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 Invited to a class of '69 reunion at St. Francis Seminary in Milwaukee, Hedin (American and Afro-American Studies/Indiana Univ.), by now divorced and consciously ex-Catholic, cautiously began a process of personal inquiry, the findings of which he reports here. Hedin interviewed 22 functioning priests, 15 out of the more than 100 men who (like himself) left the seminary before ordination, two priests who have sought and received permission to return to lay status in the Church, and five others who simply walked out. He presents his findings in a series of chapters that take us from the sheltered and rigid regime at St. Francis before the Second Vatican Council through the stresses of priestly life and identity over the last 25 years, and sketches out a view of a viable priesthood in contemporary terms. We hear priests speak movingly of their loneliness, financial stress, the tension between the Church as a nurturing but all-demanding spouse/mother, and their need to become responsible and professional males in a society and Catholicism very different from those of The Bells of St. Mary's. Hedin powerfully contrasts a preVatican II spirituality of self-abnegation with his contemporaries' (or his own--this is not clear) more psychotherapeutic sense of self-care and integration, which allots a very secondary position in the life of a priest to prayer, the Mass, and even belief in God. But Hedin's study is flawed by his tendency to generalize from Milwaukee and the concerns of the children of the '60s onto the priesthood at large. A provocative portrait of a generation of Catholics and its agenda for liberal change in the Church.

Pub Date: Dec. 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0-253-32943-4
Page count: 272pp
Publisher: Indiana Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15th, 1995