Dr. Chiclana: "Let's go deeper into loneliness and priesthood".

Loneliness has been perceived by many priests as the second challenge, after their spiritual life, and the main risk to their emotional life, according to research by psychiatrist Carlos Chiclana and his collaborators Laura García-Borreguero and Raquel López Hernández. Now, Dr. Chiclana confirms a new research study on "loneliness and priesthood".  

Francisco Otamendi-April 8, 2024-Reading time: 3 minutes
Chiclana study solitude priesthood

Dr. Carlos Chiclana, psychiatrist, initiates a new study.

Loneliness has been diagnosed as one of today's great evils, to the point of constituting an epidemic that was accentuated by Covid-19. Loneliness was likely to appear in the first research of the psychiatrist Carlos Chiclana on the affective aspects of priestly life. And so it happened.

Your study The 2022/2023 survey described the "challenges, risks and opportunities of the affective life of the priest", in which more than 130 priests, deacons and seminarians from various dioceses and institutions of the Catholic Church participated, with 605 open responses and 1039 different ideas classified into different themes.

"We did qualitative research with five open-ended questions about what challenges seemed most significant to the affective life of a priest, what risks they appreciated, what opportunities they saw, what particularly helped them in their formation on affectivity, and what they missed in formation and now felt would have helped them." explained to Omnes.

Challenge and risk for affectivity

As a result of the work, which has just been published in the February issue of Scripta Theologica, Dr. Chiclana told Omnes that "new research hypotheses on the loneliness felt by priests have been generated". 

"They referred to it as a challenge and it was the main risk referred to (for their affectivity), but we don't know if they were referring to physical loneliness due to the isolation they may have, affective loneliness due to not feeling loved, institutional loneliness due to lack of support, psychological loneliness due to having an insecure attachment system, pastoral loneliness due to excessive tasks, social or emotional."

In the same interview, the psychiatrist also pointed out that "it could be that they were not taking advantage of the celibate's own solitude to cultivate there their particular and complicit relationship with God, an intimate environment in which to court Him".

Among the risks cited in the study were personal psychological limitations, possible emotional dependencies or moral defects. They also mentioned the neglect of personal spiritual life due to a high level of time occupation, excessive pastoral dedication and affective detachment as a defense strategy.

A specific study

Carlos Chiclana then announced that "we will soon begin a specific study on the loneliness of priests, with the intention of knowing better what it is that worries them and propose practical tools to solve it". And the study has just begun.

So far, Chiclana adds, studies focused on priests have found protective factors to reduce this loneliness, such as living in community, one's own spiritual life being well cared for, having the support of other priests, having a good social network (general friendship and with other priests), taking care of one's health and being able to rest, and others.

Loving everyone from intimacy

Also in January, the specialist physician has released a book entitled "Celibacy. Enjoy your gift", published by Ediciones Día Diez. In his opinion, looking at the subtitle of the book, it can be affirmed that celibacy, "being a gift that enables you to love everything, everyone and everything, should be a protective factor against loneliness, because the celibate's life is called to be constantly inhabited by many people, without anyone staying to live in your "inner home" or you staying to live exclusively in any one of them".

"Now, it has a proportion of loneliness that is necessary to tolerate and that at the same time facilitates your entry into that sphere where you can be alone with God, in that exclusive spiritual relationship. "You are a priest, not a coach, not an NGO cooperant, not a social agent."

The first study also gathered information on those aspects that the priests felt were missing and that they felt would have been helpful in their personal development. They indicated, for example, that they would like to have received better formation. Others were satisfied and did not miss anything, and some would have appreciated better attention to spirituality and psychological needs.

Those who wish to participate in the study on "loneliness and priesthood" can complete it by scanning the following QR code:

The authorFrancisco Otamendi

La Brújula Newsletter Leave us your email and receive every week the latest news curated with a catholic point of view.
Banner advertising
Banner advertising