Pope Francis said this to African Bishops this past week:
Furthermore, I would like to emphasize an attitude that I do not like, because it does not come from God: rigidity. Today it is fashionable, I do not know about here, but in other parts of the world it is fashionable, to find rigid people. Young, rigid priests, who want to save with rigidity, perhaps, I don’t know, but they take this attitude of rigidity and sometimes – excuse me – from the museum. They are afraid of everything, they are rigid. Be careful, and know that under any rigidity there are serious problems.
Don’t get me wrong, I think, but I don’t really know, I understand what the Pope is saying about rigid priests, especially young ones. I think it means that they are not pastoral, they are more concerned about the finery of liturgy and sacerdotal outfits and could care less about the pastoral needs of their parishioners.
But I am not sure. I have known many priests who are very refined in all they do and in particular with the Liturgy. But they are very pastoral and concerned about their flock. They are not removed from their parishioners and share in their joys and sorrows. This includes priests who exclusively celebrate the EF Mass, I suspect, but don’t really know, what Pope Francis thinks is a museum piece.
The Holy Father has done this before, made himself out to be a psychologist, diagnosing the mental issues of others. I find this rather distasteful especially when the diagnosis is meant to shame the person he is critiquing. In addition, he is not clear as to what he means and thus I call this throwing out bombs in a reckless way. A pope is not to be elevated to a psychologist. That is very worldly and for a pope to elevate himself this way is worldly.
But with that said, I have known rigid people, be they clergy or laity, who hang on to their rigidity for their own sanity. As a vocation director, I would discourage a rigid person from considering priesthood or religious life if they can’t be pastoral or deal with people who are very flexible.
But that is another pathology, no? The flexible person can have no scruples whatsoever and anything goes in the name of pastoral care and accompanying a person. These kinds of popes, bishops and priests, not to mention deacons, are enablers of bad and/or sinful behavior not pastoral counselors by any stretch of the imagination.
The best candidates for the priesthood I see today, and this means even newly ordained priests, are those who are law and order men, but know how to be pastoral, to show the mercy of God but also challenge in a pastoral and kind way the one who needs to have his butt kicked. These are manly men who have also known the mercy of God themselves and have had it shown to them by good and holy priests, even those who say the black and do the red and wear brocade vestments, cassocks and other priestly finery.
The banner I have at the tops is from a psychologist. Obviously a would-be seminarian or an actual candidate for the priesthood or one who is ordained that exhibits these behaviors needs help and more than likely should not be ordained.
But we cannot take this diagnosis and stereotype any and every priest who likes tradition and rules and regulations and say they are crazy. That's just damn wrong.