I thought I would throw up when I read Sulpician Father Phillip Brown's praise of the Sulpician 1970's version of what the perfect priestly candidate is and priestly formation program accomplishes. It describes exactly the Sulpicians mentality I received at TC's mother campus, St. Mary Seminary in Roland Park (Baltimore).
Don't get me wrong. I agree with the pastoral emphasis that Fr. Brown exalts. I do not agree that this emphasis replaces either apologetics, tradition or the sacerdotal elements of the priest, that the two are mutually exclusive! IT IS NOT EITHER/OR BUT BOTH/AND!
The 1970's model that Fr. Brown exalts in large part, if not completely, led to the massive defections of good seminarians. The priests it formed often got seduced by the world they tried to smell like and entered a sort of double immoral life. This period of disintegration and loss of priestly identity exacerbated the license immature priests and seminarians took with minors and other vulnerable individuals. It is not a coincidence that the peak of the priestly abuse scandal, the victimization of minors, took place in 1974!
FATHER BROWN WE HAVE TO GO FORWARD WITH SOUND TRADITION AND A STRONG PRIESTLY IDENITY THAT IS HUMAN AND PASTORAL NOT BACKWARDS TO THE DISASTEROUS 1970'S WHICH DESTROYED THE SULPICIAN MODEL OF SEMINARY TRAINING AND THE SEMINARIANS AND PRIESTS WHO BOUGHT INTO THE NEW MODEL HOOK, LINE AND SINKER!
My 1976 entering class at St. Mary's consisted of almost 60 men. By 1979 there were only 23 of us who stuck it out. Some 36 later, today, there are only about 10 of us still in active ministry! So much for the class of 1980! GOD SAVE US FROM THAT 1970'S SULPICIAN MODEL OF PRIESTHOOD, SEMINARY FORMATION AND MODEL OF CATHOLICISM!
I copy the following from Deacon Greg Kendra's blog. The counterpoint is excellent:
One rector offers his view that the “Francis Effect” is being felt on the seminary level:
Sulpician Fr. Phillip J. Brown, rector of the Theological College, the national diocesan seminary of the Catholic University of America in Washington, said the Francis effect is alive and well, and growing, at least among seminarians. It’s been a sudden development.
Last fall, asked by reporters about the impact of Francis on the seminary, which educates and forms 84 men sponsored by dioceses across the U.S., the rector said it was too early to gauge. That’s not true anymore, he told NCR in a recent interview.
A message the seminary always taught, he said, is catching on. “You are not a priest to be a policeman. You are to be a pastor. That’s the message of Francis,” he said.
He’s seeing a shift in attitudes among seminarians particularly in the areas of:View of church tradition. “They are more open to diversity,” he said, noting that there is less of an embrace of apologetics — the view that church teaching should be preached to a secular culture that often ignores it — and more of an embrace of the view, echoing Francis, “to get in with people and see where they are … The guys coming in now are more curious, ready to apply the teaching to people’s real lives.”
There’s less focus on the sacerdotal nature of priesthood — the view that priests are men set aside with particular sacramental powers — and more on how a priest can work among people, what Francis has described as being a shepherd who smells like the sheep.
There is less of an emphasis on signs and symbols indicating traditionalism. They can seem like small things: the wearing of cassocks, Communion only on the tongue and not in the hand, to name two. But in recent years these symbols became what Brown described “as markers of orthodoxy” with an indication that those who didn’t follow such practices were suspect.
UPDATE: The following was posted on my Facebook page in response. It comes from a priest —Fr. Kyle Doustou, from Portland, Maine, who posted it on his Facebook page.
This gives a dissenting view:
“This article, written from an interview given by the out-going Rector of my former seminary, is very hurtful. The men who were formed in and ordained from Theological College over the past 10 years are some of the best and most pastoral men and priests that I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. Inventing a false dichotomy between a love for the Church’s traditions and a love for the people of God is a manipulative, ideological tool used to push forth one’s personal agenda.
I have known Father Brown for many years, and have a great deal of respect and admiration for him personally, but this public interview he gave with an openly dissenting ‘Catholic’ publication warrants an alumnus response.
As one of the many cassock-wearing, Communion-on-the-tongue-receiving, Latin-loving, Extraordinary-Form-Mass-saying young priests that have passed through the halls of Theological College, allow me to say plainly to anyone who would agree with the tone and sentiment of this article that you have deliberately and painfully pigeon-holed men who love the Church and cast us to be pompous little monsters simply because we have a different theological/liturgical outlook than you. You condescend towards us as if we were not thinking, opining, and sincere men. You gossip about us, ensuring that we are ‘put in our places’ and ‘taught a thing or two’ by your confreres. You confuse our strong convictions with arrogance and accuse us of being staunch when we are trying more than anything else to be faithful, helpful, and loving.
But let’s be quite honest…you don’t really know us because you never took the time to get to know us. You saw us when we were in the seminary chapel or over breakfast…but that’s about it. Have you seen us at 2:00 AM in the hospital? Have you seen us working late into the night on a funeral homily? Have you seen us giving up our one day off a week to visit with a lonely elderly parishioner? Have you seen us on our knees at night before the tabernacle weeping because we just buried a child earlier that day? Have you seen us celebrate four Masses on a weekend, hear hours of confessions, and still show up to Sunday evening Youth Ministry? Have you seen us wear the same pair of socks two days in a row because we simply ran out of time to do laundry? Have you seen us muster a smile even when we’re exhausted, or miss Christmas with our families because we’re assigned 300 miles away, or forget to eat dinner because there’s another meeting to go to? The answer is no. What you see are the cassocks and birettas and fiddleback chasubles and accuse us of being “out of touch.” Well the reality is, you are guilty of the very thing you accuse us of. You ignore our humanity, our struggle, our sincerity, and you fixate on external things to make your judgments.
As difficult as it is at times, I love being a priest with my whole heart. Not because it offers me an exalted status or any privileges, but because it offers me, and the people I serve, the means by which to attain salvation. I love the people I serve to death, and I would do anything within my means to help them. If you look at my cassock and presume otherwise, I can only feel sorry for you.
Myself and the other men who were indirectly insulted in this interview are the ones on the battlefield. As parish priests, we work hard, sacrifice hard, and try daily to live solely for God in Jesus Christ. Instead of insinuating that Theological College had to somehow put up with a decade or more of rigid, overly-conservative, and ideological seminarians, why not offer us a word of encouragement and perhaps even a prayer or two?”