I would say that our priest problems — almost no priests from our own parishes, clergy scandals, burnt-out priests, ineffective or out-of-touch priests, a significant drop-out rate (half of the men I was ordained with have left the priesthood) — these problems result largely from the depressingly low standards expected of us. Simple disciplines, such as wearing clerical attire (required by Church Law), are not encouraged. In 21 years of serving this Diocese as a priest, I have never been asked if I am faithfully praying the breviary. Many priests have given up on this very first vow that we make — to pray the entire Liturgy of the Hours every day. We priests receive little encouragement to strive for holiness. As a result, we tend to stop practicing even basic priestly disciplines, such as devotions to the Mother of God; study of Scripture and Church doctrine; service to the poor; commitment to the confessional; penance, fasting, and tithing; quality homily preparation. We priests need direction, encouragement, and accountability to maintain these difficult standards. I myself have never been evaluated on any specifically priestly duties. Am I making time for real prayer? Do I put in decent work hours? Do I have a problem with alcohol, or pornography, or gambling? Am I going to confession regularly? To be a good priest requires a greater personal sanctity. Priests are generally not getting the guidance and accountability to sustain that greater sanctity, and this is our fundamental crisis.
Please pray for your priests, as I know you do. Pray that we love God enough to obey Him, as He speaks through our Bishop and the Pope. Pray that we commit ourselves to becoming saints.