I have known a couple of priests whose vocations were highly questionable. I mean by that that not only I have seen several priests of whom you wondered “what ever led him to enter the seminary”; but that two at least of these priests disclosed their extremely poor (as in: labourer family living in huts without water or a bathroom in the Southern Italian countryside) circumstances, circumstances throwing a light on their extremely embarrassed priesthood.
This one – of the priest who chooses the path because of the security it offers – must have been a phenomenon observable in all times past. So much so, in fact, that in the immortal I Promessi Sposi one of the main characters, Don Abbondio, is exactly one of them. The fact that this character became extremely popular and a proverbial way to describe a priest with a vocation of convenience – even before Vatican II, of course – says a lot about the frequency with which the phenomenon occurred, even before V II. The big wave of priests leaving the habit in the first ten-fifteen years of the Great Madness (many of them, arguably, ordianed before, say, 1963) also indicates that, however strong the Church, there is no safe way to look into people’s hearts. If you have never met any (or some) of this priests, you can call yourself fortunate indeed.
Some might now say that the vows of celibacy are deterrent enough to those who do not think God is calling them to the priesthood. I respond to that that reality shows the contrary is the case. The phenomenon of the priest with a Bonnie on the side was, in the past, so widely spread that family names like “Del Prete” or similar are very common in Italy; names which clearly indicate the popular perception that Franco, or Marco were “of the priest”. In the XVI century, 90% of the priests were estimated to have a fixed mistress.
We are not in the XVI Century anymore, and for many centuries now some of the occasions of sin have been eliminated (the helper of the priest must be old, say). Still, the easiness with which even bishops live a double life for many years, unchallenged, tells you a thing or two about how easy it must be, for the willing priest, to have a mistress on the side. The more so, as in our day and age no one is even requiring that a priest dresses like one when he is out and about. Heck, for many decades now many priests have even found ways to live a life addicted to sodomy; nor are they a recent phenomenon, as Pius V’s document linked on the side shows.
To this you must add that men are born with different degrees of libido, and with varied desires to have a family and children. It is very credible that – as Manzoni states; and notice Don Abbondio is a weak, but certainly chaste priest – a man can simply adapt to the circumstances and come to terms with the disadvantages of his chosen condition in consideration of the substantial advantages he gets.
The question could then be asked: yes, there will be bad, or even non-existent vocations; but is it possible for an Atheist to desire to become a priest in the first place? To this I answer: on which Planet do you live? Do you think that a homosexual asking admission in the seminary has even a shred of faith? How many of them there are? Atheism makes one deprived of scruples. To him, religion is a tale. If the organisation based on the tale gives him the opportunity to reach objectives very important to him, do you think there will be scarcity of people ready to live a life of half lies? Mind, I have heard at least two priests openly deny the existence of hell – one of them a Jesuit, in church; the other a parish priest, in class; the latter the one, by the way, of extremely humble origins – so thesevteo at least did not even feel the need to lie. And again: people are born with different degrees of shamelessness and hypocrisy. Atheists are not an exception.
Summa summarum: the priest or religious with no vocation is a reality alive and kicking in the Church, and has been present in every age. It is wrong to assume they must necessarily not only have felt a sincere vocation, but even have had faith in God when they made their decision. To read in men’s hearts is so difficult, particularly if they are good liars, that entire religious orders can be created on that lie, growing to powerful organisations of men, themselves, of strong faith.
This is a fact we cannot escape, and unavoidable in part even when the Church is at its strongest. This is also something we must have in mind whenever we hear people like Kasper, Marx, or Bergoglio openly defy the Magisterium. The widespread heresy within the Church cannot be explained with loss of a once strong vocation. Too many are the examples. Too powerful the men. There was a general crisis of vocation quality that, if you ask me, is perfectly exemplified by Bergoglio & Co.
They might have lost the faith. They might have never had it. Their entire life might have been a game of deception, induced by any or all of the following: poverty, ambition, low libido, intention not to abide by the vow of chastity, or ever atheism.
Beware of the wolves. Do not assume they are lambs until they eat you.
And, if I may suggest, read “The Betrothed”; which, notwithstanding the inevitable loss of beauty in the translation, must be a very informative, entertaining, and edifying reading anyway.