Thursday, April 21, 2016


From the Italian La Stampa:

Pope Francis: Be careful of who you admit to the seminary

Some young men are too rigid or fundamentalist and join the priesthood because of mental deficiencies. The Pope recalled the importance of the family and the personalisation of human formation. He told bishops: “Be present in your dioceses of resign”
“Be careful of who you admit to the seminary,” because there could be people with mental deficiencies among the candidates to the priesthood. Pope Francis said this in an audience with participants of a Conference sponsored by the Congregation for the Clergy marking the fiftieth anniversary of the proclamation of the Vatican II decrees “Presbyterorum ordinis” (Decree on the Ministry and Life of Priests) and “Optatam Totius” (Decree on Priestly Training) (Pontifical Urbaniana University, 19-20).
Speaking off the cuff, Francis told a story about when he taught the novices of the Society of Jesus. A “good” boy didn’t pass the psychiatrist’s test and she said to Bergoglio: “These boys are fine until they have settled, until they feel completely secure. Then the problems start. Father, have you ever asked yourself why there are policemen who are torturers,” the doctor apparently asked Francis. The Pope told clergy that they must think twice when a young man “is too confident, rigid and fundamentalist”. Hence, his invitation to them to beware when admitting candidates to the seminary: “There are mentally ill boys who seek strong structures that can protect them”, such as “the police, the army and the clergy”.

In his speech, the Pope remembered the reform Benedict XVI wanted to introduce. He put the Congregation for the Clergy, now headed by Cardinal Beniamino Stella, in charge of the seminaries so the dicastery “can start dealing with the life and ministry of the presbyteries from the moment candidates enter the seminary, working to ensure vocations are promoted and nurtured and can lead to priests living saintly lives. A priest’s path towards sainthood being in he seminary!”

A priest, the Pope said, “is a man who is born in a particular human context” and there, staring from the family, “he learns his first values, absorbs the people’s spirituality, he gets used to relations. Even priests have a life story “and are not ‘mushrooms’ which sprout up suddenly at the Cathedral on their day of ordination,” said the Holy Father. “It is important for formators and the priests themselves to remember this, and know how to take this personal history into account along the formation path.”

“A good priest is first of all a man with his own humanity, who knows his own history – with its treasures and wounds – and has learned to make peace with it, gaining a profound serenity, characteristic of a disciple of the Lord,” he said. “Human formation is therefore needed for priests, so they may learn not to be dominated by their limits, but rather to put their talents to use.” The Pope said a priest is “a man of peace” who surrounds himself with serenity, even during hardships. “It is not normal for a priest to be often sad, nervous, or of a hard character; it is not good, and does no good, neither for the priest nor for his people,” he said.

Knowing and remembering that priests exist for the people, helps the them not to be self-centered but authoritative, not authoritarian, firm but not harsh, joyous but not superficial. Basically, pastors, not officials. The priestly mission is for the people of God and the whole of humanity. A priest, Francis said, “is always surrounded by other people”, he is not a pastoral care professional or an evangelisation professional who come and does what he has to do – he may even do a good job but it is still like a job – and then goes away and lives a separate life. One becomes a priest in order to be among the people. The amount of good priests can do depends above all on their closeness and tender love for people. They are not philanthropists or officials, but fathers and brothers. Closeness, a deep sense of mercy and a loving gaze: this is what we need in order to evangelise, to pass on the beauty of a life lived according to the Gospel and the love of God which becomes concrete also through his ministers.”

Francis reminded bishops that the decree on residence is still in force: “If you don’t feel like staying in your diocese you should resign,” Francis says referring to bishops who travel too much and are not close enough o their flock. “How often do we hear priests complaining.” Addressing the bishops he said: “If someone calls you and you can’t answer at that moment, at least pick up the phone and call them.” 


GenXBen said...

I wonder if there's a zoo or something where I can see all these rigid fundamentalist priests that Francis keeps going on about. Perhaps a modern-day Jane Goodall could live among them in the wild, learn to communicate in primitive Latin hand signals, and write a book about them.

The only "fundamentalism" or "rigorism" that I see on a regular basis is from our lay "ministers". The choir director has a Rain Man need to play at least one Marty Haugan and one Bernadette Farrell song every Mass. With never a word of complaint from the priest about the banal songs and clapping afterwards. In fact, I don't know why the choir doesn't sing "Home on the Range" because, truly, in our parish "never is heard a discouraging word", unless you're a music lover or if you want to hear a sermon with more detail than "just be nice".

Really. Francis needs to get out of his ivory tower and get the smell of his sheep. He's insane if he thinks this is the biggest problem in the Church today. Or he's so far to the progressive side that anyone more conservative than James Martin frightens him.

Anonymous said...

This smacks of the political Left's assertions, in the U.S. of the mid-20th century, that conservatism is a form of mental illness.

Rood Screen said...

Those applicants with mental deficiencies, such as homosexuality or effeminacy, should certainly not be admitted. But what seminaries did in the Seventies and Eighties was eliminate theologically and liturgically conservative applicants by labeling them "psychologically unfit". Is the present goal to revive that procedure?

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

As vocation director I have rejected applicants of both persuasions, ultra conservative and ultra liberal, not so much because of their theological positions which could be refined, but rather a rigidity and a sort of gnosticism that they had an inside track that no one else had, especially people in Church authority. Some were so convinced that they had a vocation, that they didn't understand that priesthood isn't a right or a do-it-yourself Sacrament, the discernment of the Church is a major criteria as is the call of the bishop in concretizing the Call of God.

Psychological rigidity or scrupulosity is usually associated with conservatism, but its mirror image and of the same pathology is unscrupulosity or being so lax that there are no standards followed.

Jusadbellum said...

I think we laity need to take at least 5 seconds to contemplate the emotional rollercoaster a typical parish priest must face as part of his NORMAL day: consoling some spouse whose husband left for the secretary at work...then immediately meeting a young engaged couple full of dreams about marital bliss...then counseling some suicidal young man....then attending interminable meetings with laity with a hundred complaints...then listening for the 50th time some joke or story told by an elderly curmudgeon who one can't afford to get on the wrong side of. Then called to the scene of a tragic accident where a child has died. And then back to the rectory to prepare a homily.

If any of us experienced just one of these scenarios we'd be an emotional wreck. But he's got to keep it all together, in perspective, and not let it rattle him to the core.

Thus I can appreciate why some men might not be priest material even if they're pious and sober young men who "like" religious things. Some of the most dynamic priests I've ever met where guys who had lots of options in life but felt a call to the priesthood. Conversely I've known a few sad priests who really couldn't do much of anything if they hadn't been priests and it shows.

We need quality first and foremost. But we laity also need to support our priests. Take them to dinner or give them homecooked meals. Give them coupons or a means to relax on their days off. Pray for them and provide them a safe space to blow off steam.... it can't be an easy life to be a lone pastor of a large church with the next priest 40 miles away....

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

In terms of liturgical rigidity, I would be most concerned if a newly ordained priest or even a seminarian refused to participate in the Ordinary Form of the Mass or insisted that at his Masses only boys serve and that it be ad orientem. What this tells me is that he is absolutely clueless about the Church as she is today and thinking he can construct a liturgy and Church to his liking regardless of the people he is called to serve.

The flip side of this is a priest who refuses to celebrate Mass by saying the black and doing the red, who is constantly a showman with complete disregard for the Church's liturgy and insulting to those who prefer the EF Mass or an OF Mass ad orientem.

The key here is a fundamentalism that places one's personal like and wishes above those he is called to serve. Basically it is narcissism.

Priests who can't identify with the laity's place in life with its experiences and rules simply from a rigid doctrinal and moral construct is going to cause great harm in a parish.

Priests who have no moral or doctrinal foundation and are like a blow reed in the wind and do help people to grow and mature is going to cause great harm in a parish.

Mark Thomas said...

Father McDonald said..."In terms of liturgical rigidity, I would be most concerned if a newly ordained priest or even a seminarian refused to participate in the Ordinary Form of the Mass or insisted that at his Masses only boys serve and that it be ad orientem."

What is interesting to me is that when Father McDonald was a boy, and when I was a boy, a man who advocated anything akin to the Novus Ordo and the novel practices that Father mentioned above would have been deemed unfit for the priesthood. But today, such a man is deemed fit for the priesthood.

Conversely, the holy priests prior to the Novus Ordo Era who held fast to Holy Liturgical Tradition and who would have rejected the above are labeled today as "rigid" and unfit for the priesthood. What a flip-flop the Church has experienced during the past 50 or so years.

By the way, the Apostolic See has declared that ad orientem liturgical prayer is of such "profound value" to Holy Mother Church that Eastern Catholics should resist said novelty. Rome has exhorted Eastern Catholics to "safeguard" ad orientem liturgical prayer.

Congregation for the Eastern Churches

107. Prayer facing the east

"Such practice, threatened in numerous Eastern Catholic Churches by a new and recent Latin influence, is thus of profound value and should be safeguarded as truly coherent with the Eastern liturgical spirituality."


Mark Thomas

Charles G said...

Looks like we really are going back to the bad old days of the 70s, when anyone who actually believes in the teachings of the Church are drummed out of the seminaries.

George said...

Charles G said...

"Looks like we really are going back to the bad old days of the 70s when anyone who actually believes in the teachings of the Church are drummed out of the seminaries. "

I hope not. If candidates who came out of what would be characterized as a traditional Catholic upbringing were "drummed out of the seminaries", it would have a terrible effect on the Church. There are not enough candidates for the priesthood as it is.

Rood Screen said...


Since it happened so recently, we certainly can't rule that out. But it must be admitted that the well-meaning perpetrators back then did not themselves experience that kind of system when they were formed, and so might not have known what they were doing. It could be the case with Pope Francis that he truly doesn't understand the implications of what he's proposing, because he receive formation at the tail end of a more stable era.

John Nolan said...

Can we make this clear - the practice of having women or girls as altar servers is of very recent origin, it is permitted but by no means encouraged, is not allowed in the Extraordinary Form, and the legislation explicitly states that no priest is obliged to have a female server at his Mass, even if the bishop allows the practice in his diocese.

It is in no way analogous to a diocesan priest refusing to say the Novus Ordo, or indeed insisting on using only Latin, whatever his personal liturgical views might be.

So far no English bishops have banned female servers, but there are many parishes which choose not to use them.

Anonymous said...

That females are not allowed to act as altar servers in the EF is reason number 987,654,321 to avoid it at all costs.

Charles G said...

I would agree that it would not make sense for someone who refuses to use the Ordinary Form to be at a diocesan seminary since he obviously would not be able to perform the job of a diocesan priest while the Ordinary Form is the norm. I wouldn't call it a psychological defect however and might invite such person to look at FSSP or ICKSP. However, male only servers and ad orientem are perfectly legitimate options, and traditional to boot (tradition is not a bad word!), and it is not a psychological problem for a priest to prefer such in his own masses. I would think refusal to participate in any mass with female servers or versus populum might be a problem, however, since these are, for better or for worse, legal.

Charles G said...

Most summers at the Latin Mass Community where I sing in the schola, a couple of seminarians from the FSSP Nebraska seminary come teach a class. They have in general seemed delightful chaps and not at all head cases. Listening to them, one does get a weird but not unpleasant time warp sensation that nothing has happened in the Church since 1962. Makes me wish I had lived back in those halcyon days before everything went south...

John Nolan said...

I don't know who this Anonymous is who keeps popping up and trolling others' comments, and since he refuses to identify himself I regard him as a pathetic and contemptible individual in any case, even were it not for the fact that his puerile and superficial contributions amply justify such an inference.

Anonymous said...

Oh, John, you are so superior, aren't you? Your pathetic and contemptible condescension gives you away, no inference needed. Keep up the good work.

John Nolan said...

Anonymous, at least I have the integrity to identify myself, and if my alleged superiority consists of making intelligent and informed comments supported by evidence, then I accept the accolade, as long as it is understood that it is only your good self to whom I am superior. And that is no great feat.