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Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine
Volume 2013, Article ID 246797, 10 pages
Research Article

Spiritual Dryness as a Measure of a Specific Spiritual Crisis in Catholic Priests: Associations with Symptoms of Burnout and Distress

1Quality of Life, Spirituality and Coping, Institute for Integrative Medicine, Faculty of Health, Witten/Herdecke University, Gerhard-Kienle-Weg 4, 58239 Herdecke, Germany
2External Senior Research Fellow Freiburg Institute for Advanced Studies (FRIAS), University of Freiburg, 79104 Freiburg, Germany
3Pastoral Psychology and Sociology, Faculty of Theology Paderborn, Kamp 6, 33098 Paderborn, Germany
4Caritas Science and Christian Social Work, Faculty of Theology, Albert-Ludwigs University, Platz der Universität 3, 79098 Freiburg, Germany
5Internal Senior Research Fellow Freiburg Institute for Advanced Studies (FRIAS), University of Freiburg, 79104 Freiburg, Germany
6Munich School of Philosophy & Professorship of Spiritual Care, University of Munich, Marchioninistraße 15, 81377 Munich, Germany

Received 23 April 2013; Accepted 3 June 2013

Academic Editor: Niels Christian Hvidt

Copyright © 2013 Arndt Büssing et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Spirituality/religiosity is recognized as a resource to cope with burdening life events and chronic illness. However, less is known about the consequences of the lack of positive spiritual feelings. Spiritual dryness in clergy has been described as spiritual lethargy, a lack of vibrant spiritual encounter with God, and an absence of spiritual resources, such as spiritual renewal practices. To operationalize experiences of “spiritual dryness” in terms of a specific spiritual crisis, we have developed the “spiritual dryness scale” (SDS). Here, we describe the validation of the instrument which was applied among other standardized questionnaires in a sample of 425 Catholic priests who professionally care for the spiritual sake of others. Feelings of “spiritual dryness” were experienced occasionally by up to 40%, often or even regularly by up to 13%. These experiences can explain 44% of variance in daily spiritual experiences, 30% in depressive symptoms, 22% in perceived stress, 20% in emotional exhaustion, 19% in work engagement, and 21% of variance of ascribed importance of religious activity. The SDS-5 can be used as a specific measure of spiritual crisis with good reliability and validity in further studies.