Thursday, 30 August 2007

Part Three: It was the best of times, it was the....

Word Picture:

The old structure within a diocese almost invariably ensured that the cream floated to the top.
The cleverest, wisest, most charismatic or empathic, the most talented, the best preachers or pastors or spiritual directors/confessors - even on the rare occasion the holiest of priests would manage to reach the top jobs/positions within a diocese - most of us have been graced with encountering the type of priest I'm referring to.
Now even if some of them weren't the best among pastoral priests ; they were assuredly the most capable or effective administrators, good chairmen or team leaders - and rarely were there any who had not experienced and obtained a deep level of understanding regarding the human condition and the spiritual necessities for societies and the individual.
because the priests were highly active and very much about the Lord's business it was more often than not quite easy to determine a cleric's capabilities and talents.
the Holy Spirit made the job of a Bishop a great deal easier by pushing the more capable and responsible priests to the fore.
Frequently a bishop would be fully aware that he could both rely on his clergy and could be assured that anyone he placed in a diocesan position of responsibility/authority was already tried and tested by time and had proved their worth on many occasions beforehand . It was more than likely that a person he had 'chosen' for a position would become his or another bishop's successor; and he could be proud of both his choice and have few qualms about the future in that cleric's hands.

Then came Vatican II.

Now there were already significant embryonic factors within the clerical and episcopal make-up:

a] The efficacy of priestly formation was being compromised by increasingly poor,irrelevant or out-of-date/overly zeitgeist training in seminaries; and the limiting of the considerations of the duties and responsibilities of Holy Orders - usually the source of this was the poor example of priests and the overlying ethos of the seminaries regarding priesthood [too many educators in pastoral ministry had little experience of being pastoral ministers!]

b] The increasing duties, responsibilities and demands upon the priest within the parish led to six significant consequences/types of clergy:

i] the Hero - the priest who seized the helm of responsibility in the storm to prevent all around them sinking - assuming an authority and duty merely by being the right person at the right time who saw the problem and acted upon it.
ii] the Envious - those antagonistic to the hero-type - there may be a vast array of reasons/causes/motivations behind their positions ; but nevertheless the predominant result is their begrudging the hero's position - how they act on that envy also manifests itself in varied forms - hostility, indifference, diammetrically opposing positions regarding doctrine or praxis, procedural antipathy, reticence to assist or even direct action against the 'hero'.
iii] the Tin Pot Dictator - the Master of his own Domain - not much more needs to be said as we have all encountered and experience such a type - it may be a virtuous and benign dictatorship or one that has compromised its authenticity and supped with the Prince of this World; but nevertheless they are still dictatorships and the priest has jeopardised spiritual authority by confusing it with the secular and temporal.
iv] the Reactionary - what are they opposing ? good grief ! it could be anything - the Pope, the bishop, certain clergy, Church teaching on sexuality or contraception or divorce or celibacy, liturgical practice, aspects of church dogma, it could be politically motivated or over-encultured with the spirit of the age [we've all suffered the hippy priests, the corporate downsizing thatcherite priests, the blairite spin/procedural committee priests...all too sad!]
v] the Counter-Revolutionary Uber-Traditionalist - could be some belligerent irish canon unwilling to change anything and stopping time somewhere mid 1928, ditto an almost anglo-catholic brideshead-type who revels in the bells, smells, frippery ; or the youngster outraged at the pragmatism/situationist ethics/abject relativism/sacrilegious liturgies/banale indolences of the reactionary clerics; and counteract with an overpietistic or overlegalistic pseudo-conservatism verging on sedevacantism. [yes this is surprisingly not a new phenomena or a product of the outrages in the late sixties and seventies- the tridentinista were already gathering forces in the forties/fifties being fully aware that there was going to be trouble ahead]
vi] the Recluse - the priest who ran away and hid from any controversy, who either swayed in the wind and agreed with everyone, or dissociated himself from the prevailing situation and got on with his own job in his own quiet way.

c] Systemic Ignorance of Fundamental Theology among the Clergy - this is the deficit of the teaching of the underlying 'why' that I referred to in the previous posting ; and led to the massive ruptures regarding doctrine/morality/liturgy/clerical praxis/ecclesiology among the clergy - let's be truthful - what we had was a schism - the only problem was that both left and right, liberal and traditionalist, were so inadequately trained and educated in all the subjects they purported to be experts on, that their ignorance prevailed, incompetence ensued; and many millions of catholics were deeply hurt in the process.

d] The Crisis in Faith - it was on its way - academia and intellectual realms and alleged 'colleges of excellence' were adopting every new fad or ideology or innovative philosophical/political/socio-cultural/anthropological process - chaos reigned.
pragmatism, relativism, demeaning post-hegelian political ideologies, behaviourism, nihilism , linguistic and logical positivism and many more ideologies all had pervasive contaminating influences ; and the ignorant ill-educated clerics and theologians became corrupted by these prevailing forces...
The results ? Well please refer to my first posting regarding anxiety and despondency.

e] The Crisis in identity [more later, but basically I'm referring to the loss of an authentic notion of a Unique Real Ordained Priesthood in contrast to 'vocational pastoral ministries']

f] The Crisis regarding the Love of God and consequently the reality of both Love and God. [ref. first posting]

g] Existential Angst and the authenticity of anything the cleric professes/represents/adheres to ; in the light of d,e & f.

Now One person in 1958 was more aware of the clerical situation than any other - Cardinal Ottaviani [indeed every member of the Vatican General Council] was inundated with reports/assessments/new writings on the impending crises regarding doctrine, morality, the liturgy and most especially the clergy:
So much so that when John XXIII announced the actuation of a Second Vatican Council one voice was heard echoing through St Peter's:
'E Pazz!!' [He's mad!!!]
to the cardinal it was like detecting a gas leak and lighting a match to see where it was coming from....

We must concede that many necessary reforms and considerations simply had to be addressed or redressed - but what happened at Vatican II and the reprehensible post-conciliar committees was a systemic fiasco of the first order....

One of its benefits was that indeed, all the sins/poisons that had previously only lurked in the mud - now hatched out !!!
The result was the disenfranchisement of tens of millions of catholics - they were left abandoned to the wolves...Holy Mother Church ruptured and millions of victims were left in its wake...

a price worth paying ?
I'm sorry, but I believe the price was too high; but I trust in God and his Divine Providence - I am certain that God did not leave us orphans ; that ultimately there MUST be a reason as to why this happened and why God allowed it to happen....
could it possibly be that had we remained the way we were we may have altered into some monolithic autarchy ? or could the world have finally confronted us head on and destroyed us all in its wake ?
I don't know , all I am sure of is that it was God's will ; and it is now a wake up call to action for every devout and orthodox sinful catholic...

maybe this was a baptism of fire in preparation for the terrible adversities ahead ?
I do not know - but I do know the affect it has had on the church at a Diocesan level - and in the choice of clerics - which is what I'll address in my next posting.

[to be continued]

Part Two : The Enemy Within.

Nietzsche had a mandatory criterion for the possibility of God, meaning to Life etc ; and that was Love being eternal....

He could not believe it ; and I truly believe that the major source of the crisis in the Church is the simple fact that despite wanting to believe it, and all the verbiage and innovative ritual attempting to compensate or paper over the hints of disbelief, this lack of belief is prevalent.

But the unbelief isn't the disease, it's merely a symptom of something a lot more subtle.

The cause ? We need to go back a century and the age of presumption and arrogance. Italy , France and Germany were beginning to settle down after generations of crisis; Britain and Ireland were beginning to reap the benefits of the decades-long struggle to re-integrate catholicism, The US was gaining the security in the power of money and distance from warring europe - and catholicism leapt on the bandwagon grasping the opportunity to thrive espcialy among the millions of immigrants, the British Empire was stealing a quarter of the world from its rightful owners and instigating 'peace' down the barrel of a gun and utilising every available natural resource - and we resided in the shadow of that effect ; The Church was gaining ground, there were no significant adversaries and theological/scriptural/moral/canonical and clerical spheres were beginning to become effective and powerful influences within societies; the social teaching of Leo XIII made this even more of a concrete visible active prevailing force - we built churches, hospitals, schools, junior and senior seminaries bulging at the seams - and it's here we begin to see the first signs of complacency...

I'm not going to go through a history lesson - it's all readily available to anyone interested - but the first major test to the Church in the new century was modernism. Now Pius X was truly a saint and he sought to remedy a crisis in a specific way - suppression of the questionable ; and the re-emphasising and reformed expression of age old dogmas and their doctrinal implementation and consequences - almost every available resource was oriented towards what the church teaches and how it is to be taught....

You see the problem ? It's very subtle , but here's the root of what followed - we were complacent in that we presumed that society and the individual were not going to significantly change in their outlooks and lifestyles...

Inadvertently we'd become contaminated with Hegelianism - we'd catholicized his notion of the Geist - the development and progression of society and the Church along a certain path - all that was required was a reiteration of 'the what and the how' of Church teaching ; the 'why?' we believe or act wasn't exactly ignored, but it was never deemed an absolute intrinsic necessity towards understanding and living the catholic faith - and anyway, catholic society possessed the capabilities to deduce the 'why' from the hearts and minds of those who thrived in the overwhelming thrall of the Church. Because we had a surplus of understanding 'the why' among the average cleric or devout parishioner, we merely assumed that feeding the faithful [and the trainee clergy] with 'the what and the how' was more than amply enough for doctrine and praxis to be sustained. We presumed that the monolith of the teaching authority of the church would suffice. We were negligent because we failed to notice the idol of 'Church authority' had feet of clay.

Thus the message of the 'why we believe and live that belief' was neglected and compromised; and in a way it became distorted and obfuscated into being perceived as not primarily a spiritual authority ; but more a regimented temporal [albeit religious] was seen as 'surplus to requirement' to do anything other than 'state the faith', not continually prove was seen as an unnecessary exigency to do anything other than 'show love of neighbour' through teaching, healing, feeding, housing, consoling and caring - very little effort was made to emphasise the 'why we love' or to validate or prove or remind the faithful 'what business we are about and why'

This negligence only took three generations to wreak havoc -war irreparably altered society and the clergy were already being contaminated by this black hole in their catechesis and training; the ignorance manifested itself in two ways:

a] questioning every aspect of the Church and the faith it professed and the morality it demanded; failing to realise that one was not personally equipped or experienced or educated enough to assess or discern the core motives and reasonings of the fundamental teachings, these people decided that they could work out their own , personalised theology, morality and ecclesiology - or sought answers from sources external to the church [regularly of the protestant ilk like Bultmann, Barth or Tillich]

b] defiantly refusing to contemplate the possibilities of the motives or reasonings behind the church teachings [possibly out of fear or a sense of possibly losing the newly acquired temporal power within a parish/diocese] and rather than attempt to understand the why ; instead blindly following what the church says to the letter [and possibly adding a more rigorist or pietistic flavour to it in the process] - 'Just do what you're told and stop asking questions!!!'

It was a lack of education, a dearth of understanding , and a childish arrogance [something only truly present among the ignorant] that led to the initial divergence of what we perceive now as progressive/liberal/neo marxist and the Ultra-traditionalist 'fascist'.

rather than being a Faith ; this ignorance allowed ideology to pervade and contaminate the ranks of the clergy.

But what about the parishes and dioceses ?

Well charitable activity, intense social interaction, continuous prayer and devotion and the machinations of the Holy Spirit through these corporal and spiritual works of mercy delayed or even halted the progression of the 'intellectual' malaise...but even within this there were detectable flaws, especially amongst the attitudes of certain clergy - whereas previously they had taken up the mantle of responsibility for their flock, burdened themselves, sacrificed and lived their love for the parish - with subsequent generations this responsibility and earned position of spiritual authority became distorted into the presumption of the younger priests [or the older priests who had been 'tainted by habit to forget the origins of things' ] that this clerical position was one of temporal , civic, social authority. The ostensible 'shepherd' slowly metamorphosed into a normatively benign well-meaning dictator !!! But this was by no means a universal occurrence - the high amount of clergy and their busy lives interacting with the communities allowed human living and loving to deflate a lot of clerical egos and autocratic ambitions....the only places it was truly likely to happen was where socio-cultural influences thrust the cleric into more than just a priest but a civic representative of authority - this usually occurred in either the rural backwaters [e.g. in ireland where the priest was practically a minor deity - we can still se it today in certain regions of the developing world or in the US among the ultra-conservative protestant bible belt pastors] or amongst the isolated or disenfranchised immigrant communities - Italians, Irish, Poles etc....

This clerical ambiguity of their role as a priest ,
and the ecclesiastical consequences of poorly trained catechetical intellectual ignorance ,
with the splitting of the church along the lines of ignorant loyalty [right-wing] and ignorant defiance [left-wing];
together with the rise in political ideologies of all flavours and their mixing with the realms of philosophy and social sciences and even transgressing into theology ;
all wrapped up in the social upheaval after the second world war - inevitably led towards Vatican II

....and we all know the consequences of that. [To be continued]

Wednesday, 29 August 2007

Ok here goes...and please bear with me , it's going to be pretty long...

Anyone who has known me for any length of time will tell you that one of my many annoying habits is repeating a single sentence which I've practically adopted as a motto for how to live my life - It was written by St Francis de Sales, exemplified through the praxis and pedagogy of St John Bosco, indeed it's been intrinsic to the life of every saint ;and it encapsulates Catholic Theology, Spirituality and Morality. It's quite a simple phrase really, one that's prone to being misunderstood and quoted as if it's merely something found on the back of a cornflake packet or in a fortune cookie ; but as Dostoyevsky told us , there is nothing under heaven that cannot be twisted, distorted or debased by men of ill will . It goes like this :

"It is never enough to love someone ; that someone has to know they are loved."

Now Mother Theresa was always a controversial figure , and no end of abuse was hurled at her when , in this world of wars, terrorism, sexual profligacy, abortion, poverty and disease rife in the developing world she stated :

"Wherever I go in the whole world, the thing that makes me the saddest is watching people receive Communion in the hand."

Communion in the hand ? Is she crazy ? Well let me put it to you that the blessed Theresa was anything but...because if you look into what she's saying a little closer you'll arrive at some startling revelations about what is truly in crisis within the church. I'll return to this later.

I once gave a sermon during my time as a Pastoral Minister in the US - it centred around a question:

"For a catholic, what is the greatest 'object' in the world ?"

After qualifying the statement that the Blessed Sacrament was not truly solely of this world, and a catholic had already received the waters of baptism ...and after a few possibilities proposed to me by the congregation which I rejected; I pointed to the little box room in the corner of the church and said :

"There - that's the greatest object in the world !" and proceeded to explain why the confessional is so intrinsically important beyond our wildest imaginings....let me move on...

Now I'm sorry to be seemingly chaotic , but I do have a reason for beginning something , then leaving it hanging and proceeding to something apparently unrelated; but you must be asking by now what the heck has this to do with the clerical crisis ? Well please bear with me for a moment - I'm getting there.

Chesterton was one of the most significant adversaries of the sin of Pride - read any one of his apologetic essays and you will invariably find it having the overriding virtue of Humility as its fundamental tenet - but he goes beyond this to a great psychological insight - that Pride , and all its manifestations in arrogance, presumption or despair are grounded in two things : Ignorance and Anxiety - In order to be humble [ and thus be virtuous in any way ] you have to possess a freedom of spirit and an openness to understanding - a willingness to confront the unknown and face your fear.

Now the majority of people think it was FDR who said 'we have nothing to fear but fear itself';

actually the president plagiarised it from my old hero St F-d-S... and if you haven't read it before , I urge you with the deepest sincerity to read St Francis de Sales' chapter on Anxiety from his 'Introduction to The Devout Life' - it's one of the greatest pieces of psycho-analysis ever written. I've posted it already on this blog : here's the link

Our Lord and Saviour spent his entire life telling us to 'Be Not Afraid' ; and we poor, weak-willed sinners do everything and anything but listen to those words....

Aside from objective sin, Anxiety is the most dangerous phenomena as it compromises and jeopardises our freedom to accept God's overflowing graces or to act upon them. Not only do we run away from God , from the world and our neighbour, we run away and hide from ourselves.

The only way for this anxiety to be overcome is through the iron will of patience and unconquerable strength of gentleness ; in other words the only way is through Love.

Now we're nearly there: only a few more steps....

Now despite all its terrors and consequences , its hiding in the shadows, anxiety still resides in the shadow of Truth - even when it has lost everything else and dwells in confusion and delusion ; it still confronts and admits the validity and worth of Truth.

One can sink to an even deeper one of despondency where Truth or untruth is not even considered; one is so scared of addressing the possibility of anything's truth or falsity, of its reality or its being merely an illusion, that one both denies or dismisses the necessity of confronting anything remotely hinting at those concepts, and when confronted with these phenomena one runs away from them. In other words not only are you lying to yourself and fully aware of the nature of the lie ; you also become a fully-fledged coward.

Cowardice ? can it really be that simple or obvious ? That we're so scared of being scared , so scared of being wrong, so scared of it all being a delusion, or a lie, or a nihilistic nightmare, that we simply refuse to acknowledge anything ; and would rather run away and hide in the faux-security of self-delusion . That we're so scared that our belief in God might neither be validated by God's reality, nor corroborated by our Human will that it is a truly some , if only weak, form of faith - we'd rather dismiss the concept of believing out of fear that we might be unable to believe...never risk loving or hoping out of sheer cowardice that we'd be unable to love or hope or have what we love or hope for confirmed by actually being made manifest?

No, it isn't that could it be ?

because it's actually more simple than that...

I asked my elder son a few years what being a catholic was all about...

His answer ?

"God loves you !"...[he kind of spoilt the moment by adding..."get used to it !" straight afterwards with a cheeky grin ; but the more I reflect on his words, the more I feel that this is the message for the world of today... if there is one thing the world and all its members needs to know - it's that God loves them....]

But what of Universal Divine Revelation ? Natural Theology ? The Incarnation, teachings, actions, passion, Death and Resurrection of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ...

Surely after all this we should be able to find the reflections of God through His Creation and the Truth in the Person of Christ in all our endeavours and interactions , surely we must see the working of the Holy Spirit in whom we Live , Move and have our Being in all we encounter and survey ?

No, because I truly believe for some of us the abyss has opened into an even deeper chasm where not only does the person not know they are loved, or believe they are loved, or even believe that they are in any respect lovable; No, they have sunk to the level where the concept of love as possessing any reality beyond genetic programming ,hormonal urges or evolutionary survival technique is beyond them.....

They don't believe in love...and truth be told, they don't believe in God.

So to return to the beginning... what can we say ? what can we do ?

Ensure that our neighbour knows they are loved - it's simple enough - but being simple it's also the most arduous, sacrificial , devastating , heart-breaking but ultimately rewarding thing we can ever do...

But What has this to do with the Crisis in the church and the clergy and the episcopacy ? and where does Mother Theresa's quote fit into this schema ? and what concrete implementations or policies can be actuated to remedy the situation...?

Well ? I'm coming to that...[to be continued]

#10 Sorry I got a bit angry in this one...

Vincent's reply :

So your conclusion, OTSOTA, is that it does not matter if many priests and bishops are living a downright lie, if not actually indulging in a sinful lifestyle?And next week you will be advising us how to pin a jelly to the ceiling.

I was somewhat peeved...

Now how did you induce that from what I said ?

Incidentally you can pin a jelly to a ceiling with enough pins of good quality - the same way you can have an efficacious Church about the Lord's business with enough Prayer, Faith, Hope and Love.
We've just had a pretty poor crop in this recent off-season...

You equivocate living a lie with either 'dipping one's wick' or prefering 'parisiennes to parisiettes'...

Please wake up and realise that the crisis is infinitely worse than that - clerical celibacy , I concur, is an imperative ; but if you think this is the core crux of the clerical malaise you are very,very mistaken...most of our celibates are also the ones 'living a lie' ; pretending to be 'working' priests.

I am categorically NOT implying that the clergy should be allowed to be sexually profligate ; I'm not suggesting the time is right for married clergy - the priests have enough problems caring for their parish, let alone being responsible or mentally competent enough to cope with that plus a wife and family ;

and I am most definitely not excusing sexually active homosexual priests who think 'having it away' with other priests or having a bit of fun at some discreet distant locale with anonymous individuals is not detrimental to their Ministry.

I'm saying that among the majority of priests [who've never kissed a girl, boy or goat] their priesthood is deeply compromised by their simple lack of being efficacious, Holy, effective, responsible, believing, pastoral, praying priests !

This has led to a severe crisis where their abandonment of responsibility has led their flock to abandon them and the Church.

Some of the most capable, intelligent, loving priests out there do NOTHING!

...and why ? because they've been allowed to act in such a way; they've never had the example of how a parish should be run, they've had minimal pastoral training, virtually no authentic liturgical training, practically no training in how to preach, and when it comes to spiritual direction and how to lead a life of prayer and meditation ???

please don't make me laugh - most divine offices are only opened at a deanery meeting - there is a complete abandonment of responsibility, because surrounding them - birds,bees and educated fleas among the clergy DO NOTHING!

The majority of them 'work' from late saturday afternoon to midday sunday - say eight hours a week if we're charitable ? let's throw in a handful of 20 minute weekday masses, a few more administrative appointments,maybe a couple of social functions ?
a handful of visits to elderly or sick parishioners, maybe they are on the hospital rota for that week and perhaps have to administer a couple of sacraments of the sick ?
maybe a school mass if it's term time ?

Let me tell you this example is a damned sight busier week than most of our clerics would perform in a month !
Some of our beloved clergy out there have never missed an episode of neighbours, countdown or 'deal or no deal' in their lives !!
Some are of the mental disposition that rather than saying the divine office ; they have the daily ritual of sitting down to 'the weakest link' with coffee and a chocolate hobnob.

Do you think all this free time does them any good ? that they are more relaxed and capable and psychologically/spiritually composed to run their parish during times of pastoral crisis ?

think again...

Abject boredom, self-indulgent narcissism and overly selfish reflection results...

Rather than inspiring them to do more to fill these vast holes in their schedules they ultimately end up doing less...

I've stayed/lived in six presbyteries - and I've seen the results first hand, I've visited many more where the loneliness , despondency and inability of the priest to 'know what they are about' screams from the walls.

Some priests are in virtual solitary confinement for five out of the seven days a week ; yearning for the telephone to ring, their heart leaping when the letterbox rattles with post or the doorbell rings...

I'm sorry but this isolation and loneliness breeds emotional imbalance; more often than not occasioned with changes in behavioural patterns....the 'eccentricities and quirks' which are indicative of deep problems !

Sure we have dozens of priests who are nothing like that, nor ever could be subsumed into that mindframe, they are people who cope, irrespective of any dearth of pastoral or psychological training, they're survivors...

...but a lot of priests aren't.For the majority of them there are two options :

a] Put up with it and hope/pray it gets better; or grimly cling to the hope that you'll eventually be able to cope with this intense loneliness in a better way.
b] Change things - occupy myself - seek any solace anywhere I can.

The first type ultimately sink ; the second type may begin all idealistic and aspirational ; get up early, say the office, write a book on sprituality or NFP or the life of St Unknown of the remote...go jogging or swimming, learn to play bridge or swahili or car maintenance, start reading all those karl rahner's stacked up in the a goldfish!

Some are lucky and it helps , some are even luckier and they do achieve a long-term hobby which assists them to come out of their shell and start performing their ministry in a better way

...for others ? well their lack of success or achievement in their ridiculous over-estimating of their capabilities; merely confirms to them their inadequacy and worthlessness in every aspect of their lives

...How many times do you think I've seen this ?

Then there's the priest who becomes utterly engrossed to the point of obsession with one aspect of their lives - it may be the diocesan liturgy or educational policy or a building project or being a prison/hospital chaplain - every other aspect of their faith [and their reason!] go out of the window with this new 'fad'
- for some it will last all their lives and give them some reason to go on ; for others more recklessly 'will-o-the-wisp' - like, they'll jump from one fad to another [and on occasions waste ridiculous amounts of diocesan/other people's time, money, energy and resources...]

When the priest feels useless or inadequate , or that anything/everything he is doing is utterly futile - that's when he reaches for the bottle, that's when he starts responding to the flirtations from female [and yes on occasion male] parishioners, that's when he starts vanishing from the presbytery for days on end

...thus begins the descent into his personal hell

....Priests are in trouble, and our dearly beloved bishops are doing 'bugger all' about it because their predecessors gave just as bad example as the priests did - abandoning the priests, being negligent to the point of grave matter...

you know I read the 21st chapter of John and it brings me to tears - because our contemporary apostles are not feeding Our lord's lambs , caring for His sheep.

I repeat, the only way anything can be done about it is a massive overhaul in the priestly training process - maybe even a secular version of the old intensively trained religious orders ? - the dominicans, jesuits or redemptorists [but the majority of these once glorious beacons of light for the faith have gone to pot in heterodoxy and acedia and their own selfish anti-catholic agendas].

You've seen the karate kid/rocky/nikita/[whatever inspirational film] montages where the individual is trained, and trained hard to be that which they aspire to be ?That's what seminaries should be like - not boarding schools with a bit of extra prayer and the odd group discussion...

Train priests !

And as for the priests we already have ?

The bishops should get down on their knees in penance and apology for the way they have abandoned them - then grab the priest by the scruff of the neck, chuck a bucket of ice water all over them, and throw them back into training to give the coping mechanisms and spiritual psychological pastoral training to go out there and perform the Lord's wonders in His name.

How many bishops can turn to their priests,
How many priests can turn to their parishioners
How many seminary rectors can turn to their students and authentically declare :

'I did not/do not leave you orphans, there are no strangers here' ?

You know I'm forever complaining about the dumbing down of catechesis - my kids only ever seemed to do the same four parables at school year in, year out...

But in our abject arrogance and lack of basic decency, let alone love, we've forgotten the message of even those parables...

Lord, who is my neighbour ?

#9 The response was 'purge the morally schizophrenic homosexuals' - I replied...

You talk about moral schizophrenia

- this is a Church post-vatican II dude, what do you think we're living in ?

Are you aware of the flagrant heresies and apostasies, sacrileges and heinous moral compromises being taught in our seminaries, being preached from our pulpits, being pronounced or approved by conferences of bishops ?

For crying out loud wake up !

Look at our children being doctrinally abused in the classroom with mendacities alleging to be catechesis ['catholic christianity' being the most blatant one]

Our parishes are emptying en masse because of the systemic plague of despondency our priests are contaminated with

...even the Polish immigrants are spending the little money and resources they have on building their own churches here because they are horrified at the abject dearth of spirituality in our Parishes...

And if you think it's bad here you should see the US where every priest can do as he bloody well pleases and not only get away with it, but get paid for it too !

Millions of "dispossessed , aside thrust, chucked down by the sheer might of despots' wills" to paraphrase the blessed cardinal...

But what about homosexuality in the seminaries ? Vincent, I have to tell you it was a major problem twenty years ago; but really now you have very little to worry about because there are hardly any seminarians left !

...and those who are there are not inveigling themselves into 'dens of iniquity' to get their wicked ends away - those days have gone !

The Seminaries of the western world are empty , defunct, surplus to requirement...

Young men aren't becoming seminarians because young men aren't practising catholics any more - the catholic education system and the clergy and the diocese have abandoned them !

Trust me, the majority of seminarians in this country now are there because they had to fight to get in and fight to stay there.
They are the ones who are orthodox , devout and loyal to Holy Mother Church, it's their teachers, rectors, spiritual directors and parish priests back home who are the ones who have compromised their priesthood and their faith to the point of dissolution...

The seminary gay subculture is vanishing - the seminary culture is vanishing; because the church is vanishing before our very eyes...

Young priests are some of the only hope catholicism has in this country - the eastern europeans bring most of the rest ; because we, as a catholic people, have abandoned our church and allowed reprehensible travesties to occur within it for forty years now - and did we fight , did we ever make a stand ?

NO ! we grumbled, moaned, whinged, complained, but we still rolled over passively and submitted to everything, until it got to the stage where we gave up caring about anything and walked away.

There's a catholic school a stone's throw away from my house, couple of hundred kids attend it - you can count on two hands how many attend Sunday mass...

I come from a highly devout huge scottish catholic family, my grandfather's family helped build the shrine to Our Lady at Carfin, my grandmother took three cleaning jobs on and one of her wages went solely to help build the catholic school - but how many of her dozens of grandchildren attend mass ? you can count on one hand !

A third of our town's population of 60,000 are catholic - if 1% attend mass it's been a good Sunday...

We're screwed ! Big time ! Sure it's not got that bad in the south of England or Scotland yet, where catholic communities are more ritualised - The majority of our diocesan priests are in charge of two or more parishes - and because of the seminary mentalities and horrendous example these priests were given when they were young by uncaring , negligent post vatican II priests , these priests really think they are doing their job by merely providing a single sunday service and odd wedding and funeral.

They are bored out of their skulls !
Lonely, isolated, distant from their ageing parishioners and other clerics - they really don't see much point to it all now; their parishes are dying ; they feel that their own souls are dying ; this isn't a crisis of faith, this is a crisis of existence !

The media are against us - the secular morality of the tabloids and Trisha/Jeremy Kyle are most definitely against us...The uneducated big brother watching masses of ignorant feral youths are must assuredly against us...

Academia [even the ostensibly catholic halls of education] ridicule orthodox devout catholic sentiments as anachronistic, misogynist and sexually repressive redolences of a crumbling Patriarchy....

There is a new catholicism-ism - one that is oblivious to any sexual or life 'sins' - one that denies the authenticity of the Incarnation, resurrection , real presence, efficacy of the sacraments or Our lady's virginity - mention the assumption and they'd laugh in your face, mention the potential sinfulness of the condom or pill and they'd think you as viciously cruel - gone are the days of cafeteria catholicism - this is picnic christianity with a tiny hint of catholic ritual.

Hundreds of thousands of catholics in this country went through devastating times in the eighties and nineties - unemployment, family and marital breakdowns, bereavements, illnesses, depressions, divorces, problems with kids involved in crime and alcohol and drugs...major crises

and where were their fellow catholics ?

where were their fellow parishioners?

where were their priests ?

A friend of mine went to confession about twenty years ago - there she confessed how she was a nun who was duped into running off with a spanish man who swore he loved her but proceeded to philander, beat her up, steal everything she owned, sexually molest their two children and rape her if she tried to prevent his assault on the two children... she risked her life to escape to england penniless, mentally and physically wrecked but slowly, steadily trying to get her, and her children's, life back on an even keel - but her hatred for her ex-husband was eating her away....this was the first time she had built up the courage to tell any human being what she had gone through...this confession was a critical moment in her life....

The priest sat there sighing, picking his nose, looking at it and eating it, then sighed a big long sigh and told the poor woman to cheer up - the weather has got a bit better and we've got some nice sun now...Now for your penance...

Not a word of sympathy, consolation , empathy nor any offer of assistance or aid....this seems to exemplify the contemporary church and the condition of the clergy,
For all I know this priest may have been desperate to reach out and help but he had never experienced any training, teaching or good example to emulate ?
[I'm sorry that's a lie, this priest wouldn't ]; but that's not the point ;
our priests are just slightly informed well-meaning pagans who are pastorally inept beyond credulity...

No Training.
Reprehensibly poor education.
No example from other clerics.
No shepherding from their Bishop.
We have to do something - and while you're worried about whether your new curate is worried about his bum looking big in his chasuble ; catholicism is collapsing around you!

Bishops are still writing ad clerums about praying for young men to come forward in our time of vocations-crisis...

They really shouldn't worry, come the next few generations, unless something drastic is done NOW, there won't be a lack of priests, because there won't be any catholics !

#8 A response to a really nice orthodox catholic who suggested we purge all homosexuals from seminaries [and that we had available means to do it]

[I sincerely apologise for this crude posting, but we were in a rather heated discussion]
[Please ignore this - it's not exactly conducive to what this blog is about]

Vincent, what exactly do you think should be done ?
wire all prospective seminarians up to a heart monitor and see if it beats faster when they watch 'naughty knickers and the lash of lust' or while they flick through a dieux du stade calendar ?

sexuality doesn't work like that,
sexual attraction is a complex thing that requires channeling in order to become an efficacious part of the celibate life,
it doesn't need to be suppressed, seen as something sordid or lascivious, but something that needs psychologically liberated from physical desire and endocrinal urges......

the straightest father of twenty would look twice if a young David Beckham walked past...a gay friend of mine said jokingly that he felt guilty watching Diana Rigg in the Avengers because it was compromising his homosexuality!

To be frank and somewhat crude, we don't want clerics sticking their dinkles where the sun don't shine - whether they are gay,straight, bi or have fetishes for garden furniture...

The only way to ensure this happens is by yes, weeding out those who will never be able to resist diving into sexual activity, but also by ensuring that those who have a willingness for celibacy have the support and pastoral assistance and training to help it come to fruition - clinical psychological counselling and spiritual direction and practical applications in the outside world will assist this....

Go on an all-out 'queer-hunt' and you'll soon discover that so many seminarians [and staff] are so sexually ambiguous that after you've finished the only person left on the seminary site is an elderly cleaner and the cat [and even he'd been speyed!]

It's a sad state of affairs but we have to be honest here; we are always going to have homosexual as well as straight clergy; but the only decent ones who manage in their parishes to be effective,dignified, orthodox pastors are the ones who have channelled that sexuality into their daily lives - not frightened of their own shadow, flinching from any intimacy, there are few things more sad than seeing a young priest who can't hug...

The priests who are living their celibacy are the ones we should exemplify, not the others,
it's the priests who have run away and hid in their presbyteries, locking themselves away every weekday and only appearing for a few select performances at the weekends; too frightened to visit female parishioners while their husbands are at work lest tongues wag...

never mentioning anything to do with sexuality, in fact being highly prudish about sexual educational material in the classroom
but still he'll have his mucky books under the mattress, watching the free ten minutes of the adult channel...and heaven knows what's on his internet search history ;
but even so he's terrified to talk to a young female member of the parish and so terrified of being thought a pervert that he makes all the altar servers girls and has nothing to do with their training....

priests are called to live their celibacy, not stifle and kill and suppress their sexuality - it's ridiculous to presume it's possible - lacordaire said a priest needs a heart of bronze for chastity - chastity and celibacy are only possible when that sexual dynamism is transcended through acts of charity and devotion towards others - and for that a priest needs a decent life of prayer and meditation, and also the ability to get off their backsides and start shepherding their flock and being involved in their lives!!!

One old cleric once jokingly said to me [quite coarsely] if you want to be a fisher of men you have to get your hand off your rod and start casting out your nets !crude, but very apposite.

#7 in response to a question regarding testing a vocation

You asked a direct question and I was rude enough to ramble on self-indulgently and vicariously; failing to respond.

The answer is very simple: the poor example of priests.

Ask anyone you know and they will give dozens of examples of hair-pulling exasperation at the attitudes, opinions,demeanours and actions of our beloved clergy.

But this leads to further necessary elucidation - and it's one fundamentally based upon the abandonment and abject neglect of our priests - the loneliness, despondency, the apparent futility of it all, the lack of support, their impotency and feelings of being virtually castrated or cuckolded in the modern world.

Their isolation from parishioners and a secular lifestyle - the reprehensible behaviour of associates who escape with a slapped hand or even promotion from the authorities.
The feelings of no sense of worth , the middle-age crises which seem to have no end , the disillusionment with their faith...

Everywhere one looks this is being demonstrably relayed from the pulpit - you don't know if you want to hug the priest or throw a bucket of ice-water over them.

All too often they appear to believe that they have no position of validity or worth - this is expressed through two ways - becoming dictatorial and tyrannical over minor procedural exigences, or just giving everything up into the hands of the laity...

Some barely survive through a 'happy medium' of these two expressions - others are jt disconsolate and seek succour elsewhere...Drink, food, isolation, tv, travel,unhealthily consorting too much with like-minded others, wasting money on inane aspirational projects, shopping, the internet, pornograpy or sexual liaisons where available, gambling...the list is endless.

But young men SEE these things ; parishioners witness all this and are highly antagonistic towards this outlook of the clergy and the contemporary church which is basically a milieu of neglect and abandonment

...and then there are the priests who ARE involved - the inner ring of reprobates who gave up thinking of God and the Church decades ago; caring more for liturgies and administration and educational/RCIA policies and all the committees,conferences and meetings involved.

...the young catholic man would rather choke on his own vomit than become one of these terrible speech makers or paper shufflers

...but what if he's lucky enough to encounter a good orthodox highly-motivated priest ? one who cares for and visits his parishioners, one who actually teaches and reveals his love of God and neighbour from the pulpit ?

All too often this accentuates the faults and failings of the majority of clerics around him - experiencing a good priest can concentrate all the crises in the church and make the young man more frustrated ; especially when he sees tht the priest is like an oasis, a voice crying in the wilderness; ridiculed and dismissed by associate priests, patronised by the authorities who are antagonistic to his anachronistic running of a parish; occasionally remonstrating with the priest for his failure to promote lay ministries and participation... the liberalising modernists have many ways of criticising/destroying anyone who is more capable or more loved than they are.

The young man confronts great risks and deeply questions his abilities - could he really endure a life like this ; with neither support nor comfort in any way - and what's more , all the things he truly believes a priest should be doing in the world seem to be thwarted or prevented even amongst the best of priests by the powers from above...young men are out there who are willing to become priests [irrespective of wanting to become them] but their wisdom perceives that they would hardly be given any opportunity to be the priest they truly thought they should be - idealistic, aspirational and devoted to God and the church - they see on the ground that everything that a priest should be is being proverbially urinated on, by the bishops, the laity and even the priests themselves...

#6 The Nightmare vocations weekend - a fantasy of grotesques - please ignore- this is for research purposes only.

[please understand that this is not autobiographical - merely a normative compilation of about a dozen associates who have gone through a very similar 'generic' process before entering seminary. Understand too that these depictions of seminarians are 'bogies' 'grotesques' at a masquerade - nobody is truly like these people]

vocations weeks/weekends are a nightmare scenario for any young man wishing to assess a possible vocation...

A few things immediately leap out;one is that the more senior members of the gathering are not priests; but maybe an ex-monk, or an ex-anglican cleric , or a civil servant/steel worker whose elderly parent they've spent the past twenty years caring for and has just died...or an ex-seminarian trying for the second or third time to return to seminary.

Invariably they look quite nervous and 'out of sorts' they may smile distantly or gaze mid-air or seem too deeply in their own thoughts, any response to a question will be glibly short or overly personally descriptive and too detailed.
They appear in either a state of deep discomfort being surrounded by so many youngsters, or quite passive and peeved that they have to 'go through the motions' before getting on with the work to do in a church.

Then the ones who are too young: fourteen or fifteen years old ; it's quite unsettling , but some old parish priest has thought to send one or two altar boys in the expectation that in four or five years they may test their vocation; and it's better for them to start integrating with the seminarians now - not a very good of the kids may be a completely disinterested goth or emo wearing a blatantly blasphemous t-shirt, another kid may be dressed like he's an open university lecturer in his early sixties - their clothes revealing a great deal about them and their backgrounds...but not the way you'd expect. The 'punk' is normally the one who will end up one of the best priests in the diocese.

There may be a few other potential seminarians and they are generally of a specific type ; young, intellectual-looking, either not very healthy looking or overtly sporty and team-captain-like, the majority wear glasses [don't ask me why, they just do] and they seem thoroughly unsettled and frightened of their own significant point of observation is the haircut which usually falls into two categories - overly short/assaulted by hedgetrimmers or clinically parted Roger Moore/Thunderbirds -like. Their dress sense is overly reserved - sometimes they may resort to wearing Jesus-sandals in warm weather; but it just looks gauche.

Then comes the vocations director - now twenty years ago the v.d. would have been a middle-aged experienced parish priest, dean or vicar of clergy - but for some reason today episcopal policy has decreed that vocations directors have to be young - as the young priest will 'inspire and empathise' with the young seminarian - more often than not this can actually have the diammetrically opposite effect...

Not even the young vocations director is arrogant or presumptuous enough to believe he has any answers or enough experience to truly support a prospective candidate for the diocese......

then come the seminarians.

Now you are probably filled with prejudicial/assumptive stereotypes regarding the seminarians and their personalities and characteristics ; based upon your own experiences with young priests ; let me tell you that you are both surprisingly very wrong, and sadly very, very right....

Let's start with the biggest, and the most brainless, group - what I'd refer to as the 'monty python mob' - why ? because they are the type of people who spend a lot of time speaking in the code of the 'inner ring' a lot of this used to be quoting from monty python; although it could just as easily today be lines from little britain or ugly betty - but these people are some of the most isolationist you will ever encounter...

Ever been to a rugby/cricket club and there's a rowdy bunch hanging round the bar being overly loud, having a penchant for 'mickey-taking' and ridicule, and constantly referring to events/antics/gaffes involving people who aren't there and their run-ins with officials and how it was all a good laugh, but you wouldn't understand because 'you'd have to be there' ? That's the type !- There's also a disturbing over-reference to women as if they're some alien species and 'only good for one damned thing'; as if they're all the most experienced philanderers on the planet ; it's only after listening for a while that you realise that most of them have never even kissed a girl, nor would ever really wish to...You know the type ?

Well seminarians of this ilk come in two distinct flavours - as if they belong to two opposing teams - imagine arsenal and chelsea, or city and united, you have the vocally secular 'I'm not really clerical. I'm just one of the lads' versus the 'I'm not a human being any more, I'm part of that inner sanctum of the potential presbyterate' Of course I'm alluding to what the python mob would refer to as : "we're the Romans!!!"

The Venerabile Collegio Inglese and the Beda breed ecclesiastical gossips, attention seekers and young men attempting desperately to be gnostically 'in the know' about points of doctrine and canon law or clerical shenanigans.... any opportunity to mention the name of a cleric whom at least one member of the group of avid listeners is ignorant of - is a tactical victory for the romanita....

The 'Lads' vs 'Romans' - the mutual contempt is almost tangible - but ostensibly there will be smiles and subtle truces ; among the ranks there may be a few 'treacheries' of people becoming friendly with 'the enemy' - they may even be 'pulled up for consorting with that bunch of modernists/tridentinists/louts/nancy boys/delete as applicable

'Hostility reigns between these two groups; but there are many varieties of seminarian that fall somewhere between them...quick desciptions:

a] The 'in-your-face' grinning/overly serious interrogator - a seminarian that falls into two sub classes - but they do the same thing - ask overtly personal questions to the point of being downright rude - the difference is subtle but significant - one type seems to be mentally making a note of absolutely everything for future reference; the other doesn't really seem to care about the answers to the questions at all ! what seems more important is that he has asked the questions...[don't ask me why this happens - I'm just reporting what I and others have encountered - the motive of this type of individual is beyond me - why ask questions if you don't care about the answers ? unless you're asking an ulterior totally different question you can't use words for ? possibly ?]

b] the awkward,lovable but not exactly likable, 'lunk' - not very intellectual in seminarian-type interests, not a deep conversationalist about seminarian-type things, doesn't exactly fit into any of the niches that seminaries have classified for seminarians - The patron saint of parish priests, St John Vianney, would have fallen into this isolated, sadly patronised about and dismissed category, 'put up with out of charity', but never invited to private gatherings...What's amazing is that these 'misfits' usually have some extraordinary talent - either creative or musical or being a great listener/counsellor - but only those who go out of their way to seek the hidden depths of this person may discover it....

c] The autocrat: bit self-explanatory really, clinical, snobbish, prone to being hostile and holding anything not 'conducive', or anyone who is not 'one of us' in utter contempt. A doctrinal draconian, a clerical pro-eugenicist; antipathetic to any dead-wood. You may think that the majority of these people are overly pious right-wing traditionalists ; please don't be misled - there are just as many liberal modernists and 'reformers' who have adopted the stance of 'ideological restructuring' within the church; acting as if they were participating in a corporate take-over...they always have a close associate nearby , and have a predilection towards forming select groups which either support the establishment or seek to destroy every aspect of it.

d] the Louche - seems to exude charisma and decadence - part angel/part demon, Brideshead or Bauhaus, Junkie Jim Morrisson or refined Rupert Everett - they seem to induce adulation or abject anathematisation from those around them. Inveterately they're either a 'go with the flow' passively nonchalant care-free individual, or staunchly right/left wing with a very categorical agenda; yet they 'play the game' with an amazing dexterity and efficacy. They make very good, albeit dangerous, friends.

e] the sporty/excitable type - activities and participation-obsessed, in order to be a 'human being' in their eyes you have to be a 'human doing' - invariably among seminarians this leads to a 'human going'.

f] The 'expert'; the ones 'knowledgeable about everything' - least said the better....

g] the idealistic innocent youngster - sometimes they really are just that; on more than the odd occasion they are playing a very subtle game a la 'I Claudius' - playing the naiive fool - sometimes as a defence mechanism; on other occasions to manipulate and gather worthwhile information...sadly these people are not very trustworthy, their ostensible guilelessness for some reason leads to the stirring up of trouble.

h] the 'uninvolved' - they were called this because they were the exact opposite - behind the scenes they were deeply into administration, organisation, planning etc, but would never look you in the eye or participate in any human interaction or social event - scurrying everywhere, busy about their business - typing up a new rota being infinitely more important than wasting a few seconds on polite pleasantries with another human being.

i] the weasel/Iago - sadly there are a few around; quickly you learn to tell them absolutely nothing of any import regarding yourself or anyone else ; unless you wish to manipulate circumstances - they can be a useful tool but one always feels like you need to attend confession or take a long shower after encountering them.

j] the equivocator/placator - the pragmatist who agrees with everyone about everything when they are in their presence - never really having an agenda of their own except wanting to be liked

k] the predator - yes they exist - hacking away at one's psyche to break down the walls - some wish to invade that space; others don't really care as the fun was the destruction-part; some a homosexuals seeking out any potential weakness or sexual insecurity in the young man for a chance of some sordid fun ; others are just nasty pieces of work who live to one principle : 'it is not enough to succeed - others must fail!'

l] the follower - ingratiating to the point of excruciation - the one desperately seeking to be the object of their affection's 'executive officer','right hand man' or the 'beloved unto the lord' - they can get pretty nasty if their position is ever compromised or perceived as in jeopardy.

Of course the young and enthusiastic vocations director is oblivious to most of this... they have a tendency to jump to conclusions - categorise someone according to a single action they have witnessed and thought unusual or 'character-confirming'.

Like a lot of naiive individuals, they really do believe thay know more than they truly do about the people around them; and are very quick to reach judgements. The young feel they have to know everything and have their voice heard otherwise they wane from existence.
For a young vocations director it can lead to two outcomes - getting overly involved or being reticent to ever get involved - having big brother watching you leads to people becoming insecure and overly secretive;on the other hand giving an individual enough rope to hang themselves without any overt concern for their well-being leads to anxiety and loneliness, together with the potential to just grab the rope and throw themselves off the roof [why delay the inevitable? it's obvious the diocese doesn't want me, why don't they just get it over and done with?]

Anyway, this proverbial young man has so far only encountered seminarians at a vocations week...seminaries are very different places...

#5 The young man in the parish...

after a struggle at school; confronting all the secular morality bombarded upon him from every corner and being accused of all manner of things - being a homophobic misogynist and an enemy of women by opposing abortion, and a conspirator in the genocide of AIDS in africa just for being a catholic [some of these denunciations coming from teachers!]

- amidst all this the young man might decide that he really does believe in catholicism....his only way to survive is to be with like-minded people before he goes crazy he tries to get involved in the parish, like a fool he goes to the priest,

now invariably priests react in one of two ways - over-sincerely or with a wary hostility - luckily this time the lad got the curate, had he encountered the parish priest and expressed his overt religious fervour he might have been 'politely' sent away with a flea in his ear and told to grow up and get a girlfriend and come back in five years when he'd 'grown a set'

...nevertheless the curate is finding ways for the young man to get involved - so much so that by the end of it the lad discovers he has virtually volunteered for everything...

the next few months are tough

...there are run-ins with the professional laity at every corner who inform him that whatever he does - be it reading at mass, or holding a chalice, or expressing an opinion of the real bodily resurrection or singing the Inwood gloria - he's doing it wrongly !!

he's asked would he really mind if their daughter jocasta who's just back from drama school did it for the next few times just to show him how to do it properly ?

the young man finds more companionship amongst the elderly and more neglected members of these groups - more often than not he finds himself sitting next to someone who likes to talk about 'the old ways in the days of the old monsignor/canon' "the canon would never have let them put flowers there!" "the canon always knelt on both knees when he opened the tabernacle" "the canon always had first fridays, and made sure there was a candlemas procession" "the canon would never allow that..." and so the list would go on - an elderly devout woman might slip him a 'chaplet of divine mercy' leaflet, or a brown scapular... or tell him how to get a plenary indulgence for something.... the leader of the meditation group overhears and ridicules those 'quaint old ways' and then proceeds to give a lecture on carlo carretto and john cassian in the desert....and how her sister spoke in tongues at the latest renewal conference...

the curate is quite nice really; he has his guitar but he sings and plays well, and he really loves God, but he has weird quirky things - he says things like Moses wasn't exactly a real person but it didn't matter for people of faith, he has a 'day off' every week and even if he stays in the presbytery he won't answer the phone or help anyone who comes to the rectory - it's his day off; he does seem a bit overfriendly with a couple of his priest friends - one is a bit slimey and holds the young man's hand for a bit too long when they meet, and the curate does go out to the pub every saturday without a collar wearing a salmon pink jumper and spends a lot of time having 'meals' with people;

the priest's sermons are usually funny or sad stories ; but he doesn't really talk about Jesus or God very much and when someone mentions the pope or bishop he does smile patronisingly and say "God bless him"

- a lot of the parishioners think he's dreamy or lovely, some others think he's a drippy stick of wet celery who should spend a few months down a coalmine to give him a dose of reality and a spine.
They prefer the grumpy parish priest ; the young man doesn't - the young man doesn't understand anything about the parish priest at all - he just seems so miserable and lonely and non-involved - even during mass his sermons are all about how we shouldn't feel guilty for our failings - never anything else !
the young man begins to suspect the parish priest is broken in some way - and nothing will ever get through to him....

so the years progress and the young man really feels that despite belonging to a bunch of less than perfect individuals in a parish, the time is right for him to test his vocation ;

his family are none too pleased - the priesthood seems a wasted life , especially with all the potential academic qualifications the young man has... the only people who seem enthusiastic are the people the young man doesn't exactly want to be enthusiastic...

even though the curate is ecstatic, the parish priest is grumpily hostile, but it's the parish priest's approval the young man wants...

the professional laity are already composing songs for the young mans ordination mass and making preparations for six years hence, but the elderly people he thought he was close too seem sad and look at him funnily as if the young man does't understand what he's got himself into - one even mentions solemnly in almost whispers about struggles, loneliness and sacrifice... and the young man doesn't really understand -

one of the matronly trendy catechists announces how one of those under her wing is going to try out for the presbyteral ministry , test his vocation as they had all tested their ministerial vocations before God chose them to be a part of her catechetical group - and who knows when we get a new pope she might be joining him in seminary ???So the young man heads off to the first diocesan vocations weekend....

#4 [continued] a fantasy word-picture for a prospective seminarian

The young man looks back on his religious education from school - more often than not he won't be at a catholic senior school; as the bishops have sold the majority of them off en-masse; the days when catholic schools were the envy of surrounding educational establishments have long gone ; ever since the headmasters were granted more autonomy and more members of the professional laity got onto the boards of school governors , the quality of chosen candidates for teachers has not been the wisest, academic capability or catholicity gave way to those individuals who were 'conducive to the vision of the spirit and mission statement ' affable, inoffensive, liberalising 'educationalists' with little pedagogic experience , but belonging to a lot of educational committees or pressure groups...
thus the school grades plummetted,
elderly teaching staff became disillusioned and resigned many years before they had planned to, so in order to save money the school employs inexperienced young or trainee teachers [who , by some strange coincidence happen to be the children of the professional laity saving up money for their 'gap year' or impending marriage ] - discipline and grades plummet further ; the government notices the grades and implements special measures and ultimately the bishop grasps the opportunity for some ready money and bails the whole team out by closing the drain on fiscal resources...

no the young man must attempt to rely upon the religious education he received at primary school...

and then he gets a shock

he remembers a few songs about Paul in a basket and eagles , he remembers painting zacchaeus up the tree every year, and acting out the good samaritan and the prodigal son for assembly [miss said he made a good third pig] the rest is a blur...

he remembers sitting down at a table having a seder meal, visiting a sikh temple and rubbing yoghurt on a flag pole, he remembers getting told off for playing frisbee with the paper skullcaps miss handed out when they visited the synagogue; and he remembers the coach trip to the mosque that smelled funny and all the girls had to go out the back while all the men shouted and stuck their bums in the air...

he seems remember the bishop coming to the school once and someone gave him flowers while he told them they were the hope for the future in the spirit and hadn't they painted pretty pictures of him ?

He remembers being told about the mass but it's all about sitting round a table and sharing bread and wine - it seems to have nothing to do with a church altar or the crucifix or the tabernacle... there seems to be no notion of sacrifice at all...

he still went to church with his mum and gran, but felt a bit embarassed because he was the youngest one there apart from the schoolteacher's two young daughters who were altar servers; none of his schoolfriends went to mass, in fact none of his catholic neighbours seemed to go any more either....but when it comes to his catholicism , what he believes ?

that's come from his parents, well more specifically one set of grandparents who are impolite enough to think religion is a topic of conversation and does affect one's daily life.everything else has come from books - in fact most of the things he knows about the church comes from reading a non-catholic ;

CS Lewis books seem to be the only really accessible religious books around or available - and even then he had to buy them from a non-catholic 'christian book store'

the internet has been a great help, but all too often there are american sites which purport to be catholic and then suddenly they tell him he must support george bush and capitalism and the NRA and the war against terror and Iraq and must despise free education and universal health care as satanic , they have weird prayers to our lady and fantastic tales of her visitations to american mystics who tell the world that there's going to be great wars and earthquakes and purges of humanity - and then they say the Pope isn't really the pope as he's a heretic !

So he leaves those sites and tries to access the british catholic sites - they seem to teach nothing about catholicism at all - it's just meetings and conferences and group sharings and spirtual renewal retreats - lots of pictures of kids making banners and priests sitting in bathtubs of beans and elderly [drunk looking?] women holding up stylised picures of doves made from macaroni , or being applauded from a wooden pulpit by fellow women who all look like they've popped out of 1970's ambridge - and why are they all joining hands during the our father ?

the young man may seek solace from the youth group ? or the diocesan youth ministry ? he rings round and discovers there's a meeting in a nearby town so he gets on the bus - they say a little prayer, discuss what's happening in their school [somewhere he doesn't attend], what plans they have for the upcoming event or trip to a conference up north, and apart from a lot of in-talking and laughing about individuals he doesn't know, that's basically it ! The older members go down the pub and mockingly abandon him because he refuses to pretend he's 18 - he rings his dad to come and pick him up and decides not to go again...

after a few months he is informed there's a youth mass coming up at the cathedral, would he like to go ? more of the same thing happens but he does manage to meet a few others just aslost and alone as he is and they end up talking about a few things...

they have a weird mass in a field where the priest wears a multicoloured nylon tablecloth with grains of wheat all over it - the altar is an upturned orange box but there is a candle, he dishes out a huge loaf for everyone to tear a piece off - the boy supposes the rain will wash away all the dropped crumbs of host on the grass - they sing a few songs that could be hymns as they talk about spirit all the time and everyone seems really huggy, the priest is really trying to be hip and groovy and the bossy nun is wearing trousers - but soon it's all over and everyone seems to be hugging each other goodbye and talking about what they'll do at the next meeting somewhere the young man has never heard of...yet again the young man takes the journey home again on his own, but he is lucky enough to get one of the people he met's address...but the youth doesn't write back...

he's told there might be another youth event on the other side of the diocese - some over-enthusiastic woman who was dressed twenty years too young for her age gave a talk about it at mass one sunday - telling the elderly parishioners that children are our future in the spirit - he does sign the list for it at the back of the church, but crosses it out when he discovers he's the only one after the sign's been up for three weeks...

#3 Another word picture in response

Well !

Let me state an aside first before it disappears; a considerable amount of priests are disgruntled at the way anglicans - married anglicans or blatantly camp ones - were accepted with open arms into the clergy while remaining ostensibly CofE; merely with the bugbear of disapproving of women priests.

The debacle of the permanent diaconate whereby indolent-enough priests could dump their clerical exigences on some over-enthusiastic member of the professional laity who had enough basic theology and morality to confidently over-emphasise doctrine and praxis erroneously with a patronising smile has got many of the clergy and the laity's 'backs-up'!!

All too often in parishes across the country does sunday mass look something more akin to the adventures of the brady bunch - deacon dad's on the sanctuary in his posh white frock looking austere before he preaches; mum's dishing out communion, the eldest son or daughter is doing the readings and the rest of the kids are altar serving... not exactly conducive to inspiring anything but hostility from the sadly, but unexpectedly ,envious members of the congregation...

The priest seems , more often than not, surplus to requirement and a bit of 'spare one'.
This isn't only within the remit of mere deacons - oh no ! throughout the country there are vast swathes of 'professional laity families' who are involved in everything !!
invariably they are teachers or avid middle class 'professionals' and this does "rub the parishioners' noses in it" - ostensibly these people mean well, but all too readily does it turn into a conflict of wills; and the creation of an 'inner ring' from which the average parishioner feels ostracized.
These professional laity do feel that because of their time and effort they should be afforded some validity and position within the church mechanism - and they are all too ready to fill in any 'gaps in ministry/catechesis' with like-minded friends and associates.
They are on the visible administrative committees anmd parish councils etc; while the 'lower class' individuals of the parish have to make do with the legion of mary, the st vincent de paul society, the union of catholic mothers or the martha group of church cleaners.

You don't think young men don't see this going on around them ? a parish run in a way that it isn't really a parish at all - it's more like a baptist chapter.

They see that "children's liturgies" are merely excuses to get the kids out of the way so their professional laity parents can sing 'colours of day' and bang a tambourine in the band, or prance around the sanctuary as some new 'minister of something'.

They may attend RCIA and be both enraged and astounded at the heterodoxy being promulgated as church doctrine by the 'catechist' laity who have never studied a day's theology in their lives - and I don't just mean the ordinary stuff that the cafeteria catholics pick and choose - contraception, homosexuality, divorce etc - I'm talking about things like whether Jesus was married to Mary magdalene or had a gay affair with St John, that most of the Bible is fairy stories, most of church teachings are capitalist, heterosexist, racist, misogynistic anachronisms , the pope and the bishops are just out of touch and need to catch up with reality ,and come vatican 4 we'll have a lesbian pope who's had three abortions and four divorces; and the only ex cathedra condemnations will be about racism, eating meat and not being carbon neutral.A young man with a modicum of orthodoxy is bound to be a little disillusioned.

# 2 a response to a question regarding the preponderance of homosexual seminarians and priests.

Well ?
One of my heroes is Bishop d'Arcy of Fort Wayne/South Bend Indiana [next cardinal please your Holiness??] - a man with long experience of priestly formation - he's of the opinion, with the vatican, that homosexuality is too much of a burden and struggle within the obvious potential opportunities for sexual intimacy within a seminary - and he would normatively be against promoting celibate gay candidates for the priesthood.

But that is not exactly the point that we are discussing here - What we are talking about is not sexual orientation - it's a lack of definitive sexual orientation - and clinical psychologists back this up.
Over a sixth of adolescent males go through a period of exclusive homosexual attraction/activity for around three years of their sexual development - two thirds of these revert to exclusive heterosexuality after this period providing psychological sexual maturation is allowed to occur - in other words the vast majority of teenage gays are not actually gay at all; but are indeed 'going through a narcissistic self-pleasure seeking phase projected onto other same sex individuals - sexually gratifying the 'mirror image of the self' -
this can hardly be denoted as sexually oriented at all -
for some males this 'period' never leaves them and even through a basically heterosexual life they still have latent homosexual predilections - we all have adult friends who are a ? overfriendly ? it's one of the consequences of confused or thwarted sexual maturation...

But for the majority the sexual maturation process ultimately clarifies their orientation - regrettably socio-cultural and nurturing influences hone in on this period and especially in western cultures there are men who should be psychologically heterosexual but are subsumed into the culture and lifestyle at a vulnerable age and adapt to it [western cultures have 2 to 3 times the amount of homosexual male population they technically should according to anthropological/sociological studies of all cultures]

But let's consider the post-pubescent males entering seminary - some, especially the more 'religious' and 'pastorally active' may have significant delays on their sexual maturation in comparison to their more 'secular' contemporaries - some may have their first sexual encounter with a fellow seminarian or female student many years after the average teenager plays 'doctors and nurses' or encounters heavy petting.
A considerable amount of time should be spent with the seminarian in their training and development both psychosexually and emotionally in this process for them to actually determine who they are and how they are going to channel that sexual authenticity through their priestly ministry.

If this doesn't happen there will be consequences - some seminarians go on a sexual free-for-all once they've tasted the forbidden fruit - going out to clubs and sleeping with anything that moves ; some even going through a process in [mainly U.S.]seminary called 'bed-notching' whereby they have competitions to see how many first year seminarians they can have a sexual liaison with 'notching their bed post'!!!

Some may suppress it, and that has consequences.
Psychologically it will not go away ; for some it can lead to an eating away of the self and a personal emotional breakdown ; for others of ulterior disposition and ill-intent it will express itself through other means - invariably through spite and malice and abuses of power which may ultimately lead to abuse in all its varied forms - but it usually starts with psychological abuse before it gets sexual.

But what of the others who don't go on to be abusers , but are still deeply sexually immature ?
Well some are at even greater risks.

Some may develop an intimate friendship with another and be sneaking into each others beds in the small hours; or sneaking out over the seminary wall to a local girlfriend's - this psychologically demeans sexual activity - rather than seeing lovemaking as a beautiful sacrament between a loving married couple whereby they are most Godlike - it becomes a debased deathly-silent , terrifyingly guilt-ridden conspiratorial mutual masturbatory fumbling in the image that remains with them for a long period of time...- one they may later on seek to conquer or redress - but how ?

Assuredly some will attempt prayer and loving understanding of the marital relationships and the good example round them of family life .

But others ?
They'll try and get rid of those sexual 'bogeymen' and guilt trips by trying to sexually liberate themselves with someone who ostensibly cares about them....But there are others too who having only experienced orgasmic intimacy and excitement via the dark,unsubtle,raw,unemotional,clinically almost violent and dangerous, sexual liaisons that they can only continue to achieve arousal or gratification through that means - why do some married men/clergy get their kicks out of cottaging/dogging/prostitution when technically the opportunity for them to get it elsewhere is readily available ?
It's the sexual thrill and risk of it all - a very dangerous psychological disposition - and a sign of deep sexual insecurity and immaturity.

Another insurmountable barrier for some is the factor of modern woman !
The post feminist teenage girl who is frankly , generally speaking, a monster !!! insensitive, selfish, foul-mouthed, incapable of any considerations apart from her own gratification - Go into any school in the country today and you will discover that three-quarters of all the problems will have teenage girls at their source.
The Jeremy Kyle/Trisha/Take a break magazine generation of 'young ladies' are neither adorable or romantically inspiring ; whereas the 'new-man',the responsible caring males, metrosexually dressed, sharing in all the fellow males' interests and pursuits is exceedingly more enticing and rewarding.
Our parenting and media are producing an era when young men are turning gay out of choice and frankly for some who could blame them when faced with the alternative ???
Sometimes the Daniel is prettier, more caring and loving and more of a capable companion than the Danielle; and that's a direct product of society !!!
Feminists seem to be oblivious to the notion that their feminisms are wreaking a new form of misogyny which isn't at a level of thinking men are superior to women; it's being thrust into young men's faces that a lot of women are not the people you'd really want to spend time with.

I've probably outraged a lot of feminists with that comment , and they'll make the same age-old reaction that catholic attitudes towards women are anachronistically defunct - we like to see every women as pure and virginal and motherly as Our Lady - and we are all sexually fixated on that purity and oedipal urges - it's baloney - men do not like horrible women, full stop - and society is wreaking havoc among the mentalities of our female youth - all products of the liberation of women [i.e. they've dumped their husbands for a younger useless model and have to spend all the hours God sends socialising to keep him and her mates 'happy' and working all the rest of the time to pay for it; while she bleeds her lonely abandoned ex-husband dry and the kids are left neglected to go to pot!!!] .

[I'm sounding so Anne Atkins it's scaring me]

My main point is that seminaries are not going to get anywhere when they are filled with students, and run by people, who are allowed to remain in situations of arrested sexual maturation and left in a psychological limbo rather than confronting their sexual orientation and their preparation for celibacy head-on.

I don't think the problem is a directly homosexual one at all ; it's a problem which is now on the wane, but was highly prevalent especially in the US in the 80's - it's having infantile predatory homosexuals being allowed to hold their sway and blackmail/tyrannise/psychologically abuse fellow seminarians within seminaries; while seminary officials turn a blind eye - or even participated in any available 'fun'!

But meanwhile there are many young sexually insecure, immature and vulnerable seminarians who are frightened of their own shadow... receiving little if no support from anyone apart from fellow seminarians just as scared as they are - and psychological intimacy can lead to physically intimate outreachings/misunderstandings and lead to physical mistakes that corrupt and ruin the originally innocent relationship...I honestly ask you - would you want your son placed in an institution where the few predatory 'deviants' [and I do call them deviants - they aren't homosexual any more than we are - they are predatory sexual abusers with not an ounce of love or respect in their souls] can be permitted to hold their sway ?

thought not!!

Would you want your son placed in an institution that didn't give two hoots what happened to the people in their responsibility providing the bills were paid and the exams passed and the liturgies sung and the sports cups won ?

thought not, neither would I !!

A major problem is age - I wouldn't allow ordination till at least 28 - but then again I'd have priestly training being a significantly longer more involved process.
I'd have integrated intense clinical psychological assessments, psychosexual counsellings and therapies given by trained catholic spiritual directors.

Together with that I'd actually force seminary staff to run their seminaries - trust me they aint like Hogwarts - some are like colditz but with a 1970's hippy minimalist vatican-II-ista mentality - some are like repressed holiday camps where anyone can do what they like providing nobody knows....No, seminaries need to be run...not even that well, just well enough to ensure that the poor seminarian isn't either left abandoned or given enough rope to hang themselves, or left vulnerable to the malevolent machinations of people of ill-will and eight hands.

If that really happened - it wouldn't matter if the seminarian went in there either sexually ambiguous,gay,straight,bisexual, or into goats or items of agricultural machinery - they would have a decent opportunity for sexual maturation and an option to address the challenges and sacrifices and understand the graces and benefits of a celibate life.

I don't see celibate homosexuality as being a preclusion from vocations.; but it does have significant difficulties which must be assessed and determined before any decisions regarding ordination occur - being in extraordinary circumstances - a celibate homosexual candidate would be expected to act extraordinarily and prove their loyalty to chastity and celibacy to an extraordinary standard.
Some of the best , most holy catholics I know are celibate chaste homosexuals [and, significantly, they are some of the most sexually and psychologically mature people I know ][some are even priests].

But for the sexually immature to be ordained is reprehensibly irresponsible;and the training staff in the seminary; and the bishop and vocations director responsible for the candidate - should be dragged over the coals for it !!!

Not one of these priest-abusers should have been able to get through the process towards ordination ; human error should statistically dictate that a few would fly in under the radar and be missed - but for dozens upon dozens to systemically continue to abuse hundreds for decades ?

That's a clerical crime crying out to Heaven for justice.and the blame lies at the doors of our seminaries and bishop's palaces.

#1 - To All...any help will be gratefully appreciated.

I've been asked by someone to write my personal views regarding the crisis amongst the clergy and especially the role of the episcopacy in this regard.
This is going to take me many hours to compose and I would sincerely ask you all to contribute anything you consider relevant to the issue....

In the meantime I'm going to copy and paste a few of my postings regarding the sexual abuse/homosexual priest/clerical crisis issue merely to clarify a few points in my own mind : Please understand these were reactive statements and not merely 'off-the-cuff' remarks in a 'cultured, rational, amicable' discussion. In places I'm a bit crude so I apologise beforehand and ask anyone of a sensitive disposition to please ignore the next few postings. Thankyou.

There are three main factors in this issue:
a] Reprehensibly poor training of Priests in theologically and morally suspect seminaries where little pastoral care or concern is given towards the trainee; where a 'don't ask, don't tell' policy prevents a responsible confronting of sexual maturation and the necessary preparation for celibacy. A prevalent milieu of 'condoning' sexual profligacy, mutual masturbation, intimate liaisons etc as a 'necessary phase in preparation for priesthood' is an argot which should be quashed.
b] Subsequent Indolence verging towards Acedia regarding the pastoral care/responsibility/leadership/duties for priests within their dioceses from the Bishop, Deans and diocesan administration ; where systemic compromises of clerical celibacy [girlfriends , boyfriends, adulteries and inter-clerical sexual liaisons] are either ignored, covered up or 'moved on' to pastures new awaiting any new opportunity to 'carry on regardless' - and when it comes to blatant social or psychological difficulties or aberrant behaviour patterns ; these are dismissed as personal eccentricities and allowed to continue. Priests throughout the western world are being 'left to their own devices'; devoid of any shepherding from the cathedra.
c] Our reticence at addressing the issues of Catholic homosexuality and equivocating the homosexual with the unacceptability of homosexual sexual acts and thus, among many catholics both phenomena are deserving of condemnation [thus abandoning the homosexual and depriving them of pastoral concern and familial love] - and the consequences it has for those young men and women seeking to hide their sexual orientation from their families and friends by running and hiding in the religious life and Holy Orders. Admittedly there is no causal link between psychologically sexually mature homosexuals and sexual abuse; but sexual abuse lies in repression and the prevention of mature sexual development - it is where this is suppressed and arrested that psycho-sexual disorders arise; especially among deviant autocrats who seek to abuse all forms of power; especially that of sexual dominance and tyranny - the clergy is a magnet to this personality.Assuredly we are lucky in this country to have significantly less difficulties with clerical sexual abuse - but the disease still has a potential breeding ground and recurrence is possible unless we radically alter policies and our bishops get off their backsides and start caring for their priests. Many of the instances in the US and Ireland could have been prevented had intervention occurred at the first indications of trouble [on more than a few occasions even before ordination] - But rather a conspiracy of silence ensued - and I hate to say it ; a lot of the silence was due to inter-clerical blackmail i.e. "If they find out what I'm up to, everyone will know what you're up to !"

Tuesday, 28 August 2007

His Grace does us proud !!!


What was the Archbishop of Birmingham , Vincent Nichols,
going to say in his address to students at a training day for the 1962 Missal
in light of the Motu Proprio ?
was he going to be antagonistic like Archbishop Conti of Glasgow ?
dismiss it as anachronistic and unnecessary like our beloved Cardinal ?

Well ? Read on with Joy !

"So the first invitation of the Holy Father is for us to avoid speaking or writing or thinking in terms of two rites: the ‘Tridentine Rite’ and the ‘modern’ or ‘post Vatican II Rite’. We should respond attentively and consistently to this invitation.
Why does the Pope insist that there is one rite of the Mass? Because, whichever form is being used, the same mystery is being celebrated, the same rite is followed. There is one mystery and there is one movement, or structure, through which that mystery is enacted …
I hope that your study of the Missal of Pope John XXIII will help you to appreciate the history and richness of that form of the Mass. And I trust that you will bring all that you learn to every celebration of the Mass you lead in the future.
I have no doubt that each of us must strive for improvements in the way the ordinary form of the Mass is celebrated so that its inner mystery and spiritual movement is more clearly set forth. As Pope Benedict says, we must do all we can to bring out the spiritual richness and theological depth of the Missal of Paul VI, ‘for that will guarantee that the Missal of Paul VI will unite parish communities and be loved by them’.
Please remember that what you study here is not a relic, not a reverting to the past, but part of the living tradition of the Church. It is, therefore, to be understood and entered into in the light of that living tradition today.
The Missal of Pope John XXIII will remain the extraordinary form of the celebration of the Mass, for, as Pope Benedict says, its use ‘presupposes a certain degree of liturgical formation and some knowledge of the Latin language; neither of these is found very often’. And the decision of the Church was that, for general use, it needed to be revised. But there are truths of which it can still remind us and it has treasures and consolation to offer.
May the Lord bless your efforts in these next few days and draw you closer to the heart of the one saving mystery, that mystery which we now celebrate together."

Thank God !

[extracts courtesy of Damian Thompson's Holy Smoke Telegraph blog ]