Msgr. Stephen Rossetti is out to correct the myth that the typical Catholic priest is "a lonely, dispirited figure living an unhealthy life that breeds sexual deviation," as a writer for the Harford Courant once put it. And he's got the data to prove it.
The research is "consistent, replicated many times and now incontrovertible" that priests as a group are happy, Rossetti told a symposium on the priesthood Oct. 5 at The Catholic University of America in Washington.
The symposium was built around Rossetti's new book, Why Priests Are Happy: A Study of the Psychological and Spiritual Health of Priests.
Rossetti is a clinical associate professor of pastoral studies at the university and former president and CEO of St. Luke Institute, a treatment facility for Catholic clergy and religious.
The book's conclusions are based on a survey of 2,482 priests from 23 U.S. dioceses in 2009, supplemented by a 2004 survey of 1,242 priests from 16 dioceses and other studies.
The research found, among other things, that priests are "no more and no less depressed than anyone else in the world," "a little bit better than the laity" in studies that measure human intimacy and "quite a bit lower than the general population" in the degree that they are experiencing emotional burnout, the priest said.
More than 90 per cent of priests said they receive the emotional support they need, 83 per cent said they are able to share problems and feelings and only 22 per cent said they are lonely.