In an article this week in THE CATHOLIC HERALD, Father Alexander Lucie-Smith asks the question, "Are priests more prone to stress and mental illness?" He believes the answer is "yes" and that the reason is because they have to deal with so many difficult people among the laity, their colleagues and their bosses. At the end of his piece he suggests a solution...
"What is the solution, if any, to the stresses and strains that the clergy face? I wish I knew, but I would hazard a guess that the best solution is support from friends and from other clergy, who ought to understand the sort of situations that the stressed out and depressed priest may be facing. The worst possible solution is to deny that a problem exists or to see the suffering priest as himself 'the problem'."
It's amazing how many people in the churches say stuff like this and then do nothing at all about it. I know this to be true because it happened to me, folks. Because he saw me as a problem and not as someone recovering from an illness the Bishop of Newcastle sacked me. But, it was the complete and utter lack of support, lack of even contact, from all but one of my colleagues in the Newcastle Diocese that really hurt and which shows the true hypocrisy of the priesthood. And bear in mind I had been ordained for 15 years. You would have thought someone would have got in touch having known me for so long. It goes without saying, I am afraid, that nobody had the courage to stick up for me and argue with the bishop.
I expect a lot of people who read my posts about my experience wonder why I bang on and on about. Basically saying the same thing over and over again. They probably put it down to madness. But the truth is that I do it because I have hope. In fact, I am probably the most hopeful dyed in the wool cynic in the world. My hope is that one day one of my posts will be read by someone who is in a position to help me get my priesthood back and who is also not a cringing coward or depressophobe (that's my word for it so don't bother looking it up). I realise that this is boring for the rest of you but then, tough, unless you are part of the solution you are part of the problem.
Oh, and congratulations, by the way, to the pro-equality movement in Scotland on the passing of the same sex marriage legislation by the Scottish Parliament today joining England in this colossal sea change from prejudice to inclusion. Perhaps now we can move on to helping out those stigmatised people who aren't so divine and fabulous, if you get my drift.