Reactions and Strategies of German Catholic Priests to Cope with Phases of Spiritual Dryness


We investigated strategies of 763 Catholic priests (response rate 36%) to deal with phases of spiritual dryness, specifically their reactions toward these feelings, and which strategies were used. Most priests have found strategies to cope with feelings of spiritual dryness. Those who have managed to overcome these phases were stimulated “all the more to help others” and experienced “deeper spiritual clarity and depth.” Whatever strategy was chosen (we differentiated eight strategies in various combinations), there were no significant differences for priests’ self-efficacy expectation, transcendence perception or life satisfaction. Instead, we found significant differences for social support (F = 6.5; p < 0.0001) and somatization (F = 3.4; p = 0.002).

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We are very grateful to the supporting team, particularly Andreas Günther, Cécile Loetz and Jakob Müller for their gracious assistance.

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Correspondence to Arndt Büssing.

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Conflict of interest

This study was an investigator-initiated trial without any influence of Church authorities. It was not funded by any church authorities or related organizations. All authors are members of the respective universities; two of the authors are Catholic priests KB and EF working at universities as researchers. The authors disclose any financial or other competing interests.

Ethical Standard

All procedures performed were in accordance with the ethical standards of the respective dioceses and with the 1964 Helsinki Declaration.

Informed Consent

All individuals of this anonymously conducted cross-sectional study were informed about the study either by the personnel managers of the dioceses or by our independent study office and invited by a separate letter from our study office to participate. This separate letter informed about the purpose of the study, assured confidentiality, underlined their right not to participate, and asked to provide informed consent by providing the filed anonymous questionnaires.

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Büssing, A., Sautermeister, J., Frick, E. et al. Reactions and Strategies of German Catholic Priests to Cope with Phases of Spiritual Dryness. J Relig Health 56, 1018–1031 (2017).

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  • Spiritual dryness
  • Strategies
  • Coping
  • Catholic priests
  • Life satisfaction