Skip to comments.Today's seminarians: The Vatican survey
Posted on 10/21/2005 5:50:09 AM PDT by Petrosius
In his "Beliefs" column in The New York Times (Sept. 24), Peter Steinfels takes a broader look at the current Vatican-run investigation of U.S. seminaries.
While the focus of almost every commentary has been on the issue of homosexuality, Steinfels is also concerned with the quality of education that future priests receive and the profiles of candidates, gay and heterosexual alike, that seminaries attract and admit.
He points out that the official Vatican guidelines for the teams of "apostolic visitors" consist of 96 questions to be posed to faculty, seminarians and some alumni.
"The thrust of these questions," Steinfels notes, "is to assure that future priests are fully prepared to live celibate lives, as well as morally disciplined and prayerful ones, and that they are thoroughly committed to church teachings, especially as laid out in recent official documents from the pope and Vatican offices."
However, what properly concerns Peter Steinfels --- and should be a matter of concern for all Catholics --- is that there are no explicit questions about the seminarians' "capacities for initiative, creativity or imagination and consultative leadership...."
"There is," he points out, "no explicit question about concern for social justice.... By comparison, there are numerous questions about recitation of the rosary, visits to the Blessed Sacrament, devotion to Mary and the saints and many other 'exercises of piety'."
There is a single question whether seminarians are being taught "a proper understanding of the role of women in ecclesial life" and another on "the proper models of clergy-lay cooperation." But the very next question "makes clear that what is 'proper' is to be found in statements by Pope John Paul II and his Vatican officials."
Of the 96 questions, Steinfels continues, only two address the intellectual potential of future priests. "This minimal attention to intellectual capacity is noteworthy in view of the opinions of faculty teams from 20 Catholic seminaries who met yearly from 1995 to 2001....
"Because solid statistics are not available --- interesting in itself --- these faculty teams could only pool their opinions on how qualified current seminarians were intellectually." Their findings are reported in "Educating Leaders for Ministry," by Victor Klimoski, Kevin O'Neil and Katarina Schuth (Liturgical Press, 2005).
The authors of this study estimate that only 10 percent of seminarians are "highly qualified" for their educational work. Just over half are "adequately qualified." One-third to 40 percent suffer from poor educational backgrounds, learning disabilities, lack of facility with English or unfamiliarity with American culture (a reflection of the fact that increasing numbers of seminarians are from other countries), and atrophied study skills (in the case of another growing number of older seminarians). The authors characterize such deficiencies, with obvious understatement, as "special challenges for faculty."
But even the good news about the 10 percent of "highly qualified" seminarians is cancelled out by another finding that "regardless of native abilities and educational experiences," many students resist "the learning enterprise" because it threatens their "preconceived ideas about theology." Steinfels asks (tongue-in-cheek?) why this situation is not addressed in the Vatican guidelines.
What kind of situation would society face, he asks, if only 10 percent of those studying for medical, law or engineering degrees were intellectually "highly qualified"? Or that 40 percent of such candidates labored under significant learning disabilities that pose "special challenges for faculty"? Or that many students displayed an "unwillingness...to engage in the learning enterprise" that they were undergoing?
Only one question in the Vatican guidelines concerns the evangelization of culture, so important to the late pope. Steinfels asks if today's seminarians follow current events, read serious fiction, show an appreciation for the arts, or display an interest in contemporary science. He notes that the one question about culture is followed by a defensive question about the combatting of the evils of modern culture --- its subjectivism and moral relativism.
Peter Steinfels wonders what all this means for future generations of Catholic priests. And that is where he concludes his column --- whether for reasons of space, or perhaps to make a rhetorical point.
I should like to carry that point one step further. It was not an oversight that certain types of questions are missing from the guidelines. They are missing because they are not deemed important. On the contrary, candidates who are intellectually curious, independent-minded and open to modern culture are not completely welcome in the priesthood because they cannot be trusted to be absolutely and uncritically loyal to every Vatican decree.
The preferred candidate excels at private devotion but displays less interest and fewer skills in collaborative ministry, especially with women. And his "preconceived ideas about theology" are considered a perfect fit for the priesthood.
The anti-gay element is only part of the problem.
Father Richard P. McBrien is the Crowley-O'Brien Professor of Theology at the University of Notre Dame.
I particularly like this statement:
But even the good news about the 10 percent of "highly qualified" seminarians is cancelled out by another finding that "regardless of native abilities and educational experiences," many students resist "the learning enterprise" because it threatens their "preconceived ideas about theology."
In other words, these good seminarians hold on to traditional Catholic teachings and refuse to be moved by their liberal professors. What a shame!
I am feeling better about this pope and the future of the Church every day.
I wonder if it has occurred to Father McBrien that the Church prefers piety over intellectual sophistication in candidates for the priesthood because the faithful have been so badly misled by know-it-all elitists like himself.
Ahhhhh ....that would be because recent scandals involving the clergy and the ongoing problems with modernist dissenters and liturgical improvisors have nothing to do with "initiative", "creativity" nor "imagination". Quite the contrary. Many of the Church's problems in recent years have been caused by an excess of these things. The visitation is an attempt to address these problems.
These qualities might be essential in interior designers, landscape gardeners, architects and those in the food preparation business, but they are of minimal interest for Catholics and their clergy. The essential purpose of the seminary is to produce holy, faithful priests. Not artists. How on earth would a Cure of Ars or a Padre Pio have graduated from a McBrien seminary?
McBrien is, as always, not even close to being sensible. He is a true blight on the Catholic landscape. Worse than an idiot. A mischievous deconstructor of Catholicism.
Heaven forbid that they demostrate a devotion to God which would lead to this:
And his "preconceived ideas about theology" are considered a perfect fit for the priesthood.
Would these "preconceived ideas" perhaps have to do with a desire for holiness, pleasing God and not man? Can't have that now, can we?
Oh you can't make this stuff up
When I saw Notre Dame I thought, "Ah, an outraged, likely aging liberal spirit-of-Vatican-II-but-not-truly-conforming-to-Vatican-II tenured theological neofascist academic is venting his frustration with true reform" (I know it's hyperbole, but the coffee is having an effect). I doubted my prejudice, but your post validated my unfounded conclusion. Just checking: is McBrien truly a fashionable Catholic, just as you assert?
Yep, you nailed it.
Wondering if the author here is THIS Fr. Richard O'Brien?
|Fr. Richard McBrien||Claims that a future Pope must overturn the infallible document disallowing women "priests" (Ordinatio Sacerdotalis).|
|Fr. Richard McBrien||Says, among other things, that Jesus did not establish the Catholic Church, and calls into question the virginal conception of Jesus and the perpetual virginity of Our Lady, and promotes dissent.|
Public Supporters of Dissident Organizations
|Fr. Richard McBrien||Supporter of Call to Action.|
According to this lunatic, none of the 12 Apostles should ever have been called because they were uneducated and simple. Only St. Paul, a scholar, and St. Luke, a physician, would have passed his intellectual test, but these two great minds were not numbered among the 12.
Also, personal piety and upright morality and faithfulness to the Church's teachings lead to a CORRECT understanding of CATHOLIC Social Justice. Loving God and loving neighbor are two sides of the same coin, not a dichotomy as McBrien would suggest. Catholic Social teaching begins with the proper place God is to have in society and is not primarily, but secondarily concerned with man's physical well-being...the latter being the primary purpose of individuals, families, and the State (in that order), not the Church.
He's Sooooo afraid that they won't warp the Gospel to support every leftist, socialist program known to man (which is what the Code "Social Justice" really stands for).
**Yes, heaven forbid that candidates to the priesthood should actually pray!**
And be holy and reverent!
Wondering if the author here is THIS Fr. Richard O'Brien?
Wondering if the author here is THIS Fr. Richard Mc Brien?
This is the newest best example of a Bizarro World. Just saw the Seinfeld episode with Bizarro Jerry the other day ....