Fr. Cozzens' book is a small one -- only 143 pages -- but in those pages he has put together some of the best and most challenging insights into the Roman Catholic priesthood that I have ever seen. Cozzens' is no stranger to this subject -- he has been a vicar for priests and is currently in charge of a major seminary in Cleveland. This makes him extremely qualified to reflect on what he has seen, heard, and experienced in the priesthood over the past decades. Cozzens obviously has achieved what he calls on all priests to achieve -- a healthy balance between being a representative of the institutional church and being faithful to one's own vision and one's own person. This, at times, means raising uncomfortable issues. Some of the ones faced in this book include the need for emotional and spiritual maturity and integrity in priests today, and how that can be/has been achieved by many priests; serious consideration of celibacy and what is needed to live a healthy life as a celibate (i.e. intimacy); a presentation of the tension between priest-bishop-church and how priests must deal with that tension; and the need for priests to let God's Word speak to them to empower them to be the best preachers they can be. Finally, the most controversial areas Cozzens deals with are around the seeming increasing number of gay men in the priesthood and what that means for the gay priest, the straight priest, and the institution of the priesthoood itself; and the painful reality of clergy sexual abuse of children and the unasked questions about its causes.
The only thing I was disappointed in was Fr. Cozzens' lack of specific suggestions to address some of these issues. My hope is that perhaps he might do a follow-up to this book in which he articulates some to help begin a much needed conversation about the priesthood in our church today.
I am grateful to Fr. Cozzens for his book and for being a model priest who loves the church and the priesthood enough to help it to grow and be transformed and renewed. My own faith has been strengthened by reading "The Changing Face of the Priesthood," and I recommend it to any priest, any relative of a priest, and anyone who has a priest as a friend.
Father Cozzens, as Priest, Vicar (counsellor) to priests, and Seminary Rector has an excellent vantage point from which to view the priesthood, its history, its strengths and its challenges. Rather than opt for "company man" status, Father Cozzens has taken the road less travelled, and provides a courageous look at the challenges facing the modern priest. In so doing he no doubt will cause a good deal of discomfort among those who prefer not to see reality. His purpose is to improve the everyday life of the Catholic Priest and in so doing to improve the Catholic Church. He comes at the subject out of love, and as one who speaks from within. A very powerful book.