Friday, May 25, 2018

WHEREIN I RANT ABOUT THE POPE'S RANTING ABOUT RIGID STRUCTURES IN THE CHURCH


A couple of days ago Pope Francis named the elephant in the room concerning the Catholic priesthood's crisis of immature, narcissistic homosexual priests.

But in line with his criticism of rigid people, doctors of the law and the like he also stated this about some young people who want strictness in the seminary and priesthood:

Finally, we must not forget another risk pointed out by Pope Francis in his speech to the Congregation for the Clergy, and that is that often “there are children who are mentally ill and are looking for strong structures to defend them”. 

As a part one one of the most liberal seminaries in the 1970's which until about 1968 was one of the strictest, I can say that there was almost no supervision of seminarians. We could stay out all night, have particular friendships, alcohol in our rooms and other seminarians and friends in our room too with the door closed.

Contrast my experience with what the same seminary was like prior to 1968:

There was a strict dress code, cassock or clerics ( In my time, we had none, we wore shorts, flip flops and smoked in class, only when one gay seminarian wore bib overhauls without a shirt did the faculty complain about that.)

They had a curfew, lights out time, monastic schedule, no particular friendships, door open when visiting someone.

There were strict academic and moral requirements for entrance in the seminary, no broken families, no history of mental illness in the family and if seminary rules were broken or signs of pathology detected one was ushered out of the seminary under cover of night and not readmitted to another diocese or order.

In other words strictness and discipline were in place to protect the seminary community and ultimately the Church from immature seminarians acting out and rectory life wasn't much different although more freedoms were afforded the ordained.

The post Vatican II Church allowed for no supervision and anything goes mentality just as long as it wasn't too public and entrance rules were more relaxed and psychological methods were relied upon to deal with problematic seminarians and priests rather than discipline or expulsion.


Duh! Maybe strict structures are needed and a more rigid approach!

15 comments:

TJM said...

Unfortunately your seminary experience highlights why a lot of faithful young Catholic men opted out of entering. I know, I am one of them. I never believed the Church would recover in my lifetime. Notwithstanding the efforts of the doubleknit dinosaurs and other assorted fake catholics in the clergy, it is recovery, albeit slowly. The young clergy are leading the way! Deo Gratias

ByzRC said...

"In other words strictness and discipline were in place to protect the seminary community and ultimately the Church from immature seminarians acting out and rectory life wasn't much different although more freedoms were afforded the ordained."

Makes sense to me. Most armies are structured thusly to ensure order, discipline and adherence to standards. I don't know why this one should be any different.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

The "monastic model" of formation is probably not the best model for diocesan clergy. Yes, there should be clear expectations for how a man lives his life in the seminary, but, since most major seminarians do not come from college and/or high school seminaries, they arrive with their manner of life well established, and imposing a "rigid" structure is not likely to be significantly formative.

Many also come to the seminary later in life after working for 5 or 10 or 20 years. One of our classmates was a retired Air Force nurse, one was retired from the National Park Service, one retired from sales for Johns-Manville, and one had worked as a senior staff aid to Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan for several years. These men were already well formed, and probably would not have benefitted from imposed rigidity. (When we were 3rd year students, two first year students arrived with military backgrounds. One was a retired Lt Colonel (Army) and one was a retired Colonel (Marines). They made them roommates which the rest of us thought was hilarious!)

We had four "rules" in seminary. First, if you are going to be away overnight, let your spiritual director know where you would be. Second, we did not go into the college students' rooms and they did not come into the seminary rooms. (Mt St. Mary's Seminary is part of Mt. St. Mary's University which has about 1,700 undergraduates. If you were meeting college students, it should be in a public place.) Third, we were not to wear cassocks except when serving on the altar. (We wore standard clerical attire in class.) And four, we were not to keep alcohol in our rooms. (For those of us who enjoyed adult beverages, this rule was almost universally ignored. The joke was "It's behind the Tide," meaning the bottle was on the shelf in the closet behind the box of detergent.)

We did not have assigned seats in the chapel for prayer or mass. (However, heaven help the newbie who took "your" seat without knowing.) If you missed prayer or mass once or maybe twice, no one reacted. If your absence continued, your spiritual director or the dean of men might pay you a visit to see what was up. Being in class was expected of a responsible adult and we understood that. No one had to write down a "rule" saying "You Must Be In Class." Again, one absence was no big deal. Miss two classes and the prof was going to check on you.

There was one "unwritten" rule. We had to sign up to use the washers and dryers - there were just four washers and 6 dryers for a house of 180 men- and, under no circumstances, did you take someone else's time slot. If you did, you should expect to find your wet wash on the floor of the laundry room.

A man of 22 or 24 or 26 years old should be adult enough to live in the temporary community of the seminary, fully able to respect others, to be open to the academic, human, and spiritual formation. If he is not, I would say he needs a kind of formation that is not going to be achieved by imposing a rule of life on him at that stage of his life. Upon arrival in his first assignment as a priest, the rules are gone and a man has to be able to live in very, very different circumstances. The "womb" of the seminary structure ends abruptly, and, often in a large parish with a school, the newly ordained will have to be very self-motivated to survive, relying on his own wherewithal. The pastor isn't the rule enforcer. And while the staff of a large parish can be very helpful in bring a newly ordained priest along, keeping him "in line" isn't their job.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

More...

A man can live with rigid rules for a few years without their having any impact on him whatsoever. They don't really "form" a person; rather they require his observance. If a candidate has significant immaturity at age 22 or 24 or, even, 30, he's not going to be "fixed" with rigid seminary rules. He's probably not the one a bishop wants in the seminary in the first place.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Mt. St. Mary's maintained stricter discipline in the seminary, although more relaxed than the pre-Vatican II model then St. Mary's in Baltimore. I can't comment on Mt. St. Mary's success rate with maturing candidates but it is clear that the post-Vatican II success rate of maturing would-be priests was a dismal failure compared to its pre-Vatican II model.

But with that said, there is sage advice that if a man (or women) doesn't live out their adolescence at the appropriate time (during adolescence) they will do so at a very inappropriate time.

Marc said...

That your seminary banned the wearing of the cassock as one of its 4 chief rules says everything one needs to know about that seminary.

Anonymous said...

Bee here:

It was startling to me to read that the unwritten rule about laundry schedules and seating in the chapel at Mt. St. Mary's Seminary was stricter and the punishment more punitive than the enforcement of class or Mass and prayer attendance. Doesn't that tell you something?

I think Fr. Kavanaugh was trying to make the point that the expectations were that a man was self-disciplined and self-motivated enough to comply with the expectations of the seminary, however, it is interesting that defiance of the no-alcohol rule was a common joke.

It says a lot to me about obedience, and perhaps the source of the problem we see today in priests of non-conformity to rubrics. If I don't wanna, I don't. All "rules" are really suggestions. Conformity is optional. Whatever.

God bless.
Bee

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Bee, the only penalty for violating the unwritten yet sacrosanct washer/dryer rule was that the offender had to deal with a heap of wet clothes.

For skipping mass and/or class, the man could very well have been expelled. The penalty for the more serious offense is plainly more severe.

The point is that treating a 25 or 35 or 45 year old man like a child is not going to result in a well-formed priest.

Marc said...

Based on the evidence I’ve seen, the rules they did have didn’t result in a well-formed priest either.

TJM said...

Marc,

Agreed

Anonymous said...

Bee here:

Got it Father Kavanaugh. I understood you. But there is a ton of subtext....

God bless.
Bee

John Nolan said...

When I hear the word 'pastoral' I want to reach for my revolver ...

Anonymous said...

"Based on the evidence I’ve seen, the rules they did have didn’t result in a well-formed priest either."

The military seems to do a good job forming people with "rules". They don't care who you are or where you come from. This is how they build cohesion, structure, and discipline that lasts a lifetime. The church could learn a thing or two. From a military viewpoint, if you can't take the time and detail to fold a shirt correctly to standard, how do we know you can do your job when lives depend on it? Or rebuild an engine correctly when no one is watching? Obviously, these situations of life and death are trivial compared to the responsibility the priest has to the himself and the faithful for eternity. Similarly, if you cant follow simple, basic rules, how are you suppose to lead and structure the hundreds of faithful you will be responsible for? As for the disobedience to alcohol, I find it not funny at all, but sad and pathetic. Especially, regarding the lectures given by priests on how to be holy and they cant even follow basic rules themselves. Very sad. The whole point is to not wallow around in the filth with the laity but be above it, to a higher standard so that they can lift us out.

Anonymous said...

"Based on the evidence I’ve seen, the rules they did have didn’t result in a well-formed priest either."

The military seems to do a good job forming people with "rules". They don't care who you are or where you come from. This is how they build cohesion, structure, and discipline that lasts a lifetime. The church could learn a thing or two. From a military viewpoint, if you can't take the time and detail to fold a shirt correctly to standard, how do we know you can do your job when lives depend on it? Or rebuild an engine correctly when no one is watching? Obviously, these situations of life and death are trivial compared to the responsibility the priest has to the himself and the faithful for eternity. Similarly, if you cant follow simple, basic rules, how are you suppose to lead and structure the hundreds of faithful you will be responsible for? As for the disobedience to alcohol, I find it not funny at all, but sad and pathetic. Especially, regarding the lectures given by priests on how to be holy and they cant even follow basic rules themselves. Very sad. The whole point is to not wallow around in the filth with the laity but be above it, to a higher standard so that they can lift us out.

Anonymous said...

Seminaries aren't forming soldiers.

Boot camp is designed to reprogram children (whatever age they may be) and turn them into soldiers who will physically run toward mortal danger. Part of the psychological assault on the recruit is to convince him/her that everything he/she had been before signing up was without any real value.

Seminaries are not about reprogramming anyone or preparing them to run into mortal danger, or to convince the candidate that his life and what he knew before seminary had no value.

At Immaculate Conception Seminary at Seton Hall University, "The Priestly Formation Program is centered around the Four Pillars of Priestly Formation. Formation is developed through four aspects: human, spiritual, intellectual and pastoral. Each seminarian is formed and prepared for the priesthood via coursework and study, field education, spiritual direction, retreats, workshops and living in community with one another."