WITH a steady stream of priests and nuns leavint: the life to which they had once pledged a life-long commitment an inquiry into their reasons would appear to be called for. There are two bodies in Britain which could he expected to have some special knowledge of the problem -Bearings for Re-Establishment run by convert, social worker and former prison governor Douglas Gibson, and the official counselling service of the Church under the auspices of the Social Welfare Com mission.
Bob Walsh, secretary of the Social Welfare Commission. said he was unable to divulge any figures or give any information. Those who wish to contact the official body have to do so through a box number. Indications are that the bulk of those who need help go to Bearings.
Douglas Gibson. who sees :in average of four people a week. says that there is no clear picture showing why people are still leaving. "Five years ago I thought I knew the answer and now I don't."
Among the factors he has noticed are loneliness, frustration and too much freedom with too little responsibility afforded to curates. He considers that obligatory celibacy as part of the priesthood needs looking at but on more general terms he sums up the prob• lem as "lack of real love of God on the part of all of us."
Since 1962 Bearings and its predecessor, Compass. have helped 450 men and women who for various reasons decided to leave the religious life. Five of these. after thinking things over for a year before making the actual break, have decided to stay.
Gibson has noticed among those who come to see him that few of the priests have a very good image of themselves or appreciate the general respect in which the Catholic priesthood is held by ordinary people.
Beside his critical appraisal