Common Sense Alert: New Study Shows That Vast Majority of Priests Fear False Abuse Accusation

priest study : stress accusations abuse

A new study shines a light on the toll that false accusations
are taking on today's priests

As we have repeatedly reported, false accusations against priests nowadays are rampant, and now we know that this fact may be having a monumental effect on the overall emotional well-being of today's priests.

According to a new national study (pdf) of priests conducted by researchers at Catholic University of America, a full 82% of priests live in fear of a false accusation of sex abuse.

News of the study was first reported by Francis X. Rocca at the Wall Street Journal. Kudos to him for bringing this important study to light.

Facing today's reality

The study quoted one priest as saying:

"Living in constant fear of a life-ending accusation definitely puts a cloud over the priesthood. And honestly, I think most priests have that. Because the life-ending accusation doesn't have to be based in any reality. You know, it can just come out of somebody's three years of recovered memory therapy, and have no ground in anything that ever really happened, but you're still doomed when it happens. And everybody knows that."

Indeed, the priest is entirely correct about the utter crock that is "repressed memory therapy." Another priest added:

"You're persona non grata when something comes to light in terms of an accusation. I do believe that it should be … innocent until proven guilty … [but I think] what the [Dallas] Charter unleashed … you are guilty until proven innocent in the Church."

A call for compassion

In general, however, the study happily concluded that priests actually have overall high levels of well-being. Yet while the study found that a full 77% of priests can be categorized as "flourishing" – the study quoted one priest in particular, "I'm happy in my life. I find true joy. I love what I do. I love the people. I feel like I'm firing on all cylinders" – about half (45%) of priests reported at least one symptom of what the study identified as "ministry burnout."

Surely the "guilty until proven guiltier" environment that priests live with today is taking its toll to some degree on the well-being of priests. Let us pray for priests and the extraordinary courage it takes to minister in today's angry, secularized culture embodied in the witch-hunt environment concerning mere accusations of abuse.


  1. Mother of a Priest says:

    Priests are human too. Ministry burn out is real especially when Father is by himself in a large parish, covering two or more parishes, when the average age in the diocese is 60, new ordinations are rare, there is no one to fill in for a day off, etc.. Please show Father some kindness, give him a break, lend your support, be solution focused if you see a problem, and don't be petty.