That's what a post I read suggested, going so far as to call priests who resist the idea 'hermit cowboys'. The author explains:
I have some good friends who are diocesan priests and I expect they'll all be annoyed with me for saying it, but here we go again: c'mon lads, this living like hermits thing really sucks.I don't know about that. Communal living is not the first thing a contemporary man thinks about as he discerns a vocation to the secular priesthood. Though the blog which posted the article quotes a statement made by Pope Benedict XVI in an interview, I wonder if it is even practical, considering the shortage of priests today, as well as the need remote parishes and even urban parishes have of retaining a pastor in the rectory and not some far off condo in a better neighborhood. This is what the Holy Father said to Peter Seewald:
I really think something is wrong with the Western model of diocesan priesthood where, pretty much to a man, you each live alone. Yes, I know you like it, and to be honest you've turned into a bit of an eccentric grump, so at this point I wouldn't propose that you be deprived of your status as a hermit. But I'm not talking about you - I'm talking about the model. - Source
"I believe that celibacy becomes a very meaningful sign, and above all becomes possible to live, when priests begin to form communities. It is important for priests not to live off on their own somewhere, in isolation, but to accompany one another in small communities, to support one another, and so to experience, and constantly realize afresh, their communion in service to Christ and in renunciation for the sake of the Kingdom of heaven." - SourceThat's a wonderful ideal of course, and if it can happen, it's a good thing. The saints have made similar arrangements for secular priests and it obviously works. Within my archdiocese Bishop Carlson at one point established a group known as The Companions of Christ, a group of priests who live in community - more or less, but not every diocesan priest lives that way, not are they obliged to do so. A similar group has been established in Denver I think. I have a priest friend who has a more monastic style community, although that arrangement is clearly based on religious life and not a loosely arranged common life as one sees in the Companions or even the Oratorians. I'll reprint a section from Fr. Sirico's description of the life his group lives in Michigan:
St. Philip Neri never intended nor wanted to establish a religious order, and anyone who came to him asking for religious life or that he establish his congregation of priests in a more formal way, he sent to the Jesuits or Dominicans. We are priests and brothers (as opposed to religious order priests/brothers… Jesuits, Dominicans, Franciscans…) living in the world, without vows. The Community of St. Philip Neri House resembles the internal structure of Sulpicians, Vincentians, Pallotines, and Paulists which are congregations of priests/brothers or Societies of Apostolic Life in that we do not take public vows, but live freely what the Church expects of priests and brothers. - Community of St. Philip Neri HouseI think the sex scandals and the stories of fallen away priests and those who commit suicide have frightened many people in the Church, and the well meaning look for solutions to safeguard priests from themselves, as it were. In a way it reminds me of the nanny state trying to control private life, although everyone's concern is well intentioned and 'pastoral' here, I think it unlikely every priest is called to community, although those who feel such a need or attraction certainly are free to do so. That said, I think it is perhaps more critical that candidates for priesthood receive better training, if it isn't already there. I also think the candidates admitted to ordination need to have the proper maturity as well as the emotional stability to be able to live a relatively solitary life - which is really not that different from the single state of unmarried adult men and women. If critics so strongly believe it essential for 'man not to be alone' then why not allow married priests? I'm not for that idea of course - although it is allowed for Anglicans coming into the Church, isn't it?
Diocesan priests are not monks, nor are they vowed members of a religious order. St. Philip Neri recognized that and rejected a monastic style of life, of prayer, and horarium as unsuitable for 'modern clerics.' How many centuries ago did Neri live? Secular priests are not always suited to communal life and they are definitely not obliged to it.
What is forgotten in these discussions is good masculine friendships. Many priests are friends with one another and socialize together, and not a few form support groups where they get together on a regular basis. I suspect in most cases, that is enough community for them - after all, they have a ministry to attend to, and in most cases the parish family becomes their primary community. Remember - John Vianney lived alone, and even when he wanted to run away and join a religious order he thought of the Carthusians - who are essentially hermits.
Photo: Still from "Diary of a Country Priest"