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Before the 18th-century Enlightenment, the greatest minds of the West gave themselves to soul doctoring. After the Enlightenment, the greatest minds tended to go into the physical sciences, especially into care for the body. The body is important: we respect our doctors, and we expect a great deal from them, and from our psychiatrists. We don’t accept mediocrity.
So why do we accept mediocrity in the priesthood? Why do we say priesthood is less demanding than being a medical doctor? It should be an elitist sort of call, just as being a doctor is elitist. If I were the president of a medical school and you said, “This is an elitist place,” I’d say, “Yes, it is-we only want the best.” I think we should say that about priesthood, too.
Let’s say you’re a bright, spiritually engaged 18-year-old. Will you be a brain surgeon or a priest? A corporate lawyer or a priest? Which one is more challenging, more enticing? I want to make priesthood as exciting as being a brain surgeon, and as difficult and inspiring. My wager is that we would attract many more people by presenting priesthood this way, rather than trying to flatten it out and render it mediocre. ”
in a 1997 interview with U.S. Catholic magazine, just posted on the magazine’s website.