The relationship between narcissism and spiritual well-being in Roman Catholic seminarians
Table of Contents Acknowledgements v CHAPTER 1. INTRODUCTION/STATEMENT OF PROBLEM 1 Introduction to the Problem 1 Background to the Study 5 Statement of the Problem 8 Purpose of the Study 9 Rationale 10 Research Question and Hypotheses 11 Nature of the Study 11 Significance of the Study 12 Definition of Terms 14 Assumptions 16 Strengths and Limitations 16 CHAPTER 2. LITERATURE REVIEW 18 Introduction 18 Defining Narcissism 19 The Development of Narcissism in Young People 25 Narcissism in Roman Catholic Seminarians 33 Narcissism in Roman Catholic Priests 35 Defining Spiritual Well-Being 40 Studies of Narcissism and Spiritual Well-Being 43
Conclusion 46 CHAPTER 3. METHODOLOGY 47 Introduction 47 Theoretical Framework 48 Research Design Strategy 49 Assumptions 50 Sample Design 51 Measures 54 Data Collection Procedures 60 Ethical Issues 63 Risk Level Estimates 66 Field and/or Pilot Testing 66 Data Analysis Procedures 66 Limitations of Methodology 67 Strengths and Limitations 68 CHAPTER 4. DATA ANALYSIS AND RESULTS 69 Introduction 69 Sample Description 69 Measures and Scores 71 Statistics 72 Research Findings 76 Additional Analyses 79 Conclusion 88
CHAPTER 5. CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS 90 Introduction 90 Background of the Study 90 Methodology of the Study 92 Discussion of the Results 93 Implications for Practice 98 Conclusions 101 Strengths and Limitations of the Study 102 Recommendations 104 REFERENCES 106 APPENDIX A. RESEARCH SITE RECRUITMENT LETTERS 115 APPENDIX B. PARTICIPANT RECRUITMENT LETTERS 119 APPENDIX C. STUDY ANNOUNCEMENT FLYER 123 APPENDIX D. PARTICIPANT CONSENT FORM 124 APPENDIX E. DEMOGRAPHICS FORM 128 APPENDIX F. STUDY INSTRUMENTS 132 APPENDIX G. STUDY ADMINISTRATION SCRIPT 140 APPENDIX H. STUDY DEBRIEFING SCRIPT 142 APPENDIX I. LIST OF TABLES 145 Table A1. Demographic Data of Participants 145 Table A2. Measurement Scores 153 Table A3. Frequency and Percentages of NPI Scores 159 Table A4. Frequency and Percentages of SWBS Scores 160
Table A5. Summer Program Nonparticipant NPI Scores 161 Table A6. Summer Program Participant NPI Scores 161 Table A7. NPI Score Frequencies and Percentages for Age Group 1 163 Table A8. NPI Score Frequencies and Percentages for Age Group 2 164 Table A9. NPI Score Frequencies and Percentages for Age Group 3 165 Table A10. NPI Score Frequencies and Percentages for Age Group 4 166 Table A11. NPI Score Frequencies and Percentages for Age Group 5 166 Table A12. NPI Score Frequencies and Percentages for Age Group 6 167 Table A13. Bonferroni Post-hoc Test for All Age Groups 168 APPENDIX J. LIST OF FIGURES 169 Figure A1. Group 1 NPI Scores 169 Figure A2. Group 2 NPI Scores 170 Figure A3. Group 3 NPI Scores 171 Figure A4. Group 4 NPI Scores 172 Figure A5. Group 5 NPI Scores 173 Figure A6. Group 6 NPI Scores 174
CHAPTER 1. INTRODUCTION/STATEMENT OF PROBLEM
Introduction to the Problem Narcissism has become an epidemic among young people in the United States (Twenge, 2006; Twenge, & Campbell, 2009). As young adults, Roman Catholic seminarians may not be immune to this. Since narcissism can be an obstacle to a healthy priesthood, it is important to insure that men ordained are low in narcissism. The Roman Catholic priesthood is a vocation that requires great generosity and self-giving. Narcissism can prevent a man from being able to fully give of himself to others. Instead, it can lead him to focus mainly on himself. According to the Program for Priestly Formation (USCCB; 2006), a Roman Catholic seminarian must be a man of solid moral character, prudent, able to relate to others with empathy and understanding, a good communicator, mature, respectful, and able to take the role of a public person. These are characteristics of a person who is able to generously give of himself to others in a responsible way. A narcissistic person might not have these character traits. Narcissism has long been a problem among Roman Catholic clergy, which has prevented healthy self-giving. Vitz (2007) and colleagues have long studied narcissism among Roman Catholic priests. He sees this narcissism exhibited in the way that American priests individualize their Masses. In their Masses, narcissistic priests make themselves the center of the liturgy, rather than God. It is as if the priests are starring in a show, rather than leading worship.
Narcissism is not limited to Roman Catholic clergy. It can also be seen in the clergy of other denominations. Francis (2007) has studied narcissism in Lutheran clergy. On a broader level, many Evangelical Protestant televangelists, including Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker and Jimmy Swaggart, have displayed narcissism. For these preachers, personal fame and fortune were their primary goal. For the men, their sense of entitlement also led to sexual misconduct and a misuse of church funds. People with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) display a grandiose sense of self-importance and a preoccupation with fantasies of limitless success. Such people believe they are extraordinary, and need constant attention and admiration. People with NPD often display a sense of self-entitlement and tend to exploit others for their own selfish desires (Morris, 1996). While most people do not have NPD, many display some of the characteristics of narcissism. This is often exhibited in various forms of selfishness. Some believe that narcissism is not always a negative trait. It can be an adaptive strategy that is useful in certain areas of human functioning. It can be a source of immense creative energy that fuels a person’s need to make a difference in the world. It is also needed in highly dangerous and/or stressful careers, such as being a police officer, fire fighter or fighter pilot (Pinsky, & Young, 2009). However, when taken to an extreme, narcissism can be highly maladaptive. It can seriously hinder interpersonal relationships. Narcissists have a difficult time empathizing with the needs of others. They can only see their own needs. When a narcissist’s emotions become unregulated, and others do not comply with his/her needs, conflict erupts. Narcissists tend to meet conflict with a rigid unwillingness to change and an
inability to see any perspective other than their own. Thus, dealing with a narcissistic person can be highly unpleasant (Pinsky, & Young, 2009). Narcissism among young adults in particular appears to have risen over the past 25 years. Twenge (2008) and colleagues examined the responses of 16,475 college students nationwide who took the Narcissistic Personality Inventory (NPI; Raskin, & Hall, 1979, 1981: Raskin & Terry, 1988) between 1982 and 2006. They found that NPI scores among young people have steadily risen since it was first introduced. The mean score for college students in 1982 was 15.06. The mean score for college students in 2006 was 17.29. Based on evidence that narcissism is a common problem among Roman Catholic clergy (Vitz, 2007), Roman Catholic bishops believe it is important to identify narcissism in seminarians (Zapor, 2004). Interventions can then be made to help reduce narcissism. This will ensure that future priests will be healthy and able to generously give of themselves to God and others. One possible way to insure that future priests will be healthy and able to fully give of themselves in ministry is for seminaries to accept men who are not only low in narcissism, but also high in spiritual well-being. Those who are high in spiritual well- being tend to have a strong, healthy relationship with God. They see their purpose in life as serving God and others, not themselves (Ellison, 1983). Thus, it stands to reason that those who are high in spiritual well-being would also be low in narcissism. This study attempted to discover whether there is a relationship between narcissism and spiritual well-being in Roman Catholic seminarians. If a correlation were found, it could have led to further studies on whether growth in spiritual well-being
actually reduces narcissism. If growth in spiritual well-being did reduce narcissism, then a concrete way to reduce narcissism in Roman Catholic seminarians would have been discovered. This was the practical value of the study. To study whether there was a correlation between narcissism and spiritual well- being, a sample of 201 seminarians completed the Narcissistic Personality Inventory (NPI; Raskin, & Hall, 1979, 1981: Raskin & Terry, 1988) and the Spiritual Well-Being Scales (SWBS; Ellison, & Paloutzian, 1982; Ellison, 1983). The scores on these surveys were analyzed to determine if there was a correlation and, if so, what kind of correlation. The knowledge gained from this study will add to the existing literature because there appears to be little information published on the topic. While numerous separate articles have been published on narcissism and spiritual well-being, none explore the relationship between narcissism and spiritual well-being in Roman Catholic seminarians. Watson, Jones and Morris (2004) published a study on the correlation between narcissism, religious orientation, attitudes toward money, and gender. This study showed an inverse relationship between narcissism levels and intrinsic religious orientation, which can be related to spiritual well-being. However, this study was conducted with college students, not Roman Catholic seminarians, and it did not specifically address spiritual well-being. Francis (1997) published a dissertation on the correlation between narcissism and spiritual well-being. However, his study focused on narcissism as a factor in sexual misconduct committed by Lutheran clergy. Plass (2002) published a dissertation on narcissism in protestant theology students. However, he also did not address spiritual well-being. There are many other dissertations published on narcissism
in clergy: Lee (2004), Lester (2000) and Weiser (1986). However, none of these studies explore spiritual well-being. Thus, exploring the relationship between narcissism and spiritual well-being is something that has not been done before and will add new information to existing literature. It could also yield information that will be useful in the formation of healthy future Roman Catholic priests. Background of the Study The increase in narcissism among young people, along with the recent sexual abuse scandals in the Roman Catholic Church have raised a strong awareness of the importance of ordaining healthy men to the priesthood. Seminaries are increasingly finding it important to identify characteristics, like narcissism and spiritual well-being, which can affect the healthy functioning of a Roman Catholic priest. The Program for Priestly Formation (2006) identifies four areas of formation for a healthy priesthood: human, spiritual, intellectual and pastoral. All four areas of formation are intertwined, each flowing into the other. Human formation is prescribed to develop a spirit of generosity, helping the seminarian become a man for others and curb expectations of entitlement (i.e., narcissism). Spiritual formation is prescribed to help the seminarian develop a healthy relationship with God, and a desire to serve others (i.e., spiritual well- being; Program, 2006). Thus, unhealthy levels of narcissism and spiritual well-being and can be impediments to a healthy priestly development. Many of the problems that have plagued Roman Catholic clergy can be linked to narcissism. Carnes (2001) and Fitzgibbons (2009) have found narcissism to be a key factor in the development of sexual addiction. Celenza (2004) and her colleagues worked
with perpetrators of sexual abuse. They found narcissistic vulnerabilities to be a factor in priest sexual abuse. Meloy (1986) hypothesized that the clergy community reinforces narcissism in its members. It starts with the notion that one is called by God to serve others. In the Roman Catholic Church, this is known as a religious vocation. This can lead to a sense of specialness, that one is better that others because of the calling. Because of this, the priesthood may attract some men who already have narcissistic tendencies. The church itself can reinforce narcissistic tendencies in priests. After the Second Vatican Council (1961–1965), the Catholic Mass was radically changed. Rather than facing the crucifix and tabernacle during the Liturgy of the Eucharist, the priest now faces the people. The priest became the focal point of the liturgy. He is now the star. Everything depends on him. The congregation follows his lead and responds to him. Pope Benedict XVI recognized this well before he was elected to the papacy. In his book, The Spirit of the Liturgy, he writes “Now I see more clearly how the new liturgy fostered both clericalism and narcissism” (Ratzinger, 2000). Because of this sense of specialness, Rediger (1990) identified a similar type of clergyman who sees himself as above the rules that are set for the rest of the congregation. They view themselves as the ones who interpret, enforce and disseminate God’s rules. However, when their needs for power, recognition and esteem are not appropriately met, they believe they are entitled to get them met in any way they see fit. Outside of the church, American society has helped to foster a generation of children, teens and young adults with narcissistic tendencies. Twenge (2006) has spent many years studying narcissism. In her research, she found that many adults today view
parenthood as a choice, rather than a duty. Thus, they are having fewer children and overindulging them. There is a great concern in America for protecting and reinforcing children’s self-esteem. There is a push to make every child feel special. This can be seen in sporting events where every child wins a trophy or in school writing assignments where a child will receive an ‘A’ even though his paper is full of spelling and grammatical mistakes. Many parents spoil their children with material goods, and fear disciplining their children. To protect their child’s self-esteem, parents want to be their child’s best friend. This overinflated self-esteem in children, along with overindulgence from parents, has led to a generation of young adults who exhibit clear narcissistic tendencies, including a high sense of entitlement and an inability to take criticism. Thus, one can see how narcissism can be fostered by parents, society and churches. Spiritual well-being is defined as “the affirmation of life in relationship with God, self, community and environment that celebrates wholeness” (p.331). It is an expression of one’s spiritual health (Ellison, 1983). It was the hypothesis of this researcher that one who has a healthy relationship with God, self and community would also be emotionally healthy and low in narcissism. They would want to freely give of themselves to God and others. To test thus hypothesis, it was first necessary to see if there was a relationship between narcissism and spiritual well-being. If a negative correlation was found, additional research could be conducted to determine if an increase in spiritual well-being actually lowered narcissism. This could result in a new and effective way to decrease narcissism and ensure that healthier men are ordained to the Roman Catholic priesthood.
Statement of the Problem Narcissism is a problem among many young adults (Pinsky, & Young, 2009; Twenge, 2006; Twenge, & Campbell, 2009) and Roman Catholic priests (Day, 1992; Ratzinger, 2000; Vitz, 2007). The priesthood is a vocation that requires a man to be able to generously give of himself to others. In worship, it is the priest’s responsibility to lead others to God. A narcissistic priest, who focuses solely on himself, will find it very difficult to fulfill these duties. In worship, he will lead the congregation to focus on himself, not God. Thus, to help ensure a healthy priesthood, it is important to identify and resolve narcissism in Roman Catholic seminarians. An example of narcissism in a Roman Catholic seminarian comes from this researcher’s own experience. To protect confidentiality, the names of the seminary, rector and seminarian are not provided. A seminarian in his early 20s was referred for an evaluation by his seminary rector because of highly narcissistic behaviors. He violated many boundaries with his classmates. For example, he used one seminarian’s debit card without asking permission. He then borrowed another seminarian’s car without asking permission. This seminarian held strong, conservative religions beliefs. When asked to lead music at mass and prayer services, he would often argue with the music director because he felt the music chosen was “not sacred enough.” When questioned about his attitudes and behaviors, the seminarian offered what he believed were reasonable explanations for everything, and felt entitled to what he did. When confronted by his classmates, he dismissed them believing they just did not understand him. There was a clear lack of empathy on his part. These are classic symptoms of narcissism. The
seminarian underwent a full psychological evaluation. While it was determined that he did not have NPD, he did show clear signs of narcissistic character traits. While this case study may seem like an extreme example of narcissism in a Roman Catholic seminarian, his rector commented on the rise in narcissistic attitudes and behaviors that he has observed in other seminarians. This rector, along with rectors and faculty from several other seminaries interviewed by this researcher agreed that a study of narcissism in Roman Catholic seminarians was needed. They want to reduce narcissism in seminarians so that future priests will be healthy and able to generously give of themselves to God and their parishioners. In February 2009, psychiatrist Richard Fitzgibbons presented a conference on Growth in Affective Maturity in Seminarians at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary in Denver, CO. After the conference, several people commented to Dr. Fitzgibbons on the high levels of selfishness and entitlement that they have witnessed in seminarians (Fitzgibbons, 2009). From the evidence provided, on can see that narcissism can be a problem among young adults, priests and seminarians. Thus, studying narcissism among Roman Catholic seminarians, with the eventual goal of identifying and reducing it, can lead to a healthier future priesthood. Purpose of the Study The purpose of this study was to determine if there was a relationship between narcissism and spiritual well-being among Roman Catholic seminarians. It did not explore the possible causes of narcissism and spiritual well-being in Roman Catholic seminarians. It also did not explore ways to decrease narcissism or increase spiritual
well-being. Its goal is simply to identify these two characteristics in seminarians and their possible relationship. Rationale This study was conducted to help ensure a healthy future Roman Catholic priesthood. Narcissism can be an obstacle to a healthy priesthood. It has also been found to be a problem among many young adults (Pinsky, & Young, 2009; Twenge, 2006; Twenge, & Campbell, 2009), as well as priests (Day, 1992; Ratzinger, 2000; Vitz, 2007). In addition, narcissism has been associated with sexual addiction (Carnes, 2001; Fitzgibbons, 2009) and sexual abuse (Celenza, 2004). While narcissistic individuals are considered unhealthy, individuals high in spiritual well-being are considered healthy. Those who are high in spiritual well-being have healthy relationships with God, self, community and the environment (Ellison, 1983). They are able to generously give of themselves to God and others. Thus, they would not be considered narcissistic. The goal of this study was to answer the research question ‘Is there a correlation between narcissism and spiritual well-being in Roman Catholic seminarians?’ If a negative correlation was found, future research could have been conducted to identify if and how growth in spiritual well-being could actually lower narcissism. This study will add new knowledge to the field since there is currently little published on the topic of narcissism and spiritual well-being in Roman Catholic seminarians. It will also encourage future research on this topic. Altogether, this can help ensure a healthier priesthood.
Research Question and Hypotheses Research Question (ResQ1): Is there a relationship between narcissism and spiritual well-being in Roman Catholic Seminarians? Null Hypothesis (H o ): There is no correlation between narcissism and spiritual well-being in Roman Catholic Seminarians. Alternative Hypothesis (H A ): There is a correlation between narcissism and spiritual well-being in Roman Catholic Seminarians. Nature of the Study This study investigated the correlation between narcissism and spiritual well- being in Roman Catholic seminarians. Since this was only a study of the relationship between two variables, the design of the study was quantitative, non-experimental/ descriptive, and correlational (Leedy, 2005). In quantitative research, the general goal is to be as objective as possible to be able to describe, explain and predict behavior. The focus is usually on a particular aspect of behavior so that it can be quantified in some way. Quantitative research that is non- experimental/descriptive identifies the characteristics of an observed phenomenon or explores the possible correlation among two or more phenomena. It does not attempt to change or modify the situation under investigation (Leedy, 2005). In this study, no attempt was made to change or modify narcissism or spiritual well-being in Roman Catholic seminarians. In correlational research, differences in one variable are related to differences in one or more other variables. If one variable increases while another variable increases or decreases in a predictable fashion, one can say there is a correlation (Leedy, 2005). It is important to note, however, that while a correlational study may
show a relationship between variables, it does not determine cause and effect (Howell, 2004). The measure of the degree of strength in this relationship is the correlation coefficient. The Pearson product-moment correlation coefficient (r) was used to identify and measure the correlation. This is the most common measurement tool for correlation and was sufficient for this study (Howell, 2004). As stated above, correlation does not determine cause and effect. Thus, if a correlation were identified between narcissism and spiritual well-being levels, additional research would have to be conducted to determine any cause and effect. The constructs and primary variables for the study are obviously narcissism and spiritual well-being. Since narcissism and spiritual well-being are both constructs of personality related to psychodynamic theory, the theoretical framework for this study will be psychodynamic (Kohut, 1978; Moore, & Fine, 1990). The unit of analysis for the study was Roman Catholic seminarians. In order to be included in this study, each participant had to be male, Roman Catholic, and enrolled in a Roman Catholic seminary in the United Stated at the time of the study. Significance of the Study The goal of this study was to help in the formation of healthy priests. The increase of narcissism in young people (Pinsky, & Young, 2009, Twenge, 2006; Twenge & Campbell, 2009) and priests (Day, 1992; Ratzinger, 2000, Vitz, 2007), along with the recent priest sexual abuse scandals, which are related to narcissism (Celenza 2004), have made it imperative to ensure that only the healthiest men are ordained to the priesthood.
To do this, it is important to identify any narcissism in seminarians and work to resolve it prior to ordination. Having a healthy sense of spiritual well-being is also needed for an effective priesthood. The Roman Catholic priesthood is a vocation dedicated to the spiritual welfare of others. Thus, a priest must have a healthy relationship with God, his community and himself (Ellison, 1983; USCCB, 2006). Because of this, it is important to be able to identify and raise low levels of spiritual well-being in seminarians prior to ordination. It was the hypothesis of this researcher that there would be a negative correlation between narcissism and spiritual well-being in Roman Catholic seminarians. Thus, it was important to investigate if this relationship existed. If a negative correlation was found, further research could have been conducted to see if an increase in spiritual well-being actually reduces narcissism. If this were so, then a new and effective way to reduce narcissism in Roman Catholic seminarians would have been found. This study would also support two branches of the Program for Priestly Formation: human formation and spiritual formation (USCCB, 2006). Helping seminarians lower their narcissism would help in the human formation process. Helping them grow in spiritual well-being would help in the spiritual formation process. Thus, the results of this study could have eventually helped improve the effectiveness of the Program for Priestly Formation, and in turn, produce healthier priests. While studies of narcissism and spiritual well-being individually have been done with college students, young adults, protestant theological students, and Lutheran ministers, none have been done with Roman Catholic seminarians. Thus, this study will
add to current knowledge in the field of psychology by studying these character traits in a new population. It will also add to current knowledge in the field of Roman Catholic seminarian/priestly formation by studying two character traits, narcissism and spiritual well-being, and their correlation in seminarians. This could lead to more effective methods for decreasing narcissism and increasing spiritual well-being in Roman Catholic seminarians. This could ultimately benefit Roman Catholic seminarians, priests, laity, and society in general. Definitions of Terms Narcissism. The definition used for this study was the one developed by Twenge (2006). It is defined as the positive and inflated view of oneself, especially on agentic traits (e.g., power, importance, physical attractiveness, etc.). Second, it is associated with social extroversion, although people high in narcissism have relatively little interest in developing warm, emotionally intimate relationships. Third, narcissism involves a wide range of self-regulatory efforts aimed at enhancing the self. They can include attention seeking, taking credit from others, seeking high status romantic partners and opportunities to achieve public glory. Fourth, those high in narcissism tent to lash out aggressively when they are rejected or insulted. Narcissism was measured on the Narcissistic Personality Inventory, or NPI (Raskin, & Hall, 1979, 1981: Raskin, & Terry, 1988). The NPI is the most widely used measure of narcissistic personality traits in the general population (Twenge, 2006). However, it is important to note that the NPI is not designed as a clinical instrument for measuring Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), and there is no cut-off score for clinically high narcissism (Foster, & Campbell, 2007). Since this was a correlational
study, and not a diagnostic one, it was not necessary to identify narcissism levels for clinical purposes. The definition of narcissism used for this study is also the same definition that Twenge (2006) used in her meta-analysis of studies on narcissism in college students over 25 years that used the NPI. Spiritual Well-being. The definition used for this study was developed by the National Interfaith Coalition on Aging (NCOA; 1975). It is defined as “the affirmation of life in a relationship with God, self, community and environment that nurtures and celebrated wholeness” (p.1). It is determined by self-assessing the quality of one’s life based on religious and existential perceptions. Religious perceptions include the quality of one’s relationship with God. Existential perceptions include one’s sense of life purpose and satisfaction (Ellison, 1983). Spiritual well-being is not a measure of spiritual health. Rather, it is an expression of one’s spiritual health. Those who are high in spiritual well-being tend to have a strong, healthy relationship with God, community, self and environment (Ellison, 1983). Spiritual Well-being was measured on the Spiritual Well-Being Scales or SWBS (Ellison, & Paloutzian, 1982; Ellison, 1983). The SWBS provides an overall measure of the perception of spiritual well-being, as well as subscale scores for Religious and Existential Well-Being. The Religious Well-Being Subscale provides a self-assessment of one’s relationship with God, while the Existential Well-Being Subscale gives a self- assessment of one’s sense of life purpose and life satisfaction (Ellison, & Paloutzian, 1982; Ellison, 1983). For this study, only the overall spiritual well-being scores were