Why would any man want to be a priest today?

That was the provocative question retired San Francisco Archbishop John R. Quinn put to priests at the recent meeting of the National Federation of Priests Councils in Houston.

“The cataclysmic avalanche of the sex abuse scandal is a profoundly troubling experience for every priest,” he noted. “It touches not only the perpetrators and those so gravely hurt by them. But it is now engulfing the papacy itself and eroding the credibility of the bishops in the church. …

“How can an American priest persevere in the midst of such a shattering trial? How do we priests and how do the church persevere in time of severe trial?”

Archbishop Quinn praised today’s American priests as “a body of men who do not seek praise or acclaim and who walk faithfully with the Lord in a time of searing and seismic testing.”

The deepest and most enduring reason a man would want to be a priest today, the archbishop said, is “the person of Jesus Christ. … If our love for Jesus Christ is truly genuine, then there must stir within us the desire to be like him.”

Despite this “moment of humiliation and some degree of helplessness”  for priests and the church, “I firmly believe that this one of the best times to be a priest,” the archbishop said.

“We priests and the whole church are being called to evangelical humility and to a purer faith. It is time for us to embrace this providential call with robust generosity and with a solidarity that bind us together as priests in a uniquely difficult period our our history.”

We liked the archbishop’s talk so much that we put it in this week’s issue of  the CNS documentary service, Origins (www.originsonline.com).

But if you are not an Origins subscriber, you can read the archbishop’s complete text on America magazine’s blog, In All Things, or on Commonweal’s dotcommonweal.

But Origins subscribers can also access Msgr. Stephen Rossetti’s NFPC presentation, based on data from two studies he conducted of 4,000 priests between 2002 and 2010 that show “priests like being priests; they find great satisfaction with their lives.” Rather than “dispirited, discouraged and disintegrating,” today’s priests are becoming stronger, he believes.

Msgr. Rossetti, now a professor at The Catholic University of America, is a licensed psychologist who spent 17 years at the head of the St. Luke Institute in Silver Spring, Md., a residential treatment center for priests and religious with addictions or psychological disorders.

“As the public negativity rises and the chorus of naysayers crescendos, I believe our priests and church are actually the better for it,” he said.

People in a hurry can access CNS stories about the Quinn and Rossetti speeches here and here.

But wait, there’s more! Origins subscribers also have complete coverage of Pope Benedict XVI’s recent visit to Malta. And all of it in 16 pages!