , Priest , Celibacy , Obedience , Identity
Weafer, J. A. 2013. The lived experience of Irish diocesan priests. A qualitative study of clerical identity, obedience and celibacy. DSocSc Thesis, University College Cork.