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Something, clearly, has prompted such men to abandon the old forms. Although dissatisfaction with the rule of celibacy is one important cause, most dropout priests and many vocation specialists find that the roots of trouble are deeper. For some young curates in an old-fashioned rectory, it may be simply a feeling that they are not realizing their potential; for others, the cause is frustration with a system of authority that seems overbearing and out of date. Yet the church cannot just abandon the structure. Too many generations of priests, says Sociologist Philip Murnion, have been "socialized"—conditioned to react only to the dictates of an established structure. When priests live and work on their own, as they have in some experimental programs, they often leave the active ministry. After they leave, they are apt to join secular bureaucracies—notably welfare agencies —that also allow them little room for personal initiative and responsibility.

The Deeper Dilemma

A malaise affects all faiths when society seems to be coming apart, as it does seem to many today, and minister and congregation both may be uncertain which role is more appropriate: that of prophet anticipating the future, or that of stabilizer reaffirming the past. On the other hand, Dr. Dale Moody, a Baptist theologian currently teaching at Rome's Pontifical Gregorian University, believes that the church is being deliberately dinned out of its complacency: "God is giving the church a good shaking today. With his left hand he disturbs her slumber with the noise of social revolution, and with his right hand he rings the bell calling for relevance to such pressing social problems as race, poverty and war. A polarity develops in every denomination of Christianity between those calling for old-fashioned soul-winning and those new styles of social action that shock and startle the faithful."

A similar conflict has begun to appear in the Jewish faith. "The world teeters and Judaism peters," writes Jewish Theological Seminary Graduate Ben Hollander in an outspoken criticism of Jewish seminary attitudes. "Flames flare close; horrors in Harlem, clashes at Columbia. But the seminary inscrutably stands proclaiming its message. The encyclopaedia must learn to get off the shelf and start walking and talking like a man."

On the one hand, laymen of every faith are declaring their independence by shaping their own personal ethics; on the other, they are demanding that the clergy, who ought to have the answers, somehow solve all the urgent and increasingly complex moral, technological and political issues that face society. Some say that the task is impossible and simply dismiss it; others have decided, like Hollander, that the only answer is broadly based training that equips a churchman to comprehend the clamorous needs of today's world. Like their counterparts in secular universities, seminarians do not always recommend the wisest changes for the long run; they often want to discard required courses like Hebrew and Greek without realizing that the conservative seminaries, which are preserving the languages, would thus acquire a virtual monopoly on biblical exegesis. But in other areas, the students are forcing the best seminaries into meeting the problems of society headon, and in the process are clearly forming the future of the church.

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