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.