Worrying About PK Syndrome

Heading back from the last of our diocesan Roman Missal workshops on Tuesday, a fellow diocesan director shared a story that confirmed a fear I’ve had for some time: that Preacher’s Kid Syndrome (the tendency for the children of Protestant ministers to rebel against the faith) is alive and well in the Catholic Church.  Of course, in the Church, it’s not the children of ordained ministers we need worry about, but the children of lay ministers working in parishes and dioceses. This director’s son no longer practices the faith, at least in part because of his experience seeing his father let go from a diocese for no other reason than the bishop wanted to “move in a new direction.”

This is something I’ve worried about for my own children. I’ve worked for the the Church in one way or another since I was 18 — full-time since I was 22, shortly before our oldest was born. Anyone who has worked for the Church knows that it isn’t the perfect, holy workplace that you might expect. The Church is full of sinners, and I’ve seen plenty of bad management, poor HR practices, and institutional politics to back up that truth.

Will my children be able to hold on to the faith while exposed to the very human side of the institution? Many of the DREs and other lay ministers I encounter talk about having children who have walked away from the faith. How many did so because of the  cognitive  dissonance between the “one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church” and watching their parents struggle to work with other sinners on behalf of Christ?

I’d be interested to know if the National Association for Lay Ministry  or any other organizations have ever tackled this question: keeping our children in the faith when they grow up so close to the institution. There could be some real value in having some conversations around those sorts of close-to-home topics.