Made To Shine

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More thoughts from my ill­ness hia­tus are com­ing back to me. I did a lot of inter­net read­ing while sick; couldn’t do much else! I have sev­er­al favorite blogs I tapped into reg­u­lar­ly.

One of these blogs is “One Mad Mom”, writ­ten by a Cal­i­for­nia home school­ing mom, who whole­heart­ed­ly sup­ports embat­tled Arch­bish­op Cordileone, of San Fran­cis­co. She’s just excel­lent. I espe­cial­ly enjoyed her posts “Meet the Laity” and “Doing the Pas­toral Thing”.

Here’s a quote from that blog that I real­ly like; it is from Arch­bish­op Cordileone’s speech to sem­i­nar­i­ans:

This is being pas­toral: encoun­ter­ing the oth­er, estab­lish­ing a rela­tion­ship with them, being lov­ing­ly present to them. A priest can­not pos­si­bly hope to help his peo­ple grow in holi­ness if he is not present to them. His lov­ing, pas­toral pres­ence to them at those most crit­i­cal moments of life – the loss of a loved one, the birth of a child, mar­riage, times of cri­sis – all of this pre­pares the ground for him to, when nec­es­sary, chal­lenge them for their own ongo­ing con­ver­sion. So make no mis­take: tru­ly doing the “pas­toral thing” will always be hard­er, it will always place demands on you, some­times incon­ve­nient and uncom­fort­able demands; it will require you to work hard.

The Arch­bish­op then goes on to con­trast ide­o­logue and lazy priests with those being tru­ly pas­toral. Lots of food for thought, espe­cial­ly for Catholics who would nev­er ques­tion the behav­ior or moti­va­tion of their priests. I com­mend ‘One Mad Mom’ for spot­light­ing these things.

Speak­ing of behav­ior of priests: one ‘rock star’ priest is one too many, in my opin­ion. A local com­mu­ni­ty is hav­ing to deal with the after­math of ‘an error in judg­ment’ by their very pop­u­lar priest. I am aware of a sim­i­lar, but as yet unpub­li­cized sit­u­a­tion in anoth­er neigh­bor­ing dio­cese. Law­suits all over the place. These sad sit­u­a­tions brought back to my mind some thoughts of Father Hun­wicke in late 2014. (his blog is Father Hunwicke’s Mutu­al Enrich­ment) Father wrote a post on celiba­cy in Decem­ber. I think he makes some excel­lent points, par­tic­u­lar­ly about extreme extro­verts in the priest­hood:

Since the 1960s, there has been much talk about mer­cy, and for­give­ness, and sim­i­lar very splen­did things. It has been an era in which we have been urged not to be too pre­oc­cu­pied with sin, par­tic­u­lar­ly sex­u­al sin. A Catholic priest with much pro­fes­sion­al com­pe­tence in this area has explained to me that one psy­cho­log­i­cal rea­son for the bit­ter hatred of the Extra­or­di­nary Form among senior cler­gy of a cer­tain age has been that they asso­ciate it with a cru­el, rigid, sin-obsessed sex-proc­cu­pied form of Catholi­cism upon which they look back with fear and detes­ta­tion. So: ‘mer­ci­ful’ bish­ops were dis­in­clined to ‘ruin’ a priest for ‘just one lapse’, or even two or three. Or four. After all, as we have been informed over and over again, sex­u­al sins are not the only sorts of sins; spir­i­tu­al sins such as Pride, and sins against Social Jus­tice, are far more dis­pleas­ing in the sight of God than mere laps­es from Chasti­ty. Our Oz friends could look into the prob­lem of ‘lib­er­al’ bish­ops as well.
My own, again anec­do­tal, expe­ri­ence has inclined me to think that ‘charis­mat­ic’ lead­ers, admired by the media and sur­round­ed by ador­ing groupies, can be pecu­liar­ly vul­ner­a­ble to sex­u­al temp­ta­tion. J F Kennedy, Mar­tin Luther King, and, with­in the Church, bish­op Eamonn Casey … and Fr Macial Maciel … and Fr Lelio Can­ti­ni … spring to mind; and one bish­op of my acquain­tance in the Church of Eng­land was anoth­er. He was held in such tremen­dous­ly high regard, not least in the very high­est reach­es of the British Estab­lish­ment, that after acknowl­edg­ing his guilt, accept­ing a police warn­ing, and resign­ing his dio­cese, he imme­di­ate­ly start­ed spread­ing it around that he was com­plete­ly inno­cent, but had plead­ed guilty to save the Church the embar­rass­ment of a pub­lic tri­al. This claim was accept­ed by peo­ple unwill­ing to face up to the fact that they had been gullible dupes. So plau­si­ble was he that his one-time dioce­san supe­ri­or, when he came lat­er to write his own auto­bi­og­ra­phy, round­ly assert­ed the total inno­cence of his fel­low-bish­op and put the entire episode down to a Wicked Plot. I think psy­cho­me­t­ric experts should exam­ine with even more than their usu­al acu­ity can­di­dates for ordi­na­tion who are at the extreme ‘extro­vert’ end of the spec­trum. Oz could look into this side of things as well.

Father Hun­wicke is so eru­dite and so fun­ny. And his Latin ref­er­ences bowl me over and chal­lenge me, as I have only stud­ied Latin for two years. He nev­er ‘dumbs it down’; he is respect­ful to his read­ers. I appre­ci­ate his wise and frank words.

And then there was a post on the Per­son­al­ist Project’s web­site titled “Over­com­ing Cler­i­cal­ism”. I will only quote a small por­tion address­ing cler­i­cal­ism, which I have edit­ed. Katie van Schai­jik wrote:

Hom­i­lies that seem addressed to a con­gre­ga­tion of fourth graders. The priest is the teacher; we are the chil­dren. He tells a cutesy anec­dote or two, then gives us lit­tle expla­na­tions and instruc­tions designed to make the faith acces­si­ble for begin­ners. Noth­ing in the tone or con­tent express­es a due aware­ness of the fact that the church is like­ly full of mature Catholics, many of whom are high­ly edu­cat­ed in their faith—some more edu­cat­ed than the priests (and dea­cons). They don’t need instruc­tion, but preach­ing of the kind Pope Fran­cis calls for in the Gospel of Joy.

.….….….…. Some lay Catholics need instruc­tion. But nobody needs patron­iz­ing; no adults should be addressed as if they’re chil­dren. And all Catholics, regard­less of our lev­el of matu­ri­ty and knowl­edge need good preach­ing. Good preach­ing, like the Scrip­tures it’s about, should be “shal­low enough for an ant to wade in and deep enough for an ele­phant to swim in.”

One of the prob­lems we’re deal­ing with, though, is that an alarm­ing num­ber of priests come across as seri­ous cas­es of arrest­ed devel­op­ment. They don’t seem to have matured prop­er­ly as human beings. I hope the Arch­bish­op will find a way to address this prob­lem at the sem­i­nary and beyond. Among my sug­ges­tions would be to encour­age much more inter­ac­tion between priests and laity on the lev­el of true friend­ship.

I iden­ti­fied with hear­ing a fourth grade lev­el homi­ly. It’s not always the case in my parish, but it hap­pens enough. And I don’t know about the arrest­ed devel­op­ment being ram­pant. I’m not a psy­chol­o­gist. But I can def­i­nite­ly see the point of inter­ac­tion between priests and laity on a lev­el of true friend­ship. In my expe­ri­ence, this is where many priests will go through the motions, and say all the right things, but nev­er tru­ly let down their guard. They are friend-ly , but not a friend. The priest shares his pres­ence, but not his true self.

For­ma­tors talk about attract­ing well-round­ed, intel­li­gent, high­ly edu­cat­ed men to the priest­hood. Some­how when I read their assess­ments of their newest can­di­dates, they sound more like snob­bish brags anx­ious to cul­ti­vate and adver­tise an ‘intel­lec­tu­al’ machis­mo. I get the feel­ing that that aspect is most impor­tant, rather than nur­tur­ing and inspir­ing virtue in these men.  But what do I know? These days an awful lot of peo­ple abide by the adage “If it works, don’t fix it”. Maybe that’s the case here, but I have to wonder—is it real­ly work­ing?

So thought I’d share the thoughts that have been on my mind this last month. I swear I dreamed of these things over and over when I was sick! They just stayed with me. But I am glad I was com­pelled to do the read­ing. And there is so much more, I’ll save it for anoth­er time.