Would you say that the day of priests in [secular] academia is long over?


With both the decline of vocations and tenured academia (at least the US; i.e. there are plenty of unemployed PhD’s walking around or clamoring for adjunct positions), I suspect to this be true even for Jesuits. The only ordained scientist/philosopher I think of who is alive today and under 60 is Fr. Pacholczyk (a bioethist who has a PhD in neuroscience), and I’m not even sure as to how much research he has time to do.


It really seems that way, doesn’t it? There’s such a high supply of academics nowadays, but too little demand. It often makes me rethink my career objectives (I am a writing tutor at a college.)

As far as clergy go, however, there’s a great demand, but, in most places, not enough supply. Thus we see pastors often serving two parishes, with few who can be spared for higher studies in canon law or theology. It really doesn’t bode well for the Church. There’s not even enough supply among priests secular or religious to staff Catholic colleges adequately. Alas, I don’t quite see a solution readily.


I think the solution is the same as for academicians who are not priests, and that is to drastically reduce the number of part-time (adjunct) faculty positions and increase the number of full-time faculty positions. This would of course mean that the college administrators would have to increase the pay for faculty because they could no longer rely so heavily upon part-time (slave) labor. It would also be much better for the students since they would have more continuity of learning from professors who are less nomadic. As it now stands in the U.S., about 60% of the teaching workforce consists of part-timers. This is a shameful scandal. If the latter all went out on strike, the national college system, both public and private, would have to shut down.


A Scientist once told me that those that study Philosophy starve. Don’t know how much truth there is in that, but I do think that Philosophy is something very interesting to study in a Catholic college.


The solution is to get rid of administrators.


Pray for vocations to the priesthood. We desperately need priests to say Mass, and to teach philosophy and theology. Our existing priests are overworked covering multiple parishes and having little time remaining to give spiritual guidance. Pray also for lay evangelists to teach RCIA and young children. The Catholic faith brings light and love to a world of darkness and confusion. Pray.


I’m probably a bit controversial but IMHO priests shouldn’t be full-time academics. That’s not to say that it’s incompatible with religious life but I see it as being more of a role for a lay brother (or sister) rather than a priest. In other words, why do they need to be ordained?



To put it another way: how does an academic life help one to minister to others in their vocational path? With priesthood, and especially diocesan priesthood (where the priest is often on his own as pastor), this is a tough question to answer. If there are three priests living together with a parochial or diocesan school, then it’s much more practical (as, more often than not, there is not an immediate need for all three to be engaged in sacramental ministry).

In Religious Life, there’s much more leeway. For example, the Jesuits (but also the Domincans and Franciscans) have been (and continue to be) involved in higher education historically. If one looks at the current situation, there is the opportunity to minister and give witness to the leaders of tomorrow. Not necessarily proselytizing, but certainly to bring to the classroom an awareness of the issues people face in everyday life. Does that require ordination? No, of course not… but two of the three above mentioned Orders are primarily clerical Orders, which explains partially why it is not necessary that they only be ministering to members of their community (as would, say, the reason a monk might be directed to prepare for Holy Orders).

[On the flip side, there’s also the growing phenomenon of so-called “second-career” vocations - those who have come to the seminary after being in the workforce for a time. I have known many priests who were formerly engineers of some form (civil, computer, ceramic, etc.), as well as one who had a Ph.D. in Chemistry and worked for DuPont; I have known one who was a Lawyer/CPA, and a few who were formerly Medical Doctors. The point here being that those who have gifts in areas other than sacramental ministry don’t necessarily drop them simply because they are priests.:shrug:]


It’s really a matter of vocation. One obviously does not need to be ordained to be in acedamia, but God may want it to be. It’s a vocation, it’s a ministry. Lay brothers and sisters can also do that, but they also don’t have to be lay either. As others have pointed out, you’ll be more likely to find s religious than a diocesan priest, due to the nature of their vocations. Also, historically speaking, in the religious orders the priests were the educated ones. Religious brothers had different ministries depending on the Order…in many that would be community’s cook, plumber, mechanic, tailor, sandal maker, quester(begger), etc…the trades were the realms of the Brothers. Academia was the realm of the priest. This is no longer the case, and in some Orders never should have been the case, but sometimes culture dies hard there are religious brothers and sisters in academia as well. In the end though, it’s a matter of vocation, and needs of the Order/Diocese do play a role in that discernment.


Depends on what one who studies philosophy plans to do with that field of study. Philosophy majors are almost guaranteed to be accepted into law school. But, most that I know ended up in either academia or ministry in some fashion, neither of which are careers that will typically lead to lavish lifestyles.


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