20Nov Pope Francis’ Advice for Bishops, Priests and prospective Seminarians

IACOPO SCARAMUZZI

http://vaticaninsider.lastampa.it/en/the-vatican/detail/articolo/francesco-francis-francisco-44785/

 

“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 to 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.”

9 Responses

  1. David

    I’m not a priest but it seems to me looking on that Francis has more criticism to offer priests than praise and words of edification. We are told that our words should build up but his often break down. Also, good luck trying to find men who don’t have any problems. Today more than ever, men are broken down and it’s not surprising that God calls some of them to be priests. Have we thrown out the concept of the wounded healer? Francis’ words about the mentally ill smack of the kind of backward intolerance and ignorance we used to hear years ago. It has no place today. For all his talk of sinners, mercy, and the imperfect, it seems like Francis doesn’t think the priesthood could be the path of healing and sanctification for a young man who doesn’t have it all together. Give him a chance.

  2. Michael C.

    David, I don’t think you read Pope Francis’s comments closely enough.
    “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.”

    But I don’t think anyone can seriously suggest that priesthood can be used as a ‘path of healing and sanctification for a young man who doesn’t have it all together.’ The potential for damage to other vulnerable people is too great. Certainly such people need to be helped but placing them in positions of ‘power over people’ in police or army or indeed priesthood is not the way to go.

    Francis gives sound advice. Men going on to become priests need to be well grounded and should, in my opinion, be required to be active members of a parish and involved in ministries such as reader and eucharistic minister, and involved with charitable organisations.

  3. Joe O'Leary

    Michael C. are there young men who “have it all together”?

  4. David

    Michael, I think this culture of the perfect is not the way of JESUS. The Church is falling into the ways of the world, of the corporate, of the use and abuse of people who can be picked up and used and others discarded. If Francis wants perfect men to be priests he is going to have a hard time finding them in this culture and time. Fr Ray Blake has an interesting post on this speech and the comments below are even more interesting. http://marymagdalen.blogspot.co.uk/2015/11/a-place-for-damaged.html
    Now as regards a path of healing and sanctification, I meant to say that perhaps this is the area where some men would thrive, we are not taking about anyone lording it over others on some kind of power trip. I do believe in the wounded healer concept and think a man who has felt pain is more useful than some upstart who’s never had any pain or suffering in his life and is insensitive to the crushed reeds. Whatever. The Church will get the priests it deserves.

  5. Michael C.

    David, I cannot see anywhere that Pope Francis is looking for priests who are perfect.
    He is cautioning against a certain type of person who “is too confident, rigid and fundamentalist”.
    I am afraid the ‘wounded healer’ concept has been brought into disrepute by its use by some who tried to use it to shield them from the consequences of their own inaction in the area of exposing abuse and failing to protect the vulnerable.
    i suspect that Pope Francis would be with you entirely when you say “(I) think a man who has felt pain is more useful than some upstart who’s never had any pain or suffering in his life and is insensitive to the crushed reeds.” It’s exactly why he would run away from the over rigid!

  6. David

    I wanted to edit my post but the window had passed. I second what Joe says notwithstanding the fact that some men do have it more or less together and not everyone is equally damaged goods! The bit I wanted to add was this:

    Francis admitted he had “some nerve problems”, which required treatment. “Must treat them well, these nerves, give them mate [an Argentinian stimulant tea] every day,” he joked.

    “One of these neuroses is that I’m too much of a homebody,” he added, recalling that the last time he had taken a holiday outside his native Argentina was “with the Jesuit community in 1975”.

    http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/aug/19/pope-francis-expects-live-two-three-years-may-retire

  7. Joe O'Leary

    Give them mate… I misread that as monosyllabic!

  8. Pádraig McCarthy

    There is a serious mistranslation in the above article. Where it says, “there could be people with mental deficiencies among the candidates to the priesthood”, Francis referred to some who may be “psichicamente ammalati” – mentally ill, which is quite a different matter.

    Where the article says, “Even priests have a life story”, the Italian could be translated in that way, as if it somehow strains credibility. However, the Italian “Anche i preti hanno una storia” in the context clearly means “Priests also have a story”, like any other human being.

    Where Francis refers to a priest being “frequently sad” etc., it is clear that he is speaking of s mental condition, and he recommends that the person go to a doctor – a spiritual doctor and a medical (“clinical”) doctor. He does not use the word “dottore, because in Italian it does not mean a medical doctor.

    He does not demand that a person be perfect in order to be a priest; he refers to our human nature as “the vessel of clay” in which we guard the treasure of God.

  9. Peter Shore

    Let’s not forget that the psychiatrists were the ones that told the bishops that paedophile clergy could be rehabilitated and remain in ministry. I’m not sure why Francis is putting so much store by their advice now.


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