I think it an odd phenomenon but a most interesting one.
It used to be that liberal ideas were promoted by the younger clergy, and the older priests held fast to the conservative.
Today it seems that just the opposite is true.
An association of US Catholic priests is being formed to offer fraternal support to brother priests and to give a united voice to priests who share common concerns.
A recently formed group of 400 priests in Austria, the Austrian Priests' Initiative, has pledged itself to reforms in priestly ministry and Catholic practice which are likely to put them at odds with their bishops and the Vatican.
The Association of US Priests (AUSCP), on the other hand, says that protest and disagreement are not on their agenda.
The chairman of AUSCP, Father David Cooper of Milwaukee, says the association will focus over the next four years on celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council, and is planning a major convocation on the sacred liturgy.
There already exists the National Federation of Priests' Councils in the United States, and its president, Father Richard Vega, says he supports the objectives proposed by AUSCP and doubts any competition between the two groups.
An association of Catholic priests in Ireland has strongly criticized the New Roman Missal translation and endorses having married priests. A similar organization has been formed in Australia.
Prior to the AUSCP organization meeting in Mundelein in August, about 250 priests responded to a questionnaire about forming such an association. The most popular objective identified by the priests was implementation of the vision and teachings of Vatican II.
Other areas of interest included encouraging the laity to become fully involved in the life of the Church and promotion of the rights of all believers.
What catches my eye, especially in regard to AUSCP, is the age of the members. The median age is 71.
It is my impression that some of younger clergy are less than enthusiastic about AUSCP and about the various manifestations of priests associations in other parts of the world.
The Association of U. S. Catholic Priests is soliciting support and membership across the country, encouraging new members to propose their expectations for AUSCP and indicate how they might contribute to achieving these expectations.
Is there a divide between younger and older priests? If so, what will be the consequences for the Church and especially for parish congregations? We have reason to fear a house divided.